The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse

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Caxton's translation (1484)[edit]

Of the two rats

Better worthe is to lyue in pouerte surely / than to lyue rychely beyng euer in daunger / wherof Esope telleth suche a fable / There were two rats / wherof the one was grete and fatte / and held hym in the celer of a Ryche man And the other was poure and lene / On a daye this grete and fat ratte wente to sporte hym in the feldes and mette by the way the poure rat / of the whiche he was receyued as well as he coude in his poure cauerne or hole / and gaf hym of suche mete as he had / Thenne sayd the fatte ratte come thow wyth me / And I shalle gyue the wel other metes / He went with hym in to the toune / and entred bothe in to the celer of the ryche man / the whiche celer was full of alle goodes / And whan they were within the grete rat presented and gaf to the poure rat of the delycious metes / sayeng thus to hym / Be mery and make good chere / and ete and drynke Ioyously / And as they were etynge / the bouteler of the place came in to the celer / & the grete rat fled anon in to his hole / & the poure rat wist not whyther he shold goo ne flee / but hyd hym behynd the dore with grete fere and drede / and the bouteler torned ageyne and sawe hym not / And whan he was gone the fatte rat cam out of his cauerne or hole / and called the poure ratte / whiche yet was shakynge for fere / and said to hym / come hyder and be not aferd / & ete as moche as thou wylt / And the poure rat sayd to hym / for goodes loue lete me go oute of this celer / For I haue leuer ete some corne in the feldes and lyue surely / than to be euer in this torment / for thou arte here in grete doubte & lyuest not surely /

And therfore hit is good to lyue pourely & surely For the poure lyueth more surely than the ryche

L'Estrange's translation (1692)[edit]


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 Journey’s End. The City-Mouse shewed her Friend the Larder, the Pantry, the Kitchen, and other Offices where she laid her Stores; and after this, carried her into the Parlour, where they found, yet upon the Table, the Relicks of a mighty Entertainment of that very Night. The City-Mouse carv’d her Companion of what she liked best, so to’t they fell upon a Velvet Couch together. The poor Bumpkin, that had never seen nor heard of such Doings before, bless’d her self at the Change of Condition, when (as ill luck would have it) all of a sudden the Doors flew open, and in comes a Crew of roring Bullies, with their Wenches, their Dogs, and their Bottles, and put the poor Mice to their wit’s 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 Hole, than be Mistress of the whole World with perpetual Cares and Alarms.

THE MORAL The Difference of a Court and Country Life. The Delights, Innocence, and Security of the one, compar’d with the Anxiety, the Lewdness, and the Hazards of the other.

Townsend's translation (1887)[edit]

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."

Jacobs' translation (1894)[edit]

The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse

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."

See also[edit]