Put on a mask, as it were

“Put on a mask, as it were”  

from  Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

Before you leave at morning break

Put on a mask, as it were.

Before you leave for bread to break,

Put on a mask, your glory secure.                


Like the façades of cathedrals of old,

Arrange your features as you think you’re told.

Put on a mask, that you weave,

Whether or not you intend to deceive.


Your face tells us stories with great detail;

You’re commissioned to guide the faithless well.

So in you we place our hope and trust,

Don’t disappoint these collections of dust.


Put on a mask, won’t you now,

Adorn with gold leaf your arching brow.

Prepared are we for the splendor inside,

Unless your façade has something to hide.


So project what’s behind your lustrous screen;

Or, are you simply a set, a mere display,

Whose glossy veneer can be stripped away?

Such cheap productions are too lightly beamed.


Now if you’re requesting we worship here,

Let your face be a mirror, or I fear,

Your artlessness will be your fall,

Redemption will be truth to all.


Let fall your mask, if you will,

Disappoint us with your tricks of ill.

Face to the world, set in stone,

Your covenant will be your bones.