Behind The Mask

From a Project Gutenberg reprinting of “A Flock of Girls and Boys” by Nora Perry, 1895.

Here, faithful readers, is a poem taken from a newspaper column in the women’s section of an 1890s San Francisco Chronicle title “Behind The Mask” by Nora Perry–an American poet and journalist who wrote for the Chicago Tribune. It is for the lonely ones who know not what they do.

“‘She speaks and smiles the gay old way

She is the same as yesterday,’

You turn and say.

 

The same as yesterday, before

The dark-winged angel at her door

Entered and bore

 

The treasure of her life away;

‘The same, the same as yesterday.’

And as you say

 

These questioning words with questioning tone,

Apart from you and quite alone

She makes her moan;

 

She does not dare to trust her woe

To break its bonds, her tears to flow

In outward show,

 

Lest, like a giant in her life,

This woe should rise to stronger life

And fiercer strife.

 

So, wearing on her face the guise

Of olden smiles, with tearless eyes

She dumbly tries

 

To lift her burden to the light,

To live by faith and not by sight,

And from the night

 

Of new despair and wasting grief

At last, at last to find relief

Beyond belief.

 

Even as she stands before you there

With all the old accustomed air,

The smiles that wear

 

The mirthful mask of yesterday.

She stands alone and far away

From yesterday.

 

She stands alone and quite apart,

With mirth and song her aching heart

Has lot nor part.

 

The while your criticize her air

Of gay repose, pierced with despair

She does not dare

 

To speak aloud her bitterness,

To tell you of her loneliness

And sore distress.”

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