The Town Mouse and The Country Mouse

A Town and Country Mouse visited each other. The Town Mouse was fed basic food at leisure; the Country Mouse had to run away from fine food. He ran home.

Better beans and bacon in peace than cakes and ale in fear.

Eliot-JacobsEliot/Jacobs Version

Now you must know that a Town Mouse once upon a time went on a visit to his cousin in the country. He was rough and ready, this cousin, but he loved his town friend and made him heartily welcome. Beans and bacon, cheese and bread, were all he had to offer, but he offered them freely. The Town Mouse rather turned up his long nose at this country fare, and said: “I cannot understand, Cousin, how you can put up with such poor food as this, but of course you cannot expect anything better in the country; come you with me and I will show you how to live. When you have been in town a week you will wonder how you could ever have stood a country life.”

No sooner said than done: the two mice set off for the town and arrived at the Town Mouse’s residence late at night. “You will want some refreshment after our long journey,” said the polite Town Mouse, and took his friend into the grand dining-room. There they found the remains of a fine feast, and soon the two mice were eating up jellies and cakes and all that was nice.

Suddenly they heard growling and barking. “What is that?” said the Country Mouse. “It is only the dogs of the house,” answered the other. “Only!” said the Country Mouse. “I do not like that music at my dinner.” Just at that moment the door flew open, in came two huge mastiffs, and the two mice had to scamper down and run off. “Good-bye, Cousin,” said the Country Mouse, “What! going so soon?” said the other. “Yes,” he replied; “Better beans and bacon in peace than cakes and ale in fear.”

JBR CollectionJBR Collection

Town Mouse and Country Mouse

Ernest Griset (1874)

A Country Mouse, a plain, sensible sort of fellow, was once visited by a former companion of his, who lived in a neighbouring city. The Country Mouse put before his friend some fine peas, some choice bacon, and a bit of rare old Stilton, and called upon him to eat heartily of the good cheer. The City Mouse nibbled a little here and there in a dainty manner, wondering at the pleasure his host took in such coarse and ordinary fare. In their after-dinner chat the Town Mouse said to the Country Mouse, “Really, my good friend, that you can keep in such spirits in this dismal, dead-and-alive kind of place, surprises me altogether. You see here no life, no gaiety, no society in short, but go on and on, in a dull humdrum sort of way, from one year’s end to another. Come now, with me, this very night, and see with your own eyes what a life I lead.” The Country Mouse consented, and as soon as it fell dark, off they started for the city, where they arrived just as a splendid supper given by the master of the house where our town friend lived was over and the guests had departed. The City Mouse soon got together a heap of dainties on a corner of the handsome Turkey carpet. The Country Mouse, who had never even heard the names of half the meats set before him, was hesitating where he should begin, when the room-door creaked, opened, and in entered a servant with a light. The companions ran off, but everything soon being quiet again, they returned to their repast, when once more the door opened, and the son of the master of the house came in with a great bounce, followed by his Little Terrier, who ran sniffing to the very spot where our friends had just been. The City Mouse was by that time safe in his hole–which, by the way, he had not been thoughtful enough to show to his friend, who could find no better shelter than that afforded by a sofa, behind which he waited in fear and trembling till quietness was again restored. The City Mouse then called upon him to resume his supper, but the Country Mouse said, “No, no; I shall be off as fast as I can. I would rather have a crust with peace and quietness, than all your fine things in the midst of such alarms and frights as these.”

Aesop For ChildrenAesop For Children

Town Country Mouse

Milo Winter (1919)

A Town Mouse once visited a relative who lived in the country. For lunch the Country Mouse served wheat stalks, roots, and acorns, with a dash of cold water for drink. The Town Mouse ate very sparingly, nibbling a little of this and a little of that, and by her manner making it very plain that she ate the simple food only to be polite.

After the meal the friends had a long talk, or rather the Town Mouse talked about her life in the city while the Country Mouse listened. They then went to bed in a cozy nest in the hedgerow and slept in quiet and comfort until morning. In her sleep the Country Mouse dreamed she was a Town Mouse with all the luxuries and delights of city life that her friend had described for her. So the next day when the Town Mouse asked the Country Mouse to go home with her to the city, she gladly said yes.

Town Country Mouse

Milo Winter (1919)

When they reached the mansion in which the Town Mouse lived, they found on the table in the dining room the leavings of a very fine banquet. There were sweetmeats and jellies, pastries, delicious cheeses, indeed, the most tempting foods that a Mouse can imagine. But just as the Country Mouse was about to nibble a dainty bit of pastry, she heard a Cat mew loudly and scratch at the door. In great fear the Mice scurried to a hiding place, where they lay quite still for a long time, hardly daring to breathe. When at last they ventured back to the feast, the door opened suddenly and in came the servants to clear the table, followed by the House Dog.

The Country Mouse stopped in the Town Mouse’s den only long enough to pick up her carpet bag and umbrella.

“You may have luxuries and dainties that I have not,” she said as she hurried away, “but I prefer my plain food and simple life in the country with the peace and security that go with it.”

Moral

Poverty with security is better than plenty in the midst of fear and uncertainty.

Townsend VersionTownsend version

A country mouse invited a Town Mouse, an intimate friend, to pay him a visit and partake of his country fare. As they were on the bare plowlands, eating there wheat-stocks and roots pulled up from the hedgerow, the Town Mouse said to his friend, “You live here the life of the ants, while in my house is the horn of plenty. I am surrounded by every luxury, and if you will come with me, as I wish you would, you shall have an ample share of my dainties.” The Country Mouse was easily persuaded, and returned to town with his friend. On his arrival, the Town Mouse placed before him bread, barley, beans, dried figs, honey, raisins, and, last of all, brought a dainty piece of cheese from a basket. The Country Mouse, being much delighted at the sight of such good cheer, expressed his satisfaction in warm terms and lamented his own hard fate. Just as they were beginning to eat, someone opened the door, and they both ran off squeaking, as fast as they could, to a hole so narrow that two could only find room in it by squeezing. They had scarcely begun their repast again when someone else entered to take something out of a cupboard, whereupon the two Mice, more frightened than before, ran away and hid themselves. At last the Country Mouse, almost famished, said to his friend: “Although you have prepared for me so dainty a feast, I must leave you to enjoy it by yourself. It is surrounded by too many dangers to please me. I prefer my bare plowlands and roots from the hedgerow, where I can live in safety, and without fear.”

Samuel CroxallSamuel Croxall

Croxall - Town Mouse and Country MouseAN honest, plain, sensible country Mouse, is said to have entertained at his hole one day a fine Mouse of the town. Having formerly been playfellows together; they were old acquaintances, which served as an apology for the visit. However, as master of the house, he thought himself obliged to do the honours of it, in all respects, and to make as great a stranger of his guest as he possibly could. In order to this, he set before him a reserve of delicate grey-pease and bacon, a dish of fine oatmeal, some parings of new cheese; and, to crown all with a dessert, a remnant of a charming mellow apple. In good manners, he forbore to eat any himself, lest the stranger should not have enough; but, that he might seem to bear the other company, sat and nibbled a piece of wheaten straw, very busily. At last, says the spark of the town, Old croney, give me leave to be a little free with you; how can you bear to live in this nasty, dirty, melancholy hole here, with nothing but woods, and meadows, and mountains, and rivulets about you? Do not you prefer the conversation of the world to the chirping of birds, and the splendor of a court to the rude aspect of an uncultivated desert? Come, take my word for it, you will find it a change for the better. Never stand considering, but away this moment. Remember we are not immortal, and therefore have no time to lose. Make sure of to-day, and spend it as agreeably as you can, you know not what may happen to-morrow. In short, these, and such like arguments prevailed, and his country acquaintance was resolved to go to town that night. So they both set out upon their journey together, proposing to sneak in after the close of the evening. They did so: and, about midnight, made their entry into a certain great house, where there had been an extraordinary entertainment the day before, and several tit-bits, which some, of the servants had purloined, were hid under the seat of a window: the country-guest was immediately placed in the midst of a rich Persian carpet; and now it was the courtier’s turn to entertain, who indeed acquitted himself in that capacity with the utmost readiness and address, changing the courses as elegantly, and tasting every thing first as judiciously as any clerk of a kitchen. The other sat and enjoyed himself like a delighted epicure, tickled to the last degree with this new turn of his affairs; when, on a sudden, a noise of somebody opening the door, made them start from their seats, and scuttle in confusion about the dining-room. Our country-friend, in particular, was ready to die with fear at the barking of a huge Mastiff or two, which opened their throats just about the same time, and made the whole house echo. At last, recovering himself, Well, says he, if this be your town-life, much good may do you with it: give me my poor quiet hole again, with my homely, but comfortable grey pease.

THE APPLICATION

Whittingham - Country and City Mice

C. Whittingham (1814)

A moderate fortune with a quiet retirement in the country, is preferable to the greatest affluence which is attended with care and the perplexity of business, and inseparable from the noise and hurry of ihe town. The practice of the generality of people of the best taste, it is to be owned, is directly against us in this point; but, when it is considered that this practice of theirs proceeds rather from a compliance with, the fashion of the times, than their own private thoughts, the objection is of no force. Among the great numbers of men who have received a learned education, how few are there but either have their fortunes entirely to make; or at least, think they deserve to have, and ought not to lose the opportunity of getting somewhat more than their fathers have left them! The town is the field of action for volunteers of this kind; and whatever fondness they may have for the country, yet they must stay till their circumstances will admit of a retreat thither. But sure there never was a man yet, who lived in a constant return of trouble and fatigue in town, as all men of business do in some degree or other, but has formed to himself some end of getting a sufficient competency, which may enable Him to purchase a quiet possession in the country, where he may indulge his genius, and give up his old age to that easy smooth life, which in the tempest of business, he had so often longed for. Can any thing argue more strongly for a country life, than to observe what a long course of labour people go through, and what difficulties they encounter to come at it? They look upon it, at a distance, like a kind of heaven, a place of rest and happiness; and are pushing forward, through the rugged thorny cares of the world, to make their way towards it. If there are many, who, though born to plentiful fortunes, yet live most part of their time in the noise, the smoke, and hurry of the town; we shall find, upon enquiry, that necessary indispensable business is the real or pretended plea which most of them have to make for it. The court and the senate require the attendance of some: law-suits, and the proper direction of trade engage others: they who have a sprightly wit, and an elegant taste for conversation, will resort to the place which is frequented by people of the same turn, whatever aversion they may otherwise have for it; and others, who have no such pretence, have yet this to say, that they follow the fashion. They who appear to have been men of the best sense amongst the ancients, always recommended the country as the most proper scene for innocence, ease, and virtuous pleasure; and, accordingly, lost no opportunities of enjoying it: and men of the greatest distinction among the moderns have ever thought themselves most happy, when they could be decently spared from the employments which the excellency of their talents necessarily threw them into, to embrace the charming leisure of a country life.

Taylor RhymesJefferys Taylor

Taylor - Town and Country Mice 0147A PLAIN, but honest, country mouse,
Residing in a miller’s house,
Once, on a time, invited down
An old acquaintance of the town:
And soon he brought his dainties out;
The best he had, there’s not a doubt.
A dish of oat-meal, and grey peas,
With half a candle and some cheese;
Some beans, and, if I’m not mistaken,
A charming piece of Yorkshire bacon.
And then to show he was expert
In such affairs, a fine dessert
Was next produc’d, all which he press’d
With rustic freedom on his guest.

But he, the city epicure,
This homely fare could not endure;
Indeed, he scarcely broke his fast
By what he took, but said, at last,
“Old crony, now, I’ll tell you what,
I don’t admire this lonely spot;
This dreadful, dismal, dirty hole,
Seems more adapted for a mole
Than ’tis for you; O! could you see
My residence, how charm’d you’d be.
Instead of bringing up your brood
In wind, and wet, and solitude,
Come, bring them all at once to town,
We’ll make a courtier of a clown.
I think that, for your children’s sake,
‘Tis proper my advice to take.”

“Well,” said his host, “I can but try,
And so, poor quiet hole, good bye!”

Then off they jogg’d for many a mile,
Talking of splendid things the while;
At last, in town they all arriv’d—
Found where the city mouse had liv’d—
Enter’d at midnight through a crack,
And rested from their tedious track.

“Now,” said the city mouse, “I’ll show
What kind of fare I’ve brought you to:”
On which he led the rustic mice
Into a larder, snug and nice,
Where ev’ry thing a mouse could relish
Did ev’ry shelf and nook embellish.

“Now is this not to be preferr’d
To your grey peas?” “Upon my word
It is,” the country mouse replied;
“All this must needs the point decide.”

Scarce had they spoke these words, when, lo!
A tribe of servants hasten’d through,
And also two gigantic cats,
Who spied our country mouse and brats.
Then, by a timely exit, she
Just saved herself and family.

“Oh! ask me not,” said she, in haste,
“Your tempting dainties more to taste;
I much prefer my homely peas
To splendid dangers such as these.”


Then let not those begin to grumble,
Whose lot is safe though poor and humble;
Nor envy him who better fares,
But for each good has twenty cares.

L'Estrange VersionL’Estrange version

There goes an old story of a country mouse that invited a city-sister of hers to a country collation, where she spar’d for nothing that the place afforded; as mouldy crusts, cheese parings, musty oatmeal, rusty bacon, and the like. Now the city-dame was so well bred, as seemingly to take all in good part: but yet at last, Sister (says she, after the civilest fashion) why will you be miserable when you may be happy? Why will you lie pining, and pinching your self in such a lonesome starving course of life as this is; when ’tis but going to town along with me; to enjoy all the pleasures, and plenty that your heart can wish? This was a temptation the country mouse was not able to resist; so that away they trudg’d together, and about midnight got to their journeys end. The city mouse shew’d her friend the larder, the pantry, the kitchin, and other offices where she laid her stores; and after this, carry’d her into the parlour, where they found, yet upon the table, the reliques of a mighty entertainment of that very night. The city-mouse carv’d her companion of what she lik’d best, and so to’t they fell upon a velvet couch together: The poor bumkin that had never seen, nor heard of such doings before, bless’d her self at the change of her condition, when (as ill luck would have it) all on a sudden, the doors flew open, and in comes a crowd of roaring bullies, with their wenches, their dogs, and their bottles, and put the poor mice to their wits end, how to save their skins. The stranger especially, that had never been at this sport before; but she made a shift however for the present, to slink into a corner, where she lay trembling and panting ’till the company went their way. So soon as ever the house was quiet again, Well: my court sister, says she, if this be the way of your town-gamboles, I’ll e’en back to my cottage, and my mouldy cheese again; for I had much rather lie knabbing of crusts, without either fear or danger, in my own little hole, than be mistress of the whole world with perpetual cares and alarums.

Moral

The difference betwixt a court and a country life. The delights, innocence, and security of the one, compar’d with the anxiety, the lewdness, and the hazards of the other.

1001Mures Duo

Mus rusticus, videns urbanum murem rus deambulantem, invitat ad cenam depromitque omne penum ut tanti hospitis expleat lautitiam. Urbanus ruris damnat inopiam urbisque copiam laudat, secumque in urbem ducit rusticum. Qui, inter epulandum attonitus insolitis clamoribus, cum intellexerat periculum quotidianum esse, dixiturbano muri, “Tuae dapes plus fellis quam mellis habent. Malo securus esse cum mea inopia quam dives esse cum tua anxietate.”

Perry #352