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Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [m7v p190]

Sirenes.

Sirens

IIII.

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]
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’.

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  [m7r p189]

    In Iuventam

    On youth

    II.

    Natus uterque Iovis tener, atque imberbis uterque,
    Quem Latona tulit, quem tulit & Semele. [1]
    Salvete, aeterna simul & florete iuventa,
    Numine sit vestro quae diuturna mihi.
    Tu vino curas, tu victu dilue morbos,
    Ut lento accedat sera senecta pede.

    Sons of Jove, each of you, each of you tender and beardless, one born of Latona, one of Semele, hail! Be glorious together in your everlasting youth, and may youth by your divine assent last long for me. You wash away my cares with wine, and you dissolve my bodily ills with [disciplined] living, that old age may approach late and with slow footsteps.

    Notes:

    1.  Apollo (son of Latona) and Dionysus (son of Semele), gods of healing and of wine. Beautiful and ever young, they were often linked, e.g. Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3.421; 4.18; Epistulae (Heroides), 1.14.31. For Dionysus (Bacchus), see Emblem 67 ([A56a067]).


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