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Quotations on Ambition

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The noblest spirit is most strongly attracted by the love of glory.

~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

When you are aspiring to the highest place, it is honorable to reach the second or even the third rank.

~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

Most people would succeed in small things, if they were not troubled by great ambitions.

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

- Drift-Wood, 1857

Ambition is the last refuge of failure.

~ Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Hitch your wagon to a star.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

- Civilization in Society and Solitude, 1870

The glorious fault of angels and of gods.

~ Alexander Pope

- Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady, 1717

First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.

~ Epictetus

- Discourses, c. A.D. 100

It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them.

~ George Eliot

Nothing is too high for the daring of mortals: we storm heaven itself in our folly.

~ Horace

Where ambition can cover its enterprises, even to the person himself, under the appearance of principle, it is the most incurable and inflexible of passions.

~ David Hume

Ambition often puts men upon doing the meanest offices: so climbing is performed in the same posture with creeping.

~ Jonathan Swift

Ambition, old as mankind, the immemorial weakness of the strong.

~ Vita Sackville-West

- No Signposts in the Sea, 1961

No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.

~ William Blake

I would sooner fail than not be among the greatest.

~ John Keats

- letter to J.A. Hessey, Oct. 9, 1818

A noble man compares and estimates himself by an idea which is higher than himself; and a mean man, by one lower than himself. The one produces aspiration; the other ambition, which is the way in which a vulgar man aspires.

~ Henry Ward Beecher

Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.

~ William Shakespeare

- Julius Caesar, III, ii

Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself
And falls on t'other [the other side].

~ William Shakespeare

- Macbeth, I, viii

The very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.

~ William Shakespeare

He who surpasses or subdues mankind, must look down on the hate of those below.

~ Lord Byron

If you wish to reach the highest, begin at the lowest.

~ Publilius Syrus

Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what's a heaven for?

~ Robert Browning

- Adrea del Sarto, 1855

Nothing is so commonplace as to wish to be remarkable.

~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

- The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table, 1860

All ambitions are lawful except those which climb upward on the miseries or credulities of mankind.

~ Joseph Conrad

It is the constant fault and inseparable evil quality of ambition, that it never looks behind it.

~ Seneca

Aut Ceasar, aut nihil.
Either Caesar or nothing.

~ Cesare Borgia

- motto, c. 1500

Slight not what's near through aiming at what's far.

~ Euripides

- Rhesus, 5th cent. B.C.

All or nothing.

~ Hendrik Ibsen

- Brand, 1866

Fain would I climb, yet fear I to fall.

~ Sir Walter Raleigh

- attributed, c. 1585, [Legend has it that Raleigh scratched this on a window pane. Queen Elizabeth I is said to have added underneath: "If thy heart fails thee, climb not at all."]

The ripest peach is highest on the tree.

~ James Whitcomb Riley

- d. 1916, The Ripest Peach

Some folks can look so busy doing nothin' that they seem indispensable.

~ Frank McKinney "Kin" Hubbard

Be nice to people on your way up because you'll meet them on your way down.

~ Wilson Mizner

You can't hold a man down without staying down with him.

~ Booker T. Washington

Ambition is not a vice of little people.

~ Michel de Montaigne

The tallest trees are most in the power of the winds, and ambitious men of the blasts of fortune.

~ William Penn

We grow small trying to be great.

~ E. Stanley Jones

The men who succeed are the efficient few. They are the few who have the ambition and will power to develop themselves.

~ Herbert N. Casson

Too low they build who build below the skies.

~ Edward Young

A life spent in constant labor is a life wasted, save a man be such a fool as to regard a fulsome obituary notice as ample reward.

~ George Jean Nathan

Ambition has one heel nailed in well, though she stretch her fingers to touch the heavens.

~ William Lilly

Ambition is so powerful a passion in the human breast, that however high we reach we are never satisfied.

~ Niccolò Machiavelli

Ambition is a lust that is never quenched, but grows more inflamed and madder by enjoyment.

~ Thomas Otway

Ambition is the germ from which all growth of nobleness proceeds.

~ Thomas Dunn English

There are glimpses of heaven to us in every act, or thought, or word, that raises us above ourselves.

~ Arthur P. Stanley

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