Famous Sad Poem

Both of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s parents were slaves, and he was born less than a decade after slavery became illegal. “We Wear the Mask” was published in 1896. Dunbar wrote about what it was like to be African American during the late 1800s and the pain experienced by the black community. In this poem, he writes about how the truth is not always what it appears to be when a mask is used. In addition to applying to race and society, this poem can be applied to any situation where someone uses a mask to hide the truth.

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We Wear The Mask

Paul Laurence Dunbar By more 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, 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!

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