We Wear the Mask

Paul Laurence Dunbar

 
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile
And mouth with myriad subtleties,
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
     We wear the mask.
We smile, but oh great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile,
But let the world dream otherwise,
     We wear the mask!
 

Poems by This Author

A Negro Love Song by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Seen my lady home las' night,
Beyond the Years by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Beyond the years the answer lies
Frederick Douglass by Paul Laurence Dunbar
A hush is over all the teeming lists
In Summer by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Oh, summer has clothed the earth
In Summer Time by Paul Laurence Dunbar
When summer time has come, and all
Invitation to Love by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Come when the nights are bright with stars
Phyllis by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Ships That Pass in the Night by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Out in the sky the great dark clouds are massing
Signs of the Times by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Air a-gittin' cool an' coolah
Summer in the South by Paul Laurence Dunbar
The oriole sings in the greening grove
Sympathy by Paul Laurence Dunbar
I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
The Debt by Paul Laurence Dunbar
This is the debt I pay
When Malindy Sings by Paul Laurence Dunbar
G'way an' quit dat noise, Miss Lucy--


Further Reading

Poems about Masks
A Peacock in Spring
by Joyelle McSweeney
The Poem as Mask
by Muriel Rukeyser
Black History
A Negro Love Song
by Paul Laurence Dunbar
A Song for Many Movements
by Audre Lorde
American History
by Michael S. Harper
Believing in Iron
by Yusef Komunyakaa
Black Woman
by Georgia Douglas Johnson
Derrick Poem (The Lost World)
by Terrance Hayes
Dreams
by Langston Hughes
For the Confederate Dead
by Kevin Young
Frederick Douglass
by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Haircut
by Elizabeth Alexander
Harriet Tubman
by Eloise Greenfield
homage to my hips
by Lucille Clifton
I'm A Fool To Love You
by Cornelius Eady
La Vie C'est La Vie
by Jessie Redmon Fauset
Langston Blue
by Jericho Brown
Lift Every Voice and Sing
by James Weldon Johnson
Quatrains
by Gwendolyn Bennett
Reunion 2005
by Rita Dove
Song of the Son
by Jean Toomer
Still I Rise
by Maya Angelou
The Day I Saw Barack Obama Reading Derek Walcott's Collected Poems
by Yusef Komunyakaa
The Negro Speaks of Rivers
by Langston Hughes
The Spring Cricket Considers the Question of Negritude
by Rita Dove
The White House
by Claude McKay
We Real Cool
by Gwendolyn Brooks