Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MASKS, by RICHARD EUGENE BURTON

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MASKS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: A certain friend of mine, whose daily praise
Last Line: Whose common title with the world was saint.
Subject(s): Hate; Life; Masks; Sin; Soul

A CERTAIN friend of mine, whose daily praise
Was in the mouths of men, once startled me
By what he said when I, like all the rest,
Cried up his virtues and his blameless life.
In this wise speaking: "Stop! you madden me.
You and the crowd but look to what I do,
And when you find me righteous and the law
Unbroken, why, you make a loud acclaim,
Holding me guiltless and a perfect man.
But tell me, friend, whether of two is best:
To let a spite eat slowly to the heart,
Making no outward sign, rebelling not,
Or, by an honest spurt of wrathy blood,
To mass the hate of many brooding years
Into one right-arm blow, and so be quits?
To speak in terms immaculate and nice,
Yet curse in speechless thoughts, to clean forswear
All lewdness, yet go lusting secretly?
To render weight for weight, yet grudge the coin
Flung to a beggar-lad -- in brief, to find
My soul the nesting-place for divers sins,
And still walk on in smug and seemly guise?
I tell thee, there are times I hear a voice
Say very clear, though softly, in myself:
''Twere better if you sinned right openly
Than let the vileness stew within your mind
And pass your properness upon the world,
Knowing the while the arch hpyocrisy
That takes the name of angel where, instead,
Devil hits nearer to the truth.' Ah me!"
Here, staying words, he sighed a heavy sigh;
And, musing, on I strolled, debating how
Mere masking tricks us all, and somewhat sad
To learn the inner history of one
Whose common title with the world was saint.

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