Parmenides and Empedocles, along with Heraclitus the most important of the pre-Socratic philosophers, were at the same time among the greatest poets of the ancient world. But their work is rarely treated and still more rarely translated in its original form--as poetry. The complete extant fragments of Parmenides and Empedocles are collected here for the first time in a translation responsive to the original verse texts.
Parmenides' philosophical fragments are here given as the poetic remains of the thinker from Elea in Southern Italy whom Socrates wondered at and Plato held in awe. What emerges from the poetry is at once an uncompromising vision of absolute Being and a compassionate understanding of the human cosmos:
It is the body grows to Mind.
All men desire the same thing, apprehend the same
The plenum is thought, and thought preponderates.
The poetry of Empedocles--reincarnationist, naturalist, cosmologist, religious leader, physiologist, and a metaphysician--is presented here in the personal idiom of the fifth-century Sicilian who has been called the last of the Greek shamans:
I have already been
A bush and a bird
A boy and a girl
A mute fish in the sea.