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.
[Paul Laurence Dunbar, “We Wear the Mask,” in Selected African American Writing from 1760 to 1910, Arthur P. Davis, Jr., J. Sauders Redding, and Joyce Ann Joyce, editors, (New York: Bantam Books, 1991), 281-282.]