Online Texts for Craig White's Literature Courses

  • Not a critical or scholarly text but a reading text for a seminar

  • Changes may include paragraph divisions, highlights, spelling updates, bracketed annotations, & elisions (marked by ellipses . . . )

Countee Cullen


"Yet Do I Marvel"

Yet Do I Marvel

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         [Greek mythic figure eternally tortured by unsatisfied temptation]
Is baited by the fickle fruit, declare
If merely brute caprice dooms Sisyphus     [Greek mythic king condemned to roll immense stone up a hill, only to have it roll down again]
To struggle up a never-ending stair.

Inscrutable His ways are, and immune
To catechism by a mind too strewn                  [catechism = questions and answers on religion]
With petty cares to slightly understand
What awful brain compels His awful hand.       [awful = awesome = sublime?]
Yet do I marvel at this curious thing:
To make a poet black, and bid him sing!

Discussion questions:

1. What's Romantic (or not) about the poem?

2. What gothic or sublime elements are identifiable? What mood or tone do they build?

3. As the poem is written by an African American poet, what pressures to read the poem either separately from Romanticism or as part of it?