African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

Jessie Fauset, "Noblesse Oblige" (1927)

LOLOTTE, who attires my hair,
Lost her lover. Lolotte weeps;
Trails her hand before her eyes;
Hangs her head and mopes and sighs,
Mutters of the pangs of hell.
Fills the circumambient air
With her plaints and her despair.
Looks at me:
“May you never know, Mam’selle,
Love's harsh cruelty."

Love's dart lurks in my heart too,-
None may know the smart
Throbbing underneath my smile.
Burning, pricking all the while
That I dance and sing and spar,
Juggling words and making quips
To hide the trembling of my lips.
I must laugh
What time I moan to moon and star
To help me stand the gaff.

What a silly thing is pride!
Lolotte bares her heart.
Heedless that each runner reads
All her thoughts and all her needs.
What I hide with my soul's life
Lolotte tells with tear and cry.
Blurs her pain with sob and sigh.
Happy Lolotte, she!
I must jest while sorrow's knife
Stabs in ecstasy.

“If I live, I shall outlive.”
Meanwhile I am barred
From expression of my pain.
Let my heart be torn in twain,
Only I may know the truth.
Happy Lolotte, blessed she
Who may tell her agony!
On me a seal is set.
Love is lost, and—bitter ruth-
Pride is with me yet!

Published in Caroling Dusk1927

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