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 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.

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

The Reason Water Quenches Fire

The reason fire by water is quenched1 out
Is that round atoms do2 put to a rout
The sharp,3 for when a house on fire is set,4
Then atoms sharp are5 in great armies met,6
Where they themselves range into7 ranks and files,          5
And strive always to havoc and make spoils,
Running about as nimble as may be8
From side to side, as in great fires9 we see.
But atoms round do like a rescue come,1011
And separate the sharp, which in heaps run.12                  10
For being separate, they have no force,
Like to a troop or regiment of horse,
Which when great cannon bullets are shot through,
They disunite, and quite their strength undo.
So water that is thrown on flaming fire                               15
Doth separate and make that strength expire.

Of the Sound of Water, Air and Flame


When crowds of atoms meet, not joinèd close,
By Motion quick they2 give each other blows.3
So atoms hollow, which are long and round,
When they do strike, do make the greatest sound.
Not that there’s anything that moves therein                      5
To make rebounds, but that their form’s more thin.4
For being thin, they larger are, and wide,
Which make them apt to strike each other’s side.
In larger bulks, encounters are more fierce
When they do5 strike, though not so quick to pierce.       10
This is the reason water, air, and flame
Do make most noise when motions move the same.
For atoms loose are like to people rude,
And make great6 noise when in a multitude.

The Reason of the Roaring of the Sea

All water’s spherical; when tides do flow,
Beat all those spherical drops as they do go.1
So winds do strike those wat’ry drops together,
Which we at sea do call tempestuous weather.
And being spherical and cymbal-like,                            5
They make a sound when each ’gainst other strike.

The Agility of Water


Water is apt to move, since2 round like balls:
No points it hath, but trundles3 as it falls.
This makes the sea, when like great4 mountains high
The waves do rise, it cannot steady5 lie,
But falls again into a liquid plain                                         5
When winds disturb it not, there to6 remain.
Thus wat’ry balls, they do not intermix,7
But stick so close,8 as nothing is betwixt.

If Infinite Worlds, There Must Be Infinite Centers.



If infinites of worlds, they must be placed
At such a distance, as between lies waste.
If they were joined close, moving about,
By jostling they would push each other out.
And if they swim in air, as fishes do                                   5
In water, they would meet as they did go.2
But if the air doth every world3 enclose
And compass4 all about, as5 water flows,
It keeps6 them equal in their proper seat,7
That as they move shall not each other beat.8                 10
Or if like wheels which turn by water round,9
So air about these10 worlds is running found.11
And12 by that motion they do turn about
No further than that motion’s strength runs out.13
Like to a bowl which will no14 further go,                        15
But runs according as that strength did15 throw.
And thus like16 bowls, the worlds do turn and run,
But still the jack and center is the sun.17

What is Liquid

All that doth flow we cannot liquid name,1
Or else would fire and water be the same,2
But that is liquid which is moist and wet;
Fire that property can never get.
Then ’tis not cold that puts the fire3 out,                     5
But ’tis the wet that makes it die, no doubt.