We wear the mask that grins and lies

We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar – found in the selection from his writings in last year’s Library Of America African American Poetry anthology:

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!

And – since Dunbar seems, at least initially, to have been better known for his poetry in dialect – here also is his When de Co’n Pone’s Hot. Co’n Pone – Corn Pone – seems to have some trouble in definition but the Wikipedia one feels neutral enough.

Dey is times in life when Nature
Seems to slip a cog an’ go,
Jes’ a-rattlin’ down creation,
Lak an ocean’s overflow;
When de worl’ jes’ stahts a-spinnin’
Lak a picaninny’s top,
An’ yo’ cup o’ joy is brimmin’
‘Twell it seems about to slop,
An’ you feel jes’ lak a racah,
Dat is trainin’ fu’ to trot—
When yo’ mammy says de blessin’
An’ de co’n pone’s hot.

When you set down at de table,
Kin’ o’ weary lak an’ sad,
An’ you ‘se jes’ a little tiahed
An’ purhaps a little mad;
How yo’ gloom tu’ns into gladness,
How yo’ joy drives out de doubt
When de oven do’ is opened,
An’ de smell comes po’in’ out;
Why, de ‘lectric light o’ Heaven
Seems to settle on de spot,
When yo’ mammy says de blessin’
An’ de co’n pone’s hot.

When de cabbage pot is steamin’
An’ de bacon good an’ fat,
When de chittlins is a-sputter’n’
So’s to show you whah dey’s at;
Tek away yo’ sody biscuit,
Tek away yo’ cake an’ pie,
Fu’ de glory time is comin’,
An’ it’s ‘proachin’ mighty nigh,
An’ you want to jump an’ hollah,
Dough you know you’d bettah not,
When yo’ mammy says de blessin’
An’ de co’n pone’s hot.

I have hyeahd a’ lots o’ sermons,
An’ I’ve hyeahd o’ lots o’ prayers,
An I’ve listened to some singin’
Dat has tuck me up de stairs
Of de Glory-Lan’ an’ set me
Jes’ below de Mastah’s th’one,
An’ have lef’ my hea’t a-singin’
In a happy aftah tone;
But dem wu’ds so sweetly murmured
Seem to tech de softes’ spot,
When my mammy says de blessin’,
An’ de co’n pone’s hot.

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