Fragment 1, 5th Century BCE
Horses carry me as far as my longing can reach,transport me to the many-voiced road of the Goddessthat carries the one who listens through the vast silence.On that way I am carried, for the very wise horses knowwhere to go. They pull the chariot at full gallop, and maidenslead the way. An axle blazes in its sockets—urged forwardat both ends by its whirling wheels—sends forth the eerie soundof a whistle you hear traveling to the other world when you listen.These young women, daughters of the sun, as they leave the houseof night, throw back veils from their faces with their hands,and hasten to convey me into the light.There stand the gates of the ways of Night into Day,enclosed with a lintel above and a stone threshold below.These ethereal gates themselves are covered with great doorswhose alternating bolts are held fast by Diké, goddess of Justice, who lets nothing past her.Speaking gentle words, the maidens cunningly persuade herto swiftly push back the bolted holder from the great doors.As those gates fly open, they spin on their bronze axles fitted by nails and rivets, turn in their sockets —one then the other— to make a wide opening.Straight through them the maidens guide the chariot and horsesalong the broad way. The Goddess welcomes me warmly,takes my right hand with her right hand, addresses me and speaks this story:“O youth, linked with immortal charioteers and with horses carrying you to our home, welcome!It is not at all an evil fate sending you forth to come this way,far from the beaten path of humans, but rather it is your nature, the order of things, and your deep urge to listen.“It is necessary that you hear all things, both the un-trembling heart of well-rounded truthand the opinions of mortals, which hold no true belief.“Nevertheless, you will listen to these also, how it is necessary that things as they appear be acceptable, as they continually penetrate all things.”
Copyright © 2019 Translation from the Greek of Parmenides by Gary Whited
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Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Parmenides was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher from Elea in Magna Graecia (Greater Greece, which included Southern Italy). Parmenides has been considered the founder of metaphysics or ontology and has influenced the whole history of Western philosophy. He was the founder of the Eleatic school of philosophy, which also included Zeno of Elea and Melissus of Samos.
Gary Whited is a poet, philosopher and psychotherapist. He currently lives in Boston, Massachusetts, having grown up on a ranch on the plains of eastern Montana.
His book titled, Having Listened, was the 2013 Homebound Publications Poetry Contest winner. In 2014 it received a Benjamin Franklin Silver Book Award. Having Listened offers a collection of poems that speak from the confluence of a childhood on the prairie remembered and an encounter with the haunting voice of an ancient Greek thinker, Parmenides, echoing across 2500 years.
His poems have appeared in journals, including Salamander, Plainsongs, The Aurorean, Atlanta Review, and Comstock Review. He is currently working on a new translation from the classical Greek of the entire poem of Parmenides, written in 5th century BCE. He is also working on a manuscript of poems and prose titled, The Beautiful Terror of Listening.
Salamander is a literary organization that publishes a biannual magazine of poetry, fiction, memoir, and works in translation. It was founded by Jennifer Barber in 1992 with the aim of publishing a generation of writers reaching artistic maturity and deserving of a wider audience alongside new work by established writers. In addition to the magazine, Salamander sponsors events and readings in the Boston area and in New York. Salamander came to Suffolk University in the fall of 2005 and receives ongoing support from the University. Housed in and published from Suffolk's English Department at 73 Tremont Street in Boston, it is distributed nationally. Its annual fiction contest, judged by prominent short story writers and novelists, began in 2010.