A World Made by Atoms

Small atoms of themselves a world may make,
For, being subtle, every shape they take.1
And as they dance about, they2 places find;
Such forms as3 best agree make every kind.
For when we build a4 house of brick or5 stone,      5
We lay them even, every one by one:
And when we find a gap that’s big or small,
We seek out stones to fit that place withal.
For when as they6 too big or little be,
They fall away and cannot stay, we see.                   10
So atoms as they dance find places fit;
They there remain, lie close, and fast will stick.7
Those which not fit,8 the rest that rove about
Do never leave, until they thrust them out.
Thus by their several motions, and their forms,9   15
As several workmen serve each other’s turns.10
And so11 by chance may a new world create,
Or else, predestinate, may work by12 Fate.

The Four Principle Figured Atoms Make the Four Elements, as Square, Round, Long, and Sharp.

1

The square flat atoms as dull earth appear;
The atoms round do make the water clear.
The long straight atoms like to2 arrows fly,
Mount next the sharp3 and make the airy sky.
The sharpest atoms into fire do turn,4                            5
And5 by their piercing quality do6 burn:
That figure makes them active, active light,
Which makes them get above the rest in flight.
And by this figure they stick fast, and draw
Up other atoms, which are round and raw.                 10
But water is7 round drops, though ne’er so small,
Which shows8 its figure to be9 spherical.
That figure makes it spongy, spongy wet,
And10 being hollow, softness doth beget.
And being soft, that11 makes it run about;                   15
More solid atoms thrust it in, or out.
But sharpest atoms have most power thereon,12
For cold doth nip it, and heat makes it run.13
But atoms flat,14 are heavy, dull, and slow,
And sinking downward15 to the bottom go.                 20
These16 figured atoms are not active, light,
Whereas the long are like the sharp in flight.
For as the sharp do pierce and get on high,
So do the long shoot straight and evenly.
The round are next the flat, the long next round;        25
Those which are sharp are still the highest found.
The flat turn all to earth and17 lie most low,
The round to water clear, which18 liquid flow.
The long to air, from whence the clouds do grow;19
The sharp to fire do turn20, which hot doth glow.        30
Thus these four figures th’elements21 do make,
And as their figures do incline, they take.
For they22 are perfect in themselves alone,
Not taking any shape, but what’s their own.
And whatsoever form is elsewhere found,23                35
Must take from long or square or sharp or round.24
For25 those that are like to triangles26 cut,
Part of three figures in one form is put.
And those that bow and bend like to a bow
Like to the round, and jointed atoms27 show.               40
In those that28 branched, or those which crooked be,
You may both the long and29 sharp figures see.
Thus several figures several tempers make,
But what is mixed doth of the four partake.

Of Airy Atoms

Long atoms, which the streaming air do make,1
Are hollow, from which form air softness takes.2
This makes that air and water ne’er agree,
Because in hollowness alike they be.
For airy atoms made are like a pipe,3                        5
And wat’ry atoms, round and cymbal-like.4
Although the one is long, and th’other5 round,
Yet in the midst a hollowness is found.
This makes us think that water turns to6 air,
And air runs often7 into water fair.                           10
And like two twins they are mistaken8 oft,
Because their hollowness makes both them soft.

Of Air

The reason why air is1 so equal spread,
Is atoms long, at each end balancèd.
For being long, and each end both alike,2
Are like to weights, which keep it steady, right.3
For howsoe’er it moves,4 join to what form it will,5       5
Yet lies in every line that figure still.6
For atoms long, their forms as thread are spun,7
And like a cobweb interwoven run;8
And thus air, being thin, so9 subtle grows,
That into every empty place it goes.                                 10

The Bigness of Atoms

 

When I say1 atoms small as small can be,
I mean quantity, quality, and weight agree.2
Not in the3 figure, for some may show4
Much bigger, and some lesser: so5
Take water fluid and ice, and you will see,6                            5
They do in weight but not in bulk agree.7
So atoms: some are8 soft, others more knit,
According as each atom’s figurèd.9
Atoms whose forms are hollow, long, and round10
Bend more than flat11 or sharp, which close are bound.12  10
And being hollow, they are spread more thin
Than other atoms which are close within.
And atoms which are thin are softer much,13
When atoms close are of a harder touch.14

What Atoms make Vegetables, Minerals, and Animals

The branchèd atoms form each planted thing:
The hooked points pull out, and make1 them spring;
The atoms round give juice, the sharp give heat,2
And those grow herbs, and fruits, and flowers sweet.3
Those that are square and flat, not rough withal,                5
Make those which stone and minerals we call.
But in all stones and minerals (no doubt)
Sharp points do lie, which fiery sparks4 strike out.
Thus vegetables and minerals do5 grow
According as the several atoms go.                                         10
In animals all figures do agree,
But in mankind the best of atoms be.
And thus, for ought we know, the world’s whole frame6
May last unto eternity the same.7

What Atoms Make Heat and Cold

Such kind of atoms which1 make heat, make cold,
Like pincers sharp that2 nip and do take hold.
But atoms that are pointed sharp pierce through,3
And atoms which are sharp and4 hooked pull to.
Yet all must into pointed figures turn,                                 5
For atoms blunt will never freeze nor burn.
’Cause blunt figures do to a soft form5 bend,
And soft do6 unto wet or liquid tend.