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


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 Fire and Flame


Although we at a distance stand, if great
A fire be, the body through1 will heat.
Yet those sharp atomes we do not perceive,
How they fly out, nor how to us they cleave.2
Nor do they3 flame, nor shine they clear and bright       5
When they fly out and on our bodies strike.4
The reason is they loose and scattered fly,
And not in troops, nor do they on heaps lie.
Like small dust rais’d, which,5 scatter’d all about,
We see it not, nor doth it light keep6 out.                         10
But gathered up thick7 to a mountain high,
We then see they in solid earth do8 lie.
Just so do atoms sharp look, clear and bright,
When in heaps lie,9 or in a streaming flight.

Of Fire in the Flint

The reason fire lies1 in flint unseen
Is other figured atoms lie2 between.
For being bound and overpowered by
A multitude, they do in prison lie.
Unless motion do come and let3 them out                           5
With a strong power, which make them4 fly about.
But if that flint be beat to powder small,
To separate the grossest,5 released are all.
And6 when they once are out, they ne’er come back,7
But seek about another form to make.8                               10

What Atoms Make Fire Burn, and What Flame


What makes a spark of fire to burn more quick
Than a great flame? Because ’tis small to stick.
For fire itself is in its nature dry,2
Falls into parts as crowds of atoms lie.
The sharpest atoms keep the body hot;                                 5
To give out heat some atoms forth are shot.
Sometimes the sparks for anger fly about,3
Or, wanting room, do thrust the weakest4out.
They are so sharp, that what they meet, devour56
If other atoms them not overpower:7                                    10
As ants, though8 small, will eat up a dead horse,
So atoms sharp use9 bodies of less force.
Thus atoms sharp grow10 sharper by degrees,
As stings in flies are not so sharp as bees’.
And when they meet a body solid, flat,                                 15
The weakest fly; the sharpest work on that.
Those that are not so sharp do fly about
To seek some lighter matter to eat11 out.
Thus12 lighter atoms do turn air13 to flame,
Because more thin and porous is the same.                         20
Thus flame is not so hot as burning coal:14
The atoms are too weak to take fast hold.15
The sharpest into firmest bodies fly,
But if their strength be small, they quickly die.
Or if their number be not great, but small,                          25
The blunter atoms beat and quench out all.

What Atoms Make the Sun and the Sea Go Round

The1 pointed atoms all to fire do2 turn,

And being sharp, do pierce, which we call burn.3
But by their dryness they become so light4
As they do get above the rest in flight,5
Where6 by consent a wheel of fire they make,7              5
Which being spherical, doth round motion take.8
This motion makes round9 atoms turn about,
Which atoms round are water, without doubt,
And10 makes the sea go round, like11 watermill,
For as the sun, so water turns round12 still.                    10

Of Quenching out of Fire


The2 atoms round,3 ’tis not their numbers4 great
That put out fire,5 quenching both light and heat.
But being wet, they loosen and unbind
Those sharp dry atoms, which together joined.
For when they are dispersed, their power is6 small,        5
Nor give they light nor heat if single all.
Besides, those7 atoms sharp will smothered be,
Having no vent, nor yet vacuity.
For if that fire8 in a place lies9 close,
Having no vent, but stopped, straight out it10 goes.         10
There is no better argument to prove
A vacuum, than to see how fire doth move:11
For if fire should not have the12 liberty
To run about, how quickly would it die?

The Quenching out and Smothering of Heat and Light Doth Not Change the Property nor Shape of Sharp Atoms.


’Tis not that atoms sharp have alterèd2
Their form when fire’s put out, but motion’s fled.3
Which being4 gone,5 sharp atoms cannot prick,
Having no force in any thing to stick.
For as the sun, if6 motion moved it not,                                     5
Would7 neither shine, nor be to us so hot,
Just so, when creatures die, their form’s not gone,8
But motion, which gave life, away is flown.910
For animal spirits, which we life do call,
Are only of the sharpest atoms small.                                        10
Thus life is atoms sharp, which we call fire;
When those are stopped or quenched,11 life doth expire.