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Sirenes.

Sirens

Emblema cxv.

Absque alis volucres, & cruribus absque puellas,
Rostro absque & pisces, qui tamen ore canant,
Quis putat esse ullos? iungi haec Natura negavit.
Sirenes fieri sed potuisse docent.[1]
Illicium est mulier, quae in piscem desinit atrum,[2]
Plurima qud secum monstra libido vehit.
Aspectu, verbis, animi candore trahuntur,
Parthenope, Ligia, Leucosiaque[3] viri.
Has Musae explumant,[4] has atque illudit Ulysses:[5]
Scilicet est doctis cum meretrice nihil.

Birds without wings, girls without legs, fish without snouts, yet singing with their mouths - who would think such creatures exist? Nature said such things could not be combined, but the Sirens show that it could happen. Woman is an enticement, and she ends in a black fish, because lust brings many monstrous things in its train. By looks, by words, by radiant charm, men are drawn on, by Parthenope, by Ligeia and by Leucosia. These the Muses strip of their feathers, these Ulysses also dupes. The wise of course have no truck with a whore.

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SIrenas, monstra marina esse potae tradunt quae
virginis faciem referant, & in piscem desinunt:
quae nautas cantus illicio pertrabunt, & sopitos de-
mergunt. Hae ver sunt blandarum voluptatum ty-
pus, quae in alto hoc vastque mundi Oceano in-
cautos praecipitant. Adversus tamen eas duo hc
antidota proponuntur, studium literarum, & pe
regrinatio.

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Les Sirenes.

VOyons nous des oiseaux sans point d’ailes voller
Ou sans jambes & pieds des pucelles aller?
Poissons sans teste aussi, lesquels toutesfois chantent?
Mais qui croiroit cela? qui sont ceux qui inventent
Telles absurditez? nature y contredit:
Neantmoins estre ainsi les Sirenes on dit.
Femme est un attiroir, poisson soubs forme humaine:
Car paillardise en soy plusieurs monstres ameine.
Hommes sont de regard, de parole, & blancheur
Attirez, & seduits, & menez malheur;
Qui sont Parthenope, Ligie, & Leucosie,
Trois Sirenes, que sont, triple nom de follie.
Desplumees en fin des Muses bravement:
Trompees d’Ulysses aussi honteusement
Furent elles en fin: qui maints s’abandonnent,
Mais les gens bien lettrez aux putains ne s’addonnent.

LEs Potes tiennent que les Sirenes ont
est des monstres marins, qui de faces
semblent estre pucelles, & par le bas sont
poissons: qui attirent les nautonniers par
leur doux chant, & les ayans endormis, les
tirent & poulsent au fond de la Mer. Qui
est le vray pourtraict des voluptez blandis-
santes, lesquelles precipitent les hommes
mal-advisez emmy la grand’ mer de ce mon-
de. Contre icelles toutesfois sont icy pro-
posez deux expediens, savoir l’estude des
lettres, & la peregrination.

Notes:

1. The Sirens, creatures that lured passing sailors to destruction with their entrancing song, are described in Ovid, Metamorphoses, 5.552ff. as having the faces of girls and the wings and feet of birds. The fish-tail seems to be added from the description of Scylla, Vergil, Aeneid, 3.427. The ‘woman ending in a black fish’ echoes Horace, Ars Poetica, ‘ut...atrum desinat in piscem mulier’, indicating an incongruous juxtaposition.

2. Variant reading in 1550, Illicitum est, ‘That which is forbidden’.

3. Various names for the Sirens are recorded. The ones given here mean ‘Maidenface’, ‘Sweet sounding’, ‘Bright’. The Sirens represent snares and temptation.

4. The Sirens were defeated in a contest with the Muses and stripped of their wings. See Pausanias, Periegesis, 9.34.2. The Muses represent learning.

5. See Homer, Odyssey, 12.39ff. and 165ff. for Ulysses’ escape from the Sirens. After this the Sirens killed themselves. Ulysses becomes the type of the wise man who escapes temptation through self-control.


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