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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Largest Life

By Archibald Lampman (1861–1899)

I LIE upon my bed and hear and see.

The moon is rising through the glistening trees;

And momently a great and sombre breeze,

With a vast voice returning fitfully,

Comes like a deep-toned grief, and stirs in me,

Somehow, by some inexplicable art,

A sense of my soul’s strangeness, and its part

In the dark march of human destiny.

What am I, then, and what are they that pass

Yonder, and love and laugh, and mourn and weep!

What shall they know of me, or I, alas!

Of them? Little. At times, as if from sleep,

We waken to this yearning passionate mood,

And tremble at our spiritual solitude.

Nay, never once to feel we are alone,

While the great human heart around us lies:

To make the smile on other lips our own,

To live upon the light in others’ eyes:

To breathe without a doubt the limpid air

Of that most perfect love that knows no pain:

To say—I love you—only, and not care

Whether the love come back to us again,

Divinest self-forgetfulness, at first

A task, and then a tonic, then a need;

To greet with open hands the best and worst,

And only for another’s wound to bleed:

This is to see the beauty that God meant,

Wrapped round with life, ineffably content.

There is a beauty at the goal of life,

A beauty growing since the world began,

Through every age and race, through lapse and strife

Till the great human soul complete her span.

Beneath the waves of storm that lash and burn,

The currents of blind passion that appall,

To listen and keep watch till we discern

The tide of sovereign truth that guides it all;

So to address our spirits to the height,

And so attune them to the valiant whole,

That the great light be clearer for our light,

And the great soul the stronger for our soul;

To have done this is to have lived, though fame

Remember us with no familiar name.