3-4: Poor Man’s Heaven: The Land of Cokaygne and Other Utopian Visions

Bristol Anarchist Bookfair.

Radical History Zone.

Omasius Gorgut (Past Tense)

20th of April.


We’ll eat all we please from ham and egg trees
that grow by a lake full of beer?
The landlord well take and tie to a stake
and we won’t have to work like a slave…”

In the face of a life defined by exploitation and suffering, the poor of the Middle Ages dreamed up a fantastical land where their sufferings were reversed; where people lived in idleness and plenty and the rich were barred.

“Those who sleep the longest earn the most here.”

This myth of a free earthly paradise emerged in a popular song, The Land of Cokaygne, in which rivers ran with wine and milk, the houses were made of pasties and tarts, and animals ran around cooked and ready to eat.

“Geese fly roasted on the spit,
Crying out, “Geese, all hot, all hot!”

From fourteenth century Europe to the twentieth century USA, this dream emerges in songs, poems, folk tales. But it wasn’t just a popular fantasy – the dream was linked to the culture & tensions of the times, and time and again rebels and heretics tried to turn dream into reality…

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