Ambition Poems

Ambition poems channel poets’ interest in analyzing individuals’ needs to succeed, frustration with obstacles that stand in their way, and willingness to work hard and sacrifice to get what they want.

Many of these poems paint ambition in a positive, uplifting light. They suggest that having ambition in one or more parts of life gives individuals purpose. But working hard in an effort to get something, whether that be a promotion, economic gain, a relationship,  a creative peak, or any other goal one might have in life, certainly has its darker side.

Poets like Dylan Thomas suggest that ambition is not the end-all-be-all of one’s day-to-day life. Being too consumed by the future and achieving one’s goals may mean missing out on the joys of everyday life. Is it worth it, many of these poets ask, to reach a goal if it means sacrificing your overall happiness? Or the happiness of others?

an afternoon nap

by Arthur Yap

‘an afternoon nap’ by Arthur Yap explores the lacunae in the modern education system and how it results in anxiety and stress in students.

This poem is about an ambitious tiger mother who expects nothing other than good academic grades from her son.

Parades, Parades

by Derek Walcott

‘Parades, Parades’ by Derek Walcott is an interesting, allusion-filled poem that discusses Saint Lucia after the end of British colonial rule. 

Walcott suggests that the politician's ambition is getting in the way of them actually helping the country.


by Joaquin Miller

‘Columbus’ by Joaquin Miller is a perfectly rhymed poem that narrates a few moments in Columbus’ voyage to the new world. It focuses on the hardship the crew had to endure. 

The poet describes how Columbus' ambition fueled the voyage to the "New World." Without his determination to reach what they thought was India, the ship would've turned around far earlier.

Claudette Colvin Goes to Work

by Rita Dove

‘Claudette Colvin Goes to Work’ by Rita Dove depicts the life and struggles of Claudette Colvin, who is best known as a civil rights activist.

In this poem, Colvin, the speaker, alludes to her unfulfilled ambitions and how her life changed after the incident in 1955. One can sense a great degree of disappointment in these five stanzas.

A still— Volcano —Life

by Emily Dickinson

‘A still— Volcano —Life’ by Emily Dickinson is an unforgettable poem that uses an extended metaphor to describe the life of the poet. She compares herself to a volcano that erupts under the cover of darkness.

Ashes of Life

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

‘Ashes of Life’ tells of a speaker who has lost all touch with her own ambitions and is stuck within the monotonous rut of everyday life.

At Grass

by Philip Larkin

‘At Grass’ by Philip Larkin is a poem about fame and happiness. It focuses on racehorses and how they found new homes away from their previous lives.

Fame is a bee

by Emily Dickinson

‘Fame is a bee’ by Emily Dickinson uses a bee to describe the fleeting nature of fame. She uses clever images and original poetic writing throughout.

I cautious, scanned my little life

by Emily Dickinson

‘I cautious, scanned my little life’ by Emily Dickinson is a clever, metaphorical poem that addresses change and one’s legacy. The poet struggles to understand her changed attitude towards her literary accomplishments after a period of time has elapsed. 

On Easter Day

by Oscar Wilde

‘On Easter Day’ by Oscar Wilde asks readers to consider how Christian teachings align with the modern-day Pope. It’s about the importance of not putting man-made desires and institutions ahead of God. 

The Lost Leader

by Robert Browning

In ‘The Lost Leader’, Browning criticises those who have abandoned liberal political ideologies and embraced the conservative lifestyle.

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