Remembering Countee Cullen


Countee Cullen, one of America’s finest poets, bridged our early 20thcentury racial divide by assimilating in a European art form (the sonnet) both Judeo-Christian and ancient Greek mythology with his own racial and cultural perspective.  The result was “Yet Do I Marvel.”  Its example demonstrates how, in a world obsessed with self-righteous culture wars, the speaker of a poem, in fourteen lines, can assure us that we are all, regardless of our own specific backgrounds, heirs to a great and grand, disparate world culture.

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
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!


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