The Four Principle Figured Atoms Make the Four Elements, as Square, Round, Long, and Sharp.


The square flat atoms as dull earth appear;
The atoms round do make the water clear.
The long straight atoms like to2 arrows fly,
Mount next the sharp3 and make the airy sky.
The sharpest atoms into fire do turn,4                            5
And5 by their piercing quality do6 burn:
That figure makes them active, active light,
Which makes them get above the rest in flight.
And by this figure they stick fast, and draw
Up other atoms, which are round and raw.                 10
But water is7 round drops, though ne’er so small,
Which shows8 its figure to be9 spherical.
That figure makes it spongy, spongy wet,
And10 being hollow, softness doth beget.
And being soft, that11 makes it run about;                   15
More solid atoms thrust it in, or out.
But sharpest atoms have most power thereon,12
For cold doth nip it, and heat makes it run.13
But atoms flat,14 are heavy, dull, and slow,
And sinking downward15 to the bottom go.                 20
These16 figured atoms are not active, light,
Whereas the long are like the sharp in flight.
For as the sharp do pierce and get on high,
So do the long shoot straight and evenly.
The round are next the flat, the long next round;        25
Those which are sharp are still the highest found.
The flat turn all to earth and17 lie most low,
The round to water clear, which18 liquid flow.
The long to air, from whence the clouds do grow;19
The sharp to fire do turn20, which hot doth glow.        30
Thus these four figures th’elements21 do make,
And as their figures do incline, they take.
For they22 are perfect in themselves alone,
Not taking any shape, but what’s their own.
And whatsoever form is elsewhere found,23                35
Must take from long or square or sharp or round.24
For25 those that are like to triangles26 cut,
Part of three figures in one form is put.
And those that bow and bend like to a bow
Like to the round, and jointed atoms27 show.               40
In those that28 branched, or those which crooked be,
You may both the long and29 sharp figures see.
Thus several figures several tempers make,
But what is mixed doth of the four partake.

  1. In 1664 and 1668 this poem is called “The Four Principle Figured Atomes Make the Four Elements.”
  2. to] as 1664; 1668
  3. sharp] points 1653
  4. into fire do turn,] do into Fire turne 1653
  5. And] Which 1653
  6. do] they 1653
  7. But water is] As Waters are 1653
  8. shows] shew 1653
  9. its figure to be] that water is all 1653
  10. And] For 1653
  11. that] it 1664, 1668
  12. sharpest atoms have most power thereon,] sharper Atomes force it cannot shun, 1664; sharper Atom’s Force, it cannot shun; 1668
  13. For cold doth nip it, and heat makes it run.] To nip it up with Cold, or Heate to run. 1653
  14. But atoms flat,] Flat Atomes, they 1664; Flat Atoms they 1668
  15. downward] downwards 1664, 1668
  16. These] Those 1653
  17. and] which 1653
  18. which] and 1664, 1668
  19. The long to air, from whence the clouds do grow;] The Long to Aire turne, from whence Clouds grow, 1653
  20. do turn] turne 1653
  21. Thus these four figures th’elements] These Foure Figures foure Elements 1653
  22. they] those 1653
  23. And whatsoever form is elsewhere found,] What Forme is else, must still take from each part, 1653
  24. Must take from long or square or sharp or round.] Either from Round, or Long, or Square, or Sharp; 1653
  25. For] As 1653
  26. triangles] Triangulars 1653
  27. jointed atoms] joyned Atomes 1664; Joyned-Atoms, 1668
  28. In those that] Those that are 1653
  29. both the long and] the Long and both 1664; both long and the 1668