Paul Laurence Dunbar

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Paul Laurence Dunbar was born on June 27, 1872 to freed slaves from Kentucky. He became one of the first influential Black poets in American literature, and was internationally acclaimed for his dialectic verse in collections such as Majors and Minors (1895) and Lyrics of Lowly Life (1896). But the dialectic poems constitute only a small portion of Dunbar’s canon, which is replete with novels, short stories, essays, and many poems in standard English. In its entirety, Dunbar’s literary body is regarded as an impressive representation of Black life in turn-of-the-century America. His work constitutes both a history and a celebration of Black life. Source

We Wear the Mask

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!

Published:

1895

Length:

Shorty

Literary Movements:

Abolitionism

Anthology Years:

2022

Themes:

Identity

Mental Health

Strength & Resilience

Literary Devices:

Assonance

The repetition of similar vowel sounds that takes place in two or more words in proximity to each other within a line; usually refers to the repetition of internal vowel sounds in words that do not end the same.

End Rhyme

when a poem has lines ending with words that sound the same

Repetition

a recurrence of the same word or phrase two or more times

Rhetorical Question

a question asked for effect, not necessarily to be answered