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


14. Enoch, the father of Methuselah, was taken by God rather than dying (Gen. 5: 24), as was the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 2: 1-18). They were believed to be living in the Earthly Paradise, from which they would return at the end of the world to join in the last battle against the Antichrist.

45-6. Corresponding to the four rivers of Paradise, Phison, Euphrates, Geon, and Tigris (which were also seen as rivers respectively of honey, milk, oil, and wine in the apocryphal Apocalypse of St Paul; see M. R. James, trans., The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924), p. 538).

52. The abbey is probably imagined as Cistercian; the Cistercians, a reformed order who followed a stricter and more ascetic way of life than the ordinary 'black' Benedictine monks (which would enhance the comic point here), wore white habits (of undyed wool) and their lay-brothers wore grey.

71. The MS here has the praer 'the meadow'; I have conjectured that praer is an error for prael, 'cloister garden', which gives a more likely reading in context.

87-8. Bennett and Smithers (see their note on line 87, p. 338) interpret the MS reading as Of thai stremis al the molde---/ Stonis preciuse . . . ('From those all the ground runs wet---precious stones . . .'); but the syntax is awkward, and stremis is unlikely to be a 3d pers. singular verb-form in a text which otherwise uses only -eth. I have used an alternative punctuation and word-division: Of thai stremis al the molde / Ston is preciuse, and gold.

145. 'Collation' is the evening gathering of monks for a drink (and, on fast-days, a light meal) and pious reading.

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