Sirens: Homeric Parallel

In Book 12 of The Odyssey, Circe, in the course of advising Odysseus about his voyage and its dangers, warns him about the two Sirens on their isle, "crying / beauty to bewitch men coasting by" (12:40; Fitzgerald, p. 222). She tells Odysseus that they will "sing [a man's] mind away on their sweet meadow lolling" (12:43; Fitzgerald, p. 222) so that he will be led to his death on the rocky shore of their isle. If, however, Odysseus wishes to "hear those harpies' thrilling voices" (12:60; Fitzgerald, p. 223), he must stop the ears of his men with wax and have himself tied to the mast, his men warned not to release him no matter how violently he protests. Later in Book 12 he follows Circe's advice and, without paying the penalty, hears the Sirens' song (promising pleasure and merriment after the perils of war and false-promising knowledge of the future to those who land on their rock). He then sails on to the passage between Scylla and Charybdis.

(from Don Gifford with Robert J. Seidman, "Ulysses" Annotated: Notes for James Joyce's "Ulysses" [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988], p. 290. The first numbers following quotes from The Odyssey [for example, 1:115] refer to book and line numbers in the Greek text; English translations, unless otherwise noted, are from The Odyssey, translated by Robert Fitzgerald [New York: Doubleday, 1961])