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

The Increasing and Decreasing of Visible Fire

Fire being kindled first appears1 but small,
But growing strong, it wastes and burns up2 all.
Just like a crow, that on a dead horse lights:
When other crows perceive it3 in their flights,
They straight invite themselves unto that feast,             5
And thus4 from one, to numbers are increased.
So atoms sharp which singly fly about
Join with the rest to eat the fuel out.
And as the fuel doth increase, so5 they,
And as it wastes, so they do6 fly away.7                           10

The Power of Fire

Fire such power hath of every thing,1
As like to needle points that pierce the skin.2
For all it meets, it doth fast to it stick,3
Be’t ne’er so close, hard, solid, strong and thick.4
All things it doth dissolve, or bow, or break,          5
Keeping its strength by making others weak.

Of Burning, Why It Causes Pain


The reason why fire burns,2 and burning smarts,
Is that it hath so many3 little parts—
Which parts are atoms sharp, and wound more fierce4
If they so far into our skins do pierce—5
And like an angry porcupine, doth shoot6                             5
His7 fiery quills, if nothing quench them out.
Their figure makes their motion nimble, quick,8
And being sharp, they do like9 needles prick.
If they do pierce too deep,10 our flesh will11 ache;
If they but12 touch the skin,13 we pleasure take;                 10
That kind of pain we do14 a “burning” call.
These atoms numerous are,15 and very small,
And make from needles’ points16 a different touch,
Whose17 points are gross, and numbers not so much,
And18 cannot lie so close, nor19 spread so thin,                   15
All at one time to enter through our skin.20

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 Elements



Some hold four perfect elements there be,
Which do surmount each other by degree.
And some opinions think that one is all,
The rest from that and to that one shall2 fall:
This single3 element itself doth4 turn                                     5
To several qualities, as fire to burn,
Then5 water moist to quench that heat,6 and then
To subtle air, and so to earth again.
Like fluid water, which when turned with frost7
To snow or ice, its outward form has lost.8                         10
But whenas9 heat doth melt that icy chain,
Then into water doth it10 turn again.
Or like as vapor thick, which doth ascend11
From th’Earth, and to thin air itself doth spend,12
Or else it will condense itself to13 rain,                                15
And by its weight will fall to14 Earth again.
So15 what is very thin doth subtle grow,16
Turns into17 fire, and a18 bright flame doth show.19
But20 what is dull, heavy, and slow21 to move
Of a cold quality doth often22 prove.                                    20
Thus by contracting and dilating parts
Is all the skill of Nature’s working arts.

Fire Compared to Stings

Nothing is so like fire, as a fly’s sting,
If we compare th’effect which both do bring.
For flies when they sting the flesh,1 no blood they2 draw,
But blisters raise, the skin made red, the flesh raw.3
Were there as many stings as fiery atoms small,4             5
Would pierce into the flesh, bones turn to ashes all.5
Thus we find flies do carry everywhere
Fire in their tails, yet do their breech6 not fear.

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.

Of Fire and Moisture



If hay be not quite dry, but stacked up wet,
That moisture will in time2 a fire beget.
This proves that fire may from moisture grow;3
We proof have none, moisture from fire flow.4
This shows that fire in itself is free:5                           5
No other element in it can be.
For fire is pure and still doth keep6 the same;
Where oily moisture’s not, no fire can flame.