Poems of Letitia Elizabeth Landon (L. E. L.) in Heath’s Book of Beauty, 1833/The Mask

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The Mask.png


Painted by HarperEngraved by H. Cook


Unveil'd, unmask'd! not so, not so!
    Ah! thine are closer worn
Than those which, in light mockery,
    One evening thou hast borne.
The mask and veil which thou dost wear
    Are of thyself a part;
No mask can ever hide thy face
    As that conceals thy heart.
Thy smiles, they sparkle o'er thy brow,
    Like sunbeams to and fro;
But no one in their light can read
    The depths that lurk below.
The tears, how beautiful they shine
    Within thy large dark eyes!
But who can tell what is the cause
    From which those tears arise?
E'en as thy curls are train'd to fall
    Around thy angel face,
So every look thy features wear
    Is tutor'd in its grace.
No eager impulses ere fling
    Their warmth upon thy cheek;

No varying hues, from red to pale,
    Thy inward feelings speak.
Thine atmosphere is festival;
    Thy hand is on the lute;
And lightest in the midnight dance
    We see thy fairy foot.
The many deem this happiness—
    I see it is a task;
Young without youth, gay without mirth,
    Thine is the veil and mask.
I mark thy constant restlessness,
    Thy eagerness for change;
I know it is the wretched one
    Who thus desires to range.
And thou dost flee from solitude
    As if a fiend were there,
And communing with thine own thoughts
    Were more than thou couldst bear.
Slight are the signs by which I put
    Thy mask and veil aside,
And look upon thy wounded love,
    And on thy wounded pride.
'Tis not for one, proud, fair, like thee
    To perish or to pine;
A higher lot is cast for thee—
    A higher will is thine!
Oh! misery to keep the heart
    Lone, like some sacred fane,
And when it owns its deity,
    Find it was own'd in vain!

Yet, far worse misery to know
    Our faith no veiled thing:
Methinks that we can bear the pain,
    If we can hide the sting.
But, out upon consoling friends!
    The anguish one may brook;
But not officious sympathy—
    The soothing word or look.
Pity from all the common herd,
    Whom most we must despise—
Perish the sigh upon the lips,
    The tear within the eyes!
Alas! what depths of wretchedness
    The human soul can know!
How bitterly the waters taste,
    Which seem in light to flow!
For love and hope, those leaves which give
    Their sweetness to the wave,
Flung with no blessing, lose their charm,
    And find the stream their grave!
Ah! even as at coming night
    The careful flowers close—
So should our heart call in its hopes,
    And on itself repose.
But let it not be lull'd by dreams,
    That weep whene'er they wake—
For every heart that lives by love,
    A thousand beat and break!