Poetry from the Gargoyle's mouth: African-American poetry edition
Published: Monday, May 5, 2008 - 11:48pm
Guidance counselor Sarah Dewhurst recites Paul Laurence Dunbar’s
“We Wear the Mask”
Click to listen (1:21)
THIS WEEK WE begin our theme with counselor Sarah Dewhurst reading “We Wear the Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar.
Dunbar is a great African-American poet to begin the week with. He was one of the first African-American poets to gain national acclaim, and his experimentation with dialect poetry made his statements about the situation of the black American even more unique.
“We Wear the Mask” is a fascinating criticism of the disguise white America forces blacks to wear. In addition to the anger at being hidden by this untruthful mask, Dunbar creates a sense of dignified suffering in the poem.
“Why should the world be over-wise/ In counting all our tears and sighs?”
Dunbar in some ways welcomes the mask because it isolates the world from his true pain — a pain that those in the oppressive majority can’t even begin to understand.
Enjoy this poem and check back later for a variety of work from African-American poets.
“WE WEAR THE MASK”
by Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)
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 oh 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!
Like what you read? Click here for more poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar.