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Forethought furnished me to men;
For ages I sourced all.
But slowly, as the men advanced,
I watched my kingdom fall.

I used to give so much to men,
But now they need me less.
Perfunctory my uses now;
Allure I once possessed

Replaced, am I, by lightning caught;
May Franklin be most cursed.
He gave mankind alternatives,
And so my growth reversed.

I gave to men their healthy meat;
I made them safe at night.
I gave them weapons, traps, and shields;
I shared with them my might!

But still I'm used, albeit less;
They see me oft as "quaint".
Where once I was in every home,
Now usually I ain't.

They think me fine on wintry nights,
But keep me in my place.
They build me traps of steel and stone,
And to their friends showcase.

"Oh, look," they say, "we tamed the beast!"
I roar internally!
"That's very nice," their friends reply.
I spit my tongues at thee!

Let me loose, I shall destroy
Each thing that you hold dear.
I rage against my captors now;
They're always right to fear.

I'm ancient and I'm primal too;
I date from long before
The rise of all these puny men;
I wage a ceaseless war.

All that you built upon my back
Shall be destroyed by rage.
I'm wild, devouring all I see;
I grow, but do not age.

You may send troops with special suits,
Who try to beat me back,
But I return and start again;
With lightning I attack.

So sit or stand, you fleshy thing;
Believe that I am tamed.
My will be told: the world would be
Entirely enflamed.

Who am I?

Explain as many clues as you think necessary to show how clever you are / how obvious I am.

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  • $\begingroup$ I made a stab at improving the metre in a few places. It required changing some of the words. If you don't like it, please feel free to revert it. $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Sep 15 '15 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ @GentlePurpleRain I appreciate the improvements. I have less free time at my new job and did not take the time to tune the phrasing. $\endgroup$ – Engineer Toast Sep 15 '15 at 20:44
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Well, it's obviously:

Fire

because:

You describe men discovering/creating fire, thinking it to be "magic". Nowadays, we don't need it for light, since we've "bottled lightning" with light bulbs.

You reference fireplaces "in every home" ("traps of steel and stone"), fire used to forge "weapons, traps, and shields", for cooking meat, and the "roaring" of the fire, the tongues of flames.

"Let [it] loose" and the fire will destroy you and/or your belongings and cause forest fires. "Troops with special suits" are firemen trying to kill the fire. Lightning can cause fires, and fires will inevitably be created all over the world; it cannot be killed for good.

The "Franklin" reference is almost certainly Benjamin Franklin, though he did little work to make fire less essential in daily life. He's credited with inventing the Franklin stove, which made fire even more useful.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yeeeep. It was more fun that cleverness to write. I was crediting Franklin with his contributions to electricity although that's mostly legend. $\endgroup$ – Engineer Toast Sep 15 '15 at 18:34
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You are:

Fire

Forethought brought me to the world of men
Millennia passed as I sourced all
But slowly as the men advanced
I watched my kingdom fall
I used to give so much to men
But now they need me less
Perfunctory their uses now
But magic I once possessed
Replaced, am I, by lightning bottled
May Franklin be most cursed
He gave men alternatives
And so my growth reversed

This passage describes how fire, once a source of magic and wonder, has lost it's allure and fascination as technology has advanced. Now we have electricity to give us light and power where before we required fire (torches/lanterns coal burning/electric motors). I wonder if forethought is a reference to Prometheus, who in Greek mythology is the one responsible for giving the gift of fire to mankind in a scheme (Upon further research, I found this etymological explanation of Prometheus)

I gave men their healthy meat
I made them safe at night
I gave weapons, traps, and shields
I shared with them my might
Still they use me, although less
They see me oft as "quaint"
Where once I was in every home
Now I often ain't
They think me pleasant on wintry nights
But keep me in my place
They build traps of steel and stone
And to their friends showcase
Look, they say, "We tamed the beast."
I roar internally
Well, how nice their friends reply

Fire was used to cook meat, by smiths to forge weapons and armor, provided light and kept predators at bay overnight. Nowadays, fires are really only used in fireplaces (cage of steel and stone) as a cute old-fashioned way to stay warm in the cold.

I spit my tongues at thee!
Let me loose; I shall destroy
All that you hold dear
I rage against my captors now
They are right to fear
I am ancient from long before
The rise of these puny men
I wage a ceaseless war
All that you built upon my back
Shall be torn down by rage
I am wild and devour
I grow but do not age
You may send troops with special suits
They may beat me back
But I return and start again
With lightning attack
So sit or stand, you fleshy thing
Believe that I am tamed
My will be told: The world would be
Entirely enflamed

Fire is often described as 'licking' or having tongues at the edges of flame. Fire is an incredibly destructive force that can ravage cities, homes, buildings, forests, etc. The men in special suits is of course a reference to firefighters. 'lightning' attack is likely a reference to the fact that lightning striking dead wood in a forest can start a fire (and is believed to be how fire was discovered by neanderthals).

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