We Wear the Mask

Selected by Dan Clendenin

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872–1906)

We Wear the Mask

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, O 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!

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872–1906) was a poet, novelist, and short story writer. He was one of the first African-American writers to gain international acclaim. His musical comedy In Dahomey was one of the first all-African-American musicals on Broadway. Dunbar died at the age of thirty-three from tuberculosis.

Dan Clendenin: dan@journeywithjesus.net

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