Verse > Anthologies > Andrew Macphail, ed. > The Book of Sorrow
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Andrew Macphail, comp.  The Book of Sorrow.  1916.
 
XXIV. Bitter Sorrow
The Mask
By Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861)
 
I HAVE a smiling face, she said,
  I have a jest for all I meet,
I have a garland for my head
  And all its flowers are sweet,—
And so you call me gay, she said.        5
 
Grief taught to me this smile, she said,
  And Wrong did teach this jesting bold;
These flowers were plucked from garden-bed
  While a death-chime was tolled.
And what now will you say?—she said.        10
 
Behind no prison-grate, she said,
  Which slurs the sunshine half a mile,
Live captives so uncomforted
  As souls behind a smile.
God’s pity let us pray, she said.        15
 
I know my face is bright, she said,—
  Such brightness, dying suns diffuse;
I bear upon my forehead shed
  The sign of what I lose,—
The ending of my day, she said.        20
 
If I dared leave this smile, she said,
  And take a moan upon my mouth,
And tie a cypress round my head,
  And let my tears run smooth,—
It were the happier way, she said.        25
 
And since that must not be, she said,
  I fain your bitter world would leave.
How calmly, calmly, smile the Dead,
  Who do not, therefore, grieve!
The yea of Heaven is yea, she said.        30
 
But in your bitter world, she said,
  Face-joy ’s a costly mask to wear,
’Tis bought with pangs long nourishèd
  And rounded to despair.
Grief’s earnest makes life’s play, she said.        35
 
Ye weep for those who weep? she said—
  Ah fools! I bid you pass them by.
Go, weep for those whose hearts have bled
  What time their eyes were dry.
Whom sadder can I say? she said.        40
 
 
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