1590
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Faerie Queene. Book I. Canto XI.

The Faerie Queene. Disposed into Twelve Books, fashioning XII. Morall Vertues.

Edmund Spenser


George L. Craik: "Canto XI. (55 stanzas). — Una and her knight now make straight for her father's realm, and when they have there arrived she points out to him the brazen tower in which her parents have shut themselves up. A hideous roar immediately announces the presence of the dragon, whom looking round they soon perceive 'Where stretched he lay upon the sunny side | Of a great hill, himself like a great hill.' At sight of the knights glittering arms, 'that heaven with light did fill,' the monster instantly rouses himself; Una takes her station on a neighbouring height; the poet solemnly invokes his muse for aid worthily to relate the battle about to ensue; meanwhile the dragon draws nigh, 'half-flying and half-footing' in his haste.

"His monstrous body, swollen with wrath and poison, as well as blood, is armed all over with brazen scales.... His tail, 'wound up in hundred folds,' is not much short of three furlongs in length, and is armed at the point with two stings, 'both deadly sharp, that sharpest steel exceeden far;' still sharper are his claws; his mouth gapes like the month of hell, three ranks of iron teeth being ranged in each jaw.... As he advances he shakes his scales and lifts aloft his speckled breast, so as to make the knight nigh quake for fear; nevertheless he couches his steady spear and rides fiercely at him. Though not pierced, the monster is staggered with the push, but a sweep of his long tail brings both horse and man to ground. They both, however, up lightly rise again, on which, inflamed with exceeding rage, the furious beast gathers all his strength for their destruction....

"The spear-head has stuck fast in his flesh, and now flowed forth 'A gushing river of black gory blood, | That drowned all the land whereon he stood | The stream thereof would drive a watermill.' Again the knight is thrown from his horse, but quickly again he starts up from the ground; 'And fiercely took his trenchant blade in hand, | With which he strook so furious and so fell....' It is as if he struck a rock of adamant. Finding now, however, that he cannot fly, the beast, in grief and anguish, loudly brays, 'that like was never heard,' and sends forth from his throat a flame, that singes the knight's face, and even pierces to his body through his armour....

"He is now struck to the ground by the dragon; but fortunately immediately behind him is an ancient well, rightly called the Well of Life.... It is now sunset, and the monster, thinking his foe destroyed, claps his iron wings in the joy and pride of victory. Una remains all night in prayer, fearing that all is over; but on the morrow at sunrise she sees her knight start up out of the well, 'as eagle fresh out of the ocean wave.' Another long day of desperate fighting ensues, at the end of which the knight is again thrown down. But he is again fortunate, or rather befriended by heaven: — 'There grew a goodly tree him fair beside, | Loaden with fruit and apples rosy red....'

"To the Tree of Life the dragon dare not approach. It is now night, and the champion lies in the stream, — 'as in a dream of deep delight, | Besmeared with precious balm;' while Una spends the hours in prayer for him as before, watching the noyous night, and waiting for joyous day. Rising up refreshed, and all healed of his wounds and hurts, the doughty knight speedily despatches the dragon, now dismayed and fearing that his fate is at hand, by thrusting his spear down his throat..." Spenser and his Poetry (1845; 1871) 1:175-80.



The Knight with that old Dragon fights
Two days incessantly:
The third, him overthrows, and gains
Most glorious Victory.

High time now 'gan it wex for Una fair,
To think of those her captive Parents dear,
And their forwasted Kingdom to repair:
Whereto when as they now approached near,
With hearty words her Knight she 'gan to chear,
And in her modest manner thus bespake;
Dear Knight, as dear as ever Knight was dear,
That all these Sorrows suffer for my sake,
High Heaven behold the tedious Toil ye for me take.

Now are we come unto my native Soil,
And to the Place where all our Perils dwell;
Here haunts that Fiend, and does his daily Spoil;
Therefore henceforth be at your keeping well,
And ever ready for your Foeman fell.
The Spark of noble Courage now awake,
And strive your excellent self to excel;
That shall ye evermore renowned make
Above all Knights on Earth, that Battle undertake.

And pointing forth; Lo! yonder is (said she)
The brazen Tower, in which my Parents dear
For dread of that huge Fiend imprison'd be,
Whom I from far see on the Walls appear,
Whose sight my feeble Soul doth greatly cheer:
And on the top of all I do espy
The Watchman waiting, Tidings glad to hear,
That (O my Parents) might I happily
Unto you bring, to ease you of your Misery.

With that, they heard a roaring hideous Sound,
That all the Air with Terror filled wide,
And seem'd uneath to shake the stedfast ground.
Eftsoons that dreadful Dragon they espy'd,
Where stretch'd he lay upon the sunny side
Of a great Hill, himself like a great Hill.
But all so soon, as he from far descry'd
Those glistring Arms, that Heaven with Light did fill,
He rous'd himself full blith, and hastned them until.

Then bad the Knight this Lady yede aloof,
And to an Hill her self with-draw aside,
From whence she might behold that Battel's proof,
And eke be safe from Danger far descry'd:
She him obey'd, and turn'd a little wide.
Now, O thou sacred Muse, most learned Dame,
Fair Imp of Phoebus, and his aged Bride,
The Nurse of Time, and everlasting Fame,
That warlike Hands ennoblest with immortal Name:

O gently come into my feeble Breast,
Come gently, but not with that mighty Rage,
Where-with the Martial Troops thou dost infest,
And Hearts of great Heroes dost enrage,
That nought their kindled Courage may assuage;
Soon as thy dreadful Trump begins to sound,
The God of War with his fierce Equipage
Thou dost awake, sleep never he so sound,
And feared Nations dost with Horror stern astound.

Fair Goddess lay that furious Fit aside,
Till I of Wars and bloody Mars do sing,
And Briton Fields with Sarazin Blood bedy'd,
'Twixt that great Fairy-Queen and Paynim King,
That with their horror Heaven and Earth did ring,
A work of labour long, and endless praise:
But, now a while let down that haughty String,
And to my Tunes thy second Tenor raise,
That I this Man of God his godly Arms may blaze.

By this, the dreadful Beast drew nigh to hand,
Half flying, and half footing in his haste,
That with his largeness measured much Land.
And made wide Shadow under his huge Waste;
As Mountain doth the Valley over-cast.
Approaching nigh, he reared high afore
His Body monstrous, horrible, and vast,
Which (to increase his wondrous Greatness more)
Was swoln with Wrath, and Poison, and with bloody Gore.

And over all with brazen Scales was arm'd,
Like plated Coat of Steel, so couched near,
That nought mote pierce, ne might his Corse be harm'd
With dint of Sword, nor push of pointed Spear;
Which as an Eagle, seeing Prey appear,
His airy Plumes doth rouze, full rudely dight,
So shaked he, that Horror was to hear:
For, as the clashing of an Armour bright,
Such noise his rouzed Scales did send unto the Knight.

His flaggy Wings when forth he did display,
Were like two Sails, in which the hollow Wind
Is gathered full, and worketh speedy way:
And eke the Pens that did his Pinions bind,
Were like Main-yards with flying Canvas lin'd;
With which, when as him list the Air to beat,
And there by force unwonted Passage find,
The Clouds before him fled for Terror great,
And all the Heavens stood full amazed with his Threat.

His huge long Tail, wound up in hundred Folds,
Does over-spread his long Brass-scaly Back;
Whose wreathed Boughts when ever he unfolds,
And thick entangled Knots adown does slack;
Bespotted all with Shields of red and black,
It sweepeth all the Land behind him far,
And of three Furlongs does but little lack;
And at the Point two Stings in-fixed are,
Both deadly sharp, that sharpest Steel exceeden far.

But Stings and sharpest Steel did far exceed
The sharpness of his cruel rending Claws:
Dead was it sure, as sure as Death in deed,
What-ever thing does touch his ravenous Paws,
Or what within his reach he ever draws.
But, his most hideous Head, my Tongue to tell
Does tremble: for, his deep devouring Jaws
Wide gaped, like the griesly Mouth of Hell;
Through which, into his dark abyss all ravin fell.

And that more wondrous was, in either Jaw
Three Ranks of iron Teeth enranged were,
In which, yet trickling Blood and Gobbets raw
Of late devoured Bodies did appear,
That sight thereof bred cold congealed Fear:
Which to increase, and all at once to kill,
A Cloud of smothering Smoke and Sulphur sear
Out of his stinking Gorge forth steemed still,
That all the Air about with Smoke and Stench did fill.

His blazing Eyes, like two bright shining Shields,
Did burn with Wrath, and sparkled living Fire:
As two broad Beacons, set in open Fields,
Send forth their Flames far off to every Shire,
And warning give, that Enemies conspire,
With Fire and Sword the Region to invade:
So flam'd his Eyne with Rage and rancorous Ire,
But far within, as in a hollow Glade,
Those glaring Lamps were set, that made a dreadful Shade.

So dreadfully he towards him did pass,
Forelifting up aloft his speckled Breast,
And often bounding on the bruised Grass,
As for great joyance of his new-come Guest.
Eftsoons he 'gan advance his haughty Crest,
As chauffed Boar his Bristles doth uprear,
And shook his Scales to Battel ready drest;
That made the Red-cross Knight nigh quake for fear,
As bidding bold defiance to his Foeman near.

The Knight 'gan fairly Couch his steddy Spear,
And fiercely ran at him with rigorous Might:
The pointed Steel arriving rudely there,
His harder Hide would neither peirce nor bite,
But glauncing by, forth passed forward right;
Yet sure amoved with so puissant Push,
The wrathful Beast about him turned light,
And him so rudely passing by, did brush
With his long Tail, that Horse and Man to ground did rush.

Both Horse and Man up lightly rose again,
And fresh Encounter towards him address'd:
But th' idle Stroke yet back recoil'd in vain,
And found no place his deadly Point to rest.
Exceeding Rage enflam'd the furious Beast,
To be avenged of so great Despight;
For, never felt his imperceable Breast
So wondrous Force from hand of living Wight;
Yet had he prov'd the power of many a puissant Knight.

Then with his waving Wings displayed wide,
Himself up high he lifted from the ground,
And with strong Flight did forcibly divide
The yielding Air, which nigh too feeble found
Her flitting parts, and Element unsound,
To bear so great a weight he cutting way
With his broad Sails, about him soared round
At last, low stouping with unwieldy sway,
Snatch'd up both Horse and Man, to bear them quite away.

Long he them bore above the subject Plain,
So far as Yewen Bow a Shaft may send,
Till struggling strong, did him at last constrain
To let them down before his Flightes end.
As hagard Hawk, presuming to contend
With hardy Fowl, above his able might,
His weary Pounces all in vain doth spend,
To truss the Prey, too heavy for his Flight;
Which coming down to ground, does free it self by Fight.

He so disseized of his griping gross,
The Knight his thrillant Spear again assay'd
In his brass-plated Body to emboss,
And three Mens Strength unto the Stroke he laid
Wherewith the stiff Beam quaked, as affraid,
And glancing from his scaly Neck, did glide
Close under his left Wing, then broad display'd.
The piercing Steel there wrought a Wound full wide,
That with the uncouth Smart the Monster loudly cry'd.

He cry'd, as raging Seas are wont to roar,
When wintry Storm his wrathful Wreck does threat
The rolling Billows beat the ragged Shore,
As they the Earth would shoulder from her Seat;
And greedy Gulf does gape, as he would eat
His neighbour Element in his Revenge:
Then 'gin the blustring Brethren boldly threat,
To move the World from off his stedfast Henge,
And boistrous Battle make, each other to avenge.

The steely Head stuck fast still in his Flesh,
Till with his cruel Claws he snatch'd the Wood,
And quite asunder broke. Forth flowed fresh
A gushing River of black goary Blood,
That drowned all the Land whereon he stood;
The Stream thereof would drive a Water-mill.
Trebly augmented was his furious Mood,
With bitter Sense of his deep-rooted Ill,
That Flames of Fire he threw forth from his large Nostril.

His hideous Tail then hurled he about,
And therewith all enwrapt the nimble Thighs
Of the froth-fomy Steed, whose Courage stout
Striving to loose the Knot, that fast him ties,
Himself in straiter Bands too rash implies,
That to the ground he is perforce constrain'd
To throw his Rider: who can quickly rise
From off the Earth, with dirty Blood distain'd;
For, that reproachful Fall right foully he disdain'd.

And fiercely took his trenchand Blade in hand,
With which he strook so furious and so fell,
That nothing seem'd the Puissance could withstand:
Upon his Crest the harden'd Iron fell,
But his more harden'd Crest was arm'd so well,
That deeper Dint therein it would not make;
Yet so extremely did the Buffe him quell,
That from thenceforth he shun'd the like to take,
But when he saw them come, he did them still forsake.

The Knight was wroth to see his Stroke beguil'd,
And smote again with more outrageous Might;
But back again the sparkling Steel recoil'd,
And left not any Mark where it did light;
As if in Adamant Rock it had been pight.
The Beast impatient of his smarting Wound,
And of so fierce and forcible Despight,
Thought with his Wings to sty above the Ground;
But his late wounded Wing unserviceable found.

Then full of Grief and Anguish vehement,
He loudly bray'd, that like was never heard,
And from his wide devouring Oven sent
A Flake of Fire, that flashing in his Beard,
Him all amaz'd, and almost made affeard:
The scorching Flame sore singed all his Face,
And thro his Armour all his Body sear'd,
That he could not endure so cruel Case,
But thought his Arms to leave, and Helmet to unlace.

Not that great Champion of the antique World,
Whom famous Poet's Verse so much doth Vaunt,
And hath for twelve huge Labours high extol'd,
So many Furies and sharp Fits did haunt,
When him the poison'd Garment did enchaunt
With Centaurs Blood, and bloody Verses charm'd,
As did this Knight Twelve thousand Dolours daunt,
Whom fiery Steel now burnt, that earst him arm'd,
That earst him goodly arm'd, now most of all him harm'd.

Faint, weary, sore, emboyled, grieved, brent
With Heat, Toil, Wounds, Arms, Smart, and inward Fire,
That never Man such Mischiefs did torment;
Death better were, Death did he oft desire:
But Death will never come when Needs require.
Whom so dismay'd, when that his Foe beheld,
He cast to suffer him no more respire,
But 'gan his sturdy Stern about to weld,
And him so strongly strook, that to the ground him feld.

It fortuned (as fair it then befel)
Behind his back (unweeting) where he stood,
Of antient time there was a springing Well,
From which fast trickled forth a silver Flood,
Full of great Vertues, and for Med'cine good.
Whylome, before that cursed Dragon got
That happy Land, and all with innocent Blood
Defil'd those sacred Waves, it rightly hot
The Well of Life: ne yet his Vertues had forgot.

For unto Life the Dead it could restore,
And Guilt of sinful Crimes clean wash away;
Those that with Sickness were infested sore,
It could recure, and aged long Decay
Renew, as it were born that very Day.
Both Silo this, and Jordan did excel,
And th' English Bath, and eke the German Spaa,
Ne can Cephise, nor Hebrus match this Well:
Into the same, the Knight (back overthrewen) fell.

Now 'gan the golden Phoebus for to steep
His fiery Face in Billows of the West,
And his faint Steeds water'd in Ocean deep,
Whiles from their journal Labours they did rest;
When that infernal Monster, having kest
His weary Foe into that living Well,
'Gan high advance his broad discoloured Breast
Above his wonted pitch, with Countenance fell,
And clapt his iron Wings, as Victor he did dwell.

Which when his pensive Lady saw from far,
Great Woe and Sorrow did her Soul assay,
As weening that the sad end of the War,
And 'gan to highest God entirely pray,
That feared chance from her to turn away;
With folded Hands and Knees full lowly bent
All night she watch'd, ne once adown would lay
Her dainty Limbs in her sad Dreriment,
But praying still did wake, and waking did lament.

The morrow next 'gan early to appear,
That Titan rose to run his daily Race;
But early ere the morrow next 'gan rear,
Out of the Sea fair Titan's dewy Face,
Up rose the gentle Virgin from her place,
And looked all about, if she might spy
Her loved Knight to move his manly Pace:
For she had great doubt of his Safety,
Since late she saw him fall before his Enemy.

At last she saw, where he upstarted brave
Out of the Well, wherein he drenched lay;
As Eagle fresh out of the Ocean Wave,
Where he hath left his Plumes all hoary grey,
And deck'd himself with Feathers youthly gay,
Like Eyas Hawk up mounts unto the Skies,
His newly budded Pinions to assay,
And marvels at himself, still as he flies:
So new, this new-born Knight to Battle new did rise.

Whom, when the damned Fiend so fresh did spy,
No wonder if he wondred at the sight,
And doubted, whether his late Enemy
It were, or other new supplied Knight.
He, now to prove his late renewed Might,
High brandishing his bright dew-burning Blade,
Upon his crested Scalpe so sore did smite,
That to the Skull a yawning Wound it made:
The deadly Dint his dulled Senses all dismay'd.

I wote not, whether the revenging Steel
Were hardned with that holy Water Dew,
Wherein he fell, or sharper Edg did feel,
Or his baptized Hands now greater grew;
Or other secret Vertue did ensue;
Else, never could the Force of fleshly Arm,
Ne molten Metal in his Blood embrue:
For till that Stound could never Wight him harm,
By Subtilty nor Slight, nor Might, nor mighty Charm.

The cruel Wound enraged him so sore,
That loud he yelled for exceeding Pain,
As hundred ramping Lyons seem'd to roar,
Whom ravenous Hunger did thereto constrain:
Then 'gan he toss aloft his stretched Train,
And therewith scourge the buxom Air so sore,
That to his Force to yielden it was fain;
Ne ought his sturdy Strokes might stand afore,
That high Trees overthrew, and Rocks in pieces tore.

The same advauncing high above his Head,
With sharp intended Sting so rude him smot,
That to the Earth him drove, as striken dead;
Ne living Wight would have him Life behot:
The mortal Sting his angry Needle shot
Quite through his Shield, and in his Shoulder seas'd,
Where fast it stuck, ne would thereout be got;
The Grief thereof him wondrous sore diseas'd,
Ne might his rankling Pain with Patience be appeas'd.

But yet more mindful of his Honour dear,
Than of the grievous Smart which him did wring,
From loathed Soil he 'gan him lightly rear,
And strove to loose the far infixed String;
Which when in vain he bide with struggeling.
Inflam'd with Wrath, his raging Blade he heft,
And strook so strongly, that the knotty Sting
Of his huge Tail he quite asunder cleft,
Five Joints thereof he hew'd, and but the Stump him left.

Heart cannot think, what Outrage, and what Cries,
With foul enfouldred Smoak and flashing Fire,
The Hell-bred Beast threw forth unto the Skies,
That all was covered with Darkness dire:
Then fraught with Rancour, and engorged Ire,
He cast at once him to avenge for all,
And gath'ring up himself out of the Mire,
With his uneven Wings did fiercely fall
Upon his Sun-bright Shield, and grip'd it fast withall.

Much was the Man encombred with his Hold,
In fear to lose his Weapon in his Paw,
Ne wist yet how his Talants to unfold;
Nor harder was from Cerberus' greedy Jaw
To pluck a Bone, than from his cruel Claw
To reeve by Strength the griped Gage away:
Thrice he assay'd it from his Foot to draw,
And thrice in vain to draw it did assay;
It booted nought to think to rob him of his Prey;

Tho when he saw no Power might prevail,
His trusty Sword he call'd to his last Aid,
Wherewith he fiercely did his Foe assail,
And double Blows about him stoutly laid,
That glauncing Fire out of the Iron plaid;
As Sparkles from the Anvile use to fly,
When heavy Hammers on the Wedge are swaid:
Therewith at last he forc'd him to unty
One of his grasping Feet, him to defend thereby.

The other Foot fast fixed on his Shield,
Whenas no Strength nor Strokes mote him constrain
To loose, ne yet the warlike Pledge to yield,
He smote thereat with all his might and main,
That nought so wondrous Puissance might sustain:
Upon the Joint the lucky Steel did light,
And made such way, that hew'd it quite in twain;
The Paw yet missed not his minish'd Might,
But hung still on the Shield, as it at first was pight.

For Grief thereof, and devilish Despight,
From his infernal Fournace forth he threw
Huge Flames, that dimmed all the Heaven's Light,
Enroll'd in duskish Smoak and Brimstone blue;
As burning Aetna from his boiling Stew
Doth belch out Flames, and Rocks in pieces broke,
And ragged Ribs of Mountains molten new,
Enwrapt in cole-black Clouds and filthy Smoak,
That all the Land with Stench, and Heaven with Horror choak.

The Heat whereof, and harmful Pestilence,
So sore him noy'd, that forc'd him to retire
A little backward for his best Defence,
To save his Body from the scorching Fire,
Which he from hellish Entrails did expire.
It chaunc'd (eternal God that Chaunce did guide)
As he recoiled backward, in the Mire
His nigh forwearied feeble Feet did slide,
And down he fell, with Dread of Shame sore terrifide.

There grew a goodly Tree him fair beside,
Loaden with Fruit and Apples rosy red,
As they in pure Vermilion had been dide,
Whereof great Vertues over all were red;
For happy Life to all which thereon fed,
And Life eke everlasting did befall
Great God it planted in that blessed Sted
With his Almighty Hand, and did it call
The Tree of Life, the Crime of our first Father's Fall.

In all the World like was not to be found,
Save in that Soil, where all good things did grow,
And freely sprong out of the fruitful Ground,
As incorrupted Nature did them sow,
Till that dread Dragon all did overthrow.
Another like fair Tree eke grew thereby,
Whereof whoso did eat, eftsoons did know
Both Good and Ill: O mournful Memory!
That Tree through one Man's Fault hath done us all to die.

From that first Tree forth flow'd, as from a Well,
A trickling Stream of Balm, most sovereign
And dainty dear, which on the Ground still fell,
And overflowed all the fertile Plain,
As it had dewed been with timely Rain:
Life and long Health that gracious Ointment gave,
And deadly Wounds could heal, and rear again
The senceless Corse appointed for the Grave.
Into that same he fell, which did from Death him save.

For nigh thereto the ever-dawned Beast
Durst not approach, for he was deadly glade,
And all that Life preserved, did detest:
Yet he it oft adventur'd to invade.
By this, the drouping Day-light 'gan to fade,
And yield his room to sad succeeding Night,
Who with her sable Mantle 'gan to shade
The Face of Earth, and Ways of living Wight,
And high her burning Torch see up in Heaven bright.

When gentle Una saw the second Fall
Of her dear Knight, who weary of long Fight
And faint thro Loss of Blood, mov'd not at all,
But lay as in a Dream of deep Delight,
Besmear'd with precious Balm, whose vertuous Might
Did heal his Wounds, and scorching Heat allay,
Again she striken was with sore Affright,
And for his Safety 'gan devoutly pray;
And watch the noyous Night, and wait for joyous Day.

The joyous Day 'gan early to appear,
And fair Aurora from her dewy Bed
Of aged Tithon 'gan her self to rear,
With rosy Checks, for Shame as blushing red;
Her golden Locks for haste were loosely shed
About her Ears, when Una her did mark
Climb to her Charet, all with Flowers spred;
From Heaven high, to chace the cheerless Dark,
With merry Note her loud salutes the mounting Lark.

Then freshly up arose the doughty Knight,
All healed of his Hurts and Woundes wide:
And did himself to Battel ready dight;
Whose early Foe awaiting him beside
To have devour'd, so soon as Day he spide,
When now he saw himself so freshly rear,
As if late Fight had nought him damnifide,
He woxe dismaid, and 'gan his Fare to fear;
Nathless, with wonted Rage he him advaunced near.

And in his first Encounter, gaping wide,
He thought attonce him to have swallow'd quight,
And rush'd upon him with outrageous Pride;
Who him r'encountring fierce as Hawk in Flight,
Perforce rebutted back. The Weapon bright,
Taking advantage of his open Jaw,
Ran through his Mouth with so importune Might,
That deep empierc'd his darksom hollow Maw,
And back retir'd, his Life-Blood forth withal did draw.

So down he fell, and forth his Life did breathe,
That vanish'd into Smoak and Cloudes swift;
So down he fell, that th' Earth him underneath
Did groan, as feeble so great Load to lift;
So down he fell, as an huge rocky Clift,
Whose false Foundation Waves have wash'd away,
With dreadful Poise is from the main Land rift,
And rolling down, great Neptune doth dismay;
Se down he fell, and like an heaped Mountain lay.

The Knight himself even trembled at his Fall,
So huge and horrible a Mass it seem'd;
And his dear Lady, thee beheld it all,
Durst not approach for Dread, which she misdeem'd.
But yet at last, whenas the direful Fiend
She saw not stir, off-shaking vain Affright,
She nigher drew, and saw that joyous End:
Then God she prais'd, and thank'd her faithful Knight,
That had atchiev'd so great a Conquest by his Might.

[Works, ed. Hughes (1715) 1:160-73]

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