1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cockaigne, Land of

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COCKAIGNE (Cockayne), LAND OF (O. Fr. Coquaigne, mod. Fr. cocagne, “abundance,” from Ital. Cocagna; “as we say ‘Lubberland,’ the epicure’s or glutton’s home, the land of all delights, so taken in mockerie”: Florio), an imaginary country, a medieval Utopia where life was a continual round of luxurious idleness. The origin of the Italian word has been much disputed. It seems safest to connect it, as do Grimm and Littré, ultimately with Lat. coquere, through a word meaning “cake,” the literal sense thus being “The Land of Cakes.” In Cockaigne the rivers were of wine, the houses were built of cake and barley-sugar, the streets were paved with pastry, and the shops supplied goods for nothing. Roast geese and fowls wandered about inviting folks to eat them, and buttered larks fell from the skies like manna. There is a 13th-century French fabliau, Cocaigne, which was possibly intended to ridicule the fable of the mythical Avalon, “the island of the Blest.” The 13th-century English poem, The Land of Cockaygne, is a satire on monastic life. The term has been humorously applied to London, and by Boileau to the Paris of the rich. The word has been frequently confused with Cockney (q.v.).

See D. M. Méon, Fabliaux et contes (4 vols., 1808), and F. J. Furnivall, Early English Poems (Berlin, 1862).