Here is the paragraph containing the line to which I referred in the title:

The powers spread over the body are constricted, and many afflictions burst in and dull their meditations. After observing a small part of their life in their lifetime, subject to a swift death they are borne up and waft away like smoke; they are convinced only of that which each has experienced as they are driven in all directions, yet all boast of finding the whole. These things are not so to be seen or heard by men or grasped with mind. But you now, since you have come aside to this place, will learn within the reach of human understanding.

But turn my tongue, o gods, the madness of these men, and from hallowed lips let a pure stream flow. And I entreat you, virgin Muse, white-armed, of long memory, send of that which it is right and fitting for mortals to hear, driving the will reined chariot from the place of reverence.

If for the sake of any one of mortal men, immortal Muse, (it pleased you) that our cares came to your attention, now once more, Kalliopeia, answer a prayer, and stand by as a worthy account of the blessed gods is being unfolded.

And you, Pausanias, son of wise Achitos, hear me.

"And do not let (it) compel you to take up garlands of glory and honor from men, on condition that you speak recklessly, overstepping propriety, and so then sit on the high throne of wisdom. But come, observe with every power in what way each thing is clear, without holding any seeing as more reliable compared to hearing, nor echoing ear above piercings of the tongue; and do not keep back trust at all from the other parts of the body by which there is a channel for understanding, but understand each thing in the way in which it is clear."

This passage comes from The Longman Standard History of Ancient Philosophy.

Now, before I pose my query, I hope you will be so generous as to pardon my ignorance. My question is, what is "it," the thing of which the writer warns to not be compelled by?

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    Is there any contextual information in the passage before this? Or is this the full fragment? – Mozibur Ullah Dec 13 '13 at 12:43
  • @MoziburUllah I don't believe the preceding paragraphs contains any pertinent information, but I have added them; perhaps you'll catch something I missed. By the way, thank you for the response. – Mack Dec 13 '13 at 12:54

Burnett, in his Early Greek Philosophy, has:

(1) And do thou give ear, Pausanias, son of Anchitos the wise!

(2) For straitened are the powers that are spread over their bodily parts, and many are the woes that burst in on them and blunt the edge of their careful thoughts! They behold but a brief span of a life that is no life, and, doomed to swift death, are borne up and fly off like smoke. Each is convinced of that alone which he had chanced upon as he is hurried every way, and idly boasts he has found the whole. So hardly can these things be seen by the eyes or heard by the ears of men, so hardly grasped by their mind! Howbeit, thou, since thou hast found thy way hither, shalt learn no more than mortal mind hath power.

(3) . . . to keep within thy dumb heart.

(4) But, O ye gods, turn aside from my tongue the madness of those men. Hallow my lips and make a pure stream flow from them! And thee, much-wooed, white-armed Virgin Muse, do I beseech that I may hear what is lawful for the children of a day! Speed me on my way from the abode of Holiness and drive my willing car! Thee shall no garlands of glory and honour at the hands of mortals constrain to lift them from the ground, on condition of speaking in thy pride beyond that which is lawful and right, and so to gain a seat upon the heights of wisdom.

Go to now, consider with all thy powers in what way each thing is clear. Hold not thy sight in greater credit as compared with thy hearing, nor value thy resounding ear above the clear instructions of thy tongue;33 and do not withhold thy confidence in any of thy other bodily parts by which there is an opening for understanding, but consider everything in the way it is clear.

He starts with the same dedication, and then interperlotes some other verses, before coming to the section you're interested in - high-lighted in bold. This makes it clear that its his pride that might compel him. One recalls, that he was a mentor to Pausanius, who would have been much younger than he was - and youthful pride is a common theme in counselling the young. Of course, its not this counsel for which Empedocles is remembered for - a dedication is a standard opening in a poem.

So, a free prose translation might be as follows:

Listen, Pausanius!

The world is full of the unwise & unhonourable

I, I swear by the gods, am not amongst them

I counsel you, Pausanius:

Do not let your pride compel you to take by force or false means honour amongst men; rather, keep within the limits of what is honourable, and thus rightfully gain honour.

This is the way of wisdom

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  • Thank you very, very much. I appreciate it. I wonder, might this have been a letter to Pausanius, is that possible? – Mack Dec 14 '13 at 11:40
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    You're welcome. I doubt it - its rather long for a letter. Its approximately 1000 verses. – Mozibur Ullah Dec 14 '13 at 16:22

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