Wessex Parallel WebTexts


introductionthe manuscripthttp://www.soton.ac.uk/~wpwt/mouvance/melyric/hothatnn.htm

about the project
index of first lines

The Land of Cockaygne
London, British Library, MS Harley 913, ff. 3r-6v



Far out to sea and west of Spain
There is a country named Cockaygne.
No place on earth compares to this
For sheer delightfulness and bliss.
5 Though Paradise is fair and bright,
Cockaygne is a finer sight.
In Paradise what's to be seen
But grass and flowers and branches green?
Though paradisal joys are sweet,
10 There's nothing there but fruit to eat;
No bench, no chamber, and no hall,
No alcoholic drink at all.
Its inhabitants are few,
Elijah, Enoch---just the two;
15 They must find it boring there
Without more company to share.
But Cockaygne offers better fare,
And without worry, work, or care;
The food is good, the drink flows free
20 At lunchtime, suppertime, and tea.
It's true without a doubt, I swear,
No earthly country could compare;
Under heaven no land but this
Has such abundant joy and bliss.
25 There is many a pleasant sight,
It's always day, there is no night.
There are no quarrels and no strife,
There is no death, but always life;
Food and clothing are never short,
30 You'll never hear a sharp retort,
Or see a snake, or wolf, or fox,
Horse or gelding, cow or ox,
Never a sheep or goat or pig---
And so, of course, no dung to dig---
35 No stud-farm of any kind;
Here there are better things to find.
There's no fly or flea or louse
In clothes, in village, bed, or house;
There's no thunder, sleet, or hail,
40 Or any nasty worm or snail,
No storm, wind, rain of any kind.
No man or woman there is blind,
But all is pleasure, joy, and bliss.
Happy the man who has all this!
45 There are rivers great and fine
Of oil and milk, honey and wine;

Water's uses there are few---
For washing in, and for the view.
The fruit is fine beyond all measure---
50 Everything is joy and pleasure.
An abbey's there, a handsome sight,
Of monks with habits grey and white.
The house has many rooms and halls;
Pies and pasties form the walls,
55 Made with rich fillings, fish and meat,
The tastiest a man could eat.
Flour-cakes are the shingles all
Of cloister, chamber, church, and hall.
The nails are puddings, rich and fat---
60 Kings and princes might dine on that.
There you can come and eat your fill,
And not be blamed for your self-will.
All is common to young and old,
To strong and stern, to meek and bold.
65 There is a cloister, fine and light,
Broad and long, a pleasant sight;
The pillars in that cloister found
Are made of crystal, smooth and round,
And at their foot and at their head
70 Are jasper green and coral red.
In its garden is a tree,
A very pleasant sight to see:
Ginger and galingale the roots,
And zedoary all the shoots,
75 The flowers are mace, quite excellent,
Cinnamon gives the bark its scent,
Cloves are the fruit, whose taste is rare.
There's no lack of cubebs there.
There are roses red of hue,
80 And lilies lovely to the view;
They never fade by day or night.
This must be a pleasant sight!
In this abbey are four well-springs
For ointment and for medicines,
85 For balm, and spiced and sweetened wine,
Always flowing, rich and fine.
All the ground these streams run on
Is of gold and precious stone
There are pearls and sapphires blue,
90 Astriums and rubies too,
Emeralds, gemstones, and prasine,
Onyx, beryl, and topazine,
Amethyst and chrysolite,
Chalcedony and hepatite.
95 Many birds there tell their tale,
Throstle, thrush, and nightingale,
Skylark and golden oriole,
And other birds, an endless roll,
That never cease by day or night
100 Sweetly to sing with all their might.
And still I've more to tell of it;
The geese when roasted on the spit
Fly to the abbey (believe it or not)
And cry out 'Geese, all hot, all hot!'
105 With garlic in great quantity,
The best-dressed geese a man could see.
The larks are known to do the same---
Land in your mouth, well-cooked and tame,
Freshly stewed and nicely done,
110 Sprinkled with cloves and cinnamon.
Drinking there needs no request;
You simply take what you like best.
When the monks go in to Mass,
All the windows made of glass
115 Are turned into a crystal bright
To give the monks some extra light.
When the Masses have been said,
And the service has been read,
The crystal turns to glass once more
120 In the state it was before.
There the young monks every day
After their meal go out to play;
No hawk or other bird could fly
Faster or better through the sky
125 Than the monks in sporting mood,
With their fluttering sleeves and hood.
When the abbot sees them fly,
Their antics make his spirits high;
But still he calls the busy throng
130 Down from the sky for Evensong.
The monks, reluctant to obey,
In headlong flight swoop far away.
When the abbot sees this sight,
His monks refusing to alight,
135 He takes a maiden standing near,
And upon her snow-white rear
Beats a tattoo with open hand
To make his monks come down to land.
When his young monks see that sight,
140 By the maiden they alight,
Round about her they career,
And each one pats her snow-white rear,
And then, with all their labour done,
Soberly they walk, each one,
145 Home for a drink at their collation,
In file according to their station.
Another abbey is nearby---
For sure, a fine big nunnery,
Upon a river of sweet milk,
150 With a generous store of silk.
When the summer's day is hot,
The young nuns take a boat
And go out on the river here;
Some will row and others steer.
155 Once the abbey is far away,
They strip stark-naked for their play,
And leap in from the river's brim,
Showing how skilfully they swim.
When the young monks see that sight,
160 They all take off in rapid flight;
Each monk, descending on a nun,
Takes for himself his chosen one,
And swiftly carries off his prey
To the mighty abbey grey,
165 And teaches the nuns an orison
With country dancing up and down.
The monk who wants to be a stud,
A rakish angle to his hood,
Shall have, without reproof or fear
170 A dozen wives for every year,
Not through grace but as a right,
Purely for his own delight.
And that monk who sleeps the best
And gives himself a thorough rest,
175 May, if he cultivates the habit,
Hope to end up as Father Abbot.
Whoever wants to reach this place,
Heavy penance he must face;
The man who hopes to share its bliss
180 For seven years---be sure of this---
Must wade through pigshit to his chin,
The pleasures of Cockaygne to win.

Gentlemen, well-bred and kind,
May you not leave the world behind

185 Till you take on this enterprise
And serve the penance for the prize;
That you may see that land at last,
Turning your back on all the past,
Let us pray God, so may it be!
190 Amen, for holy charity.


Set up by Bella Millett, enm@soton.ac.uk. Last updated 28 May 2003 .