“The Signature of All Things” is divided into three parts: The first comprises thirty-two-lines; the second, twenty-five; and the third, twenty. The title of the poem derives from a book by the seventeenth century mystic Jakob Böhme, the reading of which initiates the poem. Written in the first person, the poem relates the visionary, intensely spiritual experience of the poet.
True to Böhme’s teaching that the “outward visible world with all its beings is a signature, or figure, of the inward spiritual world,” the poet begins with the image of his body “stretched bathed in the sun”; from his own physical being, the poet’s awareness radiates to his surroundings, progressively more animate: water, laurel tree, and creatures.
These creatures perform the endless cycle of birth and death: The wren “broods in her moss-domed nest”; a newt “struggles with a white moth/ Drowning in the pool.” Such observations lead the poet to recall his relationships, whether with humans—“those who have loved me”—or his natural environment—the “mountains I have climbed,” the “seas I have swum in.” These reminiscences prove redemptive; his “sin and trouble fall away/ Like Christian’s bundle.” This reference to John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (1678, 1684) reinforces the sense of the poet’s life as a pilgrimage of love. Böhme, as the poet describes, “saw the world as streaming/ In the electrolysis of...
(The entire section is 452 words.)