Of a Burning Coal

1

The cause a coal doth2 set a house on fire
Is atoms sharp are in that coal entire.
Being strong armed with points, do quite pierce through3
Those flat dull atoms, and4 their forms5 undo.
And atoms sharp, whose form is made for flight,              5
If loose, do run to help the rest in fight,
For like as6 soldiers which are of one side,
When they see7 friends engaged, to rescue ride.8
But atoms flat, where motion is but slow,
They cannot fight, but straight to ashes go.                        10

  1. In 1668 this poem is called “Of a Burning-Coal”
  2. The cause a coal doth] Why that a Coale should 1653
  3. Being strong armed with points, do quite pierce through] Which being arm’d with Points quite thorow go, 1664; Which being arm’d with Points, quite thorow go, 1668
  4. Those flat dull atoms, and] And those flat Atomes with 1664; And those flat Atoms, with 1668
  5. A marginal note in Cavendish’s 1653 text reads: “Not the form of the atoms, but the form of their settlement.” In 1664 and 1668 the marginal note ends, “the form of what they settle on.”
  6. For like as] Like unto 1664, 1668
  7. When they see] Seeing their 1664, 1668
  8. A marginal note in Cavendish’s 1653 text reads: “Straggling, loose atoms, which we perceive not, do run to those which are united in the coal.” In 1664 and 1668, the note reads only, “Straggling loose.”