Fables of Æsop and Other Eminent Mythologists/Fable XI

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Fab. XI.

A City Mouse and a Country Mouse.

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 Scores; 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 Crew 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.

The 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.


The Design of This Fable is to set forth the Advantages of a Private Life, above Those of a Publick; which are certainly very Great, if the Blessings of Innocence, Security, Meditation, Good Air, Health, and sound Sleeps, without the Rages of Wine, and Lust, or the Contagion of Idle Examples, can make them so: For Every Thing there, is Natural and Gracious. There's the Diversion of All Healthful Exercises for the Body: The Entertainment of the Place, and of the Rivers, without any Base Interest to Corrupt, either the Virtue, or the Peace of our Lives. He that's a Slave in the Town is a kind of a Petty Prince in the Country. He loves his Neighbours, without Pride, and lives in Charity with the Whole World. All that he fees is his Own, as to the Delight of it, without Envying the Prosperity. His Doors are not Troubled with either Dunns, or Fools, and he has the Sages of All Times in his Cabinet for his Companions. He lives to Himself as well as to the World, without Brawles or Quarrels, of any sort whatsoever. He sees No Bloody Murders; He hears No Blasphemous Execrations; He lives free from the Plagues of Jealousie and Envy: And This is the Life in fine, that the Greatest, and the Wisest Men in the World, Have, or would have made Choice of, if Cares and Business had not Hinder'd them from so Great a Blessing.

'Tis against Common Justice to pass Sentence without hearing Both sides: And the Only way to come to a True Estimate upon the Odds betwixt a Publick and a Private Life, is to Try Both. Virtue is only Glorious in the Native Simplicity of it, and while it holds no Communication with Interest, Fancy, Sense, or Ornament: Wherefore Æsop has done Wisely to cast the Issue of the Question upon the Experiment, Far from Jupiter (says the Adage) far from the Thunder. What signifies the Splendor, and the Luxury of Courts, considering the Slavish Attendances, the Invidious Competitions, and the Mortal Disappointments that go along with it. The Frowns of Princes, and the Envy of those that Judge by Hearsay, or Appearance; without either Reason or Truth! To say nothing of the Innumerable Temptations, Vices, and Excesses, of a Life of Pomp, and Pleasure. Let a man but set the Pleasing of his Palate against the Surfeits of Gluttony and Excess, The Starving of his Mind against a Pamper'd Carcass; The Restless Importunities of Tale-bearers and Back Friends, against Fair Words and Professions only from the Teeth outward: Let him, I say, but set the One in Ballance against the Other, and he shall find himself Miserable, even in the very Glutt of his Delights. To say All in a Word; Let him but set the Comforts of a Life spent in Noise, Formality, and Tumult, against the Blessings of a Retreat with Competency and Freedom, and then Cast up his Account.

What Man then, that is not stark Mad, will Voluntarily Expose himself to the Imperious Brow-beatings and Scorns of Great Men! to have a Dagger struck to his Heart in an Embrace; To be torn to pieces by Calumny, nay to be a Knave in his own Defence! for the Honester the Worse, in a Vicious Age, and where 'tis a Crime not to be like the Company. Men of that Character are not to be Read, and Understood by their Words, but by their Interests; their Promises and Protestations are no longer Binding than while they are Profitable. But Baudoin has done so well upon this Fable, that there needs no more to be said to't.