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The beating of her heart was heard to till
The pauses of her music, and her brcuth
Tumultuously accorded with those fits
Of intermitted song. Sudden she rose,
As if her heart impatiently endured
Its bursting burthen: at the sound he turned,
And saw by the warm light of their own life
Her glowing limbs beneath the sinuous veil
Of woven wind ; her outspread arms now bare,
Her dark locks floating in the breath of night,
Her beamy bending eyes, her parted lips
Outstretched, and pale, and quivering eagerly.
His strong heart sank and sickened with excess
Of love. He reared his shuddering limbs, and

His gasping breath, and spread his arms to meet
Her panting bosom:—she drew back awhile,
Tben, yielding to the irresistible joy,
With frantic gesture and short breathless cry
Folded his frame in her dissolving arms.
Now blackness veiled his dizzy eyes, and night
Involved and swallowed up the vision; sleep,
Like a dark flood suspended in its course,
Rolled back its impulse on his vacant brain.

Roused by the shock, he started from his trance—
The cold white light of morning, the blue moon
Low in the west, the clear and garish hills,
The distinct valley and the vacant woods,
Spread round him where he stood. Whither have
The hues of heaven that canopied his bower [fled
Of yesternight! The sounds that soothed his sleep,
The mystery and the majesty of Earth,
The joy, the exultation 1 His wan eyes
Gaze on the empty scene as vacantly
As ocean's moon looks on the moon in heaven.
The spirit of sweet human love has sent
A vision to the sleep of him who spurned
Her choicest gifts. He eagerly pursues
Beyond the realms of dream that fleeting shade;
He overleaps the bounds. Alas! alas!
Were limbs and breath and being intertwined
Thus treacherously t Lost, lost, for ever lost,
In the wide pathless desert of dim sleep,
That beautiful shape! Does the dark gate of death
Conduct to thy mysterious paradise,
O Sleep? Does the bright arch of rainbow clouds,
And pendent mountains seen in the calm lake,
Lead only to a black and watery depth, [hung,
While death's blue vault with loathliest vapours
Where every shade which the foul grave exhales
Hides its dead eye from the detested day,
Conduct, O Sleep, to thy delightful realms!
This doubt with sudden tide flowed on his heart,
The insatiate hope which it awakened, stung
His brain even like despair.

While daylight held
The sky, the Poet kept mute conference
With his still soul. At night the passion came,
Like the fierce fiend of a distempered dream,
And shook him from his rest, and led him forth
Into the darkness.—As an eagle grasped
In folds of the green serpent, feels her breast
Burn with the poison, and precipitates [cloud,
Throngh night and day, tempest, and calm and
Frantic with dizzying anguish, her blind flight
O'er the wide aery wilderness: thus driven
By the bright shadow of that lovely dream,
Beneath the cold glare of the desolate night,

Through tangled swamps and deep precipitous dells,

Startling with careless step the moon-light snake,

He fled. Red morning dawned upon his flight,

Shedding the mockery of its vital hues

Upon his cheek of death. He wandered on,

Till vast Aornos, seen from Petra's steep,

Hung o'er the low horizon like a cloud;

Through Balk, and where the desolated tombs

Of Parthian kings scatter to every wind

Their wasting dust, wildly he wandered on,

Day after day, a weary waste of hours,

Bearing within his life the brooding care

That ever fed on its decaying flame.

And now his limbs were lean; his scattered hair,

Sered by the autumn of strange suffering,

Sung dirges in the wind; his listless hand

Hung like dead bone within its withered skin;

Life, and the lustre that consumed it, shone

As in a furnace burning secretly

From his dark eyes alone. The cottagers,

Who ministered with human charity

His human wants, beheld with wondering awe

Their fleeting visitant. The mountaineer,

Encountering on some dizzy precipice

That spectral form, deemed that the Spirit of wind

With lightning eyes, and eager breath, and feet

Disturbing not the drifted snow, had paused

In his career: the infant would conceal

His troubled visage in his mother's robe

In terror at the glare of those wild eyes,

To remember their strange light in many a dream

Of after times; but youthful maidens, taught

By nature, would interpret half the woe

That wasted him, would call him with false names

Brother, and friend, would press his pallid hand

At parting, and watch, dim through tears, the path

Of his departure from their father's door.

At length upon the lone Chorasmian shore He paused, a wide and melancholy waste Of putrid marshes. A strong impulse urged His steps to the sea-shore. A swan was there, Beside a sluggish stream among the reeds. It rose as he approached, and with strong wings Scaling the upward sky, bent its bright course High over the immeasurable main. His eyes pursued its flight:—" Thou hast a home, Beautiful bird! thou voyagest to thine home, Where thy sweet mate will twine her downy neck With thine, and welcome thy return with eyes Bright in the lustre of their own fond joy. And what am I that I should linger here, With voice far sweeter than thy dying notes, Spirit more vast than thine, frame more attuned To beauty, wasting these surpassing powers In the deaf air, to the blind earth, and heaven That echoes not my thoughts?" A gloomy smile Of desperate hope wrinkled his quivering lips. For sleep, he knew, kept most relentlessly Its precious charge, and silent death exposed, Faithless perhaps as sleep, a shadowy lure, With doubtful smile mocking its own strange charms.

Startled by his own thoughts, he looked around: There was no fair fiend near him, not a sight Or sound of awe but in his own deep mind. A little shallop floating near the shore Caught the impatient wandering of his gaze. It had been long abandoned, for its sides Gaped wide with many a rift, and its frail joints

Swayed with the undulations of the tide.

A restless impulse urged him to embark

And meet Tone Death on the drear ocean's waste;

For well he knew that mighty Shadow loves

The slimy caverns of the populous deep.

The day was fair and sunny: Bea and sky
Drank its inspiring radiance, and the wind
Swept strongly from the shore, blackening the waves.
Following his eager soul, the wanderer
Leaped in the boat, he spread his cloak aloft
On the bare mast, and took his lonely seat,
And felt the boat speed o'er the tranquil sea
Like a torn cloud before the hurricane.

As one that in a silver vision floats

Obedient to the sweep of odorous winds

Upon resplendent clouds, so rapidly

Along the dark and ruffled waters fled

The straining boat.—A whirlwind swept it on,

With fierce gusts and precipitating force,

Through the white ridges of the chafed sea.

The waves arose. Higher and higher still

Their fierce necks writhed beneath the tempest's

scourge Like serpents struggling in a vulture's grasp. Calm and rejoicing in the fearful war Of wave running on wave, and blast on blast Descending, and black flood on whirlpool driven With dark obliterating course, he sate: As if their genii were the ministers Appointed to conduct him to the light Of those beloved eyes, the Poet sate Holding the steady helm. Evening came on, The beams of sunset hung their rainbow hues High 'mid the shifting domes of sheeted spray That canopied his path o'er the waste deep; Twilight, ascending slowly from the east, Entwined in duskier wreaths her braided locks O'er the fair front and radiant eyes of day; Night followed, clad with stars. On every side More horribly the multitudinous streams Of ocean's mountainous waste to mutual war Rushed in dark tumult thundering, as to mock The calm and spangled sky. The little boat Still fled before the storm; still fled, like foam Down the steep cataract of a wintry river; Now pausing on the edge of the riven wave; Now leaving far behind the bursting mass That fell, convulsing ocean. Safely fled— As if that frail and wasted human form Had been an elemental god.

At midnight The moon arose: and lo t the ethereal cliffs Of Caucasus, whose icy summits shone Among the stars like sunlight, and around Whose caverned base the whirlpools and the waves, Bursting and eddying irresistibly, Rage and resound for ever.—Who shall save T— The boat fled on,—the boiling torrent drove,— The crags closed round with black and jagged arms, The shattered mountain overhung the sea, And faster still, beyond all human speed, Suspended on the sweep of the smooth wave, The little boat was driven. A cavern there Yawned, and amid its slant and winding depths Ingulfed the rushing sea. The boat fled on With unrelaxing speed. "Vision and Love!" The Poet cried aloud, " I have beheld

The path of thy departure. Sleep and death
Shall not divide us long."

The boat pursued
The windings of the cavern. Day-light shone
At length upon that gloomy river's now;
Now, where the fiercest war among the waves
Is calm, on the unfathomable stream [riven,

The boat moved slowly. Where the mountain,
Exposed those black depths to the azure sky,
Ere yet the flood's enormous volume fell
Even to the base of Caucasus, with sound
That shook the everlasting rocks, the mass
Filled with one whirlpool all that ample chasm;
Stair above stair the eddying waters rose,
Circling immeasurably fast, and laved
With alternating dash the gnarled roots
Of mighty trees, that stretched their giant arms
In darkness over it. I' the midst was left,
Reflecting, yet distorting every cloud,
A pool of treacherous and tremendous calm,
Seized by the sway of the ascending stream,
With dizzy swiftness, round, and round, and round,
Ridge after ridge the straining boat arose,
Till on the verge of the extremest curve,
Where, through an opening of the rocky bank,
The waters overflow, and a smooth spot
Of glassy quiet 'mid those battling tides
Is left, the boat paused shuddering. Shall it sink
Down the abyss 1 Shall the reverting stress
Of that resistless gulf embosom it I
Now shall it fall! A wandering stream of wind,
Breathed from the west, has caught the expanded
And, lo ! with gentle motion between banks [sail,
Of mossy slope, and on a placid stream,
Beneath a woven grove, it sails, and, hark!
The ghastly torrent mingles its far roar,
With the breeze murmuring in the musical woods.
Where the embowering trees recede, and leave
A little space of green expanse, the cove
Is closed by meeting banks, whose yellow flowers
For ever gaze on their own drooping eyes,
Reflected in the crystal calm. The wave
Of the boat's motion marred their pensive task,
Which nought but vagrant bird, or wanton wind,
Or falling spear-grass, or their own decay
Had e'er disturbed before. The Poet longed
To deck with their bright hues his withered hair,
But on his heart its solitude returned,
And he forbore. Not the strong impulse hid
In those flushed cheeks, bent eyes, and shadowy
Had yet performed its ministry: it hung [frame
Upon his life, as lightning in a cloud
Gleams, hovering ere it vanish, ere the floods
Of night close over it.

The noonday sun
Now shone upon the forest, one vast mass
Of mingling shade, whose brown magnificence
A narrow vale embosoms. There, huge caves,
Scooped in the dark base of those aery rocks
Mocking its moans, respond and roar for ever.
The meeting boughs and implicated leaves
Wove twilight o'er the Poet's path, as led
By love, or dream, or god, or mightier Death,
He sought in Nature's dearest haunt, some bank,
Her cradle, and his sepulchre. More dark
And dark the shades accumulate—the oak,
Expanding its immense and knotty arms,
Embraces the light beech. The pyramids
Of the tall cedar overarching, frame

Most solemn domes within, and far below,
Like clouds suspended in an emerald sky,
The ash and the acacia floating hang
Tremulous and pale. Like restless serpents, clothed
In rainbow and in Are, the parasites,
StarrM with ten thousand blossoms, flow around
The grey trunks, and, as gamesome infants' eyes,
With gentle meanings, and most innocent wiles,
Fold their beams round the heartsof those that love,
These twine their tendrils with the wedded boughs
Uniting their close union ; the woven leaves
Make net-work of the dark blue light of day,
And the night's noontide clearness, mutable
As shapes in the weird clouds. Soft mossy lawns
Beneath these canopies extend their swells,
Fragrant with perfumed herbs, and eyed with blooms
Minute, yet beautiful. One darkest glen
Sends from its woods of musk-rose, twined with
A soul-dissolving odour, to invite [jasmine,

To some more lovely mystery. Through the dell,
Silence and Twilight here, twin-sisters, keep
Their noonday watch, and sail among the shades,
Like vaporous shapes half-seen ; beyond, a well,
Dark, gleaming, and of most translucent wave,
Images all the woven boughs above,
And each depending leaf, and every speck
Of azure sky, darting between their chasms;
Nor aught else in the liquid mirror laves
Its portraiture, but some inconstant star
Between one foliaged lattice twinkling fair,
Or painted bird, sleeping beneath the moon,
Or gorgeous insect, floating motionless,
Unconscious of the day, ere yet his wings
Have spread their glories to the gaze of noon.

Hither the Poet came. His eyes beheld
Their own wan light through the reflected lines
Of his thin hair, distinct in the dark depth
Of that still fountain; as the human heart,
Gazing in dreams over the gloomy grave,
Sees its own treacherous likeness there. He heard
The motion of the leaves, the grass that sprung
Startled and glanced and trembled even to feel
An unaccustomed presence, and the sound
Of the sweet brook that from the secret springs
Of that dark fountain rose. A Spirit seemed
To stand beside him—clothed in no bright robes
Of shadowy silver or enshrining light,
Borrow'd from aught the visible world affords
Of grace, or majesty, or mystery ;—
But undulating woods, and silent well,
And rippling rivulet, and evening gloom
Now deepening the dark shades, forspeech assuming
Held commune with him, as if he and it
Were all that was,—only—when his regard
Was raised by intense pensiveness,—two eyes,
Two starry eyes, hung in the gloom of thought,
And seemed with their serene and azure smiles
To beckon him.

Obedient to the light
That shone within his soul, he went, pursuing
The windings of the dell.—The rivulet
Wanton and wild, through many a green ravine
Beneath the forest flowed. Sometimes it fell
Among the moss, with hollow harmony
Dark and profound. Now on the polished stones
It danced ; like childhood laughing as it went:
Then, through the plain in tranquil wanderings
Reflecting every herb and drooping bud [crept,

That overhung its quietness.—" 0 stream!
Whose source is inaccessibly profound,
Whither do thy mysterious waters tend?
Thou imagest ray life. Thy darksome stillness,
Thy dazzling waves, thy loud and hollow gulfs,
Thy searchless fountain, and invisible course
Have each their type in me: And the wide sky,
And measureless ocean may declare as soon
What oozy cavern or what wandering cloud
Contains thy waters, as the universe [stretched
Tell where these living thoughts reside, when
Upon thy flowers my bloodless limbs shall waste
I' the passing wind 1"

Beside the grassy shore
Of the small stream he went; he did impress
On the green moss his tremulous step, that caught
Strong shuddering from his burning limbs. As one
Roused by some joyous madness from the couch
Of fever, he did move ; yet, not like him,
Forgetful of the grave, where, when the flame
Of his frail exultation shall be spent,
He must descend. With rapid steps he went
Beneath the shade of trees, beside the flow
Of the wild babbling rivulet; and now
The forest's solemn canopies were changed
For the uniform and lightsome evening sky.
Grey rocks did peep from the spare moss, and

stemmed The struggling brook : tall spires of windlestrae Threw their thin shadows down the rugged slope, And nought but gnarled roots of ancient pines Branchless and blasted, clenched with grasping roots The unwilling soil. A gradual change was here, Yet ghastly. For, as fast years flow away, The smooth brow gathers, and the hair grows thin And white ; and where irradiate dewy eyes Had shone, gleam stony orbs: so from his steps Bright flowers departed, and the beautiful shade Of the green groves, with all their odorous winds And musical motions. Calm, he still pursued The stream, that with a larger volume now Rolled through the labyrinthine dell; and there Fretted a path through its descending curves With its wintry speed. On every side now rose Rocks, which, in unimaginable forms, Lifted their black and barren pinnacles In the light of evening, and its precipice Obscuring the ravine, disclosed above, 'Mid toppling stones,black gulfs,andyawning caves, Whose windings gave ten thousand various tongues To the loud stream. Lo! where the pass expands Its stony jaws, the abrupt mountain breaks, And seems, with its accumulated crags, To overhang the world: for wide expand Beneath the wan stars and descending moon Islanded seas, blue mountains, mighty streams, Dim tracks and vast, robed in the lustrous gloom Of leaden-coloured even, and fiery hills Mingling their flames with twilight, on the verge Of the remote horizon. The near scene, In naked and severe simplicity, Made contrast with the universe. A pine, Rock-rooted, stretched athwart the vacancy Its swinging boughs, to each inconstant blast Yielding one only response, at each pause, In most familiar cadence, with the howl The thunder and the hiss of homeless streams Mingling its solemn song, whilst the broad river, Foaming and hurrying o'er its rugged path,

Fell into that immeasurable void,
Scattering its waters to the passing winds.
Yet the grey precipice, and solemn pine
And torrent, were not all;—one silent nook
Wasthere. Even on the edge of that vast mountain,
Upheld by knotty roots and fallen rocks,
It overlooked in its serenity
The dark earth, and the bending vault of stars.
It was a tranquil spot, that seemed to smile
Even in the lap of horror. Ivy clasped
The fissured stones with its entwining arms,
And did embower with leaves forever green,
And berries dark, the smooth and even space
Of its inviolated floor, and here
The children of the autumnal whirlwind bore,
In wanton sport, those bright leaves, whose decay,
Red, yellow, or ethereally pale,
Rival the pride of summer. 'Tis the haunt
Of every gentle wind, whose breath can teach
The wilds to love tranquillity. One step,
One human step alone, has ever broken
The stillness of its solitude :—one voice
Alone inspired its echoes ;—even that voice
Which hither came, floating among the winds,
And led the loveliest among human forms
To make their wild haunts the depository
Of all the grace and beauty that endued
Its motions, render up its majesty,
Scatter its music on the unfeeling storm,
And to the damp leaves and blue cavern mould,
Nurses of rainbow flowers and branching moss,
Commit the colours of that varying cheek,
That snowy breast, those dark and drooping eyes.

The dim and horned moon hung low, and poured

A sea of lustre on the horizon's verge

That overflowed its mountains. Yellow mist

Filled the unbounded atmosphere, and drank

Wan moonlight even to fulness: not a star

Shone, not a sound was heard ; the very winds,

Danger's grim playmates, on that precipice

Slept, clasped in his embrace.—0, storm of death!

Whose sightless speed divides this sullen night:

And thou, colossal Skeleton, that, still

Guiding its irresistible career

In thy devastating omnipotence,

Art king of this frail world, from the red field

Of slaughter, from the reeking hospital,

The patriot's sacred couch, the snowy bed

Of innocence, the scaffold and the throne,

A mighty voice invokes thee. Ruin calls

His brother Death. A rare and regal prey

He hath prepared, prowling around the world;

Glutted with which thou may'st repose, and men

Go to their graves like flowers or creeping worms,

Nor ever more offer at thy dark shrine

The unheeded tribute of a broken heart.

When on the threshold of the green recess The wanderer's footsteps fell, he knew that death Was on him. Yet a little, ere it fled, Did he resign his high and holy soul To images of the majestic past, That paused within his passive being now, Like winds that bear sweetmusic, when they breathe Through some dim latticed chamber. He did place His pale lean hand upon the rugged trunk Of the old pine. Upon an ivied stone Reclined his languid head, his limbs did rest, Diffused and motionless, on the smooth brink

Of that obscurest chasm ;—and thus he lay,

Surrendering to their final impulses

The hovering powers of life. Hope and despair,

The torturers, slept: no mortal pain or fear

Marred his repose, the influxes of sense,

And his own being unalloyed by pain,

Yet feebler and more feeble, calmly fed

The stream of thought, till he lay breathing there

At peace, and faintly smiling:—his last sight

Was the great moon, which o'er the western line

Of the wide world her mighty horn suspended,

With whose dun beams inwoven darkness seemed

To mingle. Now upon the jagged hills

It rests, and still as the divided frame

Of the vast meteor sunk, the Poet's blood,

That ever beat in mystic sympathy

With nature's ebb and flow, grew feebler still:

And when two lessening points of light alone

Gleamed through the darkness, the alternate gasp

Of his faint respiration scarce did stir

The stagnate night:—till the minutest ray

Was quenched, the pulse yet lingered in his heart.

It paused—it fluttered. But when heaven remained

Utterly black, the murky shades involved

An image, silent, cold, and motionless,

As their own voiceless earth and vacant air.

Even as a vapour fed with golden beams

That ministered on sunlight, ere the west

Eclipses it, was now that wondrous frame—

No sense, no motion, no divinity—

A fragile lute, on whose harmonious strings

The breath of heaven did wander—a bright stream

Once fed with many-voiced waves—a dream

Of youth, which night and time have quenched for

ever, Still, dark, and dry, and unrcmembered now.

O, for Medea's wondrous alchymy, Which wheresoe'er it fell made the earth gleam With bright flowers, and the wintry boughs exhale From vernal blooms fresh fragrance I O, that God, Profuse of poisons, would concede the chalice Which but one living man has drained, who now, Vessel of deathless wrath, a slave that feels No proud exemption in the blighting curse He bears, over the world wanders for ever, Lone as incarnate death I O, that the dream Of dark magician in his visioned cave, Raking the cinders of a crucible For life and power, even when his feeble hand Shakes in its last decay, were the true law Of this so lovely world! But thou art fled Like some frail exhalation, which the dawn Robes in its golden beams,—ah! thou hast fled! The brave, the gentle, and the beautiful, The child of grace and genius. Heartless things Are done and said i' the world, and many worms And beasts and men live on, and mighty Earth From sea and mountain, city and wilderness, In vesper low or joyous orison, Lifts still its solemn voice :—but thou art fled— Thou canst no longer know or love the Bhapes Of this phantasmal scene, who have to thee Been pnrest ministers, who are, alas I Now thou art not. Upon those pallid lips So sweet even in their silence, on those eyes That image sleep in death, upon that form Yet safe from the worm's outrage, let no tear Be shed—not even in thought. Nor, when those hues Are gone, and those divinest lineaments,

Worn by the senseless wind, shall live alone
In the trail pauses of this simple strain,
Let not high verse, mourning the memory
t>f that which is no more, or painting's woe
Or sculpture, speak in feeble imagery
Their own cold powers. Art and eloquence,
And all the shows o' the world, are frail and vain
To weep a loss that turns their light to shade.

It is a woe " too deep for tears," when all Is reft at once, when some surpassing Spirit, Whose light adorned the world around it, leaves Those who remain behind nor sobs nor groans, The passionate tumult of a clinging hope; But pale despair and cold tranquillity, Nature's vast frame, the web of human things, i Birth and the grave, that are not as they were.


"Ai.Astor" is written in a very different tone from " Queen Mab." In the latter, Shelley poured out all the cherished speculations of his youth—all the irrepressible emotions of sympathy, censure, and hope, to which the present suffering, and what he considers the proper destiny of his fellow-creatures, gave birth. "Alastor," on the contrary, contains an individual interest only. A very few years, with their attendant events, had checked the ardour of Shelley's hopes, though he still thought them well grounded, and that to advance their fulfilment was the noblest task man could achieve.

This is neither the time nor place to speak of the misfortunes that chequered his life. It will be sufficient to say, that in all he did, he at the time of doing it believed himself justified to his own conscience; while the various ills of poverty and loss of friends brought home to him the sad realities of life. Physical suffering had also considerable influence in causing him to turn his eyes inward ; inclining him rather to brood over the thoughts and emotions of his own soul, than to glance abroad, and to make, as in " Queen Mab," the whole universe the object and subject of his song. In the spring of 1815, an eminent physician pronounced that he was dying rapidly of a consumption ; abscesses were formed on his lungs, and he suffered acute spasms. Suddenly a complete change took place; and though through life he was a martyr to pain and debility, every symptom of pulmonary disease vanished. His nerves, which nature had formed sensitive to an unexampled degree, were rendered still more susceptible by the state of his health.

As soon as the peace of 1814 had opened the Continent, he went abroad. He visited some of the more magnificent scenes of Switzerland, and returned to England from Lucerne, by the Reuss

and the Rhine. This river navigation enchanted him. In his favourite poem of "Thalaba," his imagination had been excited by a description of such a voyage. In the summer of 1815, after a tour along the southern coast of Devonshire and a visit to Clifton, he rented a house on Bishopgate Heath, on the borders of Windsor Forest, where he enjoyed several months of comparative health and tranquil happiness. The later summer months were warm and dry. Accompanied by a few friends, he visited the source of the Thames, making the voyage in a wherry from Windsor to Crichlade. His beautiful stanzas in the churchyard of Lechlade were written on that occasion. "Alastor" was composed on his return. He spent his days under the oak-shades of Windsor Great Park; and the magnificent woodland was a fitting study to inspire the various descriptions of forest scenery we find in the poem.

None of Shelley's poems is more characteristic than this. The solemn spirit that reigns throughout, the worship of the majesty of nature, the broodings of a poet's heart in solitude—the mingling of the exulting joy which the various aspect of the visible universe inspires, with the sad and struggling pangs which human passion imparts, give a touching interest to the whole. The death which he had often contemplated during the last months as certain and near, he here represented in such colours as had, in his lonely musings, soothed his soul to peace. The versification sustains the solemn spirit which breathes throughout, it is peculiarly melodious. The poem ought rather to be considered didactic than narrative: it was the out-pouring of his own emotions, embodied in the purest form he could conceive, painted in the ideal hues which his brilliant imagination inspired, and softened by the recent anticipation of death.

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