Such sympathy there is in every figure,
That every several sort do flock together,
As air, water, earth, and fire,
Which make each element to be entire.
Not but loose atoms like sheep stray about, 5
And intoseveral places go in and out,
And some as sheep and kine do mix together,
Which when they mix, ’tis several change of weather.
But Motion as their shepherd drives them so,
As not to let them out of order go. 10
Such kind of atoms which make heat, make cold,
Like pincers sharp that nip and do take hold.
But atoms that are pointed sharp pierce through,
And atoms which are sharp and hooked pull to.
Yet all must into pointed figures turn, 5
For atoms blunt will never freeze nor burn.
’Cause blunt figures do to a soft form bend,
And soft do unto wet or liquid tend.
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,
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,
Or, wanting room, do thrust the weakestout.
They are so sharp, that what they meet, devour
If other atoms them not overpower: 10
As ants, though small, will eat up a dead horse,
So atoms sharp use bodies of less force.
Thus atoms sharp grow 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 eat out.
Thus lighter atoms do turn air to flame,
Because more thin and porous is the same. 20
Thus flame is not so hot as burning coal:
The atoms are too weak to take fast hold.
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.
Sharp atoms when they meet do get such heat,
Such power and strength, as they all others beat,
And being hot, become so very dry,
They drink life’s moisture up, make motion die.
Some factious atoms ’mongst themselves combine,
And strive some formed body to unjoin.
Round atoms do beat out the sharp; the long
With flat atoms do fight: thus all go wrong.
Those which make Motion general in their war 5
By his directions, they much stronger are.
Some Motion with some atoms doth agree,
Fitting them to their place, as just may be,
Where they by Motion’s help so strong do grow,
That hardly Motion shall again undo.
Motion’s inconstancy oft gives such power 5
To atoms, as they can Motion devour.
The atoms round, ’tis not their numbers great
That put out fire, 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 is small, 5
Nor give they light nor heat if single all.
Besides, those atoms sharp will smothered be,
Having no vent, nor yet vacuity.
For if that fire in a place lies close,
Having no vent, but stopped, straight out it goes. 10
There is no better argument to prove
A vacuum, than to see how fire doth move:
For if fire should not have the liberty
To run about, how quickly would it die?
’Tis not that atoms sharp have alterèd
Their form when fire’s put out, but motion’s fled.
Which being gone, sharp atoms cannot prick,
Having no force in any thing to stick.
For as the sun, if motion moved it not, 5
Would neither shine, nor be to us so hot,
Just so, when creatures die, their form’s not gone,
But motion, which gave life, away is flown.
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, life doth expire.
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
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.