The Peacock: Beautiful for the Eye

Book Title: Beschouwing der wereld : bestaande in hondert konstige figuuren, met godlyke spreuken en stichtelyke verzen / door Jan Luiken.

Author: Luiken, Jan, 1649-1712

Image Title: The Peacock: Beautiful for the Eye

Scripture Reference:

Description: A man and a woman regard two peacocks with their tail-feathers spread out; on the ground are a third peacock with its feathers down and some pigeons and hens. The Dutch artist and poet Jan Luiken (1649–1712) was responsible for drawing this emblem and composed the poem that accompanies it. The etching was executed by Jan Luiken or his son Casper Luiken (1672–1708) who adapted this image from one used in an earlier work, which may be found in the Digital Image Archive under the call number 1699Weig. The attendant scripture text is Proverbs 8:13.

If thou dost become arrogant,
Think what is wanting in thee.

The Peacock surpasses many,
In its large species and kind of feathers.
But who is so pleased by the terrible sound,
As to turn the listening ear to that?
All its Ornament is only for the eye,
Except those two black feet:
With spirit, it lifts its finery on high,
But that must quickly fall down again,
When it sees those claws,
Because next to this sight,
(Affected by shame and sorrow)
It cannot keep its proud spirit.
How many one sees like the Peacock,
Who adorned with beautiful clothes,
(In vain eyes lovely and worthy)
Strut with pomp and spirit before the eye?
But let one pay attention to the sound,
How it from inside is shorn,
So nothing lovely comes out,
That is worth listening to.
For all the noise and singing,
Is about the world and its things,
And their entire life long,
They sing this tune.
And beyond this there is nothing; though
Among them frequently comes to play,
A wicked hoarseness from hell,
To annoy the ear of wisdom.
Yet the ugliness of the black claw,
They seem not to know of,
As the spirit of the Birds does,
But their entire life it remains forgotten.
That vile foot with which it
Along crooked and evil paths,
Travels swiftly to hell,
Until Death has grasped it,
When one considers this claw,
Then the Peacock’s tail collapses.

(Translation by Josephine V. Brown, with editorial assistance from William G. Stryker)

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