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Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [I6r p139]

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 quòd 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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Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [b6v p28]

Desidiam abiiciendam.

Away with idleness.

XIIII.

Quisquis iners abeat, in choenice figere sedem[1]
Nos prohibent Samii[2] dogmata sancta senis.
Surge igitur, duroque manus adsuesce labori,
Det tibi dimensos crastina ut hora cibos.

Let the idle man take himself off -- the holy pronouncements of the old sage of Samos forbid us to sit tight on the bushel-box. Get up therefore, get your hands accustomed to hard work, so that tomorrow’s hour may give you your due measure of sustenance.

COMMENTARIA.

Choenix mensura olim erat apud Graeco
qua servis pro qualibet die frumentum in ci-
bum mensurabatur, unde frequenter admo-
nuit Samius (Pythagoras doctissimus Philoso-
phus, Samius à patria dictus, ut refert Iustinus
Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [b7r p29]lib. 20. historiarum) ne quis piger insideret Choeni
ci
, significans ex aequo futuri habendam cu-
ram, ut refert Diogenes Laërtius, lib. 8. de vita Philo-
sophorum. Inculcabat denique hoc symbolo, otio
non indulgendum, sed strenuè laborandum
esse. & sua quenque industria sibi vitae neces-
saria lucrari debere. Vide Plutarchum. Labo-
res enim bonis viris obsonium esse, inquit
Xenophon in Oeconomicis. De fugienda
denique desidia perpulchrè Crinitus lib. 2. Poë-
matum.

Notes:

1.  This saying, which became a proverbial expression of idleness, is quoted in various ancient sources (e.g. Plutarch, De Iside et Osiride10). A bushel was a day’s ration of corn, and ‘to sit on the bushel-box’ (a container holding a bushel measure, and convenient in size for sitting on) meant to be idle and improvident, leaving tomorrow to take care of itself, since today was provided for.

2.  ‘the old sage of Samos’, i.e. Pythagoras ([A56a253]).


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  • Sloth, Indolence, 'Acedia', 'Desidia'; 'Accidia' (Ripa) ~ personification of one of the Seven Deadly Sins [111N37] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Industriousness, Assiduity; 'Assiduità', 'Industria', 'Zelo' (Ripa) [54A11] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Idleness; 'Otio' (Ripa) (+ emblematical representation of concept) [54DD2(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Pythagoras, the philosopher representations to which the NAME of a person from classical history may be attached [98B(PYTHAGORAS)3] Search | Browse Iconclass

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