Yet Do I Marvel
How we cite our quotes:
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. (5-8)
We're bunching these two examples of Greek mythology together because they're similar examples of how the speaker is giving us a more abstract example of weakness. Both Tantalus and Sisyphus are powerless to change their situations. No matter how hard he tries, Tantalus can't get any food to end his hunger, and Sisyphus can't finish his endless task of rolling a boulder uphill. Of course, Sisyphus might look like Arnold Schwarzeneger after an eternity of such grueling exercise, but we're not entirely sure that's a good thing.
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. (9-12)
Here the speaker comes right out and says that our minds just aren't strong enough to understand God's ways. God is "immune" to our "petty cares". In other words, we just don't have the brain power to grasp something like God's reasons for the way things are. Little brains, all of us! Well, the speaker's not saying that exactly, but he is saying that our intellectual faculties only get us so far in understanding life.