Sunday, January 09, 2005


Siren Song

Circe warns Odysseus against the Sirens and their song (Homer, Odyssey 12.39-46, tr. S.H. Butcher and A. Lang):
To the Sirens first shalt thou come, who bewitch all men, whosoever shall come to them. Whoso draws nigh them unwittingly and hears the sound of the Sirens' voice, never doth he see wife or babes stand by him on his return, nor have they joy at his coming; but the Sirens enchant him with their clear song, sitting in the meadow, and all about is a great heap of bones of men, corrupt in death, and round the bones the skin is wasting.
This passage from Homer is the inspiration for a poem by Richard Chenevix Trench (1807-1886):
"Let us turn hitherward our bark," they cried,
   "And, 'mid the blisses of this happy isle,
Past toil forgetting and to come, abide
   In joyfulness awhile.

And then, refreshed, our tasks resume again,
   If other tasks we yet are bound unto,
Combing the hoary tresses of the main
   With sharp swift keel anew."

O heroes, that had once a nobler aim,
   O heroes, sprung from many a godlike line,
What will ye do, unmindful of your fame,
   And of your race divine?

But they, by these prevailing voices now
   Lured, evermore draw nearer to the land,
Nor saw the wrecks of many a goodly prow,
   That strewed that fatal strand;

Or seeing, feared not--warning taking none
   From the plain doom of all who went before,
Whose bones lay bleaching in the wind and sun,
   And whitened all the shore.

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