The cause a coal doth set a house on fire
Is atoms sharp are in that coal entire.
Being strong armed with points, do quite pierce through
Those flat dull atoms, and their forms undo.
And atoms sharp, whose form is made for flight, 5
If loose, do run to help the rest in fight,
For like as soldiers which are of one side,
When they see friends engaged, to rescue ride.
But atoms flat, where motion is but slow,
They cannot fight, but straight to ashes go. 10
Burnt wood is like unto an army’s rout;
Their forms undone lie scattered all about.
When atoms sharp unbind the flat, then all
Those loose flat atoms, we do ashes call.
Fire being kindled first appears but small,
But growing strong, it wastes and burns up all.
Just like a crow, that on a dead horse lights:
When other crows perceive it in their flights,
They straight invite themselves unto that feast, 5
And thus 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, so they,
And as it wastes, so they do fly away. 10
Fire such power hath of every thing,
As like to needle points that pierce the skin.
For all it meets, it doth fast to it stick,
Be’t ne’er so close, hard, solid, strong and thick.
All things it doth dissolve, or bow, or break, 5
Keeping its strength by making others weak.
The reason why fire burns, and burning smarts,
Is that it hath so many little parts—
Which parts are atoms sharp, and wound more fierce
If they so far into our skins do pierce—
And like an angry porcupine, doth shoot 5
His fiery quills, if nothing quench them out.
Their figure makes their motion nimble, quick,
And being sharp, they do like needles prick.
If they do pierce too deep, our flesh will ache;
If they but touch the skin, we pleasure take; 10
That kind of pain we do a “burning” call.
These atoms numerous are, and very small,
And make from needles’ points a different touch,
Whose points are gross, and numbers not so much,
And cannot lie so close, nor spread so thin, 15
All at one time to enter through our skin.
The reason fire by water is quenched out
Is that round atoms do put to a rout
The sharp, for when a house on fire is set,
Then atoms sharp are in great armies met,
Where they themselves range into ranks and files, 5
And strive always to havoc and make spoils,
Running about as nimble as may be
From side to side, as in great fires we see.
But atoms round do like a rescue come,
And separate the sharp, which in heaps run. 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.
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 shall fall:
This single element itself doth turn 5
To several qualities, as fire to burn,
Then water moist to quench that heat, and then
To subtle air, and so to earth again.
Like fluid water, which when turned with frost
To snow or ice, its outward form has lost. 10
But whenas heat doth melt that icy chain,
Then into water doth it turn again.
Or like as vapor thick, which doth ascend
From th’Earth, and to thin air itself doth spend,
Or else it will condense itself to rain, 15
And by its weight will fall to Earth again.
So what is very thin doth subtle grow,
Turns into fire, and a bright flame doth show.
But what is dull, heavy, and slow to move
Of a cold quality doth often prove. 20
Thus by contracting and dilating parts
Is all the skill of Nature’s working arts.
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, no blood they draw,
But blisters raise, the skin made red, the flesh raw.
Were there as many stings as fiery atoms small, 5
Would pierce into the flesh, bones turn to ashes all.
Thus we find flies do carry everywhere
Fire in their tails, yet do their breech not fear.
All that doth flow we cannot liquid name,
Or else would fire and water be the same,
But that is liquid which is moist and wet;
Fire that property can never get.
Then ’tis not cold that puts the fire out, 5
But ’tis the wet that makes it die, no doubt.
If hay be not quite dry, but stacked up wet,
That moisture will in time a fire beget.
This proves that fire may from moisture grow;
We proof have none, moisture from fire flow.
This shows that fire in itself is free: 5
No other element in it can be.
For fire is pure and still doth keep the same;
Where oily moisture’s not, no fire can flame.