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Sirenes.

Sirens

EMBLEMA CXV.

Absque alis volucres, & cruribus absque puellas,
Rostro absque & pisces, qui tamen ore canant,
Quis putet esse ullos? iungi haec Natura negavit:
Sirenes fieri sed potuisse docent.[1]
Link to an image of this page Link to an image of this page [I6v p140 as 240]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.

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, Illicitum est, ‘that which is forbidden is a woman’.

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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Nec verbo nec facto quenquam
laedendum.

Injure no-one, either by word or deed.

XIII.

Assequitur, Nemesisque virum vestigia servat,
Continet & cubitum, duraque fraena manu.
Ne mal quid facias, neve improba verba loquaris:
Et iubet in cunctis rebus adesse modum.[1]

Nemesis follows on and marks the tracks of men. In her hand she holds a measuring rod and harsh bridles. She bids you do nothing wrong, speak no wicked word, and commands that moderation be present in all things.

COMMENTARIA.

Nemesis Dea indignationis fingitur, ultrix
malitiae & superbiae. Idcirco virum undi-
que sequitur, altera manu cubitum reprimens,
altera ver, fraenum gerens, quo significare
vult non solm malefactis manuum absti-
nendum, ne proximus laedatur, verumetiam
linguam refraenandam esse, ut denique in o-
mnibus hominum factis dictisque aequus ob-
Link to an image of this page Link to an image of this page [b6v p28]servetur modus. De Nemesis imagine nomi-
nibus, & potestate scribit Crinitus lib. 19. cap. 6
de honesta disciplina.

Notes:

1. This epigram is based on Anthologia graeca 16.223-4.


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