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Poem by John Gay

Part I. Fable 11. The Peacock, the Turkey, and the Goose

  In beauty faults conspicuous grow;
  The smallest speck is seen on snow.
     As near a barn, by hunger led,
  A peacock with the poultry fed;
  All viewed him with an envious eye,
  And mocked his gaudy pageantry.
  He, conscious of superior merit,
  Contemns their base reviling spirit;
  His state and dignity assumes,
  And to the sun displays his plumes;

  Which, like the heaven's o'er-arching skies,
  Are spangled with a thousand eyes.
  The circling rays, and varied light,
  At once confound their dazzled sight:
  On every tongue detraction burns,
  And malice prompts their spleen by turns.
     'Mark, with what insolence and pride
  The creature takes his haughty stride!'
  The turkey cries. 'Can spleen contain?
  Sure never bird was half so vain!

  But were intrinsic merit seen,
  We turkeys have the whiter skin.'
     From tongue to tongue they caught abuse;
  And next was heard the hissing goose:
  'What hideous legs! what filthy claws!
  I scorn to censure little flaws!
  Then what a horrid squalling throat!
  Even owls are frighted at the note.'
     'True; those are faults,' the peacock cries;
  'My scream, my shanks you may despise:

  But such blind critics rail in vain:
  What, overlook my radiant train!
  Know, did my legs (your scorn and sport)
  The turkey or the goose support,
  And did ye scream with harsher sound,
  Those faults in you had ne'er been found!
  To all apparent beauties blind,
  Each blemish strikes an envious mind.'
     Thus in assemblies have I seen
  A nymph of brightest charms and mien,

  Wake envy in each ugly face;
  And buzzing scandal fills the place.

John Gay

John Gay's other poems:
  1. Sweet William's Farewell to Black-Ey'd Susan
  2. To a Young Lady, with Some Lampreys
  3. An Elegy on a Lap-dog
  4. If the Heart of a Man
  5. The Quidnunckis

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