I will imagine these things as being like the truth….
What is clear is this: no man has seen what is—
the fact of the gods and all things of which I speak.
The man who speaks with greatest certainty
of what chance has brought into being—
he doesn’t know who he is. Of all things, belief builds itself.
The gods are given birth to, so humans think—
& wear clothing, speak, and have bodies like their own.
The gods of the Ethiopians are flat-nosed and black;
The Thracians say their gods exist: blue-eyed, red-haired.
If horses and oxen and lions had hands
& with their hands could draw and do all that men do,
horses as horses, and oxen as oxen
would draw the forms of the gods, each god’s
body bearing the shape of the one who drew it.
Homer and Hesiod tattle about all the gods do,
things which, among humans, are blemish and blame—
thievery, adultery, and deceiving one another.
The gods didn’t, at the beginning, offer mortals all things—
But in time, question by question, they discover more, more truly.
God is one, among gods and humans greatest,
not like mortals in body, not like mortals in thought.
All of him sees, every sense thinks, all of him listens.
On eternal pause he waits, never moving,
Not going among others, never seen here, then there.
It takes no effort—with mind and heart he strikes
the all-bell cosmos and it rings.
From ur-seed to the flow of flower
All things that are are earth and water.
The sea is water’s flowing source, flowing source of wind—
nor can the strong winds blowing out the clouds
come to be without the open ocean’s great expanse,
nor the streaming rivers, nor the rain dropping water from the sky.
But the great ocean is mother of clouds of winds
and also of rivers.
The upper crust of the earth can be seen and touches the air;
below the earth is limitless, an infinite reach.
If god had not made golden honey, many say
the fig-tree’s fruit would be sweetest.
She whom they call Iris, this is just a cloud grown large,
Purple and dark red and pale green to see.
And when Pythagoras passed by men thrashing a puppy
he felt pity, they say, and said these words:
“Stop! Don’t strike him with that stick! He has a soul
Of an old friend. I recognize him hearing his voice.”
From earth all things come, in earth all things end.
ταῦτα δεδοξάσθω μὲν ἐοικότα τοῖς ἐτύμοισι …
καὶ τὸ μὲν οὖν σαφὲς οὔτις ἀνῆρ ἴδεν οὐδέ τις ἔσται
εἰδώς ἀμφὶ Θεῶν τε καὶ ἄσσα λέγω περὶ πάντων·
εἰ γὰρ καὶ τὰ μάλιστα τύχοι τετελεσμένον εἰπὼν,
αὐτὸς ὅμως οὐκ οἶδε· δόκος δ᾽ ἐπὶ πᾶσι τέτυκται.
ἀλλ᾽ οἱ βροτοὶ δοκέουσι γεννᾶσθαι θεούς,
τὴν σφετέρην ἐσθῆτά τ᾽ ἔχειν φωνήν τε δέμας τε.
Αἰθίοπές τε <θεοὺς σφετέρους> σιμούς μέλανάς τε
ἀλλ᾽ εἴ τοι χείράς <γ᾽> εἴχον βόες ἠὲ λέοντες
ἤ γράψαι χείρεσσι καὶ ἔργα τελεῖν ἄπερ ἄνδρες,
ἵπποι μέν θ᾽ ἵπποισι βόες δέ τε βουσὶν ὁμοίας
καί <κε> θεῶν ἰδέας ἔγραφον καὶ σώματ᾽ ἐποίουν
πάντα θεοῖσ᾽ ἀνέθηκαν Ὅμηρός θ᾽ Ἡσίοδός τε,
ὅσσα παρ᾽ ἀνδρώποισιν ὀνείδεα καὶ ψόγος ἐστίν,
οὕτοι ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖσ᾽ ὑπέδειξαν,
εἷς θεός, ἔν τε θεοῖσι καὶ ἀνθρώποισι μέγιστος,
αἰεὶ δ᾽ ἐν ταύτῷ μίμνει κινούμενος οὐδέν,
πηγὴ δ᾽ ἐστὶ θάλασσ᾽ ὕδατος, πηγὴ δ᾽ ἀνέμοιο·
οὔτε γὰρ ἐν νέφεσι <γίνοιτό κε ἳς ἀνέμοιο
ἐκπνείοντος> ἔσωθεν ἄνευ πόντου μεγάλοιο
οὔτε ῥοαὶ ποταμῶν οὔτ᾽ αἰθέρος ὄμβριον ὕδωρ,
ἀλλὰ μέγας πόντος γενέτωρ νεφέων ἀνέμων τε
γαίης μὲν τόδε πεῖρας ἄνω παρὰ ποσσὶν ὁρᾶται
εἰ μὴ χλωρὸν ἔφυσε θεὸς μέλι, πολλὸν ἔφασκον
ἣν τ᾽ Ἶριν καλέουσι, νέφος καὶ τοῦτο πέφυκε,
καί ποτέ μιν στυφελιζομένου σκύλακος παριόντα
φασίν ἐποικτῖραι καὶ τόδε φάσθαι ἔπος·
‘παῦσαι μηδὲ ῥάπιζ᾽, ἐπεὶ ἦ φίλου ἀνέρος ἐστίν
Sources in order of appearance (as cited in M.R. Wright's The Presocratics, Bristol Classical Press, 1985):
1. Plutarch, Symposium 746b
2. Sextus Empiricus, Adversus methematicos 7.49
3. Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis 5.109