Notes Towards A Translation of Parmenides
The mares that are able to take me
as far as I want to travel
had so taken me
once they’d set me down on the Daimon’s Way—
for it is She that takes the Knower through each town.
Onto such a route had they placed me
and the knowing horses carried me along it, straining at the reins.
And the daughters of the sun went before us, leading the way.
The axle of the chariot
urged round by eddying wheels attached at the ends
put it in motion
and the axle whistled and shimmered as it turned in the nave
while the daughters of the sun sent us into the light
having come out of Night’s abodes
and pushed back the veils from their faces with their hands.
Up there are the gates of the tracks of day and night
fitted above with a lintel
and below with a threshold of stone
and the openings themselves, high up in the air,
are closed by mighty doors.
Dike—The Equalizer—holds the keys to them.
And the sun’s cunning daughters
used mild speech to persuade her
to open the gates.
The gates, when opened, opened on a vast expanse
and the daughters of the sun
drove the chariot and mares out on to it
and the gates were fixed on singing axle hinges.
And taking me by the right hand she spoke to me thus:
“Oh Youth, linked with your mares to immortal charioteers
who have lead you here to my home—Welcome.
Since it is by no means an inappropriate destiny
that has sent you forth to travel this path
far from the wanderings of mortals
but a Right and Just one,
it is necessary for you to learn all things—
both the stable heart of well-rounded truth
as well as the notions of mortals—
(and in these there is nothing at all to put your faith in)
nonetheless you shall study such matters also—
how the things that seem
(and these pervade everything)
must seem to be.
But come, and I will instruct you.
And you must take back home with you what I say—
whether in fact there are only these two ways for thought to travel:
(and also) “That—is not”
(and this is the path of which one
ought to be persuaded
for it leads to truth)
(and I say that this is an unconvincing road:
it doesn’t turn.)
You cannot know what in fact has no being—
this is impossible
and you cannot speak if it.
For “to know” and “to be” is “the same.”
Consider things, which, though being far away
are nonetheless certainly present to the mind.
For you shall not cut off being from its continuity
It will neither be dispersed from, nor contracted within
It is all the same to me where I begin
for there shall I return.
It is necessary to know and to say that Being is
for the other way—the thought that—is not—cannot be.
It is. And “cannot be” is not.
Think about this.
And now I must dissuade you
not only from taking that one of these two courses
but also from another
upon which mortals wander double-minded
not knowing anything
for only ineptitude straightens
the errant thought in their minds.
They are carried along
blind and obtuse—
these utterly astonished ones
this indiscriminate horde—
by whom the “to be” as well as the “not to be”
are thought of as the same
at the same time
not the same
and that the track down which everything passes
is backward turning.
For you are never going to put this thought to rest:
that things that are not are.
So urge your thoughts off this duplicit pathway
and don’t let well-worn habit force you down it—
don’t let your eye wander
don’t let your tongue wag
don’t allow your ear to echo aimlessly;
Rather, judge by thought
the much disputed proof which I have spoken.
There is only one path left
and that is
And on it there are many indications
that Being is unengendered
that it cannot be broken apart
(for it is whole, without parts)
that Being does not fluctuate,
that it has no end.
It never was, It never will be. It is all NOW—
For what kind of engendering can be sought for it?
How and from what source might it have grown?
And do not say and do not think
that it came out of not-being
for it cannot be said and it cannot be thought
that “—is” is not.
And what need could have driven it to grow
starting from nothing
at some time earlier
rather than at some
[[What debt incurred, stirred it to grow
then, rather than at some other time
if it first came into being out of nothing?]]
Therefore: either “—is”
or else “—is not”
and in either case
Nor shall strength of trust
incite anything to come into being
out of not-being
severed from “—is” itself.
On account of this, therefore, Dike neither loosens her grip
so that Being might come into being
nor does she loosen it that Being might perish
but she holds fast.
And the crisis in these matters lies in this:
either “—is” or “—is not.”
Now surely it has been decided
according to what is necessary
to abandon the nameless and unthinkable alternative
for a true way that is not
and that the other way: that “—is”
is real and genuine.
How could what is
afterward pass out of being?
How might it come to be?
For if it came into being, then it is not.
And it is not also
if it only is going to be.
So the alternative “coming into being” is extinguished
and of “going out of being”
nothing can be discerned.
[[Thus growth is extinguished
Nor can Being be segmented
since it is altogether, of a single piece.
Nor does it exceed itself or fail to reach itself
thereby disrupting the continuity of itself.
But Being is everywhere replete, everywhere continuous
and all of it is connected
to all of itself.
But without motion
locked within the limit of mighty bonds
anarchic without beginning
and not to be brought to an end
(since both “coming into being” and “passing out of being”
have been banished far away by true belief)
the same in the same remaining with itself
it lies where it is
for strong necessity has locked it in limiting bonds
and imprisons it all about.
Nor is it lawful for Being to remain uncompleted:
Being lacks nothing.
For if it lacked one thing it would lack it all.
Because of this, therefore, to think and the thing thought
are the same thing (namely Being)
for you will not find thought without the being about which
that thought is uttered.
And nothing is or ever will be outside of what is
since Fate has fastened Being to remain
a motionless whole.
And all the other designations
which mortals have laid down
having trusted them to be true
are only names
namely: “coming into being” and “going out of being”
and the mixture of the two not-being and Being
alteration of brightness and color
and change of place.
However, since there is an uttermost limit,
“It Is” is fully established on every side
resembling in dignity and mass a well-rounded sphere
equally distributed, balanced in every direction
for it must not come out somewhat greater in one place
somewhat smaller or more humble in the next
as neither does not-being exist
to prevent it from accosting its like
nor can Being be either more or less than Being is
in one place as over against another place
since all of it is inviolable, equidistant from everywhere
and all of it alike within its bounds.
At this point I stop such thought and speech
as you ought to put your trust in
concerning truth. From here on, learn the beliefs of mortals
listening to the deceitful ordering of my words.
For they set up two forms in their minds for the business of naming
whereas even one form is incorrect. In doing so they have strayed into errancy.
They discriminate bodily antitheses and set up signs
apart from one another: on this side the bright tongue of flame
being gentle and most light, in all ways the same with itself
and in no way the same with another; and on the other side
thick night. Solid. Massive. Bodily:
I speak to you here of what is merely a plausible cosmos
so that no thought of a mortal
may ever get the best of you.
But since all things have been dubbed “Light” and “Night”
and according to their powers this pair has been
attributed to various entities,
all is full at once of light and nocturnal obscurity—
full that is of both—since nothingness
has a share in.
You shall know of the aetherial nature
and of all the signs in the aether—
and of the inapparent acts of the pure torch of the spotless sun
and from what it came into being.
You shall learn of the wanderings
of the round-eyed moon and its nature.
You’ll know from whence the encircling heavens grew
and also how Anangke, guiding it, bound it
to hold the limits of the stars.
How Gaia and Helios and Selene, Aether and the Galaxy,
outermost Olympos and the hot strength of the stars
rushed into being
For the narrow rings are filled with unmixed fire
and the next ones are full of the night
and a tongue of flame shoots out.
In the middle of this is the Daimonness
who steers all things
and she commands the commingling
and the hateful births of everything
sending the female to mix with the male
and then contrariwise, the male with the female.
Eros—absolutely the first of all the gods
Night-shiner— about the earth
—an alien light
always straining after the rays of the sun
According to the disposition of bodily parts—the limbs that wander everywhere
is the mind present in persons.
For the nature of the limbs which thinks in persons
is the same in all and each.
And the full is thought.
On the right sides—males
on the left sides—females
(sides. that is, of the womb
Thus according to opinion, these things gestated and now exist
and hereafter they shall grow and later perish.
And for each of them humans have established a distinct name.