Nature Calls a Counsel, which is Motion, Figure, Matter, and Life, to Advise about Making the World.



When Nature first the world’s foundation laid,2
She called a counsel how it might be made.3
Motion was first, who4 had a subtle wit,
And then came Life, and Form, and Matter fit.
First Nature spake:5 “My friends, if we agree,             5
We can and may do a fine work,” said she,
“Make some things to adore us,6 worship give,
Whereas now we but to7 ourselves do live.
Besides, it is my nature things to make,
To give out work, and8 you directions take.               10
Wherefore if you will pleasure have therein,9
You’ll10 breed the Fates in housewif’ry to spin,
And make strong Destiny to take some11 pains,
Lest she grow idle, let her12 link some chains.
Inconstancy and Fortune turn a wheel,                      15
Since both are13 wanton, cannot stand, but reel.
And as for moisture, let it water give,14
Which heat suck up, to make things grow and live,15
And let sharp cold stay things that run about,
And drought stop holes, to keep the water out.         20
Vacuum and darkness they will domineer
If Motion’s power make no16 light appear;
Wherefore produce a light, the world to see,17
My only child from all eternity—
Beauty, my love, my joy and dear delight—                25
Else darkness rude will cover her with spite.”
        “Alas!” said Motion, “all pains I can take18
Will do no good, Matter a brain must19 make,
And Figure20 draw a circle, round, and small,
Where in the midst must stand a glassy ball,              30
Without convex, but inwardly21 concave,
And in its middle22 a round small hole must have,
That species may thorough pass, and Life23
May view all things as through a prospective.”24
        “Alas!” said Life, “whatever we do make,           35
Death, my great enemy, will from us take:
And who can hinder his strong,25 mighty power?
He with his cruelty doth26 all devour,
And Time, his agent, brings27 all to decay:
Thus neither Death nor Time will you obey.               40
He cares for none of your commands, nor will
Obey your laws, but doth what likes him28 still.
He knows his power far exceedeth ours,
For whatsoe’er we make, he soon devours.
Let me advise you ne’er to take29 such pains              45
A world to make, since Death hath all the gains.”
        Figure’s opinion did agree with Life,
“For Death,” said she, “will fill the world with strife.
What Form soever I do turn into,
Death finds me out: that Form he doth undo.”            50
Then Motion spake: “None hath such cause as I
For to complain, for Death makes Motion die.
’Tis best to let alone this work, I think.”
Says Matter, “Death corrupts, and makes me stink.”
Says Nature, “I am of another mind:                            55
If we let Death alone, we soon shall find
He wars will make, and raise a mighty power,
If we divert him not, may us devour.
He is ambitious, will in triumph sit,30
Envies my works, and seeks my State to get.31            60
And Fates, though they upon great Life attend,
Yet fear they Death, and dare not him32 offend.
Though two be true, and spin as Life them bids,
The third is false, and cuts short the long threads.33
Let us agree, for fear we should do worse,                   65
And make some work for to employ34 his force.”
Then all rose up: “We do submit,” said35 they,
“And36 Nature’s will in every thing obey.”
        First Matter she materials in did bring,37
And Motion cut, and carved out every thing.               70
And Figure, she did draw the forms and plots,
And Life divided all out into lots.
And Nature, she surveyed, directed all,
And with four elements38 built the world’s ball.
The solid earth she as foundation39 laid;                       75
The waters round about as walls were raised,40
Where every drop lay close, like41 stone or brick,
Whose moisture like to42 mortar made them stick.
Air, as the ceiling, keeps all close within,43
Lest some materials out of place might spring.            80
And presses down the seas, lest44 they should rise
And45 overflow the Earth, and drown the skies.
For as a roof is46 laid upon a wall,
To keep it steady, that no side may47 fall,
So Nature in that place air wisely stayed,48                   85
And fire, like tile or slate, the highest laid49
To keep out rain, or wet, else it would rot:
So50 would the world corrupt if fire were not.
The planets, like as weather-fans, turn round;
The sun a dial in the midst is found,                                90
Where he doth give so just account of time51
And52 measures all, though round, by even line.
But when the Earth was made, and seed did sow,53
Plants on the Earth, and minerals down grow,54
Then creatures made, which Motion did give55 sense, 95
Yet reason none to give56 intelligence.
But Nature found, when she to make Man came,57
It was more difficult than worlds to frame;58
For she did strive to make him long to last,
And so into eternity him59 cast.                                         100
Who60 in no other place could be kept61 long,
But in eternity, that castle strong.
There she was sure that Death she could keep62 out,
Although he is a warrior strong and stout.
Man she would make, but not like other kind:63            105
Though not in body, like a God in mind.
Then she did call her counsel once again,
Told them the greatest work did64 yet remain.
“For how,” said she, “can we ourselves new make?65
Yet Man we must like to ourselves create,66                    110
Or else he never can67 escape Death’s snare;
To make this work requires68 both skill and care.
But I a mind will mix69 as I think fit,
With knowledge, understanding, and with wit.
And Motion, you your servants70 must employ,              115
Which Passions are, to wait still in the eye,
To dress, and clothe this71 mind in fashions new,
Which none knows better how to do72 you,
That, though his body die,73 this mind shall74 live,
And a free will we must unto it give.                                 120
But Matter, you from Figure form must take,
And Man from other creatures different75 make.
For he shall upright go;76 the rest shall not.
And Motion, you in him must tie a knot
Of several motions, there to meet in one.                         125
Thus Man like to himself shall be alone.
You, Life, command the Fates a thread to spin,
From which small thread the body shall begin.
And while the thread doth last, not cut in twain,
The body shall in motion still remain.                                130
But when the thread is broke, he77 down shall fall,
And for a time no motion have at all.
But yet the mind shall live and never die;
We’ll raise the body too for company.
Thus, like ourselves, we can78 make things to live          135
Eternally, but no past times can give.

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.

Of the Center of the World


In infinites2 no center can be laid,
But if the world has limits, center’s made.3
For all that with circumference is4 faced,
A center in the midst must needs be5 placed.
This makes each form that’s limited6 and bound        5
To have a center and circumference round.
This7 is the cause: the world in circle runs8
Because a center hath whereon it turns.9
The center’s10 small, circumference11 big without,
Which by the weight doth make it turn about.           10

All Sharp Atoms Do Run to the Center, and Those that Settle Not, by Reason of the Straightness of the Place, Fly out to the Circumference. Sharp Atoms Running to the Center Make a Sun.


All atoms sharp to every center fly,
And in the midst of th’Earth and2 planets lie,
And in those planets there are centers too,3
Where the sharp atoms with quick motion go.
And to the center of the Earth they run,                 5
There gathering close, and so become a sun.4
This is the ax whereon the Earth turns round,
And gives the heat which in the Earth is found;
A world of fire: thus may we guess the sun,
If all sharp atoms to the center run.                         10
For why the sun amongst the planets round,
Just as a center, in the midst is found.
And fixèd stars, which give a twinkling light
Are center-worlds5 of fire, which do shine6 bright.

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

A World Made by Four Kinds of Atoms



Sharp atoms make fire2 subtle, quick, and dry;
The long, like shafts still into air do fly;3
The round to water moist (a hollow form),4
The figure square to heavy dull earth turn.5
The atoms sharp hard6 minerals do make;                          5
Soft vegetables of round atoms7 take.
In animals none singly lie alone,
But all8 four atoms9 meet and join as one.
And thus four atoms10 the substance are11 of all,
With their four figures12 make a worldly ball.                  10

Thus the fancy of my atoms is that the four principle figures, as sharp, long, round, and square,13 make the four elements. Not that they are of several matters, but are all14 of one matter,15 only their several figures do give them several properties; so likewise do the mixed figures give them mixed properties, and their several composures give16 them other properties, according to their forms they put themselves into by their several motions. This I do repeat that the ground of my opinion may be understood.

Of Light and Sight

Some learnèd men, which think1 to reason well,
Say light and color in the brain do dwell,
That motion in the brain doth light beget,2
And if no brain, the world in darkness shut.3
But be it4 that the brain hath eyes to see,                           5
Then5 eyes and brain would6 make the light to be.
If so, poor Donne was out when he did say
If all the world were blind, ’twould still be day.
Say they, light would not in the air7 reign,
Unless you’ll grant8 the world were one great brain.     10
Some ages in some opinions all agree;9
The next doth strive to make them false to be.
But10 what is new doth all so pleasing sound,11
That reasons old are as mere nonsense found.12
But all opinions are by fancy fed,                                        15
And truth lies under those opinions,13 dead.

Of Many Worlds in this World

Just like as in1 a nest of boxes round
Degrees of sizes in2 each box are found,
So in this world, may many worlds more3 be,
Thinner and less, and less still by degree.
Although they are not subject to our sense,              5
A world may be no bigger than twopence.
Nature is curious, and such works may shape4
Which our dull senses easily escape.5
For creatures small as atoms may be there,
If every atom6 a creature’s figure bear.                    10
If atoms four7 a world can make,8 then see
What several worlds might in an earring be.
For millions of these9 atoms may be in
The head of one small little single pin.
And if thus small, then ladies well may10 wear       15
A world of worlds as pendants in each ear.

Several Worlds in Several Circles

There may be many worlds like circles round;
In after ages more worlds may be found.1
If we by art of shipping could into2
Each circle slip, we might perhaps it know.3
This world compared to some may be but small:              5
No doubt but4 Nature made degrees of all.
If not, Drake ne’er had made so quick a skip5
About the largest circle in6 his7 ship.
For8 some may be so big as none can swim,
Had they the life of old Methusalem.                                  10
Or had they lives to number with each day,
They would want time to compass half the way.
But if that Drake had lived in Venus’s9 star,
His journey shorter might have10 been by far.