Poem #43: Yet Do I Marvel by Countee Cullen

Estimated Reading Time: 2.5 minutes
Book cover to African American Poetry - An Anthology, 1773-1927, Dover Edition.

Title: Yet Do I Marvel

Countee Cullen

Source:  African-American Poetry: An Anthology, 1773-1927. Dover Thrift Editions. Ed. Joan R. Sherman. 1997. ISBN:  978-0-486-29604-3.

Link: You can find this poem here.


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,
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.
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 first thing that I realized was that this was a sonnet.  I'm not well-versed in the different poetry styles but I can thank Michael Drout for drilling into my head that 14 lines with a twist at the end means that it's likely a sonnet.  Upon further reflection, it's a sonnet made most famous by Shakespeare.  The first 12 lines are broken into 4 rhyming schemes and then the final two rhy with one another as well as have some twist.  In this poem, we see the speaker condemn God for the ways in which he has created a world with cruelty and innanity. However, some of that seems redeemable because that God also made Black poets who share their words and insights (such as this very poem).

I'm also fascinated by the weaving of references from moles to Greek myth to psychology. It's a great mixture, a survey of places we look to meaning (the physical world, the spiritual world, and the mind).  These things are inexplicable or hard to understand God's reasoning and yet, God has also delivered black poet.

Those are my thoughts.  What did you find interesting about the poem?

About the reflections
This poem is part of a 365 day challenge project that focuses on a poem a day.  Similar projects have included short shorties and photo reflections. Part of the intention of this year's project is to develop a better appreciation and means of reflecting on poetry, something that has never been a strong suit for me.  These reflections therefore do not represent a definitive assessment of the work by me. They are merely an opportunity for me to have a public conversation about what they mean in order to help myself better understand them and mayhaps have a conversation with readers for further insight.  

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