Once there was a young lad, a peacock. He lived in the great Forests owned by a Mr. Morgue. Mr. Morgue owned land upon which was kept his prize flock of peacocks and hens, some three hundred acres of good English forest. Once a year Mr. Morgue and his friends would go hunting, and bring back to their wives several juicy, fresh, peacocks. The wives would cook and bake them, and give them to their husbands to eat. I am sad to say I myself have tasted peacock-pie, and equally sad to say it tastes delicious. It tastes of chicken, and I found myself wondering, as I ate it, why the gentry never merely ate chicken-pie. It tastes the same, without any dead peacocks.
Well, the young peacock was but two years old (for Mr. Morgue’s peacocks, a ripe old age, as few peacocks lived more than a year), and the previous year he had gone running off at the sound of the guns. He’d gotten lost, at a place where he could barely hear the monstrous guns, and could never quite find his way back home.
‘O well,’ he thought, picking his way through a blackberry bush, ‘I might as well live here as there,’
And with that he settled down and lived alone in a deep part of the woods. He found a great blackthorn tree which was quite rotted out, and made a sort of nest. It wasn’t a very comfortable nest as he wasn’t good at making his own; his mother had always made his for him. But he used the pieces of rotted wood to make a springy bed, and plugged up the gaps in the roof with stones. Therein he settled, and passed about a year alone.
Hunting season swung around again, and one morning the young peacock was awoken early by the screeches of the poor peacocks with whom only a year ago the young peacock had counted himself. The guns were going off and the peacocks racing about trying to hide.
The young peacock was certainly traumatized when within the next hour he saw a young peahen running past his tree, with a gap in her feathers where she had been shot. The hunters ran after her, whilst the young peacock hid his head in his tree, and soon found and brought her home for pie.
The next day the hunt was over. The young peacock found himself crying daily for that young peahen, and suddenly an idea struck him.
The very next minute the young peacock was searching the forest floor for nice roots that could give him color and pigment—he ground up the roots and mixed them with water to create paints. After he found some, he went and looked for a good big piece of wood, flat, and smooth. Then he dipped a bit of his rotted wood into the color, and drew a streak on the piece of wood.
The young peacock worked on his painting several weeks. He was very precise, and started over twice with different planks. Four times he ran out of color, and more than that he ran out of patience.
His painting, once finished, depicted the horrible hunt that took place each year, complete with liberal amounts of red spattered everywhere to represent the bullets. He used up all of the paint made from flint, drawing the men’s guns. He even drew himself, peeking out behind a tree, watching the carnage.
The young peacock wrote in the corner the name of the masterpiece, Young. That was the name. It was to honor the youth of the poor young peacocks, and also represent how young the painter was. Underneath the title, the young peacock wrote CPCH, which stood for his own name, Corn Pone Callagh-Hone. It was a great name, worthy of renown among the peacock nation.
If he did say so himself, the painting was rather good.
On the back, the young peacock composed a poem, also titled Young, several lines in length, which the young peacock were unable to force into rhyme. (For all good peahen mothers teach their children to read, and to write, and some basic arithmetic. The young peacock in particular had been lucky, for his mother taught him classically, and so he memorized Homer and learned to write verse in Greek).
The poem went like this:
Young. A poem by CP Callagh-Hone.
O the loss felt by the birds! O the horror!
O the tragedy! How sad the mothers, for their children,
now lost in peacock-pie.
How the fathers weep, and how the grandfathers weep,
in the lone trees,
for there is no grave to weep by.
Each murdered one has always been young;
may they always stay young forever!
Weep, weep, for the lost youth!
Weep, weep, for the killed young birds!
What a loss! How the heart aches for these lost souls!
Curse the hunters! Let their hearts ache instead!
Should we take up arms and eat their children, cooked in pies?
Let them think then, that peacock-pie is not so desirable.
Let them think then, O if only we left the birds alone!
Bless the childless peahens, and curse the pie-hungry humans!
Let us ever immortalize the lost youth,
the youth lost in the forest to those vicious guns.
As you can see, our young painter felt quite strongly about this. Equally clear is his difference in ability in the arts. His paintings were quite good, while his poems, not so much.
The next morning, the painting was delivered to the doorstep of one Mr. Morgue, who looked at the card attached (To the murderer, from a victim and artist), with great confusion. He brought it inside and had it hung above his mantel, not before his children committed the poem behind to memory, intending to recite daily until their father agreed not to kill any more peacocks.
Mr. Morgue quite liked the painting, although I am sorry to say he did not stop hunting his peacocks once a year. His children, however, grew up to be great lobbyists against the practice of the yearly peacock-hunt; but I am not sure if it is yet illegal.