Small atoms of themselves a world may make,
For, being subtle, every shape they take.
And as they dance about, they places find;
Such forms as best agree make every kind.
For when we build a house of brick or 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 they 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.
Those which not fit, the rest that rove about
Do never leave, until they thrust them out.
Thus by their several motions, and their forms, 15
As several workmen serve each other’s turns.
And so by chance may a new world create,
Or else, predestinate, may work by Fate.
The square flat atoms as dull earth appear;
The atoms round do make the water clear.
The long straight atoms like to arrows fly,
Mount next the sharp and make the airy sky.
The sharpest atoms into fire do turn, 5
And by their piercing quality do 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 is round drops, though ne’er so small,
Which shows its figure to be spherical.
That figure makes it spongy, spongy wet,
And being hollow, softness doth beget.
And being soft, that makes it run about; 15
More solid atoms thrust it in, or out.
But sharpest atoms have most power thereon,
For cold doth nip it, and heat makes it run.
But atoms flat, are heavy, dull, and slow,
And sinking downward to the bottom go. 20
These 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 and lie most low,
The round to water clear, which liquid flow.
The long to air, from whence the clouds do grow;
The sharp to fire do turn, which hot doth glow. 30
Thus these four figures th’elements do make,
And as their figures do incline, they take.
For they are perfect in themselves alone,
Not taking any shape, but what’s their own.
And whatsoever form is elsewhere found, 35
Must take from long or square or sharp or round.
For those that are like to triangles 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 atoms show. 40
In those that branched, or those which crooked be,
You may both the long and sharp figures see.
Thus several figures several tempers make,
But what is mixed doth of the four partake.
Long atoms, which the streaming air do make,
Are hollow, from which form air softness takes.
This makes that air and water ne’er agree,
Because in hollowness alike they be.
For airy atoms made are like a pipe, 5
And wat’ry atoms, round and cymbal-like.
Although the one is long, and th’other round,
Yet in the midst a hollowness is found.
This makes us think that water turns to air,
And air runs often into water fair. 10
And like two twins they are mistaken oft,
Because their hollowness makes both them soft.
The reason why air is so equal spread,
Is atoms long, at each end balancèd.
For being long, and each end both alike,
Are like to weights, which keep it steady, right.
For howsoe’er it moves, join to what form it will, 5
Yet lies in every line that figure still.
For atoms long, their forms as thread are spun,
And like a cobweb interwoven run;
And thus air, being thin, so subtle grows,
That into every empty place it goes. 10
Why’s earth not apt to move, but slow and dull?
Flat atoms have no vacuum, but are full.
That form admits no empty place to bide;
All parts are filled, having no hollow side.
And where no vacuum is, motion is slow, 5
Having no empty places for to go.
Though atomes all are small, as small may be,
Yet by their forms doth motion disagree.
For atoms sharp do make themselves a way,
Cutting through other atoms as they stray. 10
But atoms flat will dull and lazy lie,
Having no edge or point to make a way.
When I say atoms small as small can be,
I mean quantity, quality, and weight agree.
Not in the figure, for some may show
Much bigger, and some lesser: so
Take water fluid and ice, and you will see, 5
They do in weight but not in bulk agree.
So atoms: some are soft, others more knit,
According as each atom’s figurèd.
Atoms whose forms are hollow, long, and round
Bend more than flat or sharp, which close are bound. 10
And being hollow, they are spread more thin
Than other atoms which are close within.
And atoms which are thin are softer much,
When atoms close are of a harder touch.
In every brain there do loose atoms lie,
Those which are sharp, from them do fancies fly.
Long airy atoms nimble are, and free,
But atoms round and square are dull and sleepy.
If atoms all are of the selfsame matter,
As fire, air, earth, and water,
Then must their several figures make all change
By motion’s help, which orders as they range.
Motion the sharpest atoms doth mount high,
And like to arrows swift, doth make them fly.
And being sharp and swift, they pierce so deep,
As they pass through all atoms as they meet.
By their swift motion, to bright fire they turn, 5
And being sharp, they pierce, which we call “burn.”
Those atoms which are long, sharp at each end,
Stream forth like air in flame, which light doth send.
For flame doth flow as if it fluid were,
Which shows part of that figure is like air.
Thus flame is joined, two figures into one, 5
But fire without flame is sharp alone.