The Jay and the Peacock

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Caxton's translation (1484)[edit]

Of the Iaye and of the pecok

None ought to were and putte on hym the gowne of other / wherof Esope reherceth to vs suche a fable Of a Iaye full of vayne glory / whiche took and putte on hym the fethers of a pecok / and with them he aourned / and arayed hym self well / And whanne he was wel dressyd and arayed / by his oultrecuydaunce or ouerwenynge wold haue gone and conuersed amonge the pecoks / and dispraysed alle his felawes / And whanne the pecoks knewe that he was not of theyr kynd / they anone plucked of alle his fethers / And smote and bete hym by suche maner / that no fethers abode vpon hym / And he fledde away al naked and bare / And thenne whanne his felawes sawe hym / they sayd to hym / What gallaunt come hyther / where ben thy fayre fethers / whiche thow haddest but late a gone / Hast thow no shame ne vergoyne to come in oure companye / And thenne alle the byrdes came vpon hym / and smote & bete hym / sayenge thus to hym / yf thow haddest be content of thyn owne vestymentes / thow haddest not come to this vylony /

Therfor hit appereth that hit is not good to were another mans gowne / For suche weren fayre gownes and fayr gyrdels of gold that haue theyr teeth cold at home

L'Estrange's translation (1692)[edit]


A Daw that had a mind to be sparkish, trick’d himself up with all the gay Feathers he could muster together: And upon the credit of these stoll’n or borrow’d Ornaments, he valu’d himself above all the Birds in the Air beside. The Pride of this Vanity got him the Envy of all his Companions, who, upon a Discovery of the Truth of the Case, fell to pluming of him by Consent; and when every Bird had taken his own Feather, the silly Daw had nothing left him to cover his Nakedness.

THE MORAL. We steal from one another in all manner of Ways, and to all manner of Purposes; Wit, as well as Feathers; but where Pride and Beggary meet, People are sure to be made Ridiculous in the Conclusion.

Jacobs' translation (1887)[edit]

The Jay and the Peacock

A Jay venturing into a yard where Peacocks used to walk, found there a number of feathers which had fallen from the Peacocks when they were moulting. He tied them all to his tail and strutted down towards the Peacocks. When he came near them they soon discovered the cheat, and striding up to him pecked at him and plucked away his borrowed plumes. So the Jay could do no better than go back to the other Jays, who had watched his behaviour from a distance; but they were equally annoyed with him, and told him:

"It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds."