"Be Neither Saint Nor Sophist-led, But Be A Man!"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Empedocles, the poet and philosopher, is an exile on Mount Etna. Disillusioned, because he has questioned until the glory of life and the splendor of nature are dead; and hopeless, because he is torn between the blind faith of religion and the critical logic of philosophy, he can understand neither the young poet nor the physician. Callicles, the poet, advocates a romantic escape into idyllic beauty, but Empedocles cannot stop asking the questions that make such escape impossible. Pausanias, the physician, is interested only in the magic of healing people in a civilized society, but Empedocles cannot escape the lure of poetry that promises, however feebly, the hope of beauty. In one of his moods, Empedocles breaks off his conversation with Pausanias to listen to Callicles, seizes his harp, and in a long monologue characterizes the dilemma that drives men from youthful hope to the adult despair. The quotation occurs in the part of the monologue where Empedocles describes how differences in opinions make the individual sink into his own subjectivity.

And we feel, day and night,
The burden of ourselves–
Well, then, the wiser wight
In his own bosom delves,
And asks what ails him so, and gets what cure he can.
The sophist sneers: Fool, take
Thy pleasure, right or wrong.
The pious wail: Forsake
A world these sophists throng.
Be neither saint nor sophist-led, but be a man!