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Vital Signs

City Mouse, Country Mouse

We whose parents read to us the Bible, the Brothers Grimm, Mother Goose, Hans Christian Anderson, Reynard the Fox, Pilgrim’s Progress, and Aesop’s Fables know almost by heart the story of “The Country Mouse and the Town Mouse.”  This is the version translated by the English scholars George Tyler Townsend and Thomas James:

Once upon a time a Country Mouse who had a friend in town invited him, for old acquaintance sake, to pay him a visit in the country.  The invitation being accepted in due form, the Country Mouse, though plain and rough and somewhat frugal in his nature, opened his heart and store, in honor of hospitality and an old friend.  There was not a carefully stored up morsel that he did not bring forth out of his larder: peas and barley, cheese-pairings and nuts, hoping by quantity to make up what he feared was lacking in quality, to suit the palate of his dainty guest.  The Town Mouse, condescending to pick a bit here and a bit there, while the host sat nibbling a blade of barley-straw, at length exclaimed, “How is it, my good friend, that you can endure the dullness of this unpolished life?  You are living like a toad in a hole.  You can’t really prefer these solitary rocks and woods to streets teeming with carriages and men.  On my honor, you are wasting your time miserably here.  We must make the most of life while it lasts.  A mouse,...

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