A World Made by Atoms

Small atoms of themselves a world may make,
For, being subtle, every shape they take.1
And as they dance about, they2 places find;
Such forms as3 best agree make every kind.
For when we build a4 house of brick or5 stone,      5
We lay them even, every one by one:
And when we find a gap that’s big or small,
We seek out stones to fit that place withal.
For when as they6 too big or little be,
They fall away and cannot stay, we see.                   10
So atoms as they dance find places fit;
They there remain, lie close, and fast will stick.7
Those which not fit,8 the rest that rove about
Do never leave, until they thrust them out.
Thus by their several motions, and their forms,9   15
As several workmen serve each other’s turns.10
And so11 by chance12 may a new world create,
Or else, predestinate, may work by13 Fate.

  1. For, being subtle, every shape they take.] As being subtle, and of every shape 1653
  2. they] fit 1653
  3. Such forms as] Of Forms, that 1664, 1668
  4. a] an 1664, 1668
  5. or] and 1653
  6. as they] not fit 1653
  7. They there remain, lie close, and fast will stick.] And there remaining close and fast will knit. 1664; And there remaining, close and fast will knit: 1668
  8. which not fit,] that unfit 1653
  9. several motions, and their forms,] Forms and Motions they will be, 1664; Forms and Motions, they will be 1668
  10. As several workmen serve each other’s turns.] Like work-men, which amongst themselves agree; 1664; Like Work-men, which amongst themselves agree; 1668
  11. so] thus 1653
  12. This line has a stop-press correction in the first edition: in exactly two of the thirty-four copies of the 1653 Poems and Fancies that I have consulted–those held at the Bodleian Library (shelfmark P 1.22 Jur.Seld.) and the Stanford University Library–this line reads “change” instead of “chance”. This indicates that “change” was originally set in error, and was corrected to “chance”.
  13. may work by] to worke my 1653; may work by 1664; may work by 1668. In 2 copies of the 1653 edition that I have examined (those held at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and the Yale Beinecke Library), this “my” has been changed to “by” or “By” by hand.