The Peacock and The Magpie

The Birds wanted a king and the Peacock applied. He was almost elected due to his beauty but a Magpie asked practical questions. Peacock failed.

Kings must be suited for the job and not just a vain pretender.

JBR CollectionJBR Collection

Peacock and MagpieThe birds once met together to choose a king, and among others the Peacock was a candidate. Spreading his showy tail, and stalking up and down with affected grandeur, he caught the eyes of the silly multitude by his brilliant appearance, and was elected with acclamation. Just as they were going to proclaim him, the Magpie stept forth into the midst of the assembly, and thus addressed the new king: “May it please your majesty elect to permit a humble admirer to propose a question. As our king, we put our lives and fortunes in your hands. If, therefore, the Eagle, the Vulture, and the Kite, our unruly brethren, should in the future, as they have in times past, make a descent upon us, what means would you take for our defence?” This pithy question opened the eyes of the birds to the weakness of their choice. They cancelled the election, and have ever since regarded the Peacock as a vain pretender, and considered the Magpie to be as good a speaker as any of their number.

Samuel CroxallSamuel Croxall

Croxall - Peacock and MagpyeTHE Birds met together upon a time, to chuse a king. And the Peacock standing candidate, displayed his gaudy plumes, and catched the eyes of the silly multitude with the richness of his feathers. The majority declared for him, and clapped their wings with great applause. But, just as they were going to proclaim him, the Magpye slept forth in the midst of the assembly, and addressed himself thus to the new king: May it please your majesty elect, to permit one of your unworthy subjects to represent to you his suspicions and apprehensions, in the face of this whole congregation: we have chosen you for our king, we have put our lives and fortunes into your hands, and our whole hope and dependence is upon you: if therefore the Eagle, or the Vulture, or the Kite, should at any time make a descent upon us, as it is highly probable they will, may your majesty be so gracious as to dispel our fears, and clear our doubts about that matter, by letting us know how you intend to defend us against them? This pithy, unanswerable question drew the whole audience into so just a reflection, that they soon resolved to proceed to a new choice. But, from that time the Peacock has been looked upon as a vain insignificant pretender, and the Magpye esteemed as eminent a speaker as any in the whole community of birds.


Whittingham - Peacock and Magpie

C. Whittingham (1814)

Form and outside, in the choice of a ruler, should not be so much regarded, as the qualities and endowments of the mind. In chusing heads of corporations, from the king of the land, down to the master of a company, upon every new election it should be enquired into, which of the candidates is most capable of advancing the good and welfare of the community; and upon him the choice should fall. But the eyes of the multitude are so dazzled with pomp and show, noise and ceremony, that they cannot see things really as they are: and from hence it comes to pass, that so many absurdities are committed and maintained in the world. People should examine and weigh the real weight and merit of the person, and not be imposed upon by false colours and pretences of I know not what.



1001Monedula et Pavo

Cum haberent comitia volucres regi creando, petiit regnum pavo, quod se ob formam eximiam illo dignum prae cunctis esse diceret. Qui cum omnium suffragia laturus videretur, “Hic tamen rex,” inquit monedula, “si forte sit factus, et aquilam hostem habuerimus, quidnam opis auxiliive poterit afferre?”


In principibus legendis non speciem modo, sed etiam virtutem et sapientiam spectari oportet.

Perry #219