Study Guide

Yet Do I Marvel

by Countée Porter

Yet Do I Marvel Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

“Yet Do I Marvel” opens with a declaration of faith in God’s ways, and this faith is sustained through the first twelve lines. God is “good, well-meaning, kind,” and he does not need to explain his creation or his actions to humankind; however, if God were to “stoop” to humankind’s level, he could explain why the mole must be blind; why humans, who are made in God’s image, are mortal; why Tantalus is perpetually baited and left unsatisfied; why Sisyphus must experience futility in his efforts to ascend. Nevertheless, to those in the mortal world, God’s ways are beyond explanation because the petty distractions in immediate surroundings leave the universal picture beyond view.

The concluding couplet in Cullen’s poem, despite the affirmation of faith in the first twelve lines, raises a problem that at first inspection seems to go beyond faith: why does God “make a poet black,” thereby making him or her endure endless injustices and distress, if God intends that the black poet should also “sing”? This creation seems beyond human comprehension, but Cullen’s reaction is not anger or frustration; indeed, faith is heightened by a “curious thing” that causes the poet to “marvel.” In the end, the example that seems furthest from possible explanation stands out as the greatest affirmation of faith.