The Vision of MacConglinney (cont.)
"There in the harbour of the lake before me I saw a juicy little coracle of beef: its thwarts were of curds, its prow of lard its stern of butter; its oars were flitches of venison. Then I rowed across the wide expanse of the New Milk Lake, through seas of broth, past river mouths of meat, over swelling boisterous waves of butter milk, by perpetual pools of savoury lard, by islands of cheese, by headlands of old curds, until I reached the firm level land between Butter Mount and Milk Lake, in the land of O'Early-eating, in front of the hermitage of the Wizard Doctor.
"Marvellous, indeed, was the hermitage. Around it were seven-score hundred smooth stakes of old bacon, and instead of thorns above the top of every stake was fixed juicy lard. There was a gate of cream, whereon was a bolt of sausage. And there I saw the doorkeeper, Bacon Lad, son of Butterkins, son of Lardipole, with his smooth sandals of old bacon, his legging of pot-meat round his shins, his tunic of corned beef, his girdle of salmon skin round him, his hood of flummery about him, his steed of bacon under him, with its four legs of custard, its four hoofs of oaten bread, its ears of curds, its two eyes of honey in its head; in his hand a whip, the cords whereof were four-and-twenty fair white puddings, and every juicy drop that fell from each of these puddings would have made a meal for an ordinary man.
"On going in I beheld the Wizard Doctor with his two gloves of rump steak on his hands, setting in order the house, which was hung all round with tripe, from roof to floor.
"I went into the kitchen, and there I saw the Wizard Doctor's son, with his fishing hook of lard in his hand, and the line was made of marrow, and he was angling in a lake of whey. Now he would bring up a flitch of ham, and now a fillet of corned beef. And as he was angling, he fell in, and was drowned.
"As I set my foot across the threshold into the house, I saw a pure white bed of butter, on which I sat down, but I sank down into it up to the tips of my hair. Hard work had the eight strongest men in the house to pull me out by the top of the crown of my head.
"Then I was taken in to the Wizard Doctor. 'What aileth thee ?' said he.
"My wish would be, that all the many wonderful viands of the world were before me, that I might eat my fill and satisfy my greed. But alas! Great is the misfortune to me, who cannot obtain any of these.
"'On my word,' said the Doctor, 'the disease is grievous. But thou shall take home with thee a medicine to cure thy disease, and shalt be for ever healed therefrom.'
"'What is that ?' asked I.
"'When thou goest home to-night, warm thyself before a glowing red fire of oak, made up on a dry hearth, so that its embers may warm thee, its blaze may not burn thee, its smoke may not touch thee. And make for thyself thrice nine morsels, and every morsel as big as an heath fowl's egg, and in each morsel eight kinds of grain, wheat and barley, oats and rye, and therewith eight condiments, and to every condiment eight sauces. And when thou hast prepared thy food, take a drop of drink, a tiny drop, only as much as twenty men will drink, and let it be of thick milk, of yellow bubbling milk, of milk that will gurgle as it rushes down thy throat. And when thou hast done this, whatever disease thou hast, shall be removed. Go now,' said he, 'in the name of cheese, and may the smooth juicy bacon protect thee, may yellow curdy cream protect, may the cauldron full of pottage protect thee.'"
Now, as MacConglinney recited his vision, what with the pleasure of the recital and the recounting of these many pleasant viands, and the sweet savour of the honeyed morsels roasting on the spits, the lawless beast that dwelt within the king, came forth until it was licking its lips outside its head.
Then MacConglinney bent his hand with the two spits of food and put them to the lips of the king, who longed to swallow them, wood, food, and all. So he took them an arm's length away from the king, and the lawless beast jumped from the throat of Cathal on to the spit. MacConglinney put the spit into the embers, and upset the cauldron of the royal house over the spit. The house was emptied, so that not the value of a cockchafer's leg was left in it, and four huge fires were kindled here and there in it. When the house was a tower of red flame and a huge blaze, the lawless beast sprang to the rooftree of the palace, and from thence he vanished, and was seen no more.
As for the king, a bed was prepared for him on a downy quilt, and musicians and singers entertained him going from noon till twilight.
And when he awoke, this is what he bestowed upon the scholar: a cow from every farm, and a sheep from every house in Munster. Moreover, that so long as he lived, he should carve the king's food, and sit at his right hand.
Thus was Cathal, King of Munster, cured of his craving, and MacConglinney honoured.
Next: Dream of Owen O'Mulready