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CHAP. 22. (20.)—THE PEACOCK.

We shall now speak of the second class of birds, which is divided into two kinds; those which give omens1 by their note, and those which afford presages by their flight. The variation of the note in the one, and the relative size in the other, constitute the differences between them. These last, therefore, shall be treated of first, and the peacock shall have precedence of all the rest, as much for its singular beauty as its superior instinct, and the vanity it displays.

When it hears itself praised, this bird spreads out its gorgeous colours, and especially if the sun happens to be shining at the time, because then they are seen in all their radiance, and to better advantage. At the same time, spreading out its tail in the form of a shell, it throws the reflection upon the other feathers, which shine all the more brilliantly when a shadow is cast upon them; then at another moment it will contract all the eyes2 depicted upon its feathers in a single mass, manifesting great delight in having them admired by the spectator. The peacock loses its tail every year at the fall of the leaf, and a new one shoots forth in its place at the flower season; between these periods the bird is abashed and moping, and seeks retired spots. The peacock lives twenty-five years, and begins to show its colours in the third. By some authors it is stated that this bird is not only a vain creature, but of a spiteful disposition also, just in the same way that they attribute bashfulness to the goose.3 The characteristics, however, which they have thus ascribed to these birds, appear to me to be utterly unfounded.

1 "Oscines" and "alites." This was a distinction made by the augurs, but otherwise of little utility, as all the birds with a note fly as well.

2 See the story of the eyes of Argus transferred to the peacock's tail. Ovid, Met, B. i 1. 616.

3 It would be curious to know how the goose manifests its modesty, or "verecundia." We are equally at a loss with Pliny to discover it.

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