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.

Motion Makes Atoms a Bawd for Figure.

Did not wild Motion, with his subtle wit,1
Make atoms as his bawd, new forms to get,2
They still would constant be in one figure,3
And as they place themselves, would last forever.4
But Motion, he persuades new forms to make,           5
Because he5 doth in change great pleasure take,
And makes all atoms run from place to place,
That figures young he might have to embrace.
For some short time he loves to make a stay,6
But after he is tired, he’ll run away.7                            10
And by his change most figures are8 undone,
For young take place of th’old when they are gone.9
Yet ’tis but like a batch of bread, which still10
Is of the same flower and seed. Thus will11
Inconstant Motion a new figure bake,12                       15
Only that he may13 have a new hot cake.

Motion Is According to the Figure.


A figure spherical, the motion’s so;2
Straight figures in a darting motion go:3
As several figures in small atoms be,
So several motions are, if we could see.
If atoms join, meet in another form,4                      5
Then motion alters as the figures turn,5
For if the bodies weighty are and great,6
Then motion’s slow, and goes upon less feet.7
Out of a shuttlecock a feather pull,
And flying strike it, as when it was full,                 10
The motion of it alters, which seems strange,8
When th’motion of the hand doth no ways change.9
Yet motion, matter,10 can new figures find,
And the substantial figures turn and wind.
Thus several figures several motions take,             15
And several motions several figures make.
But figure, matter, motion, all is one,
Can never11 separate, nor be alone.

Of the Attraction of the Poles, and of Frost


The North and South do with the sun agree,
For in them all contracting motions be.
The sun as he with scorching heat doth burn,
So cold is sharp, where North and South Pole turn:2
For atoms there are like to pincers small,                            5
By which they do attract, and pull3 withall.4
When motion from the poles shoots them about,
Mixing with porous bodies when they’re out.
And with those pincers small those bodies nip,5
So close and hard, they cannot from them get,6                  10
Unless some sharp and fiery atoms get7
Betwixt those pincers small, and so do set8
Those bodies free, just9 like an awl that bores,
Or like a picklock, which doth open doors.
For when they’re opened by those fiery awls,                      15
Let go their holds,10 which men11 a thaw straight calls.
If not, they pinch those bodies close together,
And then we12 say it is hard13 frosty weather.

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.

Of a Burning Coal


The cause a coal doth2 set a house on fire
Is atoms sharp are in that coal entire.
Being strong armed with points, do quite pierce through3
Those flat dull atoms, and4 their forms5 undo.
And atoms sharp, whose form is made for flight,              5
If loose, do run to help the rest in fight,
For like as6 soldiers which are of one side,
When they see7 friends engaged, to rescue ride.8
But atoms flat, where motion is but slow,
They cannot fight, but straight to ashes go.                        10

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 Cold Winds

As water rarified doth make1 winds blow,
So winds when rarified2 do colder grow.
For if they thin are3 rarified, then they
Do further blow, and spread out every way.
So cold they are, and sharp as needle points,4                          5
For by the thinness breaks and disunites,5
Into such6 atoms fall, sharp figures be,7
Which porous bodies pierce, if we could8 see.
Yet some will think, if air were parted so
The winds could not have such strong force to blow.             10
’Tis true, if atoms all were blunt and flat,9
Or round like rings, they could not pierce, but pat.10
But by dividing, they so sharp do grow,11
That12 through all porous bodies they do go.13
But when the winds are soft, they intermix,                             15
As water doth, and in one body fix.
They rather14 wave than blow as fans are spread,
Which ladies use to cool their cheeks when red,
Or like as water drops that disunite15
Feel harder than when mixed they16 on us light,                     20
Unless such streams upon our heads do17 run,
As we a shelter seek, the wet to shun.
But when a drop congealèd is with cold,
As hailstones are, then it more strength18 doth hold.
For19 flakes of snow may have more quantity                          25
Than hailstones, yet not have more20 force thereby.
They fall so soft that they scarce21 strike our touch;
Hailstones we feel and know their weight too much.
But figures that are flat are dull and slow,
Make weak impressions22 wheresoe’er they go.                      30
For let ten times the quantity of steel
Be beaten thin,23 no hurt by that you’ll feel.
But if that one will take a needle small,
Whose point is sharp, and prick24 the flesh withal,
Straight it shall hurt, and put the flesh to pain,                        35
Which greater strength doth not of what is25 plain.
For though26 you press it hard against the skin,
’T may27 heavy feel, but cannot28 enter in.
And so29 the wind that’s thin and30 rarified
May press31 us down, but never32 pierce the side.                   40
Or take a blade that’s flat, though strong and great,
And with great strength upon one’s head it33 beat:
You’ll break the skull, but not knock out his34 brains,
Which arrows sharp soon do, and with less pains.
Thus what is small is subtler and more35 quick,                       45
For all small points36 in porous bodies stick.
Winds broken small to atoms, when they37 blow,
Are colder much than when they38 streaming flow,
For all which knit39 and united close40
Much stronger are, and give41 the harder blows.                     50
This shows what’s closest in itself42 to be,
Although an atom in43 its small degree.
Take quantity, for quantity alike,
Union44 more than mixture hard shall strike.

The Motion of Thoughts

Musing one time alone,1 mine eyes being2 fixed
Upon the ground, my sight with gravel mixed,
My feet did walk without direction’s guide;
My thoughts did travel far and wander wide.
At last they chanced upon3 a hill to climb,                                 5
And being there, saw things that were divine.
        First, what4 they saw: a glorious light did5 blaze,
Whose splendor made it painful for the6 gaze.
No separations nor shadows by stops7 made,
No darkness did8 obstruct this light with shade.                     10
This light had no dimension, nor no bound,9
No limits, but it10 filled all places round.11
Always in motion ’twas,12 yet fixed did prove,
Like to the twinkling stars, which never move.
This motion working, running several ways,                           15
Seemed as if contradictions it would13 raise,
For with itself it seemed not to agree,14
Like to15 a skein of thread, if’t knotted be.
For some did go straight in an even line,
But some again did cross, and some did twine.                        20
Yet at the last, all several motions run
Into the first Prime Motion, which begun.
In various forms and shapes did life run through,
Which was eternal, but the shapes were16 new;
No17 sooner made, but quickly18 passed away,                         25
Yet while they were, they did desire19 to stay.
But motion to one form can ne’er constant20 be,
For life, which motion is, joys in21 variety.
For the22 First Motion everything can make,
But cannot add unto itself, nor take.                                           30
Indeed no other matter could it23 frame:
Itself was all, and in itself the same.
Perceiving now this fixèd point of light,
I spied24 a union: Knowledge, Power, and Might,
Wisdom, Truth, Justice,25 Providence, all one,                          35
No attribute was by itself26 alone.
Not like to27 several lines drawn to one point,
For what doth meet may be again28 disjoint.
But this same29 point, from whence all lines did30 flow,
Nought can diminish it, or31 make it grow.                               40
’Tis its own center and circumference round,
Yet neither has a limit nor32 a bound.
A fixed eternity,33 and so will last:
All present is, nothing to come or34 past.
A fixed perfection; nothing can add more;                               45
All things is it, and itself doth35 adore.
My thoughts then wondering at what they did see,
Found at the last themselves the same to be,36
Yet were37 so small a branch, as they38 could not
Know39 whence they sprung, nor how they40 were begot.    50
        Some say, all that41 we know of Heaven above
Is that we joy, and that we love.42
But who43 can tell that? For all we know,44
Those passions we call joy and love below45
May by excess such other passions grow;                                  55
None in the world is capable to know.
Just like our bodies, although46 they shall rise,
And as St. Paul says, see God with our eyes,
Yet may we in the change such difference find,
Both in our bodies, and also in mind,47                                      60
As if we never had been of48 mankind,
And that these49 eyes we see with now were blind.
Say we can measure all the planets high,
And number all the stars be50 in the sky,
And we can circle51 all the world about,                                    65
And can find all52 th’effects of nature out:53
Yet all54 the wise and learnèd cannot tell55
What’s done in Heaven, or how we there shall dwell.