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where the Poet speaks through the mouths of his ( respecting what imagery or diction he may chuse to characters; and upon this point it appears to have connect with the passion, whereas, in the other, the such weight, that I will conclude, there are few per- metre obeys certain laws, to which the Poet and Reader sons of good sense, who would not allow that the both willingly submit because they are certain, and dramatic parts of composition are defective, in pro- because no interference is made by them with the pasportion as they deviate from the real language of na

sion but such as the concurring testimony of ages bas iure, and are coloured by a diction of the Poet's own, shown to heighten and improve the pleasure which coeither peculiar to him as an individual Poet or be- exists with it. longing simply to Poets in general, to a body of men It will now be proper to answer an obvious question, who, from the circumstance of their compositions pamely, Why, professing these opinions, have I written being in metre, it is expected will employ a particular in verse? To this, in addition to such answer as is iolanguage.

cluded in what I have already said, I reply, in the li is not, then, in the dramatic parts of composition first place, Because, however I may have restricted my. that we look for this distinction of language; but still self, there is still left open to me what confessedly it may be proper and necessary where the Poet speaks constitutes the most valuable object of all writing, to us in his own person and character. To this whether in prose or verse, the great and universal answer by referring my Reader to the description passions of men, the most general and interesting of which I have before given of a Poet. Among the their occupations, and the entire world of nature, qualities which I have enumerated as principally con from which I am at liberty to supply myself with endducing to form a Poet, is implied nothing differing in less combinations of forms and imagery. Now, supkiud from other men, but only in degree. The sum of posing for a moment that whatever is interesting in what I have there said is, that the Poet is chietly distin- these objects may be as vividly described in prase, guished from other men by a greater prompiness to why am I to be condemned, if to such description I think and feel without immediate external excitement, have endeavoured to superadd the charm which, by and a greater power in expressing such thoughts and the consent of all nations, is acknowledged 10 exist in! feelings as are produced in him iu that manner. But metrical language? To this, by such as are unconvinced these passions and thoughts and feelings are the general by what I have already said, it may be answered that a passions and thoughts and feelings of men. And with very small part of the pleasure given by Poetry dewhat are they connected ? Undoubtedly with our moral pends upon the metre, and that it is injudicious to sentiments and animal sensations, and with the causes write in metre, unless it be accompanied with the other which excite these; with the operations of the ele artificial distinctions of style with which metre is usually ments, and the appearances of the visible universe; accompanied, and that, by such deviation, more will with storm and sunshine, with the revolutions of the be lost from the shock which will thereby be given to seasons, with cold and heat, with loss of friends and the Reader's associations than will be counterbalanced kindred, with injuries and resentments, gratitude and by any pleasure which he can derive from the general hope, with fear and sorrow. These, and the like, are power of numbers. In answer to those who still, the sensations and objects which the Poet describes, as contend for the necessity of accompanying metre sith they are the sensations of other men, and the objects certain appropriate colours of style in order to the which ioterest them. The Poct thinks and feels in the accomplishment of its appropriate end, and who also, spirit of the passions of men. Now, then, can his in my opinion, greatly underrate the power of metre in language differ in any material degree from that of all itself, it might, perhaps, as far as relates to these other men who feel vividly and see clearly? It might be Poems, have been almost sufficient to observe, that proved that it is impossible. But supposing that this poems are extant, written upon more humble subjects, were not the case, the Poet might then be allowed to and in a more naked and simple style than I have use a peculiar language when expressing his feelings aimed at, which poems have continued to give pleafor bis own gratification, or that of men like himself. from generation to generation. Now, if nakedBut Poets do not write for Poets alone, but for men. ness and simplicity be a defect, the fact here mentioned Unless therefore we are advocates for that admiration affords a strong presumption that poems somewhat which depends upon ignorance, and that pleasure less naked and simple are capable of affordiog pleawhich arises from hearing what we do not understand, sure at the present day; and, what I wished cluefly the Poet must descend from this supposed height, and, to attempt, at present, was to justify myself for having in order to excite rational sympathy, he must express written under the impression of this belief. himseif as other inen express themselves. To this it But I might point out various causes why, when may be added, that while he is only selecting from the the style is manly, and the subject of some importance, real language of men, or, which amounts to the same words metrically arranged will long continue to im thing, composing accurately in the spirit of such part such a pleasure to mankind as he who is seaselection, he is treading upon safe ground, and we sible of the extent of that pleasure will be desirous to! know what we are to expect from him. Our feelings impart. The end of Poetry is to produce excitement are the same with respect to metre; for, as it may be in co-existence with an overbalance of pleasure. Now, proper to remind the Reader, the distinction of metre by the supposition, excitement is an unusual and irre is regular and uniform, and not, like that which is gular state of the mind; ideas and feelings do not, in produced by what is usually called poetic diction, that state, succeed each other in accustomed order. arbitrary, and subject to infinite caprices upon which But, if the words by which this excitement is produced no calculation whatever can be made. In the one are in themselves powerful, or the images and feelings case, the Reader is utterly at the mercy of the Poct have an undue proportion of pain connected with See Appendix, page 259.

them, there is some dauger that the excitement may


be carried beyond its proper bounds. Now the co this subject, and I must content myself with a general presence of something regular, something to which

summary The mind has been accustomed in various moods and I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of 10 a less excited state, cannot but have great efficacy powerful feelings : it takes its origin froin emotion rein lempering and restraining the passion by an inter- collected in tranquillity: the emotion is contemplated texture of ordinary feeling, and of feeling not strictly till, by a species of re-action, the tranquillity gradually and necessarily connected with the passion. This is disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was unquestionably true, and hence, though the opinion before the subject of contemplation, is gradually prosill at first appear paradoxical, from the tendency of duced, and does itself actually exist in the mind. In this metre to divesi language, in a certain degree, of its mood successful composition generally begins, and in a reality, and thus to throw a sort of half cousciousness mood similar to this it is carried on; but the emotion of unsubstantial existence over the whole composition, of whatever kind, and in whatever degree, from various there can be little doubt, but that more pathetic causes, is qualified by various pleasures, so that in situations and sentiments, that is, those which have a describing any passions whatsoever, which are volupgreater proportion of pain connected with them, may tarily deseribed, the mind will, upon the whole, be in be endured in metrical composition, especially in a state of enjoyment. Now, if Nature be thus cautious rhorme, than in prose.

The metre of the old ballads in preserving in a state of enjoyment a being thus is very artless ; yet they contain many passages which employed, the Poet ought to profit by the lesson thus would vilustrate this opinion, and, i hope, if the held forth to him, and ought especially to take care, ! Poems referred to be attentively perused, similar in that, whatever passiops be communicates to his Reader,

stances will be found in them. This opinion may be those passions, if his Reader's mind be sound and vifuriler illustrated by appealing to the Reader's own gorous, should always be accompanied with an over

experience of the reluctance with which he comes to the balance of pleasure. Now the music of harmonious re-perusal of the distressful parts of Clarissa llarlowe, metrical language, the sense of difficulty overcome, and

or the Gamester. While Shakspeare's writings, in the the blind association of pleasure which has been pre| most pathetic scenes, never act upon us, as pathetic, viously received from works of rhyme or metre of the beyond the bounds of pleasure---an effect which, in a same or similar construction, an indistinct perception much greater degree ihan might at first be imagined, is perpetually renewed of language closely resembling that to be ascribed to small, but continual and regular im- of real life, and yet, in the circumstance of metre,

pulses of pleasurable surprise from the metrical arrange- differing from it so widely-all these imperceptibly meni.—On the other hand, (what it must be allowed make up a complex feeling of delight, which is of the wil much more frequenily happen,) if the Poet's words most important use in tempering the painful feeling should be incommensurate with the passion, and inade- which will always be found intermingled witli powerful quate to raise the Reader to a height of desirable ex- , descriptions of the deeper passions. This effect is clement, then, (unless the Poet's choice of his metre always produced in pathetic and impassioned poetry; has been grossly injudicious,) in the feelings of pleasure while, in lighter compositions, the ease and gracefulness which the Reader has been accustomed to connect with with which the Poet mapages his numbers are themmetre in general, and in the feeling, whether cheerful or selves confessedly a principal source of the gratification melancholy, which he has been accustomed to connect of the Reader. I might, perhaps, include all which it with that particular movement of metre, there will be is necessary to say upon this subject, by affirming what foond something which will greatly contribute to im- few persons will deny, that, of two descriptions either part passion to the words, and to effect the complex of passions, manners, or characters, each of them end which the Poet proposes to himself.

cqually well executed, the one ip prose and the other If I had undertaken a systematic defence of the in verse, the verse will be read a hundred times where theory upon which these poems are written, it would the prose is read once. We see that Pope, by the have been my duty to develope the various causes upon power of verse alone, las contrived to render the which the pleasure received from metrical language de plainest common sense interesting, and even frequently ponds. Among the chief of these causes is to be to invest it with the appearance of passion. In consereckoned a principle which must be well known to quence of these convictions I related in metre the Tale those who have made any of the Arts the object of of Goody Blake and Barry Gill, which is one of the accurate reflection; I mean the pleasure which the rudest of this collection. I wished to draw attention to mind derives from the perception of similitude in dissi- the truth, that the power of the human imagination is militude. This principle is the great spring of the sufficient to produce such changes even in our physical activity of our minds, and their chief feeder. From nature as might almost appear miraculous. The truth is this principle the direction of the sexual appetite, and an important one; the fact (for it is a fact, is a valuable all the passions connected with it, take their origin: it illustration of it: and I have the satisfaction of knowis the life of our ordinary conversation ; and upon the ing that it has been communicated to many hundreds acuracy with which similitude in dissimilitude, and of people who would never have heard of it, liad it not tassimilitude in similitude are perceived, depend our been narrated as a Ballad, and in a more impressive taste and our moral feelings. li would not have been metre tban is usual in Ballads. a useless employment to have applied this principle to Having thus explained a few of the reasons why I the consideration of metre, and to have shown that have written in verse, and why I have chosen subjects metre is hence enabled to afford much pleasure, and 10 from common life, and endeavoured to bring my lankave pointed out in whal manner that pleasure is pro-guage near to the real language of men, if I have been duced. But my limits will not permit me to enter upon too minute in pleading my own cause, I have at the


same time been treating a subject of general ioterest; is not to say, This is a bad kind of poetry, or, This is and it is for this reason that I request the Reader's per- not poetry; but this wants sense; it is neither interest mission to add a few words with reference solely to ing in itself, por can lead to any thing interesting; the these particular poems, and to some defects which will images neither originate in that save state of feeling probably he found in them. I am sensible that my which arises out of thought, nor can excite thought er associations must have sometimes been particular in- feeling in the Reader. This is the only sepsible in

manner stead of general, and that, consequently, giving to things of dealing with such verses. Why trouble yourself abou a false importance, sometimes from diseased impulses, the species till you have previously decided upon the

may have written upon unworthy subjects; but I am genus ? Why take pains to prove that an ape is not a less apprehensive on this account, than that my lan- Newton, when it is self-evident that he is not a man? guage may frequently have suffered from those arbi I have one request to make of my Reader, which is, trary connections of feelings and ideas with particular that in judging these Poems he would decide by his own words and phrases, from which no man can altogether feelings genuinely, and not by reflection upon what will protect himself. Hence I have no doubt, that, in some probably be the judgment of others. How common is instances, feelings, even of the Judicrous, may be given it to hear a person say, «I myself do not object to ibis to my Readers by expressions which appeared to me style of composition, or this or that expression, but, to tender and pathetic. Such faulty expressions, were I such and such classes of people, it will appear mean of : convinced they were faulty at present, and that they ludicrous !” This mode of criticism, so destructive of must necessarily continue to be so, I would willingly all sound unadulterated judgment, is almost universal : take all reasonable pains to correct. But it is dangerous I have therefore to request, that the Reader would abide to make these alterations on the simple authority of a independently, by his own feelings, and that, if be fiads few individuals, or even of certain classes of men; for himself affected, he would not suffer such conjectures where the understanding of an Author is not con to interfere with his pleasure. vinced, or his feelings altered, this cannot be done If an Author, by any single composition, bas impressed without great injury to himself: for his own feelings us with respect for his talents, it is useful to conser arc his stay and support; and, if he sets them aside in this as affording a presumption, that on other occaone instance, he may be induced to repeat this act till sions where we have been displeased, he, nevertheless, ; his mind loses all confidence in itself, and becomes may not have written ill or absurdly; and, further, 10 utterly debilitated. To this it may be added, that the give him so much credit for this one composition as Reader ought never to forget that he is himself exposcd may induce us to review what has displeased us, with to the same errors as the Poet, and, perhaps, in a much more care than we should otherwise bave bestowed greater degree: for there can be no presumption in upon it. This is not only an act of justice, but, in our saying, that it is not probable he will be so well ac- decisions upon poetry especially, may conduce, in 3 quainted with the various stages of meaning through high degree, to the improvement of our own laste : for which words have passed, or with the fiekleness or an accurate taste in poetry, and in all the other arts, 25 stability of the relations of particular ideas to each Sir Joshua Reynolds has observed, is an acquired talent, other; and, above all, since he is so much less interested which can only be produced by thought and a long in the subject, he may decide lightly and carelessly. continued intercourse with the best models of compo

Long as I have detained my Reader, I hope he will sition. This is mentioned, not with so ridiculous a permit me to caution him against a mode of false cri- purpose as to prevent the most inexperienced Reader ticism which has been applied to Poetry, in which the from judging for himself (I have already said that I language closely resembles that of life and nature. I wish him to judge for himself), but merely to lemper Such verses have been triumphed over in parodies of the rashness of decision, and to suggest, that, if Perry which Dr Johnson's stanza is a fair specimev.

be a subject on which much time has not been beslotI put my bat upon my head

cd, the judgment may be erroneous; and that, in znany cases, it necessarily will be so.

I know that nothing would have so effectually coa Immediately under these lines I will place one of tributed to further the end which I have in view, as to the most justly-admired stanzas of the « Babes in the have shown of what kind the pleasure is, and how that Wood,»

pleasure is produced, which is confessedly produced be These pretty babes with hand in hand

metrical composition essentially different from that Went wandering up and down;

which I have here endeavoured to recommend : for the But never more they saw the Man

Reader will say that he has been pleased by such comApproaching from the Town.

position; and what can I do more for him? The power In both these stanzas the words, and the order of the of any art is limited ; and he will suspect, that, if I prowords, in no respect differ from the most unimpassion pose to furnish him with new friends, it is only upea ed conversation. There are words in both, for example, condition of his abandoning his old friends. Besides, « the Strand,» aud « the Town» connected with none as I have said, the Reader is himself conscious of the pleabut the most familiar ideas; yet the one stanza we sure which he has received from such, admit as admirable, and the other as a fair example of position to which he has peculiariy attached the endearing the superlatively contemptible. Whence arises this dif

name of Poetry; and all men feel an habitual gratitude, ference ? Not from the metre, not from the language, and something of an honourable bigotry for the objects not from the order of the words ; but the matter ex- which have long continued to please them; we not only pressed in Dr Johnson's stanza is contemptible. The wish to be pleased, but to be pleased in that particolar proper method of treating trivial and simple verses, 10 way in which we have been accustomed to be pleased which Dr Johnson's stanza would be a fair parallelism, There is a liost of arguments in these feelings, and !

And walked into the Strand,
And there I met another man
Whose hat was io his hand.



should be the less able to combat them successfully, as The agitation and confusion of mind were in both cases I am willing to allow, that, in order entirely to enjoy delightful, and no wonder if he confounded the one with the Poetry which I am recommending, it would be ne- the other, and believed them both to be produced by | cessary to give up much of what is ordinarily enjoyed the same, or similar causes. Besides, the Poet spake to

But, would my limits have permitted me to point out him in the character of a man to be looked up to, a man · box this pleasure is produced, I might have removed of genius and authority. Thus, and from a variety of

many obstacles, and assisted my Reader in perceiving other causes, this distorted language was received with thut the powers of language are not so limited as he admiration; and Poets, it is probable, who had before may suppose ; and that it is possible for poetry to give contented themselves for the most part with misapplyother enjoyments, of a purer, more lasting, and more ing only expressions which at first had been dictated by exquisite nature. This part of my subject I have not real passion, carried the abuse still further, and introaltogether neglected; but it has been less my present duced phrases composed apparently in the spirit of the aim to prove, that the interest excited by some other original figurative language of passion, yet altogether of kinds of poetry is less vivid, and less worthy of the their own invention, and distinguished by various denobler powers of the mind, than to offer reasons for grees of wanton deviation from good sense and nature. presuming, that, if the object which I have proposed to

It is indeed true that the language of the earliest Poets myself were adequately attained, a species of poetry was felt to differ materially from ordinary language,

would be produced, which is genuine poetry; in its because it was the language of extraordinary occasions ; , nature well adapted to interest mankind perinanently, but it was really spoken by men, language which the

and likewise important in the multiplicity and quality Poet himself had uttered when he had been affected by of its moral relations.

ibe events which he described, or which he had heard From what has been said, and from a perusal of the uttered by those around him. To this language it is Poems, the Reader will be able clearly to perceive the probable that metre of some sort or other was early suobject which I have proposed to myself : he will deter- | peradded. This separated the genuine language of Poetry mine how far I have attained this object; and, what still further from common life, so that whoever read or is a much more important question, whether it be heard the poems of these earliest Poets felt himself worth attaining: and upon the decision of these two moved in a way in which he had not been accustomed to questions will rest my claim to the approbation of the be moved in real life, and by causes manifestly different Public.

from those which acted upon him in real life. This was the great temptation to all the corruptions which have

followed : under the protection of this feeling succeedAPPENDIX.

ing Poets constructed a phraseology which had one thing, it is true, in common with the genuine language of poetry, namely, that it was not heard in ordinary

conversation; that it was unusual. But the first Poets, As, perhaps, I have no right to expect from a Reader of as I have said, spake a language which, though unusual, Observations on a volume of Poems that attentive peru- was still the language of men.

This circumstance, sal without which it is impossible, imperfectly as I have however, was disregarded by their successors; they been compelled to express my meaning, that what is found that they could please by easier means: they bethere said should, throughout, be fully understood, came proud of a language which they themselves had I am the more anxious to give an exact notion of the invented, and which was uttered only by themselves ; sense in which I use the phrase poetic diction; and for and, with the spirit of a fraternity, they arrogated it to this purpose I will here add a few words concerning the themselves as their own. In process of time metre beorigin of the phraseology which I have condemned un came a symbol or promise of this unusual language, der that dame. — The earliest poets of all nations gene- and whoever took upon him to write iu metre, accordrally wrote from passion excited by real events; they ing as he possessed more or less of true poetic genius, wrote naturally, and as men: feeling powerfully as they introduced less or more of this adulterated phraseology did, their language was daring, and figurative. In suc- into his compositions, and the true and the false beceeding times, Poets, and Men ambitious of the fame of came so inseparably interwoven that the taste of men Poets, perceiving the influence of such language, and was gradually perverted ; and this language was received desirous of producing the same effect without having as a natural language : and at length, by the intluence the samne animating passion, set themselves to a mecha- of books upon men, did to a certain degree really benical adoption of these figures of speech, and made use

Abuses of this kind were imported from one | of them, sometimes with propriely, but much more pation to another, and with the progress of refinement frequently applied them to feelings and ideas with which this diction became daily more and more corrupt, i they had no natural connexion whatsoever. A language thrusting out of sight the plain humanities of nature by was thus insensibly produced, differing materially from a motley masquerade of tricks, quaintnesses, hieroglythe real language of men in any situation. The Reader phics, and enigmas. or learer of this distorted language found himself in a It would be highly interesting to point out the causes perturbed and unusual state of miod; when affected by of the pleasure given by this extravagant and absurd the genuine language of passion he had been in a per- language : but this is not the place; it depends upon a Carbed and unusual state of mind also: in both cases

great variety of causes, but upon none perhaps more he was willing that his common judgment and under than its intluence in impressing a notion of the

pecutanding should be laid asleep, and he had no instinctive liarity and exaltation of the Poet's character, and in and infallible perception of the true to make him reject flattering the Reader's self-love by bringing him nearer the false; the one served as a passport for the other. to a sympathy with that character; an effect which is 1


come so.


accomplished by unsettling ordinary habits of think-Cowper's verses, supposed to be written by Alexander ing, and thus assisting the Reader to approach to that Selkirk : perturbed and dizzy state of mind in which if he does

Religion! what treasure untold not find himself, he imagines that he is balked of a

Resides in that heavenly word ?

More precious than silver and gold, peculiar enjoyment which poetry can and ought to be

Or all that this earth can afford.

But the sound of the church-going bell The sonnet which I have quoted from Gray, in the

Theso valleys and rocks never beard, Preface, except the lines printed in Italics, consists of

Ne'er sighed at the sound of a knell, little else but this diction, though not of the worst kind;

Or smiled when a sabbath appeared. and indeed, if I may be permitted to say so, it is far too

Ye winds, that have made me your sport, common in the best writers, both ancient and modern.

Convey to this desolate shore Perhaps I can in no way, by positive example, more

Somo cordial endearing report

Of a land I must visit no more. easily give my Reader a notion of what I mean by the phrase poetic diction, than by referring him to a com

My Friends, do they now and then send

A wish or a thought after me? parison between the metrical paraphrase which we have

O tell me I yet have a friend, of passages in the Old and New Testament, and those

Though a friend I am never to see. passages as they exist in our common Translation. See

I have quoted this passage as an instance of three Pope's « Messiah » throughout; Prior's « Did sweeter sounds adoru my flowing tongue,» etc, etc. « Though

different styles of composition. The first four lines are I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, etc. poorly expressed; some Critics would call the language etc. See ist Corinthians, chapter xiiith. By way of prosaic; the fact is, it would be bad prose, so bad, thai

it is scarcely worse in metre. The epithel «churchimmediate example, take the following of Dr Johason:

going » applied to a bell, and that by so chaste a writer Tarn on the prudent Ant thy heedless eyes,

as Cowper, is an instance of the strange abuses which Observe her labours, Sluggard, and be wise;

Poets have introduced into their language till they and No stern command, no monitory voice,

their Readers take them as matters of course, if they do Prescribes her duties, or directs her choice ; Yet, timely provident, she hastes away

not single them out expressly as objects of admiration. To snatch the blessings of a plenteous day;

The two lines, « Ne'er sighid at the sound, etc., are, in When fruitful Summer loads the teeming plain,

my opinion, an iostance of the language of passiva She crops the harvest and she stores the grain.

wrested from its proper use, and, from the mere erHow long shall sloth usurp thy useless hours, Unnerve thy vigour, and enchain thy powers ?

cumstance of the composition being in metre, applied Whilo artful shades thy downy couch enclose,

upon an occasion that does not justify such violent exAnd soft solicitation courts repose,

pressions; and I should condemn the passage, though Amidst the drowsy charms of dull delight,

perhaps few Readers will agree with me, as vicious Year chases year with unremitted flight,

poetic diction. The last stanza is throughout admirably Till Want now following, fraudulent and slow, Shall spring to seize thee, like an ambushed foc.

expressed: it would be equally good whether in prose

or verse, except that the Reader has an exquisite pleaFrom this hubbub of words pass to the original. sure in sccing such natural language so naturally con« Go to the Ant, thou Sluggard, consider ber ways, nected with metre. The beauty of this stanza tempis and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, me to conclude with a principle which ought never lo provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her be lost sight of, -namely, that in works of imagination food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, o and sentiment, in proportiou as ideas and feelings are Sluggard? When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet valuable, whether the composition be in prose or in a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the verse, they require and exact one and the same lanhands to sleep. So shall thy poverty come as one that guage. Metre is but adventitious to composition, and travaileth, and thy want as an armed man.» Proverbs, the phraseology for which that passport is necessary, i chap. vi.

even where it is graceful at all, will be little valued by One more quotation, and I have done. It is from the judicious.

The Excursion,


OFT, through thy fair domains, illustrious Peer!
In youth I roamed, on youthful pleasures bent;
And muscd in rocky cell or sylvan tent,
Beside swift-flowing Lowther's current clear.
– Now, by thy care befriended, I appear
Before thee, Lonsdale, and this Work present,
A token (may it prove a monument!)

Of high respect and gratitude sincere.
Gladly would I have waited till my task
Had reached its close; but Life is insecure,
And Hope full oft fallacious as a dream :
Therefore, for what is here produced I ask
Thy favour; trusting that thou wilt not deem
The Offering, though imperfect, premature.


Rydal MOUNT, WESTMORLAND, July 29, 1314.

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