“That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection” is a sonnet in accentual hexameter with three codas of two and a half lines plus one final half-line. The cumbersome title names the first and last of the three topics the sonnet treats; the grammatical structure of the title—a noun clause plus a prepositional phrase—suggests the lack of parallelism of the two topics named. The clause “That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire” refers to a vision of nature through the eyes of the fifth century b.c.e. Greek cosmological philosopher Heraclitus, for whom process was the fundamental fact of the cosmos and fire was the fundamental symbol or element; this topic occupies the first nine lines. The phrase “of the comfort of the Resurrection” refers to an article of Christian faith, the reunion after death of Christ’s physical body and human soul comprehended as a model for the eventual resurrection of each believer; this topic occupies the final lines, from lines 16 to 24. The unnamed topic is the individual human’s death.
The first section bulges beyond the Petrarchan or Italian octave (the abba, abba rhyme scheme of the first eight lines) into the ninth line. It presents a picture of the summer cycle of rainstorms and drying out of the landscape (the poem was written in Ireland on a late July day in 1888). The first four lines might present the thunderstorm itself—the different...
(The entire section is 544 words.)