صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني



BY REV. H. HARBAUGH. THB Peacoke farre surpasseth all the rest in this kind, as well for beautie, as also for the wit and understanding that he bath ; but principally for the pride and glorie hee taketh in himselfe. For perceiving at any time that he is praised and well liked, be spreadeth his taile round, showing and setting out bis colors to the most, whiche sbine againe like precious stones.-HOLLAND.

It would be in vain to attempt, with either pen or pencil, to give an adequate delineation of the dazzling beauties of this inost beauteous specimen of the feathered creation. Of them it may be said, as the Saviour said of the lilies, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these! The nice curves of its neck, and the gentle slopes of its body, even independently of the color of its plumage, gives, especially to the male, an almost inimitable gracefulness. Its length, including its train, gives it an air of gentleness, we seek in vain in other birds. When it moves in state, it reminds one of a queen, conscious of dignity, and feeling itself to be the admiration of all beholders.

Its chief beauty, however, is found in its outward decorations and plumage. On the top of its head there is a tuft of twentyfour feathers standing erect, with webs at the end of the most exquisite green mixed with gold, forming a beautiful crown. Its head, neck and breast are a deep blue, slightly glossed with gold. But who can describe the scene of beauty when it erects its train in the shape of a fan, or wheel, from six to eight feet in diameter, with graceful circular rows of eyes enameled with the most brilliant colors, blended in a way which no art can. imitate. It is in this feat that the peacock does full justice to its beauty. “All his movements are full of dignity; his head and neck bend nobly back; his pace is slow and solemn, and he frequently turns slowly and gracefully round, as if to catch the sunbeams in every direction, and produce new colors of inconceivable richness and beauty. He is very careful of his beauty, and hence selects a place to rest at night, where his train may hang unmolested and free, and always seeks the open green sward, in the brilliant sun, as the most favorable spot on which to display his flowing, fan-like beauties.

The peacock is a native of the East Indies, where it runs wild in the forests, especially in the islands of Java and Ceylon. He is spoken of by some of the ancients as the bird of Media and Persia ; though they are not all agreed as to its native country. Aristophanes calls it the bird of Persia; Suidas, the bird of Media ; and Clemens Paedagogus, the bird of India. Diodorus says that Babylonia produces a very great number of peacocks. It was no doubt introduced into these countries from India at first ; and from thence into Judea, Greece and Egypt.

The peacock is mentioned as early as 1520 before Christ, in the Book of Job, 39, 13, when God challenges the Patriarch thus : "Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacock ?" If, according to Diodorus, Babylonia produced these birds, they may easily have been known in Ur of the Chaldeas; and it is not necessary, therefore, to argue, as some have done, that the

passage in Job must refer to some other bird because they were not known in Syria till long afterwards. The name which is given to it in the Hebrew Bible, Thochijim, is the same as is still given to this bird by the inhabitants of Malabar.

They were first brought into the Holy Land by King Solomon about the year, before Christ, 992. “For the King had at sea a navy of Tharshish with the navy of Hiram; once in three years came the navy of Tharshish, bringing gold and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks." 1 Kings X, 22: II Chron. 9, 21. As Solomon carried on commerce with distant countries on the sea, it was more natural and easy for him to find these birds in some islands of India, or even in Media and Persia, than in Babylonia.

Various reasons have been assigned for Solomon's importing these fowls into his country. It might have been on account of their beauty; but, as the uncomely ape is mentioned as having been imported with the peacock, and as Solomon's taste for natural history is distinctly mentioned in the Bible (I Kings, 4.33,) it seems rather probable that it was to please his taste in this particular that he encouraged his mariners to seek out, and bring with them, from distant lands, all varieties of rare specimens in natural history. The arrival of so princely and beautiful a bird must have given great pleasure to this royal lover of the beautiful and curious in natural science.

These birds were held in high honor among the ancient Greeks and Romans. Peacocks were sacred to Juno, the wife of Jupiter, and the Queen of Heaven. This honored place was assigned them, because, by their cry they gave indications of a change of weather, especially of the approach of rain, and thus were supposed to stand in intimate connection with the councils of heaven. This habit of the peacock is well known to moderns, and is beautifully alluded to by Drayton, in his Poemon“Noah's Flood,"

The strutting peacock yawling 'gainst the rain,
Flutters into the ark, by his sbrill cry
Telling the rest the tempest to be nigh.

The peacock is still held sacred to the God Scandan in the East.

In Lesser Asia and Greece they were highly esteemed by the rich, who purchased them at enormous prices. “We learn from Plutarch,” says Paxton, “that in the age of Pericles, a person at Athens made a great fortune by raising these birds, and showing them to the public, at a certain price, every new moon; and to this exhibition, the curious Greeks crowded from the remotest parts of the country. The keeper of these birds, the same author informs us, sold a male and female for a thousand drachms, about thirty-six pounds of English money... “In the time of Vareo even their eggs were sold at five denarii, or more than three shillings a piece; and the birds themselves at about two pounds. The same writer mentions that one man received a yearly revenue of more than sixty thousand pieces of silver, which amounts to four hundred and sixty-eight pounds, fifteen shillings sterling, from the sale of peacocks.

The value they placed upon these birds caused them sacredly to guard their lives. Alexander, when he met with peacocks on the banks of the Indus, was so struck with astonishment and admiration of their beauty, that he gave orders that every person who killed one of them should be severely punished. “At Rome, when Hortensius first killed one for supper, he was brought to trial for the offense, and condemned to pay a fine. It is said also that in the days of chivalry they were in such great repute that, like the "ady love" of the knights, their safety was secured by the knightly oath.

These princely fowls, though they have been carried into almost all lands, are still particularly numerous in the East. “It gives a kind of enchantment," says a certain traveller, “to a inoroing scene, to see flocks of them together, spreading their beautiful plumage in the rays of the sun. They proudly stalk along, and then run with great speed, particularly if they get sight of a serpent; and the reptile must wind along in his best style, or he will soon become the prey of the lordly bird.”

The principal interest that attaches to these birds seems to be their beauty, and it is only this that is referred to in the Scriptures. In other respects they not only present little that is attractive, but some things that are repulsive, to which faithfulness to our sketch compels us also to allude. The common people of Italy, according to Goldsmith, say of it that "it has the plumage of an angel, the voice of a devil, and the guts of a thief !” Alas! for our beautiful bird! Yet so it is. Its voice has no modulations, but only a monotonous scream, in which it indulges most lustily when there is about to be a change of weather. It

has a spirit of insatiable gluttony, and, as a consequence, of ruthless depredation. “In the indulgence of these capricious pursuits, walls cannot confine it; it strips the tops of houses of tiles or thatch, it lays waste the laborers of the gardener, roots up his choicest seeds, and nips his favorite flowers in the bud.”

Neither is it of much use as an article of food. Its flesh is neither good tasted nor healthful. Though the ancients talk of it as the first of viands; yet it is evident that it was so well esteemed, not for its agreeableness, but rather because it was dear and rare, which caused it only to be found at royal ban. quets. This is not the only case in which aristocracy in gilded misery feigns to enjoy what others are not able to have, just because they are not able to have it. Hence we find that later the dish, though it continued to appear at the banquets of the great, was only there to be seen and not to be eaten. It became custom, in preparing it for the table, carefully to strip off its skin, then to fill the body with the warmest spices, covering it again with its former skin, with all its plumage in full display. This was intended, of course not for eating, but only for display. Goldsmith tells us that the Romans, to give a higher zest to their entertainments, particularly at weddings, filled the bird's beak and throat with cotton and camphire, which they set on fire, to amuse and delight the company.

The peacock is not the only being that prides itself more in its outward plumage than in its inherent excellencies, and that adds mischief and worthlessness to beauty! It is not uncommon to find, even among rational beings, an empty mind beneath the most dazzling decorations; and a heart dead to all virtue, and destitute of all holy affections, covered with richest trappings and sparkling with gems and gold. There are those who move in society, in outward show, like the gilded butterflies of a summer's day, till a night more fearful than that which causes insects to retire, brings upon them “burning instead of beauty !” Is. 3.24.

It is said that when this bird is in the midst of the proud enjoyment of displaying its train, if it accidentally sees its feet, it drops its feathers. Its feet are not so beautiful as its feathers ! A fact this, from which the votaries of pride and fashion may take a truthful suggestion. We will not apply the wisdom of the lesson, but prefer that all concerned should do it, each one quietly, and by private meditation. It may be remarked, however, that an humble casting of the eyes to the earth might be a profitable exercise to such as are of a lofty countenance, who are wont “to walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes,

walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet.”

Poor vain fowl, like all things of pride, weak in all its beauty ! In its zeal for display, and in its love of admiration, it forgets the homeliness of its uncomely parts. Moreover, in the very act of indulging its pride, its reveals, more than at any other time, the ugliness of its feet! When its train is modestly down, then are its feet most covered !



Hark! the spirit voice is swelling,

On the night wind loud and high,
Listen to the tale it's telling,

“Mortal man, thou 'rt doom'd to die!"
Though thy days are fair and bright,

Though thou see'st no danger nigh:
Still there is a coming night-

Mortal man, thou 'rt doom'd to die !
Thou hast riches, vast, untold-

All the pleasures wealth can buy;
But what avails thy yellow gold,

Since, Oh man ! thou 'rt doom'd to die?
It may be, that thou hast fame,

Trumpet sounded, loud and high,
Honors heap'd upon thy Dame-

What are these? Thou 'rt doom'd to die !
What! if the world should deem thee great,

Admiring friends thee glorify;
Can these avert the certain fate,

That thou, Oh man! art doom'd too die?
What! though thy ambition towers,

Vaulting even to the sky:
This will fade like Summer flowers,

When in turn, thou com'st to die !

[merged small][ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »