What Atoms Make Fire Burn, and What Flame

1

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.

Of a Burning Coal

1

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

Of Burning, Why It Causes Pain

1

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