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.

  1. In 1653 this poem is called “Of Elements”
  2. shall] do 1664, 1668
  3. This single] And that this 1664; And, that this 1668
  4. doth] to 1653
  5. Then] So 1653
  6. to quench that heat,] that heate to quench, 1653
  7. when turned with frost] turnes with the Cold, 1653
  8. To snow or ice, its outward form has lost.] Flakes of Snow, or in firme Ice to hold. 1653
  9. whenas] that 1653
  10. doth it] it doth 1664, 1668
  11. Or like as vapor thick, which doth ascend] So from the Earth a Vapour thicke ascends, 1653
  12. From th’Earth, and to thin air itself doth spend,] That Vapour thicke it selfe to thin Aire spends; 1653
  13. it will condense itself to] it self condenseth into 1664, 1668
  14. will fall to] falls to the 1664, 1668
  15. So] And 1653
  16. doth subtle grow,] so subtle growes, 1653
  17. Turns into] As it turnes 1653
  18. a] so a 1653
  19. doth show.] shewes. 1653
  20. But] And 1653
  21. heavy, and slow] or heavy, slow 1653
  22. doth often] it oft doth 1653