‘The Peacock’ is a poem by Sujata Bhatt, a diasporic writer who lives in Germany. Her poems depict the unsettling feeling of a person living away from her motherland. The poem is taken from her Brunizem collection that won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for the Asia section in 1988.
Explore The Peacock
The poem ‘The Peacock’ by Sujata Bhatt explains how she saw a glimpse of a bird which according to her seems like a peacock. She explains more about the beauty, appearance, and magnificence of the peacock in the first stanza. The second stanza pictures the poet waiting upon the peacock. She remembers how the elders told her to read a book while waiting for the bird. Keeping full concentration in the book, she long waits doesn’t take a toll on her. As she keeps the mind away from the bird, she feels a blue shadow. At the right time, she looks up to see the peacock with all its beauty, ending the poem with a happy tone.
You can read the full poem here.
Form and Structure
‘The Peacock’ is a subjective poem, written in free verse. The poet has not followed any particular stanza form or Rhyme Scheme. The first stanza consists of “eight lines”, whereas the second and lengthy stanza consists of 21 lines. The first stanza structured like an introduction to the beauty of the peacock and the theme of the poem. The second stanza, reveals the more personal attempt of the poet to see a peacock.
Theme and Settings
The central idea of the poem ‘The Peacock’ revolves around the national bird of India. The poet describes the beauty of the bird which symbolically refers to India. The peacock, though a commonly seen bird in India, presented as a rare one by the poet. The “setting” of the poem is not clear, for it takes place in the mind of the poet. Yet, the poet’s description of the “peacock” and the ‘Pipal tree’, which is native to India, gives the vivid image of colorful India as a background to the poem.
Literary and Poetic Devices
The poet, when calls the peacock as “a flash of turquoise”, the mind of the reader is filled with the colorful, green, and blue image of the peacock. “A blue shadow” again in the second stanza casts a wonderful image of the peacock in its rich color. The bird is presented as a feast to the eye. Further, the bird walks down with its “slender neck arched away” and the line ‘the very end of his tail’ projects the glorious appearance of the bird.
The poem ‘The Peacock’ itself is a symbolic representation of the poet’s longing for her motherland. The beauty and magnitude of ‘turquoise’ in the peacock metaphorically symbolizes the Indian subcontinent being covered by water in three directions and mountains on the other side. She is telling how beautiful India looks. The ‘Peacock’s call “coming from nowhere” represents the far cry of the Nation for its people scattered across the world. Even though the poet tries hard to see the bird, it is eluding her, like the nation that she cannot see.
The poet employs hyperbole in the last lines of the poem. He exaggerates the eye pattern on the tail-feathers as eyes of “amber” and “gold” as it spreads and displays its feathers, the surrounding is lighted with “golden amber”. But to the surprise of the poet, he saw the peacock gathering its tails together like a tail. Here, the poet sees the simple and natural act of the bird gathering its feathers as a volunteer or purposeful act to blink all the eyes at the same time.
The ‘peacock’ is personified as a “man” and addressed by the poet as “He” and “His” throughout the poem. The voice, the appearance, and the way it climbs down with its head turned away projects the magnificent appearance of a man who thinks highly of himself.
‘The Peacock’ can be interpreted as an allegorical poem. Though the poem sounds like a poem about the beauty and eluding nature of the bird, one could feel the longing in the voice of the poet for India. She presents her unyielding love and pride of India through the images and symbols used in the poem.
Analysis, Stanza by Stanza
His loud sharp call
seems to come from nowhere.
( . . . )
and as he darts away, a glimpse
of the very end of his tail.
The first stanza of the poem ‘The Peacock’ details on the royal, fascinating, mind-blowing, appearance, and nature of the peacock. The poet begins the poem with the pronoun “his” to give a sense of familiarity and closeness. The peacock makes an enigmatic appearance with its sound echoing from nowhere and its turquoise (bluish-green) appears like a flash on the papal tree. It descends like majesty with its “slender neck arched away”. If one tries to look at it, they could get only a glimpse of its tail, as it darts away.
I was told
that you have to sit in the veranda
( . . . )
It is the tail that has to blink
For eyes that are always open.
In the second long stanza of ‘The Peacock’, the poet shares the idea given to him on how to wait for a peacock. The use of the first-person pronoun “I”, gives a more personal touch and tone to the poem. The poet was told to sit in the veranda, reading a favorite book with great concentration, for the peacock does not appear that easy. Finally, it appears the moment one changes their focus from the peacock to the book, and “begins to live inside the book”. Even now it doesn’t appear in full shape but like a shadow of “blue”.
In the following lines, the poem gives a few symptoms that indicates the arrival of the peacock. There are a few incidents that indicate the arrival of the peacock. As it appears, “the wind will change direction”, one could hear “the steady hum of bees” stops in the nearby bushes. And the cat which was sleeping quietly beside will wake and stretch.
As you are engrossed in reading, if feel that your attention has been disturbed, one must look up in time to see the bird. Even then it is not the full view, but the peacock gathering its tails to turn away. The peacock gathering its plumage is kind of an act for shutting those “dark glowing eyes”, which is “Violet fringed with golden amber”. The “eye” pattern in the plumage of the peacock never blinks. Therefore, the peacock gathers its feathers like a tail as an act of blinking.
About Sujata Bhatt
Sujata Bhatt, born in 1956 in India immigrated with her family to the United States in 1968. Currently, she is living in Germany with her husband and daughter. She received notable prizes for her poetry such as Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Asia) and Alice Hunt Bartlett Award, for Brunizem in 1988, Poetry Book Society Recommendation for Monkey Shadows (1991), and Augatora (2000). She also received Cholmondeley Award in 1991.