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Les Sirenes.


Qui pourroit croire estre sans plume oyseaux,
Filles sans jambe, & poissons sans museaulx,
Chantantz neantmoins de bouche ŕ voix serenes?
Cela possible enseignent les Sirenes.[1]
Femme est attraict, Poisson soubz forme humaine:
Car Monstres maints Luxure avec soy maine
Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [I8r p143]Regard, Parolle, & Blancheur l’homme lie
Parthenope, Ligie, & Leucosie.[2]
Muse[3] les plume, & les trompe Ulysses,[4]
Car gens savans aux putains n’hont acces.

Les Sirenes descriptes par Homere mon-
stres en mer demy femmes, & demy pois-
sons par voix & instrumens harmonicques,
arrestantes, & faisans periller les navigants,
sont les voluptez de ce monde (qui est la
mer) & principalement les femmes attra-
yantes par regard, blancheur, & beaulté,
& doulx parler. Contre lesquelles le vray
remede est l’estude des ars, & sciences, &


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

3.  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.

4.  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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