Yet Do I Marvel Analysis


Rated as one of the most famous poems, ”Yet Do I Marvel” was published in 1925 by Countee Cullen in his first repertoire of poetry. The poem is set out in one sextet (eeffgg) and contains seven rhymes with a clear tone with two quatrains (abab and cdcd). The poet also makes use of repetition and consistent use of alliteration. Countee talks about his distrust and agitation of the world. He says only God has a reason for all the evil that happens and explains that it is beyond human understanding. The poem also brings out some allusion of racism on the last two lines were he talks of him being black. Cullen does not want to be defined by his race but rather as a poet who was created, Black.


Countee Cullen thought hard and long over his African American identity. It is clear from his poem that he questions the greatness of God and how he created a race that brings out so much complexity and mixtures. Harlem Renaissance was a cultural/literary movement that sought to identify the Black with the world. It majored on making the lives of the Blacks descent so as to boost their livelihood in New York City both economically and socially. The Renaissance was more of an artistic movement that would represent an idea of the new Negro and whose legacy would change the image of the African American. The Whites doubted the Black’s intelligence and would at times refute the publication of any Black artistic work but through Harlem Renaissance new cultural elements and styles were developed, and new forms of literature also emerged such as jazz poetry. That was meant to convey the results of institutional racism, the experience of slavery and other depictions of black life.

In his poem, ”Yet Do I Marvel”, writes from a look out of a Black poet. He marvels at how a poet created black can sing yet how difficult it was for a Black to identify himself with the white and the world at large. The Blacks were taken to slavery and believed to remain poor and have a rural life, a fact that was changed when the African Americans moved to the urban North. That progress was meant to change their identity and gain them self-determination and provided a platform for them to appreciate their background and life. Cullen did not want people and especially Black identified by their color and that is why he would always praise them for the new interesting works whenever he found one. A new way of playing the piano, for instance, was developed and new musical styles developed that, begun amusing the whites. The whites also began using African American poems in their songs such as blues and jazz. This was a sign that the Blacks artistic works were beginning to gain an appreciation by the whites who strongly doubted the Black intelligence.

Through the use of examples of imperfections of the world and wonders the nature of God, he believes that only Him can understand the reason for their occurrence. Cullen lived in Harlem, a place that received resentment due to the popularity of Blacks in the area. The people struggled to get out of that resentment and identify themselves with the world out of their success especially the arts that was developing and would expose them. They wanted to use the arts to express themselves and demand their equality. He wonders how humans receive resentments and discrimination due to their color and no one look up to them as a result of their successes. Cullen writes that it is beyond human nature to explain such incidences that lead to struggles of social consciousness only because of one’s skin color.

The use of repetition by Cullen in this poem reflects the endless questions by humans of the happenings surrounding them. Born and bred in Harlem, Cullen fails to understand why a state so full of people with talent would receive such awful resentment. He also questions why humans should die yet there are made in the image and likeness of God. Cullen wants people to stand strong and commit themselves on religious matters as a way to eke out with their disappointments and injustice’s and also he brings out the importance of love regardless of one’s race.


The legacy of the Harlem Renaissance lead to self-realization among the African American society and especially the Black writers and Countee Cullen remains a huge voice representative in the Renaissance by expressing his ideas   through traditional styles towards racial discrimination and injustices based on one’s skin color by writing that the Harlem Renaissance poetry be should not be defined by racial themes but rather universal.