[Elevation of Erehwon adapted from some sort of psychology site]
In 1872, a book was published anonymously in England by Anonymous (Samuel Butler) called Erewhon. Some say Erewhon was a myth. Others contend it never existed. Still others swear there is no such place. It is not my job as essayist and song-catcher to decide which of these contentious troublemakers is right. So I won't (because I don't want to and besides, it was probably New Zealand --which, reckoning from photographs of astonishing vistas and wildlife might be imaginary too ). I will proceed directly into the history of the very real country upon which the book was based, the country of Erehwon --which, as the astute reader can see, differs from the fictitious country only by transposition of two letters.
The real country of Erehwon originally occupied an Antarctic ice shelf which, heated below by an undersea caldera and above by the sun, was calved off and set adrift. It had no fixed navigational coordinates, no reliable longitude or latitude, no particular location at all. My assignment as gatherer of Erehwonian folk songs was hindered by that country's lack of a written language. This was because they had no paper. They had ice. The people were literate, and had billboards, signs and books, but all printed on ice sheets that melted right away. Their libraries and public swimming pools were indistinguishable. I was able to complete synopses of only three songs:
"Garçom, eu não consigo engolir essa!" (Waiter, I cannot swallow this!)
Little Poppita has gone into the village to feed the poor and throw rocks. The kindly priest pats her on the head. So does the mayor and the nice tall lady who pats everyone on the head. She says to them: "We believe a lot of things we are told by people who just behave as though we ought to believe them." Then she throws rocks at them. Naughty Poppita!
"O irmão do meu pai é coberto em avuncles!" (My father's brother is covered in avuncles!)
Jorge, the singing tax collector, sets out to gather revenue but realizes all humans are pulverulent and end in dust. "We sleep in dust, wake with plants and move with animals, then ...!" he sings empty-handed to his supervisors at the IRS. They pulverize him and dock him a day's pay.
"Eu sou um poeta, eu espero que as coisas!" (I'm a poet, I expect things!)
The town lawyer goes to the hospital for a tonsil and appendix transplant but his wife gives birth instead. "What is this?" He cries, "A baby is supposed to look like his parents but this one is much shorter!" The lawyer and his wife sue the entire universe in a fit of pique. They win. The wise judge says:"Fantasy, even wild delusions are sometimes as necessary to happiness as reality." Poppita throws a rock at him.
These songs are all sung to the tune of "Postcard From Jamaica" by Sopwith Camel:
Then the country of Erehwon was invited by the United nations to be admitted into that august body as a sovereign member. So Erehwonians fitted a rudder to their iceberg and were underway. As they entered New York Harbor, the awful heat spell that summer caused their entire nation to melt and leave only a cup of slush.
The U.N., with regrets, was unable to recognize it. The Erehwonians responded, "That's ok, we hardly do either." How Samuel Butler learned of it over a century earlier is a true enigma.