1596
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Faerie Queene. Book IV. Canto XI.

The Faerie Queene. Disposed into Twelve Bookes, fashioning XII. morall Vertues. The Second Part of the Faerie Queene. Containing the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Bookes.

Edmund Spenser


George L. Craik: "Canto XI. (53 stanzas). — We must also give nearly the whole of this Canto, one of the most conspicuous in the poem. It sets out thus: — 'But ah! for pity that I have thus long | Left a fair lady languishing in pain! | Now well away! that I have done such wrong, | To let fair Florimel in bands remain, | In bands of love, and in sad thraldom's chain'.... Florimel, it may be remembered, was left, in the Eighth Canto of the preceding Book, in the hands of the sea-god Proteus, who, we were there told, after all his attempts to win her favour had failed, at last threw her into a dungeon and threatened to keep her there in eternal durance. 'Deep in the bottom of all huge great rock The dungeon was, in which her bound he left, That neither iron bars, nor brazen lock, | Did need to guard from force or secret theft | Of all her lovers which would her have reft'....

"And all this was for the love of Marinel — of Marinel, by whom she and all other women were despised. Meanwhile, however, he still lay languishing of the wound inflicted by a woman's hand, as related in the Fourth Canto of the last Book; and nothing that the nymph his mother can do to cure him is of any avail, till at last she hies for help to Tryphon, the sea-gods' surgeon, to whom she carries a whistle, curiously wrought of a fish's shell, for fee. If, therefore, we would have the poet to be perfectly consistent throughout the whole extent of his long performance, we must suppose that the message which we were before told she sent in haste for Tryphon to come to her, as soon as her son was brought home, had not been attended to by that 'sovereign leech.' But we shall take a truer view if we are contented to allow that he may he chargeable with a lapse of memory in regard to so minute a matter. Now, at any rate, Tryphon, hearkening to the nymph's request, applied his skill with such assiduity and success that Marinel was soon restored to health. His mother's maternal fears, nevertheless, long retained him in her ocean bower, very much against his will.

"At length it happened that all the deities of the sea and their offspring were assembled at a solemn feast held in the house of Proteus in honour of the marriage of the Thames and the Medway, that is, of the god of the former river with the goddess or nymph of the latter, whom, after long wooing, he had at last prevailed upon to consent to share his bed. The famous episode thus introduced, the commentators assume to be the same poem which Spenser speaks of in the year 1580 as already written by him on this subject. But that poem, entitled Epithalamion Thamesis, was, as we have seen, a specimen of what was called 'English versifying,' or a composition in some of the metres then attempted to be constructed on the principles of the ancient Greek and Latin prosody; and it must therefore have been, at least in its form, entirely different from what we have here. Nor, considering the long interval that had elapsed, does it seem very probable that there would be much resemblance between the present and the former composition in any respect. The episode, as we have it, is altogether in Spenser's most matured style; and it may be assumed not to have been written even when the first three Books of the Fairy Queen were published, else it would probably have been introduced in that portion of the poem.

"To the house of Proteus, then, all the water deities, the poet tell us, repaired on this occasion, both the greater and the least — 'As well which in the mighty ocean trade, | As that in rivers swim, or brooks do wade' — adding, in Homeric fashion, that, if he had an hundred tongues, as many mouths, a voice of brass, and a memory endless, or boundless, he could not recount them all in order. And then he proceeds: — 'Help therefore, O thou sacred imp of Jove, | The nursling of dame Memory his dear, | To whom those rolls, laid up in heaven above, | And records of antiquity appear, | To which no wit of man may comen near; | Help me to tell the names of all those floods | And all those nymphs, which then assembled were | To that great banquet of the watery gods, And all their sundry kinds, and all their hid abodes'....

"Of the remainder of the Canto there is not a stanza that can be abridged or thrown out" Spenser and his Poetry (1845; 1871) 2:158-62.

This canto inspired a brief essay by Leigh Hunt, "Dolphins," in which he declares that "Perhaps in no one particular thing or image, have some great poets shown the different characters of their genius more than in the use of the Dolphin. Spenser, who of all his tribe lived in a poetical world, and saw things as clearly there as in a real one, has never shown this nicety of imagination more than in the following passage ... 'A team of Dolphins ranged in array | Drew the smooth charett of sad Cymoent....'" The Indicator (1819-21; 1845) 1:143.44.



Marinel's former Wound is heal'd,
He comes to Proteus' Hall,
Where Thamis doth the Medway wed,
And feasts the Sea-Gods all.

But ah for Pity! that I have thus long
Left a fair Lady languishing in Pain:
Now weal-away, that I have done such Wrong,
To let fair Florimel in Bands remain,
In Bands of Love, and in sad Thraldom's Chain;
From which, unless some heavenly Power her free
By Miracle, not yet appearing plain,
She lenger yet is like captiv'd to be:
That ev'n to think thereof, it inly pities me.

Here need you to remember, how e'er-while
Unlovely Proteus, missing to his Mind
That Virgin's Love to win by Wit or Wile,
Her threw into a Dungeon deep and blind,
And there in Chains her cruelly did bind,
In hope thereby her to his Bent to draw:
For when-as neither Gifts nor Graces kind,
Her constant Mind could move at all he saw,
He thought her to compel by Cruelty and Awe.

Deep in the Bottom of an huge great Rock
The Dungeon was, in which her bound he left,
That neither iron Bars, nor brazen Lock
Did need to guard from Force, or secret Theft
Of all her Lovers, which would her have reft.
For wall'd it was with Waves, which rag'd and roar'd
As they the Cliff in pieces would have cleft:
Besides, ten thousand Monsters foul abhor'd
Did wait about it, gaping griesly, all begor'd.

And in the midst thereof did Horror dwell,
And Darkness drad, that never viewed Day;
Like to the baleful House of lowest Hell,
In which old Styx her aged Bones alway
(Old Styx, the Grandame of the Gods) doth lay.
There did this luckless Maid three Months abide;
Ne ever Evening saw, ne Morning's Ray,
Ne ever from the Day the Night descry'd,
But thought it all one Night, that did no Hours divide.

And all this was for Love of Marinel,
Who her despis'd (ah! who would her despise?)
And Womens Love did from his Heart expel,
And all those Joys that weak Mankind entice.
Nath'less, his Pride full dearly he did prise;
For of a Woman's Hand it was yroke,
That of the Wound he yet in Languor lies,
Ne can be cured of that cruel Stroke
Which Britomart him gave, when he did her provoke.

Yet far and near the Nymph his Mother sought,
And many Salves did to his Sore apply,
And many Herbs did use: but when as nought
She saw could ease his rankling Malady,
At last, to Tryphon she for Help did hie
(This Tryphon is the Sea-gods Surgeon hight)
Whom she besought to find some Remedy:
And for his Pains, a Whistle him behight,
That of a Fishes Shell was wrought with rare Delight.

So well that Leach did hark to her Request,
And did so well employ his careful Pain,
That in short space his Hurts he had redrest,
And him restor'd to healthful State again:
In which he long time after did remain
There with the Nymph his Mother, like her Thrall;
Who sore against his Will did him retain,
For fear of Peril, which to him mote fall,
Through his too ventrous Prowess proved over all.

It fortun'd then, a solemn Feast was there
To all the Sea-gods, and their fruitful Seed,
In Honour of the Spousals, which then were
Betwixt the Medway and the Thames agreed.
Long had the Thames (as we in Records read)
Before that Day her wooed to his Bed;
But the proud Nymph would for no worldly Meed,
Nor no Entreaty to his Love be led;
Till now at last relenting, she to him was wed.

So both agreed, that this their bridal Feast
Should for the Gods in Proteus' House be made;
To which they all repair'd, both most and least,
As well which in the mighty Ocean trade,
As that in Rivers swim, or Brooks do wade.
All which, not if an hundred Tongues to tell,
And hundred Mouths, and Voice of Brass I had,
And endless Memory, that mote excel,
In order as they came, could I recount them well.

Help therefore, O thou sacred Imp of Jove!
The Noursling of Dame Memory his Dear,
To whom those Rolls, laid up in Heaven above,
And Records of Antiquity appear,
To which no Wit of Man may comen near;
Help me to tell the Names of all those Floods,
And all those Nymphs, which then assembled were
To that great Banquet of the watry Gods,
And all their sundry Kinds, and all their hid Abodes.

First came great Neptune, with his three-fork'd Mace,
That rules the Seas, and makes them rise or fall;
His dewy Locks did drop with Brine apace,
Under his Diadem Imperial;
And by his side, his Queen with Coronal,
Fair Amphitrite, most divinely fair,
Whose ivory Shoulders weren cover'd all,
As with a Robe, with her own silver Hair;
And deck'd with Pearls, which th' Indian Seas for her prepare.

These marched far afore the other Crew;
And all the way before them as they went
Triton his Trumpet shrill before them blew,
For goodly Triumph and great Jollyment,
That made the Rocks to roar, as they were rent.
And after them the royal Issue came,
Which of them sprung by lineal Descent:
First, the Sea-gods, which to themselves do claim
The Power to rule the Billows, and the Waves to tame.

Phorcys, the Father of that fatal Brood,
By whom those old Heroes won such Fame;
And Glaucus, that wise Soothsays understood;
And tragick Ino's Son, the which became
A God of Seas through his mad Mother's Blame,
Now hight Palemon, and is Sailor's Friend:
Great Brontes and Astraeus that did shame
Himself with Incest of his Kin unken'd;
And huge Orion, that doth Tempests still portend.

The rich Cteatus, and Eurytus long;
Neleus and Pelias, lovely Brethren both;
Mighty Chrysaor, and Caicus strong;
Eurypulus, that calms the Waters wroth;
And fair Euphoemus, that upon them go'th
As on the Ground, without Dismay or Dread:
Fierce Eryx, and Alebius, that know'th
The Water's Depth, and doth their Bottom tread;
And sad Asopus, comely with his hoary Head.

There also some most famous Founders were
Of puissant Nations, which the World possess'd;
Yet Sons of Neptune, now assembled here:
Auncient Ogyges, even th' auncientest,
And Inachus, renown'd above the rest;
Phoenix, and Aon, and Pelasgus old,
Great Belus, Phoeax, and Agenor, best;
And mighty Albion, Father of the bold
And warlike People which the Britain Islands hold.

For, Albion the Son of Neptune was;
Who for the proof of his great Puissance,
Out of his Albion did on dry-foot pass
Into old Gaul, that now is cleeped France,
To fight with Hercules, that did advance
To vanquish all the World with matchless Might;
And there his mortal part by great mischance
Was slain: but that which is th' immortal Spright,
Lives still; and to this Feast with Neptune's Seed was dight.

But what do I their Names seek to rehearse,
Which all the World have with their Issue fill'd?
How can they all in this so narrow Verse
Contained be, and in small compass held?
Let them record them, that are better skill'd,
And know the Monuments of passed Times;
Only what needeth, shall be here fulfill'd,
T' express some part of that great Equipage,
Which from great Neptune do derive their Parentage.

Next, came the aged Ocean, and his Dame
Old Tethys, th' oldest two of all the rest;
For, all the rest, of those two Parents came,
Which afterward both Sea and Land possest:
Of all which, Nereus, th' eldest and the best,
Did first proceed, than which none more upright,
Ne more sincere in Word and Deed profest;
Most void of Guile, most free from foul Despight,
Doing himself, and teaching others to do right.

Thereto he was expert in Prophecies,
And could the Ledden of the Gods unfold;
Through which, when Paris brought his famous Prize,
The fair Tindarid Lass, he him foretold,
That her all Greece with many a Champion bold
Should fetch again, and finally destroy
Proud Priam's Town. So wise is Nereus old,
And so well skill'd; nath'less he takes great joy
Oft-times among the wanton Nymphs to sport and toy.

And after him the famous Rivers came,
Which do the Earth enrich and beautify:
The fertile Nile, which Creatures new doth frame;
Long Rhodanus, whose Sourse springs from the Sky;
Fair Ister, flowing from the Mountains high;
Divine Scamander, purpled yet with Blood
Of Greeks and Trojans, which therein did die;
Pactolus, glistering with his golden Flood
And Tigris fierce, whose Streams of none may be withstood.

Great Ganges, and immortal Euphrates,
Deep Indus, and Meander intricate,
Slow Peneus, and tempestuous Phasides,
Swift Rhene, and Alpheus still immaculate:
Oraxes, feared for great Cyrus' Fate;
Tybris, renowned for the Romans Fame,
Rich Oranochy, though but knowen late;
And that huge River, which doth bear his name
Of warlike Amazons, which do possess the same.

Joy on those warlike Women, which so long
Can from all Men so rich a Kingdom hold;
And shame on you, O Men, which boast your strong
And valiant Hearts, in Thoughts less hard and bold,
Yet quail in Conquest of that Land of Gold.
But this to you, O Britons, most pertains,
To whom the Right hereof it self hath sold;
The which, for sparing little cost or pains,
Lose so immortal Glory, and so endless Gains.

Then was there heard a most celestial sound
Of dainty Musick, which did next ensue
Before the Spouse that was Arion crown'd;
Who playing on his Harp, unto him drew
The Ears and Hearts of all that goodly Crew,
That even yet the Dolphin, which him bore
Thro the Aegean Seas from Pirates view,
Stood still by him astonish'd at his Lore,
And all the raging Seas for joy forgot to roar.

So went he playing on the watry Plain,
Soon after whom the lovely Bridegroom came,
The noble Thames, with all his goodly Train;
But him before there went, as best became,
His auncient Parents, namely th' auncient Thame.
But much more aged was his Wife than he
The Ouze, whom Men do Isis rightly name;
Full weak and crooked Creature seemed she,
And almost blind thro Eld, that scarce her way could see.

Therefore on either side she was sustain'd
Of two small Grooms, which by their Names were hight
The Churne, and Charwell, two small Streams, which pain'd
Themselves her footing to direct aright,
Which failed oft through faint and feeble Plight:
But Thame was stronger, and of better stay,
Yet seem'd full aged by his outward sight,
With Head all hoary, and his Beard all gray,
Dewed with silver Drops, that trickled down alway.

And eke he somewhat seem'd to stoop afore
With bowed Back, by reason of the Load,
And auncient heavy Burden, which he bore
Of that fair City, wherein make aboad
So many learned Impes, that shoot abroad,
And with their Branches spred all Britany,
No less than do her elder Sister's Brood.
Joy to you both, ye double Nursery
Of Arts: but Oxford thine doth Thame most glorify.

But he their Son full fresh and jolly was,
All decked in a Robe of watchet hew,
On which the Waves, glistring like Chrystal Glass,
So cunningly enwoven were, that few
Could wenen, whether they were false or true;
And on his Head like to a Coronet
He wore, that seemed strange to common view,
In which were many Towers and Castles set,
That it encompass'd round as with a golden Fret.

Like as the Mother of the Gods, they say,
In her great iron Chariot wonts to ride,
When to Jove's Palace she doth take her way;
Old Cybele, array'd with pompous Pride,
Wearing a Diadem embattled wide
With hundred Turrets, like a Turribant:
With such an one was Thamis beautify'd;
That was to weet, the famous Troynovant,
In which her Kingdom's Throne is chiefly resiant.

And round about him many a pretty Page
Attended duly, ready to obey;
All little Rivers, which owe Vassalage
To him, as to their Lord, and Tribute pay;
The chaulky Kenet, and the Thetis grey,
The morish Cole, and the soft-sliding Brean,
The wanton Lee, that oft doth lose his way,
And the still Darent, in whose Waters clean
Ten thousand Fishes play, and deck his pleasant Stream.

Then came his Neighbour Floods, which nigh him dwell,
And water all the English Soil throughout;
They all on him this day attended well,
And with meet Service waited him about;
Ne one disdained low to him to lout:
No not the stately Severn grudg'd at all,
Ne storming Humber, though he looked stout;
But both him honour'd as their Principal,
And let their swelling Waters low before him fall.

There was the speedy Tamar, which divides
The Cornish, and the Devonish Confines;
Through both whose Borders swiftly down it glides,
And meeting Plim, to Plimouth thence declines:
And Dart, nigh choak'd with Sands of tinny Mines.
But Avon marched in more stately Path,
Proud of his Adamants, with which he shines
And glisters wide, as als of wondrous Bath,
And Bristow fair, which on his Waves he builded hath.

And there came Stoure with terrible Aspect,
Bearing his six deformed Heads on high,
That doth his Course through Blandford Plains direct,
And washeth Winborne Meades in Season dry.
Next him, went Wylibourne with passage sly;
That of his Wiliness his Name doth take,
And of himself doth name the Shire thereby:
And Mole, that like a noursling Mole doth make
His way still under ground, till Thamis he o'ertake.

Then came the Rother, decked all with Woods
Like a Wood-God, and flowing fast to Rhy:
And Sture, that parteth with his pleasant Floods
The Eastern Saxons from the Southern nigh,
And Clare, and Harwich both doth beautify.
Him follow'd Yar, soft washing Norwich Wall,
And with him brought a Present joyfully
Of his own Fish unto their Festival,
Whose like none else could shew, the which they Ruffins call.

Next these, the plenteous Ouse came far from Land,
By many a City and by many a Town,
And many Rivers, taking under hand
Into his Waters, as he passeth down,
The Cle, the Were, the Guant, the Shire, the Rowne.
Thence doth by Huntingdon and Cambridge flit,
My Mother Cambridge, whom as with a Crown
He doth adorn, and is adorn'd of it
With many a gentle Muse, and many a learned Wit.

And after him the fatal Welland went,
That if old Sawes prove true (which God forbid)
Shall drown all Holland with his Excrement,
And shall see Stamford, though now homely hid,
Then shine in Learning more than ever did
Cambridge or Oxford, England's goodly Beams.
And next to him the Nene down softly slid;
And bounteous Trent, that in himself enseams
Both thirty sorts of Fish, and thirty sundry Streams.

Next these came Tyne, along whose stony Bank
That Roman Monarch built a brazen Wall,
Which mote the feebled Britons strongly flank
Against the Picts, that swarmed over all,
Which yet thereof Gualsever they do call:
And Twede the Limit betwixt Logris Land
And Albany; and Eden though but small,
Yet often stain'd with Blood of many a Band
Of Scots and English both, that tined on his Strand.

Then came those six sad Brethren, like forlorn,
That whilome were (as antique Fathers tell)
Six valiant Knights, of one fair Nymph yborn,
Which did in noble Deeds of Arms excel,
And wonned there, where now York People dwell;
Still Ure, swift Werse, and Oze the most of Might
High Swale, unquiet Nyde, and troublous Skell;
All whom a Scythian King, that Humber hight,
Slew cruelly, and in the River drowned quite.

But past not long, e'er Brutus' warlike Son,
Locrinus, them aveng'd, and the same date
Which the proud Humber unto them had done,
By equal Doom repay'd on his own Pate:
For, in the self-same River, where he late
Had drenched them, he drowned him again;
And nam'd the River of his wretched Fate.
Whose bad Condition yet it doth retain,
Oft tossed with his Storms; which therein still remain.

These after, came the stony shallow Lone,
That to old Loncaster his name doth lend;
And following Dee, which Britons long ygone
Did call divine, that doth by Chester tend;
And Conway, which out of his Stream doth send
Plenty of Pearls to deck his Dames withal;
And Lindus that his Pikes doth most commend,
Of which the ancient Lincoln Men do call:
All these together marched toward Proteus' Hall.

Ne thence the Irish Rivers absent were,
Sith no less famous than the rest they be,
And join in Neighbourhood of Kingdom near.
Why should they not likewise in Love agree,
And joy likewise this solemn Day to see?
They saw it all, and present were in place;
Though I them all according their degree,
Cannot recount, nor tell their hidden Race,
Nor read the salvage Countries, thorough which they pass.

There was the Liffie, rolling down the Lea,
The sandy Slane, the stony Aubrian,
The spacious Shenan spreading like a Sea,
The pleasant Boyne, the fishy fruitful Ban,
Swift Auniduff, which of the English-man
Is call'd Blackwater, and the Liffar deep,
Sad Trowis, that once his People over-ran,
Strong Allo tombling from Slewlogher steep,
And Mulla mine, whose Waves I whilom taught to weep.

And there the three renowned Brethren were,
Which that great Giant Blomius begot
Of the fair Nymph Rheusa wandring there.
One day, as she to shun the Season hot,
Under Slewbloome in shady Grove was got,
This Giant found her, and by force deflowr'd:
Whereof conceiving, she in time forth brought
These three fair Sons, which being thenceforth pour'd
In three great Rivers ran, and many Countries scour'd.

The first the gentle Shure, that making way
By sweet Clonmel, adorns rich Waterford;
The next, the stubborn Newre, whose Waters grey
By fair Kilkenny and Rosseponte board;
The third, the goodly Barow, which doth hoard
Great Heaps of Salmons in his deep Bosom:
All which long sundred, do at last accord
To join in one, e'er to the Sea they come,
So flowing all from one, all one at last become.

There also was the wide embayed Mayre,
The pleasant Bandon, crown'd with many a Wood,
The spreading Lee, that like an Island fair
Encloseth Corke with his divided Flood;
And baleful Oure, late stain'd with English Blood:
With many more, whose Names no Tongue can tell.
All which that day in order seemly good
Did on the Thames attend, and waited well
To do their dueful Service, as to them befel.

Then came the Bride, the loving Medway came,
Clad in a Vesture of unknowen Geare,
And uncouth Fashion, yet her well became;
That seem'd like Silver, sprinkled here and there
With glittering Spangs, that did like Stars appear,
And wav'd upon, like water Chamelot,
To hide the Metal, which yet every where
Bewray'd it self, to let Men plainly wot,
It was no mortal Work, that seem'd and yet was not.

Her goodly Locks adown her Back did flow
Unto her Waste, with Flow'rs bescattered,
The which ambrosial Odours forth did throw
To all about, and all her Shoulders spred
As a new Spring; and likewise on her Head
A Chapelet of sundry Flow'rs she wore,
From under which the dewy Humour shed,
Did trickle down her Hair, like to the hore
Congealed little Drops, which do the Morn adore.

On her, two pretty Handmaids did attend,
One call'd the Theise, the other call'd the Crane;
Which on her waited, things amiss to mend,
And both behind up-held her spreading Train;
Under the which, her Feet appeared plain,
Her silver Feet, fair wash'd against this day:
And her before there passed Pages twain,
Both clad in Colours like, and like Array,
The Doune and eke the Frith, both which prepar'd her way.

And after these the Sea-Nymphs marched all,
All goodly Damzels, deck'd with long green Hair,
Whom of their Sire Nereides Men call,
All which the Ocean's Daughter to him bare;
The gray-ey'd Doris: all which, fifty are;
All which she there on her attending had.
Swift Proto, mild Eucrate, Thetis fair,
Soft Spio, sweet Endore, Sao sad,
Light Doto, wanton Glauce, and Galene glad;

White-hand Eunica, proud Dinamene,
Joyous Thalia, goodly Amphitrite,
Lovely Pasithee, kind Eulimene,
Light-foot Cymothoe, and sweet Melite,
Fairest Pherusa, Phao lilly white,
Wondred Agave, Poris, and Nesaea,
With Erato that doth in Love delight,
And Panopae, and wise Protomedaea,
And snow-neck'd Doris, and milk-white Galathaea;

Speedy Hippothoe, and chaste Actea,
Large Lisianassa, and Pronaea sage,
Evagore, and light Pontoporea,
And she, that with her least word can assuage
The surging Seas, when they do forest rage,
Cymodoce, and stout Autonoe,
And Neso, and Eione well in Age,
And seeming still to smile, Glauconome,
And she that hight of many Hests, Polynome;

Fresh Alimeda, deck'd with Garland green;
Hyponeo, with salt bedewed Wrests:
Laomodia, like the Crystal sheen;
Liagore, much prais'd for wise Behests;
And Psamathe, for her broad snowy Breasts;
Cymo, Eupompe, and Themiste, just;
And she that Vertue loves and Vice detests,
Everna, and Menippe true in Trust,
And Nemertea learned well to rule her Lust.

All these the Daughters of old Nereus were,
Which have the Sea in charge to them assign'd,
To rule his Tides, and Surges to up-rear,
To bring forth Storms, or fast them to up-bind,
And Sailor save from Wrecks of wrathful Wind.
And yet besides, three thousand more there were
Of th' Ocean's Seed, but Jove's and Phoebus' Kind;
The which in Floods and Fountains do appear,
And all Mankind do nourish with their Waters clear.

The which, more eath it were for mortal Wight,
To tell the Sands, or count the Stars on high,
Or ought more hard, than think to reckon right.
But well I wote, that these which I descry,
Were present at this great Solemnity:
And there amongst the rest, the Mother was
Of luckless Marinel, Cymodoce,
Which, for my Muse herself now tired has,
Unto another Canto I will over-pass.

[Works, ed. Hughes (1715) 3:681-94]

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