the canterbury tales
the canterbury tales
857 In th' olde dayes of the Kyng Arthour,
In the old days of King Arthur,
858 Of which that Britons speken greet honour,
Of whom Britons speak great honor,
859 Al was this land fulfild of fayerye.
This land was all filled full of supernatural creatures.
860 The elf-queene, with hir joly compaignye,
The elf-queen, with her jolly company,
861 Daunced ful ofte in many a grene mede.
Danced very often in many a green mead.
862 This was the olde opinion, as I rede;
This was the old belief, as I read;
863 I speke of manye hundred yeres ago.
I speak of many hundred years ago.
864 But now kan no man se none elves mo,
But now no man can see any more elves,
865 For now the grete charitee and prayeres
For now the great charity and prayers
866 Of lymytours and othere hooly freres,
Of licensed beggars and other holy friars,
867 That serchen every lond and every streem,
That overrun every land and every stream,
868 As thikke as motes in the sonne-beem,
As thick as specks of dust in the sun-beam,
869 Blessynge halles, chambres, kichenes, boures,
Blessing halls, chambers, kitchens, bedrooms,
870 Citees, burghes, castels, hye toures,
Cities, towns, castles, high towers,
871 Thropes, bernes, shipnes, dayeryes --
Villages, barns, stables, dairies --
872 This maketh that ther ben no fayeryes.
This makes it that there are no fairies.
873 For ther as wont to walken was an elf
For where an elf was accustomed to walk
874 Ther walketh now the lymytour hymself
There walks now the licensed begging friar himself
875 In undermeles and in morwenynges,
In late mornings and in early mornings,
876 And seyth his matyns and his hooly thynges
And says his morning prayers and his holy things
877 As he gooth in his lymytacioun.
As he goes in his assigned district.
878 Wommen may go saufly up and doun.
Women may go safely up and down.
879 In every bussh or under every tree
In every bush or under every tree
880 Ther is noon oother incubus but he,
There is no other evil spirit but he,
881 And he ne wol doon hem but dishonour.
And he will not do them any harm except dishonor.
882 And so bifel that this kyng Arthour
And so it happened that this king Arthur
883 Hadde in his hous a lusty bacheler,
Had in his house a lusty bachelor,
884 That on a day cam ridynge fro ryver,
That on one day came riding from hawking,
885 And happed that, allone as he was born,
And it happened that, alone as he was born,
886 He saugh a mayde walkynge hym biforn,
He saw a maiden walking before him,
887 Of which mayde anon, maugree hir heed,
Of which maiden straightway, despite all she could do,
888 By verray force, he rafte hire maydenhed;
By utter force, he took away her virginity;
889 For which oppressioun was swich clamour
For which wrong was such clamor
890 And swich pursute unto the kyng Arthour
And such demand for justice unto king Arthur
891 That dampned was this knyght for to be deed,
That this knight was condemned to be dead,
892 By cours of lawe, and sholde han lost his heed --
By course of law, and should have lost his head --
893 Paraventure swich was the statut tho --
Perhaps such was the statute then --
894 But that the queene and other ladyes mo
Except that the queen and other ladies as well
895 So longe preyeden the kyng of grace
So long prayed the king for grace
896 Til he his lyf hym graunted in the place,
Until he granted him his life right there,
897 And yaf hym to the queene, al at hir wille,
And gave him to the queen, all at her will,
898 To chese wheither she wolde hym save or spille.
To choose whether she would him save or put to death.
899 The queene thanketh the kyng with al hir myght,
The queen thanks the king with all her might,
900 And after this thus spak she to the knyght,
And after this she spoke thus to the knight,
901 Whan that she saugh hir tyme, upon a day:
When she saw her time, upon a day:
902 "Thou standest yet," quod she, "in swich array
"Thou standest yet," she said, "in such condition,
903 That of thy lyf yet hastow no suretee.
That of thy life yet thou hast no assurance
904 I grante thee lyf, if thou kanst tellen me
I grant thee life, if thou canst tell me
905 What thyng is it that wommen moost desiren.
What thing it is that women most desire.
906 Be war, and keep thy nekke-boon from iren!
Beware, and keep thy neck-bone from iron (axe)!
907 And if thou kanst nat tellen it anon,
And if thou canst not tell it right now,
908 Yet wol I yeve thee leve for to gon
Yet I will give thee leave to go
909 A twelf-month and a day, to seche and leere
A twelvemonth and a day, to seek to learn
910 An answere suffisant in this mateere;
A satisfactory answer in this matter;
911 And suretee wol I han, er that thou pace,
And I will have, before thou go, a pledge
912 Thy body for to yelden in this place."
To surrender thy body in this place."
913 Wo was this knyght, and sorwefully he siketh;
Woe was this knight, and sorrowfully he sighs;
914 But what! He may nat do al as hym liketh.
But what! He can not do all as he pleases.
915 And at the laste he chees hym for to wende
And at the last he chose to leave
916 And come agayn, right at the yeres ende,
And come again, exactly at the year's end,
917 With swich answere as God wolde hym purveye;
With such answer as God would provide him;
918 And taketh his leve, and wendeth forth his weye.
And takes his leave, and goes forth on his way.
919 He seketh every hous and every place
He seeks every house and every place
920 Where as he hopeth for to fynde grace
Where he hopes to have the luck
921 To lerne what thyng wommen loven moost,
To learn what thing women love most,
922 But he ne koude arryven in no coost
But he could not arrive in any region
923 Wher as he myghte fynde in this mateere
Where he might find in this matter
924 Two creatures accordynge in-feere.
Two creatures agreeing together.
925 Somme seyde wommen loven best richesse,
Some said women love riches best,
926 Somme seyde honour, somme seyde jolynesse,
Some said honor, some said gaiety,
927 Somme riche array, somme seyden lust abedde,
Some rich clothing, some said lust in bed,
928 And oftetyme to be wydwe and wedde.
And frequently to be widow and wedded.
929 Somme seyde that oure hertes been moost esed
Some said that our hearts are most eased
930 Whan that we been yflatered and yplesed.
When we are flattered and pleased.
931 He gooth ful ny the sothe, I wol nat lye.
He goes very near the truth, I will not lie.
932 A man shal wynne us best with flaterye,
A man shall win us best with flattery,
933 And with attendance and with bisynesse
And with attentions and with solicitude
934 Been we ylymed, bothe moore and lesse.
We are caught, every one of us.
935 And somme seyen that we loven best
And some say that we love best
936 For to be free and do right as us lest,
To be free and do just as we please,
937 And that no man repreve us of oure vice,
And that no man reprove us for our vices,
938 But seye that we be wise and no thyng nyce.
But say that we are wise and not at all silly.
939 For trewely ther is noon of us alle,
For truly there is not one of us all,
940 If any wight wol clawe us on the galle,
If any one will scratch us on the sore spot,
941 That we nel kike, for he seith us sooth.
That we will not kick back, because he tells us the truth.
942 Assay, and he shal fynde it that so dooth;
Try it, and whoever so does shall find it true;
943 For, be we never so vicious withinne,
For, be we never so vicious within,
944 We wol been holden wise and clene of synne.
We want to be considered wise and clean of sin.
945 And somme seyn that greet delit han we
And some say that we have great delight
946 For to been holden stable, and eek secree,
To be considered steadfast, and also (able to keep a) secret,
947 And in o purpos stedefastly to dwelle,
And in one purpose steadfastly to remain,
948 And nat biwreye thyng that men us telle.
And not reveal things that men tell us.
949 But that tale is nat worth a rake-stele.
But that tale is not worth a rake handle.
950 Pardee, we wommen konne no thyng hele;
By God, we women can hide nothing;
951 Witnesse on Myda -- wol ye heere the tale?
Witness on Midas -- will you hear the tale?
952 Ovyde, amonges othere thynges smale,
Ovid, among other small matters,
953 Seyde Myda hadde, under his longe heres,
Said Midas had, under his long hair,
954 Growynge upon his heed two asses eres,
Two ass's ears, growing upon his head,
955 The whiche vice he hydde as he best myghte
The which vice he hid as he best could
956 Ful subtilly from every mannes sighte,
Very skillfully from every man's sight,
957 That, save his wyf, ther wiste of it namo.
That, except for his wife, there knew of it no others.
958 He loved hire moost, and trusted hire also;
He loved her most, and trusted her also;
959 He preyede hire that to no creature
He prayed her that to no creature
960 She sholde tellen of his disfigure.
She should tell of his disfigurement.
961 She swoor him, "Nay"; for al this world to wynne,
She swore him, "Nay"; for all this world to win,
962 She nolde do that vileynye or synne,
She would not do that dishonor or sin,
963 To make hir housbonde han so foul a name.
To make her husband have so foul a reputation.
964 She nolde nat telle it for hir owene shame.
She would not tell it for her own shame.
965 But nathelees, hir thoughte that she dyde
But nonetheless, she thought that she would die
966 That she so longe sholde a conseil hyde;
If she should hide a secret so long;
967 Hir thoughte it swal so soore aboute hir herte
She thought it swelled so sore about her heart
968 That nedely som word hire moste asterte;
That necessarily some word must escape her;
969 And sith she dorste telle it to no man,
And since she dared tell it to no man,
970 Doun to a mareys faste by she ran --
She ran down to a marsh close by --
971 Til she cam there hir herte was afyre --
Until she came there her heart was afire --
972 And as a bitore bombleth in the myre,
And as a bittern bumbles in the mire,
973 She leyde hir mouth unto the water doun:
She laid her mouth down unto the water:
974 "Biwreye me nat, thou water, with thy soun,"
"Betray me not, thou water, with thy sound,"
975 Quod she; "to thee I telle it and namo;
She said; "to thee I tell it and no others;
976 Myn housbonde hath longe asses erys two!
My husband has two long asses ears!
977 Now is myn herte al hool; now is it oute.
Now is my heart all whole; now is it out.
978 I myghte no lenger kepe it, out of doute."
I could no longer keep it, without doubt."
979 Heere may ye se, thogh we a tyme abyde,
Here you may see, though we a time abide,
980 Yet out it moot; we kan no conseil hyde.
Yet out it must come; we can hide no secret.
981 The remenant of the tale if ye wol heere,
The remnant of the tale if you will hear,
982 Redeth Ovyde, and ther ye may it leere.
Read Ovid, and there you may learn it.
983 This knyght, of which my tale is specially,
This knight, of whom my tale is in particular,
984 Whan that he saugh he myghte nat come therby --
When he saw he might not come to that --
985 This is to seye, what wommen love moost --
This is to say, what women love most --
986 Withinne his brest ful sorweful was the goost.
Within his breast very sorrowful was the spirit.
987 But hoom he gooth; he myghte nat sojourne;
But home he goes; he could not linger;
988 The day was come that homward moste he tourne.
The day was come that homeward he must turn.
989 And in his wey it happed hym to ryde,
And in his way he happened to ride,
990 In al this care, under a forest syde,
In all this care, near a forest side,
991 Wher as he saugh upon a daunce go
Where he saw upon a dance go
992 Of ladyes foure and twenty, and yet mo;
Ladies four and twenty, and yet more;
993 Toward the whiche daunce he drow ful yerne,
Toward the which dance he drew very eagerly,
994 In hope that som wysdom sholde he lerne.
In hope that he should learn some wisdom.
995 But certeinly, er he cam fully there,
But certainly, before he came fully there,
996 Vanysshed was this daunce, he nyste where.
Vanished was this dance, he knew not where.
997 No creature saugh he that bar lyf,
He saw no creature that bore life,
998 Save on the grene he saugh sittynge a wyf --
Save on the green he saw sitting a woman --
999 A fouler wight ther may no man devyse.
There can no man imagine an uglier creature.
1000 Agayn the knyght this olde wyf gan ryse,
At the knight's coming this old wife did rise,
1001 And seyde, "Sire knyght, heer forth ne lith no wey.
And said, "Sir knight, there lies no road out of here.
1002 Tel me what that ye seken, by youre fey!
Tell me what you seek, by your faith!
1003 Paraventure it may the bettre be;
Perhaps it may be the better;
1004 Thise olde folk kan muchel thyng," quod she.
These old folk know many things," she said.
1005 "My leeve mooder," quod this knyght, "certeyn
"My dear mother," said this knight, "certainly
1006 I nam but deed but if that I kan seyn
I am as good as dead unless I can say
1007 What thyng it is that wommen moost desire.
What thing it is that women most desire.
1008 Koude ye me wisse, I wolde wel quite youre hire."
If you could teach me, I would well repay you."
1009 "Plight me thy trouthe heere in myn hand," quod she,
"Pledge me thy word here in my hand," she said,
1010 "The nexte thyng that I requere thee,
"The next thing that I require of thee,
1011 Thou shalt it do, if it lye in thy myght,
Thou shalt do it, if it lies in thy power,
1012 And I wol telle it yow er it be nyght."
And I will tell it to you before it is night."
1013 "Have heer my trouthe," quod the knyght, "I grante."
"Have here my pledged word," said the knight, "I agree."
1014 "Thanne," quod she, "I dar me wel avante
"Then," she said, "I dare me well boast
1015 Thy lyf is sauf, for I wol stonde therby;
Thy life is safe, for I will stand thereby;
1016 Upon my lyf, the queene wol seye as I.
Upon my life, the queen will say as I.
1017 Lat se which is the proudeste of hem alle
Let's see which is the proudest of them all
1018 That wereth on a coverchief or a calle
That wears a kerchief or a hairnet
1019 That dar seye nay of that I shal thee teche.
That dares say `nay' of what I shall teach thee.
1020 Lat us go forth withouten lenger speche."
Let us go forth without longer speech."
1021 Tho rowned she a pistel in his ere,
Then she whispered a message in his ear,
1022 And bad hym to be glad and have no fere.
And commanded him to be glad and have no fear.
1023 Whan they be comen to the court, this knyght
When they are come to the court, this knight
1024 Seyde he had holde his day, as he hadde hight,
Said he had held his day, as he had promised,
1025 And redy was his answere, as he sayde.
And his answer was ready, as he said.
1026 Ful many a noble wyf, and many a mayde,
Very many a noble wife, and many a maid,
1027 And many a wydwe, for that they been wise,
And many a widow, because they are wise,
1028 The queene hirself sittynge as a justise,
The queen herself sitting as a justice,
1029 Assembled been, his answere for to heere;
Are assembled, to hear his answer;
1030 And afterward this knyght was bode appeere.
And afterward this knight was commanded to appear.
1031 To every wight comanded was silence,
Silence was commanded to every person,
1032 And that the knyght sholde telle in audience
And that the knight should tell in open court
1033 What thyng that worldly wommen loven best.
What thing (it is) that worldly women love best.
1034 This knyght ne stood nat stille as doth a best,
This knight stood not silent as does a beast,
1035 But to his questioun anon answerde
But to his question straightway answered
1036 With manly voys, that al the court it herde:
With manly voice, so that all the court heard it:
1037 "My lige lady, generally," quod he,
"My liege lady, without exception," he said,
1038 "Wommen desiren to have sovereynetee
"Women desire to have sovereignty
1039 As wel over hir housbond as hir love,
As well over her husband as her love,
1040 And for to been in maistrie hym above.
And to be in mastery above him.
1041 This is youre mooste desir, thogh ye me kille.
This is your greatest desire, though you kill me.
1042 Dooth as yow list; I am heer at youre wille."
Do as you please; I am here subject to your will."
1043 In al the court ne was ther wyf, ne mayde,
In all the court there was not wife, nor maid,
1044 Ne wydwe that contraried that he sayde,
Nor widow that denied what he said,
1045 But seyden he was worthy han his lyf.
But said that he was worthy to have his life.
1046 And with that word up stirte the olde wyf,
And with that word up sprang the old woman,
1047 Which that the knyght saugh sittynge on the grene:
Whom the knight saw sitting on the green:
1048 "Mercy," quod she, "my sovereyn lady queene!
"Mercy," she said, "my sovereign lady queen!
1049 Er that youre court departe, do me right.
Before your court departs, do me justice.
1050 I taughte this answere unto the knyght;
I taught this answer to the knight;
1051 For which he plighte me his trouthe there,
For which he pledged me his word there,
1052 The firste thyng that I wolde hym requere
The first thing that I would ask of him
1053 He wolde it do, if it lay in his myghte.
He would do, if it lay in his power.
1054 Bifore the court thanne preye I thee, sir knyght,"
Before the court then I pray thee, sir knight,"
1055 Quod she, "that thou me take unto thy wyf,
Said she, "that thou take me as thy wife,
1056 For wel thou woost that I have kept thy lyf.
For well thou know that I have saved thy life.
1057 If I seye fals, sey nay, upon thy fey!"
If I say false, say `nay', upon thy faith!"
1058 This knyght answerde, "Allas and weylawey!
This knight answered, "Alas and woe is me!
1059 I woot right wel that swich was my biheste.
I know right well that such was my promise.
1060 For Goddes love, as chees a newe requeste!
For God's love, choose a new request!
1061 Taak al my good and lat my body go."
Take all my goods and let my body go."
1062 "Nay, thanne," quod she, "I shrewe us bothe two!
"Nay, then," she said, "I curse both of us two!
1063 For thogh that I be foul, and oold, and poore
For though I am ugly, and old, and poor
1064 I nolde for al the metal, ne for oore
I would not for all the metal, nor for ore
1065 That under erthe is grave or lith above,
That under earth is buried or lies above,
1066 But if thy wyf I were, and eek thy love."
Have anything except that I were thy wife, and also thy love."
1067 "My love?" quod he, "nay, my dampnacioun!
"My love?" he said, "nay, my damnation!
1068 Allas, that any of my nacioun
Alas, that any of my family
1069 Sholde evere so foule disparaged be!"
Should ever be so foully degraded!"
1070 But al for noght; the ende is this, that he
But all for naught; the end is this, that he
1071 Constreyned was; he nedes moste hire wedde,
Constrained was; he must by necessity wed her,
1072 And taketh his olde wyf, and gooth to bedde.
And takes his old wife, and goes to bed.
1073 Now wolden som men seye, paraventure,
Now would some men say, perhaps,
1074 That for my necligence I do no cure
That because of my negligence I make no effort
1075 To tellen yow the joye and al th' array
To tell you the joy and all the rich display
1076 That at the feeste was that ilke day.
That was at the (wedding) feast that same day.
1077 To which thyng shortly answeren I shal:
To which thing shortly I shall answer:
1078 I seye ther nas no joye ne feeste at al;
I say there was no joy nor feast at all;
1079 Ther nas but hevynesse and muche sorwe.
There was nothing but heaviness and much sorrow.
1080 For prively he wedded hire on morwe,
For he wedded her in private in the morning,
1081 And al day after hidde hym as an owle,
And all day after hid himself like an owl,
1082 So wo was hym, his wyf looked so foule.
So woeful was he, his wife looked so ugly.
1083 Greet was the wo the knyght hadde in his thoght,
Great was the woe the knight had in his thought,
1084 Whan he was with his wyf abedde ybroght;
When he was brought to bed with his wife;
1085 He walweth and he turneth to and fro.
He wallows and he turns to and fro.
1086 His olde wyf lay smylynge everemo,
His old wife lay smiling evermore,
1087 And seyde, "O deere housbonde, benedicitee!
And said, "O dear husband, bless me!
1088 Fareth every knyght thus with his wyf as ye?
Does every knight behave thus with his wife as you do?
1089 Is this the lawe of kyng Arthures hous?
Is this the law of king Arthur's house?
1090 Is every knyght of his so dangerous?
Is every knight of his so aloof?
1091 I am youre owene love and youre wyf;
I am your own love and your wife;
1092 I am she which that saved hath youre lyf,
I am she who has saved your life,
1093 And, certes, yet ne dide I yow nevere unright;
And, certainly, I did you never wrong yet;
1094 Why fare ye thus with me this firste nyght?
Why behave you thus with me this first night?
1095 Ye faren lyk a man had lost his wit.
You act like a man who had lost his wit.
1096 What is my gilt? For Goddes love, tel it,
What is my offense? For God's love, tell it,
1097 And it shal been amended, if I may."
And it shall be amended, if I can."
1098 "Amended?" quod this knyght, "Allas, nay, nay!
"Amended?" said this knight, "Alas, nay, nay!
1099 It wol nat been amended nevere mo.
It will not be amended ever more.
1100 Thou art so loothly, and so oold also,
Thou art so loathsome, and so old also,
1101 And therto comen of so lough a kynde,
And moreover descended from such low born lineage,
1102 That litel wonder is thogh I walwe and wynde.
That little wonder is though I toss and twist about.
1103 So wolde God myn herte wolde breste!"
So would God my heart would burst!"
1104 "Is this," quod she, "the cause of youre unreste?"
"Is this," she said, "the cause of your distress?"
1105 "Ye, certeinly," quod he, "no wonder is."
"Yes, certainly," he said, "it is no wonder."
1106 "Now, sire," quod she, "I koude amende al this,
"Now, sir," she said, "I could amend all this,
1107 If that me liste, er it were dayes thre,
If I pleased, before three days were past,
1108 So wel ye myghte bere yow unto me.
Providing that you might behave well towards me.
. . .
1219 "Chese now," quod she, "oon of thise thynges tweye:
"Choose now," she said, "one of these two things:
1220 To han me foul and old til that I deye,
To have me ugly and old until I die,
1221 And be to yow a trewe, humble wyf,
And be to you a true, humble wife,
1222 And nevere yow displese in al my lyf,
And never displease you in all my life,
1223 Or elles ye wol han me yong and fair,
Or else you will have me young and fair,
1224 And take youre aventure of the repair
And take your chances of the crowd
1225 That shal be to youre hous by cause of me,
That shall be at your house because of me,
1226 Or in som oother place, may wel be.
Or in some other place, as it may well be.
1227 Now chese yourselven, wheither that yow liketh."
Now choose yourself, whichever you please."
1228 This knyght avyseth hym and sore siketh,
This knight deliberates and painfully sighs,
1229 But atte laste he seyde in this manere:
But at the last he said in this manner:
1230 "My lady and my love, and wyf so deere,
"My lady and my love, and wife so dear,
1231 I put me in youre wise governance;
I put me in your wise governance;
1232 Cheseth youreself which may be moost plesance
Choose yourself which may be most pleasure
1233 And moost honour to yow and me also.
And most honor to you and me also.
1234 I do no fors the wheither of the two,
I do not care which of the two,
1235 For as yow liketh, it suffiseth me."
For as it pleases you, is enough for me."
1236 "Thanne have I gete of yow maistrie," quod she,
"Then have I gotten mastery of you," she said,
1237 "Syn I may chese and governe as me lest?"
"Since I may choose and govern as I please?"
1238 "Ye, certes, wyf," quod he, "I holde it best."
"Yes, certainly, wife," he said, "I consider it best."
1239 "Kys me," quod she, "we be no lenger wrothe,
"Kiss me," she said, "we are no longer angry,
1240 For, by my trouthe, I wol be to yow bothe --
For, by my troth, I will be to you both --
1241 This is to seyn, ye, bothe fair and good.
This is to say, yes, both fair and good.
1242 I prey to God that I moote sterven wood,
I pray to God that I may die insane
1243 But I to yow be also good and trewe
Unless I to you be as good and true
1244 As evere was wyf, syn that the world was newe.
As ever was wife, since the world was new.
1245 And but I be to-morn as fair to seene
And unless I am tomorrow morning as fair to be seen
1246 As any lady, emperice, or queene,
As any lady, empress, or queen,
1247 That is bitwixe the est and eke the west,
That is between the east and also the west,
1248 Dooth with my lyf and deth right as yow lest.
Do with my life and death right as you please.
1249 Cast up the curtyn, looke how that it is."
Cast up the curtain, look how it is."
1250 And whan the knyght saugh verraily al this,
And when the knight saw truly all this,
1251 That she so fair was, and so yong therto,
That she so was beautiful, and so young moreover,
1252 For joye he hente hire in his armes two.
For joy he clasped her in his two arms.
1253 His herte bathed in a bath of blisse.
His heart bathed in a bath of bliss.
1254 A thousand tyme a-rewe he gan hire kisse,
A thousand time in a row he did her kiss,
1255 And she obeyed hym in every thyng
And she obeyed him in every thing
1256 That myghte doon hym plesance or likyng.
That might do him pleasure or enjoyment.
1257 And thus they lyve unto hir lyves ende
And thus they live unto their lives' end
1258 In parfit joye; and Jhesu Crist us sende
In perfect joy; and Jesus Christ us send
1259 Housbondes meeke, yonge, and fressh abedde,
Husbands meek, young, and vigorous in bed,
1260 And grace t' overbyde hem that we wedde;
And grace to outlive them whom we wed;
1261 And eek I praye Jhesu shorte hir lyves
And also I pray Jesus shorten their lives
1262 That noght wol be governed by hir wyves;
That will not be governed by their wives;
1263 And olde and angry nygardes of dispence,
And old and angry misers in spending,
1264 God sende hem soone verray pestilence!
God send them soon the very pestilence!
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