Forget Me Not/1824/The Philosophic Mouse

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Originally published in German as "Die Maus" in Die jüngsten Kinder meiner Laune volume 2 (1794).




An old Mouse, who studied philosophy in an empty granary, and during a severe famine had meditated a great deal on the nature of the gods, concluded at length to acknowledge the Sun as the supreme being, because it dispenses light and heat, draws forth the blossom, and brings the fruit to maturity, enlivens the healthy, and refreshes the sick.

The Sun heard the prayer of the Mouse, and mildly replied: “Poor little animal, I am but a creature like thyself. A fog, a cloud, spreading themselves before me, have the power to obscure my light and to deprive the earth of my heat.”

The Sun is right, thought the Mouse. I suffered myself to be dazzled by his splendour. It is the Cloud that by right deserves my adoration.

“I?” said the Cloud: “thou art egregiously mistaken. I am but a being composed of vapours that ascend from your earth into the atmosphere. The Wind plays with me, gives me this or that form at pleasure, and the Tempest completely disperses me.”

“In this case,” cried the Mouse, “I must acknowledge the Tempest as the mightiest of beings, because it governs the clouds which obscure the Sun.”

“Me?” roared the Tempest; “it is true that I hold sovereign sway over fogs and clouds, but in vain do I assail this Wall, which bids defiance to my power.”

The Mouse was astounded at this information. “What!” thought he, “is this Wall, that is so near me—this Wall that protects my habitation—so strong and so mighty? Well, then, it shall be in future the object of my adoration.”

“Ah!” sighed the Wall, “knowest thou not that thou and thy kindred have for upwards of a century been undermining my foundation? Seest thou not that I cannot stand much longer?”

Scarcely had it uttered these words, when it fell with a tremendous crash. Filled with astonishment, the Mouse crept about among the ruins; and, as he was too short-sighted to discover the connexion of all created beings, he was frequently tempted to adore either himself or nothing at all.