“You will come to the Sirens first of all; they bewitch any mortal who approach them. If a man in ignorance draws too close and catches their music, he will never return to find wife and little children near him and to see their joy at his home-coming; the high clear tones of the Sirens will bewitch him. They sit in a meadow; men’s corpses lie heaped up all around them, mouldering upon the bones as the skin decays.”

(Lady Circe to Odysseus)

The sirens are endlessly more interesting than poor old Odysseus. Or what do you say about “mouldering upon the bones as the skin decays.” Makes my skin crawl (pun most definitely intended). I absolutely loathe vultures, but I feel some strange fascination for these mythical beings. Half woman, half bird. More seductive than the mermaid, more lethal than the sphinx. Yet, how rare they are in the visual arts. Bar Waterhouse, for this episode I often find them represented as nymphs or mermaids. Which is fair enough, vultures aren’t very sexy… The song has nothing, or very little, to do with that of course but the lyrics, oh my, amazing. As for Atwood, I was mucho disappointed in The Penelopiad, nothing at all as grand as her other books, it just felt…commissioned (ugh!), but the poem yes, inversion – me like.  And no, of course there will be no mention of Joyce. Horrid, horrid thought.

(Also, Paula Arundell’s version for the film Candy is growing on me. )

John William Waterhouse 1891

Herbert Draper 1909

Siren Song by Margaret Atwood

This is the one song everyone
would like to learn: the song
that is irresistible:

the song that forces men
to leap overboard in squadrons
even though they see beached skulls

the song nobody knows
because anyone who had heard it
is dead, and the others can’t remember.
Shall I tell you the secret
and if I do, will you get me
out of this bird suit?
I don’t enjoy it here
squatting on this island
looking picturesque and mythical
with these two feathery maniacs,
I don’t enjoy singing
this trio, fatal and valuable.

I will tell the secret to you,
to you, only to you.
Come closer. This song

is a cry for help: Help me!
Only you, only you can,
you are unique

at last. Alas
it is a boring song
but it works every time.

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