E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
A woman of dangerous blandishments. The allusion is to the
fabulous sirens said by Greek and Latin poets to entice seamen by the sweetness of their song to such a degree that the listeners forgot everything and died of hunger (Greek, sirenes, entanglers). In Homeric mythology there were but two sirens; later writers name three, viz. Parthenope, Ligea, and Leucosia; but the number was still further augmented by those who loved lords many and gods many.
There were several sirens up and down the coast; one at Panormus, another at Naples, others at Surrentum, but the greatest number lived in the delightful Capreæ, whence they passed over to the rocks [Sirennusæ] which bear their name.Inquiry into the Life of Homer.
Sirens. Plato says there are three kinds of sirensthe celestial, the generative, and the cathartic. The first are under the government of Jupiter, the second under the government of Neptune, and the third under the government of Pluto. When the soul is in heaven, the sirens seek, by harmonic motion, to unite it to the divine life of the celestial host; and when in Hads, to conform them to the infernal regimen; but on earth they produce generation, of which the sea is emblematic. (Proclus: On the Theology of Plato, bk. vi.)