What does Odysseus learn from the Sirens?

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In the A.T. Murray translation of chapter twelve, Circe warns Odysseus about the Sirens he will pass, saying:

Whoso in ignorance draws near to them and hears the Sirens' voice, he nevermore returns, that his wife and little children may stand at his side rejoicing, but the Sirens beguile him with their clear-toned song, as they sit in a meadow, and about them is a great heap of bones of mouldering men, and round the bones the skin is shrivelling.

Circe also advises him to plug his men's ears with wax and, if he wants to hear the lovely song of the Sirens, to have himself tightly bound to the mast of the ship so that he cannot escape. From Circe's description, the contrast between the beauty of the Siren's song and the destruction and death it causes, described in images of bones, rotting corpses, and shriveling skin, is striking.

As he is passing their island, the "clear toned" Sirens call out to him saying he should stop and acquire their wisdom:

Nay, he has joy of it, and goes his way a...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 1086 words.)

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 9, 2020
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Last Reviewed by eNotes Editorial on November 7, 2019