At a Glance
LanguageEnglish — US
- English & Language Arts
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile 1 ;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad 2 subtleties 3 .
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 4
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world think other-wise,
We wear the mask!
This poem is also available as a PDF.
Poet Maya Angelou adapted Dunbar's "We Wear the Mask" in a spoken-word poem.
How to Cite This Reading
Facing History & Ourselves, “We Wear The Mask,” last updated May 2, 2022.
This reading contains text not authored by Facing History & Ourselves. See footnotes for source information.