In front of the former hermitage near Alcudia, in which I’ve taken a hotel room, a peacock spreads its wings. It has chosen the perfect spot to do so: a platform between the farmstead and a flight of steps leading to the forest. A female is nowhere in sight, but that does not seem to bother the bird. Perhaps he’s simply exercising, or perhaps it’s just his nature to stretch himself now and again in such splendid fashion. One can hardly reproach him for not taking things seriously – so majestically and proudly does he preen around.
I had heard the hoarse bellows of the creature while in semi-sleep early in the morning. The contrast between the magnificent feathered costume of the peacock and its hideous voice (to the human ear) has vexed poets down the ages. So, in a fable by Lafontaine the bird complains to the goddess Juno: «The voice that you’ve endowed me / The world dislikes because of its raw sound / In contrast the nightingale sings so sweet and bright / Which does not suit that poor creature at all». Goethe’s attitude on the other hand is that of a gracious connoisseur: «The peacock’s cry is ugly/ But its cry/ Reminds me of his heavenly feathers/ So his screams fail to repulse me.»
In addition to the bellows of the peacock, people have also constantly found the clawing bird’s claws false and ugly: «If the peacock saw its feet it would not spread its wings and preen», says the «Abrahamic Paroemiakon». Other proverbs proclaim «The peacock would rather show its tail than its legs» or «You should not look at the legs of the peacock». Only, with what sort of feet would the peacock look prettier as it struts along? Fins? Hooves? Paws? Or cowboy boot
First Publication: 9-3-2015