M'Fingal - Canto I - Poem by John Trumbull
When Yankies, skill'd in martial rule,
First put the British troops to school;
Instructed them in warlike trade,
And new manoeuvres of parade,
The true war-dance of Yankee reels,
And manual exercise of heels;
Made them give up, like saints complete,
The arm of flesh, and trust the feet,
And work, like Christians undissembling,
Salvation out, by fear and trembling;
Taught Percy fashionable races,
And modern modes of Chevy-Chases:
From Boston, in his best array,
Great 'Squire M'Fingal took his way,
And graced with ensigns of renown,
Steer'd homeward to his native town.
His high descent our heralds trace
From Ossian's famed Fingalian race:
For though their name some part may lack,
Old Fingal spelt it with a Mac;
Which great M'Pherson, with submission,
We hope will add the next edition.
His fathers flourish'd in the Highlands
Of Scotia's fog-benighted islands;
Whence gain'd our 'Squire two gifts by right,
Rebellion, and the Second-sight.
Of these, the first, in ancient days,
Had gain'd the noblest palm of praise,
'Gainst kings stood forth and many a crown'd head
With terror of its might confounded;
Till rose a king with potent charm
His foes by meekness to disarm,
Whom every Scot and Jacobite
Strait fell in love with at first sight;
Whose gracious speech with aid of pensions,
Hush'd down all murmurs of dissensions,
And with the sound of potent metal
Brought all their buzzing swarms to settle;
Who rain'd his ministerial manna,
Till loud Sedition sung hosanna;
The grave Lords-Bishops and the Kirk
United in the public work;
Rebellion, from the northern regions,
With Bute and Mansfield swore allegiance;
All hands combin'd to raze, as nuisance,
Of church and state the Constitutions,
Pull down the empire, on whose ruins
They meant to edify their new ones;
Enslave th' Amer'can wildernesses,
And rend the provinces in pieces.
With these our 'Squire, among the valiant'st,
Employ'd his time, and tools and talents,
And found this new rebellion pleasing
As his old king-destroying treason.
Nor less avail'd his optic sleight,
And Scottish gift of second-sight.
No ancient sybil, famed in rhyme,
Saw deeper in the womb of time;
No block in old Dodona's grove
Could ever more orac'lar prove.
Nor only saw he all that could be,
But much that never was, nor would be;
Whereby all prophets far outwent he,
Though former days produced a plenty:
For any man with half an eye
What stands before him can espy;
But optics sharp it needs, I ween,
To see what is not to be seen.
As in the days of ancient fame,
Prophets and poets were the same,
And all the praise that poets gain
Is for the tales they forge and feign:
So gain'd our 'Squire his fame by seeing
Such things, as never would have being;
Whence he for oracles was grown
The very tripod of his town.
Gazettes no sooner rose a lie in,
But strait he fell to prophesying;
Made dreadful slaughter in his course,
O'erthrew provincials, foot and horse,
Brought armies o'er, by sudden pressings,
Of Hanoverians, Swiss and Hessians,
Feasted with blood his Scottish clan,
And hang'd all rebels to a man,
Divided their estates and pelf,
And took a goodly share himself.
All this with spirit energetic,
He did by second-sight prophetic.
Thus stored with intellectual riches,
Skill'd was our 'Squire in making speeches;
Where strength of brains united centers
With strength of lungs surpassing Stentor's.
But as some muskets so contrive it,
As oft to miss the mark they drive at,
And though well aim'd at duck or plover,
Bear wide, and kick their owners over:
So fared our 'Squire, whose reas'ning toil
Would often on himself recoil,
And so much injured more his side,
The stronger arguments he applied;
As old war-elephants, dismay'd,
Trod down the troops they came to aid,
And hurt their own side more in battle,
Than less and ordinary cattle.
Yet at Town-meetings every chief
Pinn'd faith on great M'Fingal's sleeve;
Which when he lifted, all by rote
Raised sympathetic hands to vote.
The Town, our hero's scene of action,
Had long been torn by feuds of faction,
And as each party's strength prevails,
It turn'd up different, heads or tails;
With constant rattling, in a trice,
Show'd various sides, as oft as dice.
As that famed weaver, wife t' Ulysses,
By night her day's-work pick'd in pieces,
And though she stoutly did bestir her,
Its finishing was ne'er the nearer:
So did this town with ardent zeal
Weave cobwebs for the public weal,
Which when completed, or before,
A second vote in pieces tore.
They met, made speeches full long-winded,
Resolv'd, protested and rescinded;
Addresses sign'd; then chose committees
To stop all drinking of Bohea teas;
With winds of doctrine veer'd about,
And turn'd all whig committees out.
Meanwhile our Hero, as their head,
In pomp the tory faction led,
Still following, as the 'Squire should please,
Successive on, like files of geese.
And now the town was summon'd, greeting,
To grand parading of Town-meeting;
A show, that strangers might appal,
As Rome's grave senate did the Gaul.
High o'er the rout, on pulpit stairs,
Mid den of thieves in house of prayers,
(That house, which loth a rule to break
Serv'd heaven, but one day in the week,
Open the rest for all supplies
Of news, and politics, and lies
Stood forth the Constable; and bore
His staff, like Merc'ry's wand of yore,
Waved potent round, the peace to keep,
As that laid dead men's souls to sleep.
Above and near th' hermetic staff,
The Moderator's upper half
In grandeur o'er the cushion bow'd,
Like Sol half seen behind a cloud.
Beneath stood voters of all colours,
Whigs, Tories, orators and brawlers;
With every tongue in either faction
Prepared like minute-men for action;
Where truth and falsehood, wrong and right,
Drew all their legions forth to fight.
With equal uproar scarcely rave
Opposing winds in Æolus' cave;
Such dialogues with earnest face
Held never Balaam with his ass.
With daring zeal and courage blest,
Honorius first the crowd addres'd.
When now our 'Squire, returning late,
Arrived to aid the grand debate;
With strange, sour faces sate him down,
While thus the orator went on.
--"For ages blest thus Britain rose,
The terror of encircling foes;
Her heroes ruled the bloody plain,
Her conq'ring standard awed the main.
The different palms her triumph grace
Of arms in war, of arts in peace.
Unharrass'd by maternal care,
Each rising province flourish'd fair;
Whose various wealth, with liberal hand,
By far o'erpaid the parent land.
But though so bright her sun might shine,
'Twas quickly hasting to decline,
With feeble ray, too weak t' assuage
The damps, that chill the eve of age.
"For states, like men, are doom'd as well
Th' infirmities of age to feel,
And from their different forms of empire,
Are seiz'd with every deep distemper.
Some states high fevers have made head in,
Which nought could cure but copious bleeding;
While others have grown dull and dozy,
Or fix'd in helpless idiocy;
Or turn'd demoniacs to belabour
Each peaceful habitant and neighbour;
Or vex'd with hypochondriac fits,
Have broke their strength, and lost their wits.
Thus now while hoary years prevail,
Good mother Britain seem'd to fail;
Her back bent, crippled with the weight
Of age, and debts, and cares of state.
For debts she owed, and those so large,
As twice her wealth could ne'er discharge,
And now 'twas thought, so high they'd grown,
She'd come upon the parish soon.
Her arms, of nations once the dread,
She scarce could lift above her head;
Her deafen'd ears, 'twas all their hope,
The final trump perhaps might ope;
So long they'd been, in stupid mood,
Shut to the hearing of all good.
Grim death had put her in his scroll
Down on the execution-roll;
And Gallic crows, as she grew weaker,
Began to whet their beaks to pick her.
"And now her powers decaying fast,
Her grand climact'ric had she pass'd,
And just like all old women else,
Fell in the vapors much by spells.
Strange whimsies on her fancy struck,
And gave her brain a dismal shock;
Her memory fails, her judgment ends;
She quite forgot her nearest friends,
Lost all her former sense and knowledge,
And fitted fast for Bedlam-college.
Of all the powers she once retain'd,
Conceit and pride alone remain'd.
As Eve, when falling, was so modest
To fancy she should grow a goddess;
As madmen, straw who long have slept on,
Style themselves Jupiter and Neptune:
So Britain in her airs so flighty,
Now took a whim to be Almighty;
Urg'd on to desperate heights of frenzy,
Affirm'd her own Omnipotency;
Would rather ruin all her race,
Than yield supremacy, an ace;
Assumed all rights divine, as grown
The church's head, like good Pope Joan;
Swore all the world should bow and skip,
At her almighty goodyship;
Anath'matized each unbeliever,
And vow'd to live and rule for ever.
Her servants humour'd every whim,
And own'd at once her power supreme;
Her follies nursed in all their stages,
For sake of liveries and wages;
In Stephen's Chapel then in state too
Set up her golden calf to pray to;
Proclaim'd its power and right divine,
And call'd for worship at its shrine;
And for poor heretics to burn us,
Bade North prepare his fiery furnace;
Struck bargains with the Romish churches,
Infallibility to purchase;
Set wide for Popery the door,
Made friends with Babel's scarlet whore,
Till both the matrons join'd in clan;
No sisters made a better span.
"What wonder then, ere this was over,
That she should make her children suffer?
She first without pretence or reason,
Claim'd right whate'er we had to seize on;
And with determin'd resolution
To put her claims in execution,
Sent fire and sword, and call'd it Lenity;
Starv'd us, and christen'd it Humanity.
For she, her case grown desperater,
Mistook the plainest things in nature;
Had lost all use of eyes or wits,
Took slavery for the bill of rights;
Trembled at whigs and deem'd them foes,
And stopp'd at loyalty her nose;
Styled her own children, brats and catiffs,
And knew us not from th' Indian natives.
"What though with supplicating prayer,
We begg'd our lives and goods she'd spare;
Not vainer vows with sillier call
Elijah's prophets raised to Baal;
A worshipp'd stock of god or goddess
Had better heard and understood us.
So once Egyptians at the Nile
Ador'd their guardian crocodile,
Who heard them first with kindest ear,
And ate them to reward their prayer;
And could he talk, as kings can do,
Had made as gracious speeches too.
"Thus, spite of prayers, her schemes pursuing,
She still went on to work our ruin;
Annull'd our charters of releases,
And tore our title-deeds in pieces;
Then sign'd her warrants of ejection,
And gallows rais'd to stretch our necks on:
And on these errands sent in rage
Her bailiff, and her hangman, Gage;
And at his heels, like dogs to bait us,
Dispatch'd her Posse Comitatus.
"No state e'er chose a fitter person
To carry such a silly farce on.
As heathen gods in ancient days
Receiv'd at second hand their praise,
Stood imaged forth in stones and stocks,
And deified in barber's blocks:
So Gage was chose to represent
Th' omnipotence of Parliament.
As antient heroes gain'd by shifts,
From gods, as poets tell, their gifts;
Our General, as his actions show,
Gain'd like assistance from below,
By satan graced with full supplies
From all his magazine of lies.
Yet could his practice ne'er impart
The wit to tell a lie with art.
Those lies alone are formidable
Where artful truth is mix'd with fable.
But Gage has bungled oft so vilely,
No soul would credit lies so silly,
Outwent all faith, and stretch'd beyond
Credulity's extremest end:
Whence plain it seems, though satan once
O'erlook'd with scorn each brainless dunce,
And blundering brutes in Eden shunning,
Chose out the serpent for his cunning;
Of late he is not half so nice,
Nor picks out aids because they're wise:
For had he stood upon perfection,
His present friends had lost th' election,
And fared as hard, in this proceeding,
As owls and asses did in Eden.
"Yet fools are often dangerous enemies;
As meanest reptiles are most venomous:
Nor e'er could Gage, by craft or prowess,
Have done a whit more mischief to us;
Since he began th' unnat'ral war,
The work his masters sent him for.
"And are there in this freeborn land
Among ourselves a venal band;
A dastard race, who long have sold
Their souls and consciences for gold;
Who wish to stab their country's vitals,
Could they enjoy surviving titles;
With pride behold our mischiefs brewing,
Insult and triumph in our ruin?
Priests, who, if satan should sit down
To make a bible of his own,
Would gladly, for the sake of mitres,
Turn his inspired and sacred writers;
Lawyers, who, should he wish to prove
His claim to his old seat above,
Would, if his cause he'd give them fees in,
Bring writs of Entry sur disseisin,
Plead for him boldly at the session,
And hope to put him in possession;
Merchants who, for his friendly aid
Would make him partner in their trade,
Hang out their signs in goodly show,
Inscribed with, Beelzebub & Co.;
And judges, who would list his pages,
For proper liveries and wages;
And who as humbly cringe and bow
To all his mortal servants now?
There are; and shame, with pointing gestures,
Marks out th' Addressers and Protesters;
Whom following down the stream of fate,
Contempts ineffable await;
And public infamy forlorn,
Dread hate and everlasting scorn."
As thus he spake, our 'Squire M'Fingal
Gave to his partisans a signal.
Not quicker roll'd the waves to land,
When Moses waved his potent wand,
Nor with more uproar, than the Tories
Set up a general rout in chorus;
Laugh'd, hiss'd, hem'd, murmur'd, groan'd and jeer'd;
Honorius now could scarce be heard.
Our Muse, amid th' increasing roar,
Could not distinguish one word more;
Though she sate by, in firm record
To take in short hand every word,
As ancient Muses wont; to whom
Old bards for depositions come;
Who must have writ them; for how else
Could they each speech verbatim tell 's?
And though some readers of romances
Are apt to strain their tortured fancies,
And doubt (when lovers all alone
Their sad soliloquies do groan,
Grieve many a page, with no one near 'em,
And nought, but rocks and groves, to hear 'em)
What sprite infernal could have tattled,
And told the authors all they prattled;
Whence some weak minds have made objection
That what they scribbled must be fiction:
'Tis false; for while the lover spoke,
The Muse was by with table-book,
And least some blunder should ensue,
Echo stood clerk, and kept the cue.
And though the speech ben't worth a groat,
It can't be call'd the author's fault;
But error merely of the prater,
Who should have talk'd to th' purpose better:
Which full excuse, my critic brothers,
May help me out as well as others;
And 'tis design'd, though here it lurk,
To serve as Preface to this work.
So let it be--for now our 'Squire
No longer could contain his ire,
And rising 'midst applauding Tories,
Thus vented wrath upon Honorius.
Quoth he, "'Tis wondrous what strange stuff
Your Whigs-heads are compounded of;
Which force of logic cannot pierce,
Nor syllogistic carte and tierce,
Nor weight of scripture or of reason
Suffice to make the least impression.
Not heeding what ye rais'd contest on,
Ye prate, and beg, or steal the question;
And when your boasted arguings fail,
Strait leave all reas'ning off, to rail.
"Have not our High-church Clergy made it
Appear from Scriptures, which ye credit,
That right divine from heaven was lent
To kings, that is, the Parliament,
Their subjects to oppress and teaze,
And serve the devil when they please?
Did not they write, and pray, and preach,
And torture all the parts of speech,
About rebellion make a pother,
From one end of the land to th' other?
And yet gain'd fewer proselyte Whigs,
Than old St. Anth'ny 'mongst the pigs;
And changed not half so many vicious,
As Austin when he preach'd to fishes,
Who throng'd to hear, the legend tells,
Were edified, and wagg'd their tails:
But scarce you'd prove it, if you tried,
That e'er one Whig was edified.
Have ye not heard from Parson Walter
Much dire presage of many a halter?
What warnings had ye of your duty,
From our old rev'rend Sam. Auchmuty;
From priests of all degrees and metres,
T' our fag-end man, poor Parson Peters?
Have not our Cooper and our Seabury
Sung hymns, like Barak and old Deborah;
Proved all intrigues to set you free
Rebellion 'gainst the Pow'rs that be;
Brought over many a scripture text,
That used to wink at rebel sects,
Coax'd wayward ones to favor regents,
And paraphrased them to obedience;
Proved every king, ev'n those confest
Horns of the Apocalyptic beast,
And sprouting from its noddles seven,
Ordain'd, as Bishops are, by heaven;
(For reasons similar, as we're told
That Tophet was ordain'd of old)
By this lay-ordination valid,
Becomes all sanctified and hallow'd,
Takes patent out as heaven has sign'd it,
And starts up strait, the Lord's Anointed?
As extreme unction, which can cleanse
Each penitent from deadly sins;
Make them run glib, when oiled by priest,
The heav'nly road, like wheels new greased;
Serve them, like shoe-ball, for defences,
'Gainst wear and tear of consciences:
So king's anointment clears betimes,
Like fuller's earth, all spots of crimes,
For future knaveries gives commissions,
Like Papists sinning under license.
For heaven ordain'd the origin,
Divines declare, of pain and sin,
Prove such great good they both have done us,
Kind mercy 'twas they came upon us;
For without sin and pain and folly,
Man ne'er was blest, nor wise, nor holy:
And we should thank the Lord 'tis so,
As authors grave wrote long ago.
Now heav'n its issues never brings
Without the means, and these are kings;
And he who blames when they announce ills,
Would counteract th' eternal counsels.
As when the Jews, a murm'ring race,
By constant grumblings fell from grace,
Heav'n taught them first to know their distance,
By famine, slavery and Philistines;
When these could no repentance bring,
In wrath it sent them last a king:
So nineteen, 'tis believ'd, in twenty
Of modern kings for plagues are sent you;
Nor can your cavillers pretend
But that they answer well their end.
'Tis yours to yield to their command,
As rods in Providence's hand;
For when it means to send you pain,
You toss your foreheads up in vain;
Your way is, hush'd in peace, to bear it,
And make necessity a merit.
Hence sure perdition must await
The man, who rises 'gainst the State,
Who meets at once the damning sentence,
Without one loophole for repentance;
Ev'n though he gain the Royal See,
And rank among the Powers that be.
For hell is theirs, the scripture shows,
Whoe'er the Powers that be oppose;
And all those Powers (I'm clear that 'tis so)
Are damn'd for ever, ex officio.
"Thus far our Clergy: but 'tis true
We lack'd not earthly reas'ners too.
Had I the Poet's brazen lungs,
As soundboard to his hundred tongues,
I could not half the scribblers muster,
That swarm'd round Rivington in cluster;
Assemblies, Councilmen, forsooth,
Brush, Cowper, Wilkins, Chandler, Booth:
Yet all their arguments and sapience
You did not value at three halfpence.
Did not our Massachusettensis
For your conviction strain his senses;
Scrawl every moment he could spare
From cards and barbers and the fair;
Show, clear as sun in noonday heavens,
You did not feel a single grievance;
Demonstrate all your opposition
Sprung from the eggs of foul Sedition;
Swear he had seen the nest she laid in,
And knew how long she had been sitting;
Could tell exact what strength of heat is
Required to hatch her out Committees;
What shapes they take, and how much longer's
The time before they grow t' a Congress?
He white-wash'd Hutchinson, and varnish'd
Our Gage, who'd got a little tarnish'd;
Made them new masks, in time no doubt,
For Hutchinson's was quite worn out:
Yet while he muddled all his head,
You did not heed a word he said.
"Did not our grave Judge Sewall hit
The summit of newspaper wit;
Fill every leaf of every paper
Of Mills & Hicks, and mother Draper;
Draw proclamations, works of toil,
In true sublime of scarecrow style,
Write farces too 'gainst sons of freedom,
All for your good, and none would read 'em;
Denounce damnation on their frenzy,
Who died in Whig-impenitency;
Affirm that heav'n would lend us aid,
As all our Tory writers said;
And calculate so well its kindness,
He told the moment when it join'd us?
"'Twas then belike," Honorius cried,
"When you the public fast defied,
Refused to heaven to raise a prayer,
Because you'd no connections there;
And since with reverent hearts and faces,
To Governors you'd paid addresses,
In them, who made you Tories, seeing
You lived and moved and had your being,
Your humble vows you would not breathe
To powers, you'd no acquaintance with.
"As for your fasts," replied our 'Squire,
"What circumstance could fasts require?
We kept them not, but 'twas no crime,
We held them merely loss of time.
For what advantage firm and lasting,
Pray, did you ever get by fasting,
Or what the gain, that can arise
From vows and offerings to the skies?
Will heaven reward with posts and fees,
Or send us tea, as consignees,
Give pensions, salaries, places, bribes,
Or chuse us judges, clerks or scribes?
Has it commissions in its gift,
Or cash to serve us at a lift?
Are acts of parliament there made,
To carry on the placeman's trade,
Or has it pass'd a single bill
To let us plunder whom we will?
"And look our list of placemen all over;
Did heaven appoint our chief Judge Oliver,
Fill that high bench with ignoramus,
Or has it councils by mandamus?
Who made that wit of water-gruel
A judge of admiralty, Sewall?
And were they not mere earthly struggles,
That raised up Murray, say, and Ruggles?
Did heaven send down, our pains to medicine,
That old simplicity of Edson,
Or by election pick out from us
That Marshfield blunderer, Nat. Ray Thomas;
Or had it any hand in serving
A Loring, Pepperell, Browne or Irving?
"Yet we've some saints, the very thing,
To pit against the best you'll bring;
For can the strongest fancy paint,
Than Hutchinson, a greater saint?
Was there a parson used to pray,
At times more regular, twice a day;
As folks exact have dinners got,
Whether they've appetites or not?
Was there a zealot more alarming
'Gainst public vice to hold forth sermon,
Or fix'd at church, whose inward motion
Roll'd up his eyes with more devotion?
What puritan could ever pray
In godlier tone, than Treasurer Gray,
Or at town-meetings speechifying,
Could utter more melodious whine,
And shut his eyes, and vent his moan,
Like owl afflicted in the sun;
Who once sent home, his canting rival,
Lord Dartmouth's self, might outbedrivel.
"Have you forgot," Honorius cried,
"How your prime saint the truth defied,
Affirm'd he never wrote a line
Your charter'd rights to undermine,
When his own letters then were by,
Which proved his message all a lie?
How many promises he seal'd
To get th' oppressive acts repeal'd,
Yet once arrived on England's shore,
Set on the Premier to pass more?
But these are no defects, we grant,
In a right loyal Tory saint,
Whose godlike virtues must with ease
Atone for venial crimes, like these:
Or ye perhaps in scripture spy
A new commandment, "Thou shalt lie;"
If this be so (as who can tell?)
There's no one sure ye keep so well."
Quoth he, "For lies and promise-breaking,"
Ye need not be in such a taking:
For lying is, we know and teach,
The highest privilege of speech;
The universal Magna Charta,
To which all human race is party,
Whence children first, as David says,
Lay claim to't in their earliest days;
The only stratagem in war,
Our generals have occasion for;
The only freedom of the press,
Our politicians need in peace.
Thank heaven, your shot have miss'd their aim,
For lying is no sin nor shame.
"As men last wills may change again,
Tho' drawn, "In name of God, Amen;"
Be sure they must have clearly more
O'er promises as great a power,
Which, made in haste, with small inspection,
So much the more will need correction;
And when they've, careless, spoke or penn'd 'em,
Have right to look them o'er and mend 'em;
Revise their vows, or change the text,
By way of codicil annex'd;
Strike out a promise, that was base,
And put a better in its place.
"So Gage of late agreed, you know,
To let the Boston people go;
Yet when he saw 'gainst troops that braved him,
They were the only guards that saved him,
Kept off that satan of a Putnam
From breaking in to maul and mutton him;
He'd too much wit, such leagues t' observe,
And shut them in again, to starve.
"So Moses writes, when female Jews
Made oaths and vows unfit for use,
Their parents then might set them free
From that conscientious tyranny:
And shall men feel that spir'tual bondage
For ever, when they grow beyond age?
Shall vows but bind the stout and strong,
And let go women weak and young,
As nets enclose the larger crew,
And let the smaller fry creep through?
Besides, the Whigs have all been set on,
The Tories to affright and threaten,
Till Gage amidst his trembling fits,
Has hardly kept him in his wits;
And though he speak with fraud and finesse,
'Tis said beneath duress per minas.
For we're in peril of our souls
From your vile feathers, tar and poles;
And vows extorted are not binding
In law, and so not worth the minding.
For we have in this hurly-burly
Sent off our consciences on furlow;
Thrown our religion o'er in form,
Our ship to lighten in the storm.
Nor need we blush your Whigs before;
Had we no virtue, you've no more.
"Yet black with sins, would spoil a mitre,
Rail ye at faults by ten tints whiter?
And, stuff'd with choler atrabilious,
Insult us here for peccadilloes?
While all your vices run so high
That mercy scarce could find supply:
And should you offer to repent,
You'd need more fasting days than Lent,
More groans than haunted church-yard vallies,
And more confessions than broad-alleys.
I'll show you all at fitter time,
Th' extent and greatness of your crime,
And here demonstrate to your face,
Your want of virtue, as of grace,
Evinced from topics old and recent:
But thus much must suffice at present.
To th' after portion of the day,
I leave what more remains to say;
When, I've good hope, you'll all appear,
More fitted and prepared to hear,
And grieved for all your vile demeanour:
But now 'tis time t' adjourn for dinner."
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