The Sirens and the Pesky Knave

By | 1 December 2009

Half man, half bird of cursed seed
a vain and fiendish knave was he
guilty of hatching schemes most fowl
who cared nought for humankind

Whilst on the wing, there came to he
the sweetest song unto his ears
filled with all alluring charm
It was the Sirens' song

Of these plumed maids I have heard tell
are much alike mineself
, thought he
Any one would make the perfect mate

Across the heavens, o'er oceans wide
the winged knave did swiftly fly
t'ward an Isle where he espied
a sailors' ship in strife

Then from the sky descended he
and low flew o'er a hapless scene
of sailors, dead and dying, strewn
‘cross wreckage, rock and sea

Struck with fear were those with breath
and thought the knave a sign of death
Then o'er a single man did pause
his dark, majestic form

How similar are our faces, thought the knave
Yet thou knowest neither sky nor sea
Ye sail in thy clumsy crafts
unable to endure even the slightest prick
from Poseidon's barb
Yet thy present fortune
owes much to the taloned maids, me thinks
Ye shall make for them a fine feast
But hark! They approach!

From the crest of craggy rocks
amidst the bones of human stock
came Aglaophone, Thelxepeia and Peisinoe
their bellies for to fill

Hearken to me, most commendable Sirens
the plucky knave thus spake
I praise thee for thy splendid deeds
I praise thee for thy splendid plumes
Couldst thee not make a companion of me?

Dost thou not know that men we loath?
spake Aglaophone
As thou art still half a man, we despise thee

But I too care naught for these feeble mortals
Oh spirited Sirens, thou art mine ilk
Birds of a feather should be cooped together
Let me feather thy nest and roost with thee
and gratify thy broody needs

Flee now, knave! Thou art unworthy
not even fit to feed upon
yet we would deign to soil our claws
to be rid of thee!

So the knave set forth to prove his worth
and swift beheld he a man of mirth
‘Twas the mighty Achilles, son of Peleus
with guitar for to play

With crew he plied the ocean wide
whose ears were stoppered with wax inside
His quest it was to conquer the Sirens
and render them powerless with his song

The Sirens sang, yet their power waned
as Achilles enchantingly crooned and played
In haste did the knave come down to perch
upon Achilles' mast

Nay Achilles! spake the knave
Thou knowest not what thou do!

What manner of creature art thou? asked Achilles
I heed no one but the gods

Well, I might well be a god
and I bid thee refrain from thy refrain
The time is nigh, brave Achilles of the bending knees,
to avenge the death of Patroklos and destroy Troy!

He was but one man
Hundreds of brave men have died in the war

But what a noble deed ‘twould be
if this one death be that which spurs thee!
Thou wilt slaughter thousands for the price of one!

Thou might spur me to slaughter thee
if thou not get thee hence!

Thou art not dim, Achilles, and if I sayest thou aren't
thou shouldest know it be in jest
But dost thou care not for the opinions of men and gods?
They say ‘Achilles betrayed his companion
He is not noble. He is a dim old fool who is afraid to fight!'
What sayest thee to that, Achilles of the bending knees?

I know not

Sayest thou will fight!!!

Well… alright

Achilles' ship did then turn face
as the knave took wing to return in haste
to the Sirens' side, much to their distaste
who with Parthenope and Molpe now made five

Look ye sisters, spake Thelxepeia
Here again is the flying fool
He dares to greet us
thinks to charm us
Well, charm away, knave
Thus ye will earn thy death!

But beloved Sirens, spake the knave
have I not proven mineself worthy?
Did I not rid ye of that manly pest?

Thou art so much like a man, knave
like a pesky cock
whose crooning crow is only fit
for the chopping block

Do not compareth me to them
Though cock maybe, I am unlike men
And as thou art hens, we were meant to breed
Lay not an egg at the sight of me
Let me be your cock and I shall lay thee

Flee now, knave! Get thee hence!
We sisters cannot bear such jests!
Fly quickly for the land of men
for thou shalt soon be one of them!

Unto the Gods did the Sirens beseech
and to the land the knave did speed
but his feathers thinned and low flew he
till he fell into the sea

Without wings, his weak arms flayed
as tossed he was from wave to wave
till washed up on the beach was he
having been adrift for days

The knave emerged from tangled weed
and stood upon his human feet
and from his mouth live fish did leap
amidst a village throng

What manner of creature is this, spake a villager
who canst survive certain drowning?
He is no god to have suffered such treatment
but a daemon the gods did punish

The villagers then surrounded the knave
with big sticks for of him to flay
and so the knave did run away
bending his knees rapidly

Faster than a chicken streakethed he
on his longer legs and ugly feet
‘Twas not out of fear that run did he
but to escape the humans' stench

At length, unto another village he came
to a lowly chicken plucker who was lame
and a great quantity of feathers the knave did claim
without a thought for the plucker

Wilt thou not giveth me something in return? spake the plucker
Feathers are valued highly as stuffing for pillows

In return I shall giveth thee thy life, spake the knave
but only if thou wilt also afford me some wax

But of wax I have naught! retorted the plucker

Then thou had better procure some!

The plucker traded a chicken for a candlesmith's wax
and gave it to the knave so as to ward off his attack
Then with arms full of feathers, the knave made to depart
but not before smiting the plucker

Onto his arms, the feathers with the wax he stuck
then up a ladder to a roof, the knave did strut
then jumping off the rooftop, his arms he wildly flapped
but he felleth straight down to the ground

Then he ran off a cliff and into the water fell
He jumped from a tree top and then fell into a dell
He ran up a hill while the wind his back did push
he leapt up high and then he ran straight down the other side

Thought the knave of Ic'rus who close to the sun flew
as the knave did approacheth where hot flames did spew
With arms outspread, the searing heat the knave could feel
from a campfire that featherless made he

On to a great shipping port the knave then trekked
for to join the crew of a ship, but first he had to get
some clothes to wear, and so a lowly drunkard he did smite
then donned his clothes and enlisted on a ship

Once set sail, a grim storm drove them into oceans bare
For days there was no sign of life and breezeless was the air
Then an albatross perched atop the mast. It brought them luck
the winds picked up, but a mariner – that bird he shot

He'll rue the day, did curse the knave
A pretty rump it had, I'll say
yet only a necrophile would now it lay

Yet all the while, the knave did naught of duties to relieve
for his stomach was sorely sickened by the crew's proximity
and the crew did jibe him, thought his sickness due to the deck's pitch
while the knave withheld a deluge that could sink the ship

Landlubber! boomed the captain
Do ye naught to earn thy keep?
Have thee not the stomach for a life at sea
in the stomach of sharks shall find ye!

Let me take of thee thy helm
thus spake the knave to he
I knowest well the lay of land and sea
as if I had before mine eyes a map
drawn by some diligent bird

The knave then told the captain of the sea and land so broad
of the currents, winds and dangers that to them there might befall
The safest route now plotted, the captain left the knave to steer
but as the captain deep did sleep, the cunning knave changed course

At morn, the captain came on deck and knew their course amiss
He cursed the knave, who sent the captain overboard with a kick
Then ‘round the knave the crew did crowd, some overboard he threw
but too foul their stench, so up the mast the gagging knave then went

Rocks ahead! there came a shout
but an enchanting sound was all about
and to the bow the crew did run
allured by the Sirens' song

They all went mad with ecstasy
and from the rails some leapt to sea
So much impressed by the Sirens was he
that atop the mast the knave thus mused:

How wondrous is the sound they sing
Might not I also, as their kin
sing such a song to so beguile
and make the Sirens flock to me?
If I could catch but one of these wenches
she'd succumb to mine embrace
I'd squeeze her heart till its shell was broke
and plunge my bread-stick in her yolk

Then into the rocks the ship did plough
what crew remained were thrown around
the hull was smashed, the mast came down
whilst to the crosspiece clung the knave

The crosspiece tore free from the mast
and the sail was raised up by a gust
but knave and sail were not far thrust
for a long rope bound them to the wreck

Suspended high above the rocks
the knave did laugh at the view he got
But espied he then the Sirens all
and unto them he called:

Hearken to me, oh Sirens all, thee again I greet
Did thou thinkest thou couldst be so easily rid of me?
Count not thy chickens before they hatcheth
for behold, I am yoked to thee

Again thou torment us with thy presence, spake Peisinoe
and revolt us when, with bellies lean
we were just about to feed

But ‘twas I who this big ship brought you
of seamen for to fill you full
Oh grant my semen entry too

Thy cock-surety shall be thine undoing
if ye do not cease thy wooing!

The knave, forthwith, his lungs did fill
and from on high began to trill
yet his song made such a raucous din
the Sirens could not suffer him

Thou hast put us off our dinner, screeched Parthenope
For that thou must sorely pay!

Thy succulent breasts and tender drumsticks
shall be the death of me
Crush me upon thy rocks
if thy chastity ‘twould unlock!

From hence, unceasing these winds shall be
declared a curse did she
Ne'er the land shall thy feet again greet
lest upon the rocks thou fall as meat
Now, to a distant isle go we
where ne'er again thy face shall see

Some gods viewed the Sirens merely as a poultry dish
others wished to change them from half birds into half fish
yet so governed by his cock was he, the knave put Zeus to shame
and for this the gods did grant the Sirens' wish again

What kind of bird is he now, sisters? chirped Molpe

A bird of prey he surely was, cheeped Aglaophone
but not a mighty eagle
for they are the greatest of the skies

Nor an albatross, twittered Thelxepeia
who with wings so long and wide
could poke right out your eye

Nor a vulture, tweeted Peisinoe
whose table manners and bad-boy charm
such dark allure does maids disarm

The knave is paltry, by comparison, clucked Parthenope

Then perhaps he should be called a kite, cackled Molpe

They all agreed. A kite1 was he

1 During the period in which 'The Sirens and the Pesky Knave was written, the word kite referred only to various species of avifauna. The word's alternative meaning, defined as a covered frame that is flown by string in the wind, has its origins in this tale.

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