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Among the various tools Dante Alighieri employs in the Commedia his grand imaginative interpretation of life after death scenes involving figures and beasts from classical mythology provide the reader with allegories and exempla effectively linking universal human themes with Christian thought and ideology Among these the figure of the Siren found in Canto 19 of the Purgatorio exists as a particularly sinister and moribund image Visiting Dante in a dream upon the heights of Mount Purgatory the Siren attempts to seduce the sleeping traveler with her sweet song Dante finds himself on the brink of giving in to her deadly charms when Virgil through the intercession of a heavenly lady wakes him from this troubled slumber Purgatorio 197-36 A complex image Dantes Siren demonstrates the deadly peril of inordinate earthly pleasure masked by a self-fabricated visage of beauty and goodness concurrently incorporating themes of unqualified repentance and realization of the true goodness of things divine The Sirens are familiar literary characters from Greek mythology they are most recognized as one of the many perils Odysseus encounters in Homers Odyssey As Circe explains to Odysseus before he sets out for home You will come first of all to the Sirens who are enchanters of all mankind and whoever comes their way They sit in their meadow but the beach before it is piled with boneheaps of men now rotted away and the skins shrivel upon them Homer 1239-50 Odysseus chooses to listen to their sweet song as his boat passes their island and were it not that he were bound fast to the mast would have jumped overboard to seek his death upon their shores According to Vernant examination of the original Greek text as well as the popular conception of these creatures locates them in all their irresistibility unequivocally in the realm of sexual attraction or erotic appeal 104 These seductive creatures however as seen in the piles of decaying bodies upon
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