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We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar


"We Wear the Mask" is a poem written by Paul Laurence Dunbar. This poem is specifically about how "we wear the mask" in order to make people see something that isn't true. For example, wearing a mask "hides our cheeks and shades our eyes" so when we are sad or frustrated, people can't see their color or our eyes' tears. Of course, "mask" is simply a metaphor for not showing our feelings openly. We do this in everyday life. It's natural and everyone does it. But should we? Dunbar makes up think about our actions.

"We Wear the Mask" is a three-stanza poem. The stanzas have different lengths. The first has five lines, second has four, and third has six. The poem rhymes as follows: AABBA-AABC-AABBAC.


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.

Next: A Choice
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