Paul Laurence Dunbar

(1872-1906 / Ohio / United States)

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 overwise,
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!

Submitted: Monday, January 20, 2003

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# 59 poem on top 500 Poems


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  • Gold Star - 18,478 Points Gangadharan Nair Pulingat (6/26/2014 10:01:00 AM)

    In fact it is a narration of human predicament and all wear masks in such interests and convenience but the world doesn't see it. I loved the poem very much. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 499 Points Michelle Claus (5/8/2014 9:23:00 PM)

    As Mr. Dunbar says, we each put forth a public face.... When we take a few moments to converse with a person, or if another takes a few moments to converse with us, the heart is revealed. The moment's anxieties, persistent heartaches, and joys become the countenance. All it takes is a few moments of sincere listening, and the mask is set aside. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Phoenix Green (9/27/2013 7:53:00 PM)

    This has always been my favorite poem. It's about hiding your unhappiness, pain and sorrow, and acting as if everything were normal, happy, wonderful. Pretending to be one way when your really the other. A facade. I think it's truly beautiful. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Thomas Yarborough (5/8/2013 10:47:00 AM)

    Reminds me of Charles Bukowski's Dinosauris, We but not quite as cynical as his ;) Rated it 10. Good job. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 83 Points Meshack Bankole (5/8/2013 7:16:00 AM)

    Kudos laurence! We wear the mask of selfishness, ego and self-deception. Yet Christ‘s death - our shame and sorrow bear without wearing a mask of shame and self-pity.
    The mask - all must set ablaze once and for all. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Olaniyan David (5/8/2013 3:23:00 AM)

    it's a poem of truth. That tells or shows how guilty we are, yet proven innocent with all the hidden things. We all have the task to avert this! (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 1,151 Points Elena Sandu (5/8/2012 8:27:00 PM)

    Sigh... Soul wearing a smiling mask to keep the world survive on dreams! Oh dear poet, we are only a bit over a century late, if you could watch how the whole world came to be a masked slave... (Report) Reply

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