A Poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
How happy they are, in all seeming,
How gay, or how smilingly proud,
How brightly their faces are beaming,
These people who make up the crowd!
How they bow, how they bend, how they flutter,
How they look at each other and smile,
How they glow, and what bon mots they utter!
But a strange thought has found me the while!
It is odd, but I stand here and fancy
These people who now play a part,
All forced by some strange necromancy
To speak, and to act, from the heart.
What a hush would come over the laughter!
What a silence would fall on the mirth!
And then what a wail would sweep after,
As the night-wind sweeps over the earth!
If the secrets held under and hidden
In the intricate hearts of the crowd
Were suddenly called to, and bidden
To rise up and cry out aloud,
How strange one would look to another!
Old friends of long standing and years –
Own brothers would not know each other,
Robed new in their sorrows and fears.
From broadcloth, and velvet, and laces,
Would echo the groans of despair,
And there would be blanching of faces
And wringing of hands and of hair.
That man with his record of honour,
That lady down there with the rose,
That girl with Spring’s freshness upon her,
Who knoweth the secrets of those?
Smile on, O ye maskers, smile sweetly!
Step lightly, bow low and laugh loud!
Though the world is deceived and completely,
I know ye, O sad-hearted crowd!
I watch you with infinite pity:
But play on, play ever your part,
Be gleeful, be joyful, be witty!
‘Tis better than showing the heart.