The Mollusc and the Crawfish: Fragments from a Lost Epic
In the swampy lands of Laris,
By a tiny, obscure brook,
There once lived two gentle creatures,
Ones who all their pleasure took
In composing rustic ballads
To the murmur of the stream:
Thus the Mollusc and the Crawfish
Made a fine poetic team.
Now the Crawfish was the singer
Skilled in song of any type,
And the Mollusc would accompany him
Using his watery pipe.
And together with a voice as
Soft as any snail’s walk,
And a bubbling in the background
From the Mollusc and his stalk,
Every melody the pair composed
Delighted all the woods,
And field-mice and ruminants
Delivered up their goods,
Presenting grass and ears of corn
While gathering to hear,
And, with the squirrels and their nuts
And berries, edging near.
Some even say the oak trees bowed
Their branches to the sound,
As though they were the sycamore
Or willow, trailing ground,
And rocks would rear their rugged heads
From out the mossy sod,
And faces blank and calm would gaze
As though they’d seen a god.
In the lands the humans pastured,
Men would tell of such a scene,
Imagining a poet’s voice
Which floated down a stream,
A poet who had skill enough
To craft and play with ease,
Enchanting all the animals
And minerals and trees.
Of all the throng which gathered now
Upon that grassy coast
To sip upon the melody,
The weasels liked it most.
The elderly and barely-weaned
Enraptured just the same,
The ones of high authority,
The kits without a name,
And often as the Crawfish
And the Mollusc played a tune,
A weasel or a group of them
Would sway and almost swoon,
Then suddenly erupt
And join their voices to the choir,
And descants would fill out the tone
And lift their spirits higher.
And when the sun itself had heard
Enough and ‘gan to tire,
The moths would leave their homes
And seek the rippling moonlight fire
Of the stream on which the Crawfish
And the Mollusc spent their day,
And listen to their final song
Before they ceased to play.
On nights like these, when moths appeared,
Hope always filled the air,
For all the creatures knew that moths
Would bring good fortune there.
[The succeeding section of the narrative seems to relate a crisis in the woodland community, resulting (in some extant manuscripts) from the arrival of a sinister cabbage who objects to the singing and the manner in which it represents different creatures and habitations. In these tales (which nonetheless vary in detail), a war ensues and the Mollusc and Crawfish are exiled and end up on a mountain, as we will see below. The textual witnesses return to agreement (before further departures in how they conclude the narrative) with the following passage:]
And the Crawfish gazing at him
Thought the rodent was half crazed
’Til he said unto the Crawfish
And the Mollusc, pipe in hand,
‘For this music they will thank you,
All the creatures of this land,
For you have a sense of rhythm
And you have a chocolate bat,
And you keep a piece of chicken
Safely hidden in your hat,
So, if singing’s your vocation
And your friend can play a pipe
Then remain downcast no longer,
Give your sorry eyes a wipe.
And the weasels will be happy,
And the moths good fortune bring,
When the Crawfish on the mountain
Lifts its head and starts to sing.