Yet Do I Marvel Poem by Countee Cullen Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English


The poem “Yet Do I Marvel” by Countee Cullen is about faith. Despite the darkness he sees in the world, the speaker retains his trust in his own part in God’s plan. This sonnet appeared in the poet’s collection Colour in 1925. It addresses some of the most pressing issues confronting humanity. One of them is, “Why does God allow so much suffering?” This poem is written in the form of a sonnet. But it’s not the usual one. It is not a sonnet by Shakespeare or Petrarch. However, it has aspects of both. There’s also a slight turn, or volta, near the end of the poem.

About the poet

Countee Cullen (May 30, 1903 – January 9, 1946) was an American poet, novelist, children’s author, and dramatist who rose to prominence during the Harlem Renaissance.


Line 1-4

I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind,

And did He stoop to quibble could tell why

The little buried mole continues blind,

Why flesh that mirrors Him must some day die,

The speaker of this poem believes that God is “well-meaning” and that if he wanted to, he could explain the nature of his creation. The speaker emphasizes, however, that God is beyond human comprehension and does not have the time or interest to come to earth and explain the nature of creation to humans. The following lines explain why human minds are incapable of comprehending God on their own. This stanza also includes literary elements like caesura, alliteration, and others.

Lines 5-8

Make plain the reason tortured Tantalus

Is baited by the fickle fruit, declare

If merely brute caprice dooms Sisyphus

To struggle up a never-ending stair.

The poem’s speaker notes that if God came to Earth, he could explain to humans why the great men and women of Greek mythology lived the way they did. Tantalus and Sisyphus, for example, were compelled to push a rock up a hill indefinitely, and Tantalus suffered from starvation and thirst. If God so desired, he could explain to humans why these individuals were created to live such horrible lives.

Lines 9-15

Inscrutable His ways are, and immune

To catechism by a mind too strewn

With petty cares to slightly understand

What awful brain compels His awful hand.

Yet do I marvel at this curious thing:

To make a poet black, and bid him sing!

The speaker of this poem is aware that God’s ways are “inscrutable” or “impossible” for humans to comprehend. In the poem’s twelfth line, he utilizes repetition to emphasize that God’s activities and creations are far too complicated, significant, and deep for mere human brains to comprehend. The speaker is astounded and thrilled with what God has formed him into since he is a poet, Black, and God has requested him to “sing” or write poetry. The poem concludes on a lighter note, with the speaker expressing his awe and delight at what God has created him to be. He has a “curious” or uncommon existence, and God has called him to “sing” or create poetry.