Home  »  The Cambridge History of English and American Literature  »  § 4. The Land of Cokaygne

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).>br>Volume I. From the Beginnings to the Cycles of Romance.

XVII. Later Transition English

§ 4. The Land of Cokaygne

Social satire of the nature indicated is seen in Middle English in the few examples of the fabliau still extant. The short amusing tale in verse appealed greatly to the Frenchman of the thirteenth century; and, though the few that have survived in English show strong signs of their foreign origin, their popularity proved that they were not only accepted as pleasing to “the ears of the groudling’s’ but as reflecting, with somewhat malicious, and wholly satiric, glee, the current manners of monk and merchant and miller, friar and boy. The Land of Cokaygne tells of a land of gluttony and idleness, a kitchen-land, not exactly where it was “always afternoon,” but where the monk could obtain some of the delights of a Mohammedan paradise. The very walls of the monastery are built “al of pasteiis,” “of fleis, of fisse and riche met,” with pinnacles of “fat podinges”;

  • The gees irostid on the spitte
  • Flee[char] to that abbai, god hit wot,
  • And gredith, gees al hote, al hot;
  • and entrance to this land could only be gained by wading
  • Seve [char]ere in swineis dritte…
  • Al anon up to the chynne.
  • The Land of Cokaygne has relatives in many lands; it lacks the deep seriousness of the Wyclifian songs that came later, and the light satirical way in which the subject is treated would seem to imply that a French model had been used, but its colouring is local and its purpose is evident.