The Legend of the Night Peacock-Eyes

a story in hexameter

Katherine Rudolph

This book is dedicated to Ann and Alfred Barnes


Springtime had come to the woodlands, Miss Prune waited under the Hawthorn.

No one could say how she would appear, when the light patterns sparkled,

She would be there. Something special would happen, some new tale of wonder.

“You are the children, you three, who remember the stories of nature,

In the wide world and in “Faerie”; believe in your heart, and be daring

Spoke old Miss Prune, as they thought that indeed, it was time to be telling

Stories that they could recall from the Castle of Natural Wonders.

Under the Hawthorn tree limbs they would sit, listening hard to the rustling

Leaves in the wind, and pass hours recounting those times in strange places.

Shimmering stories of Krie, where a myriad of riddles unfolded…

Seen in the magical pool, or through windows in Hawthorn three branches,

Questions were always the key, to open these stories of wonder:

So they could see underground how-the-seeds-were-to-kindle-in-darkness…

Why-the-white-clover-adored-the-red-rose; the undines-who-brought-healing.

Carrying leaves shaped like hands: they offered their quickening juices.

Curing the child of her illness, assuaging the fever that threatened.

Leaves-of-the-Alchemilla once served as a cloak for the maiden

Gathering dewdrops of spring in a vessel of crystal. She carried

Purified dewdrops to give baby Sam, who would later be chosen

Bard and would carry a harp and a seed from the Fairy Tale Temple.

He was to bring them back home when at last he had conquered his muteness…

All the day long, while the sunlight shone deep and the old Hawthorn listened

Yearning to hear, those old tales were recounted from memory’s wellsprings.

Suddenly, at about five in the late afternoon, after silence:

“Right on the tip of my tongue there’s another I’m sure!” exclaimed Connie.

“Some kind of night flying moth – yes, the Peacock-Eye-moth-in-the-Ice-Age!1

That is what Tasha once showed me; and she is still with them as always.

Spark of the Peacock-Eyes! When we finally arrived at the Castle,

Legends were told of brave deeds by the gnomes, and undines, and the sylphs too.

Natural spirits of fire helped, and Krienols of old herbal plant lore.

Tasha herself is a spirit of fire, a brave salamander!

“Once I heard tell of that castle,” said Keith. “Are there towers of wisdom?”

“Yes, they are like growing things. They tell legends; there’s singing and rhythms,

Shimmering stories of Krie! From the windows there, I could see pictures

Into the days long ago, …when the Peacock-Eyes once rose up, flying,

Laden with longing in bitter cold nights, in the Ice Age. The flyers,

Seeking a tree, were to fly to a land where the leaves were not freezing,

For they would find the good Hawthorns – well this is a Hawthorn tree also!”

Magic it seemed to the children, named Keith, and Carol and Connie;

– When Miss Prune held out her hand so that there a while Peacock-Eye landed.

Lovely, and, silently still, as if holding the spell of the evening.

Connie said, “Out of the sides of my eyes, I beheld on that night.

While I was feeling the life of that night flying moth, I saw Tasha

Come into view. Then I glimpsed how a window appeared in the treetop.

– Suddenly shimmered a land full of snowfall and glaciers: the Ice Age!

As I was watching and waiting, a story unfolded before me.

Wonders of nature’s remembering, just as if I were there with them:

Peacock-Eyes fluttered midst snowfall, long after the season of courting

Sprightly the flyers had soared and pursued; the chase was abating.

Daylight and nightlight were fading; but Tasha – fey being of firelight,

Bade them fly onward: the glaciers had drifted to cover their Hawthorns.

Southward e’re southward, they needed to fly for the sake of survival.

For the tired flyers each wing beat was harder; but Tasha gave courage:

“There is a place that is being prepared by the Hawthorn tree mother.

Blizzards grow stronger, the winds now blow harder: You’ll need to have food!”

Though they were tired, the moths kept on flying, far into the evening,

Then through the night ‘til the day dawned on well-tended trees, the green Hawthorns;

For in the southland was safety and shelter prepared by no other

Than the first Hawthorn tree mother, so named, for she planted the seedlings,

Meant to grow Hawthorn tree glades, such as often are seen in the woodlands…

–Tasha had whispered in rhythm, by flickering flames in the firelight,

How it was needed by nature’s life process to plant certain seedlings.

Hawthorns had nourishing leaves for young caterpillars to feed on.

Leaves and red berries would one day be used to prevent heart diseases.

Healing mankind and preserving the Peacock-Eye moths would be needed.

Guided by Tasha, the flyers had swooped down to land on the Hawthorns.2

Chases were taking their course; for each creamy white female alighting,

Came a tan-male soon to greet her. In many a leaf hidden cluster

Egg-seeds would hatch for the new generation. The fertilized females,

Utterly worn and expiring, had finished the yearly life-cycle.

Tasha was greatly relieved; the migration had surely succeeded.

Seeking to live in the seasons to follow, they’d flourish on Hawthorns.

Silk from cocoons might be woven one day into garments for humans.

–After a month came the hatching, then chewing in rhythm, and Tasha

Led the young caterpillars, who ate their way all through the summer,

Up in the third story rafters of nature’s own wonderful nursery.

Etched in the Hawthorn tree branches. At first they were black and quite homely,

Looking like worms, busy chomping and biting the leaves. Then they molted.

Waistcoats of black changed to yellow with black stripes; tight fitting, but comely,

Styles for the shedding of clothes, that they duly discarded, emerging

Green with black stripes, and green boots still considering fashions to follow.

Bite after bite, they kept munching the leaves of the Hawthorn, then clumping,

Carefully clomping in boots, that could clutch and then ripple together.

One sunny day without warning a hungry young starling came flying.

He had decided to feast on the night flying females’ fat famished

Brood. And what horror ensued! But a fortunate few crept to shelter.

It was undoubtedly due to the clinging of creeping young ivy,

Covering some of the Hawthorns. In tangles of leaves they were hidden.

They just continued to eat until they felt the process of molting.

Green and jet-black striped knickers transformed into glowing light green ones

Fatter they couldn’t well be. With a black dot adorning their costume

Green, they were wondrous obese. Said the one, ‘No more wardrobe for us? Then

I’ll go bare naked, I guess?’ Said another, ‘Well then, I will spin some.

On with the show or if not, I’ll turn in.’ So he left then, deserting

All his fine eating with friends, he spun whirring and buzzing and spurring.

Glands in his jaws were not clicking and clacking, like clocks that were ticking –

Tock, ticking, tock in the night and through two long days more he was spinning.

Soon all the others on stage began doing the same. And there followed

Even more whirring, then silence… ‘til Tasha transformed them again…

They had now spun the strong threads that provided their cozy abodes.

Chrysalids hanging like hammocks were swinging secure against blizzards

Winter’s cold night was approaching; outside blew the blustering flurries.

Snowfall had covered the trees. Yet were wings being made on the inside.

Tasha, her inner fire burning, kept kindled ‘til they had turned creamy.

White was the female attire and light brown were the bridegrooms’ rich garments.

While Tasha wove, she was humming, for all of the Peacock night flyers.

Making up songs for the springtime, while gaseous bellows were pleating

Petal-like folds in the woven spring fabrics. A purified, patterned,

Bold transformation for Peacock-Eyes. Then the black stripes were compressed,

One white-ringed dot in each fold, like eyes. Under the indigo heavens,

Manifest, out of the cosmic sarcophagus, wings would emerge soon.

Glist’ning and ready for flight, the beloved seeing eyes, the night flyers,

Living to dance in the light-waves. So Tasha was glad to be patient.

Spring did at last make her entrance. The dainty new legs then appearing,

Pushed from the back ‘til they cracked the brown chrysalid. Spreading

Wings in a glistening wet film such as petals of blossoms, unfolded.

Started to dry and to flap, while encouraged by Tasha of firelight.

After a natural process, the wonder of flight was enacted.

Then came the chase; for quite quickly from under the Hawthorn tree branches,

Flew out and frolicked the grooms, the night flyers in June’s gentle twilight.

Tasha of firelight pronounced them as one, after all of her efforts.

‘Fly on my pretty ones; play in the moon-glimmer; show me your swooping;

Grace the spring night. Because life is now manifest. Swing out and flutter

Over the flowers and hilltops, illuminate nighttime with grandeur!

Here you may meet in the shimmering moonlight. Now safe in the southlands;

Guiding your flight by the star shine, unite with the fabric of nature.

Short is your time on the wing while you’re weaving the rhythms together.

May all your bounty survive. ‘Til again you give chase and unite.

Then you will carry new egg-seeds inside you, to lay on the Hawthorns.

Leaving your imprint preserved in the volumes of natural matter.

As you expire, is your fossil-form left – to be read in the future.’

–That is what Tasha revealed in the window of natural wonders!

Feeling the life of that night-flying moth brought good Tasha to visit.

“Thus I took part!” exclaimed Connie, “So that I could tell how it happened.”

“Tasha of firelight was found to be living in ancient Ice Ages,

So she still lives here today,” said Miss Prune, “and she’s constantly helping.

She will be serving the needs and preparing cocoons, weaving fabrics,

Gossamer wings, for as long as these Peacock-Eyes here are still living,

Saved from the mealtimes of sparrows to meet and regenerate egg-seeds.

Seasons then turn, and the times can move onward to new transformations.”

Glimpsing faint movement ahead of the wing, they saw Tasha just briefly!

She disappeared in the tree. “So you see: in remembering, children,

Sometimes experience occurs: to rekindle invisible secrets.

In the wide world and in “Faerie”, believe in your heart and be daring.”

Spoke old Miss Prune, as they gazed at the Night Peacock-Eyes’ starry dances.


1) The Night-Peacock Eye

The Viennese Night-Peacock Eye: (Saturnia-pyri) presumably grew bigger, having migrated to Southern Europe (Austria and Hungary) during the Ice Age.

The small Night Peacock-Eye (Saturnia pavonia) is found in Switzerland in early April. It favours the Hawthorn leaf. This story is a fictional account about the possible migration. Traces of the Night Peacock-Eye have been dated to the Ice Age.

2) Hawthorn

(Crataegus) …Its fruits, the mealy red berries are one of the best remedies for heart disease. Their healing forces are even greater than Digitalis. …The berries are given in all types of heart disorders: enlargement of the heart, inflammation of the heart muscle, disorders of the heart-valves, and blood circulation problems which are caused by a weak heart. …It also helps in cases of insomnia in as far as it is caused by too much pressure on the brain.

Johann Künzle: Das grosse Heilkraüterbuch, Verlag Otto Walter og Olten, 1945.