A Gentleman According to Emerson

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Ralph Walso Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882). Essays and English Traits.
Vol. 5, pp. 199-208 of The Harvard Classics

An etiquette book and a good tailor do not always produce a gentleman - neither does the Social Register include only gentlemen. Emerson by quaint stories tells how fashion and manners combine to make that rare product - a gentleman.
(Emerson's first marriage, Sept. 30, 1829.)

XII. Manners

How near to good is what is fair!
Which we no sooner see,
But with the lines and outward air
Our senses taken be.
Again yourselves compose,
And now put all the aptness on
Of Figure, that Proportion
Or Color can disclose;
That if those silent arts were lost,
Design and Picture, they might boast
From you a newer ground,
Instructed by the heightening sense
Of dignity and reverence
In their true motions found.

HALF the world, it is said, knows not how the other half live. Our Exploring Expedition saw the Feejee islanders getting their dinner off human bones; and they are said to eat their own wives and children. The husbandry of the modern inhabitants of Gournou (west of old Thebes) is philosophical to a fault. To set up their housekeeping, nothing is requisite but two or three earthen pots, a stone to grind meal, and a mat which is the bed. The house, namely, a tomb, is ready without rent or taxes. No rain can pass through the roof, and there is no door, for there is no want of one, as there is nothing to lose. If the house do not please them, they walk out and enter another, as there are several hundreds at their command. “It is somewhat singular,” adds Belzoni, to whom we owe this account, “to talk of happiness among people who live in sepulchres, among the corpses and rags of an ancient nation which they know nothing of.” In the deserts of Borgoo, the rock-Tibboos still dwell in caves, like cliff-swallows, and the language of these negroes is compared by their neighbors to the shrieking of bats, and to the whistling of birds. Again, the Bornoos have no proper names; individuals are called after their height, thickness, or other accidental quality, and have nicknames merely. But the salt, the dates, the ivory, and the gold, for which these horrible regions are visited, find their way into countries, where the purchaser and consumer can hardly be ranked in one race with these cannibals and man-stealers; countries where man serves himself with metals, wood, stone, glass, gum, cotton, silk, and wool; honors himself with architecture; writes laws, and contrives to execute his will through the hands of many nations; and, especially, establishes a select society, running through all the countries of intelligent men, a self-constituted aristocracy, or fraternity of the best, which, without written law or exact usage of any kind, perpetuates itself, colonizes every new-planted island, and adopts and makes its own whatever personal beauty or extraordinary native endowment anywhere appears.

Prophet of 400 Million People

Monday, 29 September 2014


The Sayings of Confucius.
Vol. 44, pp. 5-14 of The Harvard Classics

Confucius was a Chinese magistrate in 500 B. C. He lost the favor of the Emperor and wandered from city to city, teaching and giving counsel. After his death, Emperor and people alike bowed before his shrine.


THE MASTER said: “In learning and straightway practising is there not pleasure also? When friends gather round from afar do we not rejoice? Whom lack of fame cannot vex is not he a gentleman?”
  Yu-tzu 1 said: “A dutiful son and brother is seldom fond of thwarting those over him: a man unwilling to thwart those over him is never given to crime. A gentleman nurses the roots: when the root has taken, the truth will grow; and what are the roots of love, but the duty of son and of brother?”
  The Master said: “Honeyed words and flattering looks seldom speak of love.”
  Tseng-tzu 2 said: “Thrice daily I ask myself: ‘Have I been unfaithful in dealing for others? Have I been untrue to friends? Do I practise what I preach?’”
  The Master said: “To guide a land of a thousand chariots, honour business, be true and sparing, love the people, and time thy claims upon them.”
  The Master said: “The young should be dutiful at home, modest abroad, heedful and true, full of goodwill for the many, close friends with love; and should they have strength to spare, let them spend it upon the arts.”
  Tzu-hsia 3 said: “If a man honour worth and forsake lust, serve father and mother with all his strength, be ready to give his life for the king, and keep faith with his friends; though men may call him rude, I call him learned.”

He Introduced the Germ

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Louis Pasteur

Louis Pasteur (1822–95). Scientific Papers.
Vol. 38, pp. 364-370 of The Harvard Classics

Proof that germs cause many contagious diseases was established by Louis Pasteur. His discoveries revolutionized modern science and lessened the ravages of every type of disease.
(Louis Pasteur died Sept. 28, 1895.)

The Germ Theory and Its Applications to Medicine and Surgery

 1 THE SCIENCES gain by mutual support. When, as the result of my first communications on the fermentations in 1857–1858, it appeared that the ferments, properly so-called, are living beings, that the germs of microscopic organisms abound in the surface of all objects, in the air and in water; that the theory of spontaneous generation is chimerical; that wines, beer, vinegar, the blood, urine and all the fluids of the body undergo none of their usual changes in pure air, both Medicine and Surgery received fresh stimulation. A French physician, Dr. Davaine, was fortunate in making the first application of these principles to Medicine, in 1863.

Pascal's Fundamentals of Religion

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Blaise Pascal

Blaise Pascal (1623–1662). Thoughts.
Vol. 48. pp. 181-192 of The Harvard Classics

To-day we have Fundamentalists and Modernists, each striving for the same goal. Pascal, two hundred and fifty years ago, gave his precepts of the fundamentals of religious thought.
(Pascal confers with Descartes, Sept. 27, 1647.)

Section VIII
The Fundamentals of the Christian Religion


MEN blaspheme what they do not know. The Christian religion consists in two points. It is of equal concern to men to know them, and it is equally dangerous to be ignorant of them. And it is equally of God’s mercy that He has given indications of both.

  And yet they take occasion to conclude that one of these points does not exist, from that which should have caused them to infer the other. The sages who have said there is only one God have been persecuted, the Jews were hated, and still more the Christians. They have seen by the light of nature that if there be a true religion on earth, the course of all things must tend to it as to a centre.

And the World Rocked with Laughter

Friday, 26 September 2014

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616). Don Quixote, Part 1.
Vol. 14, pp. 29-35 of The Harvard Classics

The gaunt lunatic, Don Quixote, saw the world through glasses colored with romanticism that had gone out of style hundreds of years before he was born. Cervantes made the world laugh at the exaggerated stories it had been devouring.
(Printing of Cervantes' "Don Quixote" licensed, Sept. 26, 1604.)

III. Wherein Is Recounted the Pleasant Manner Observed in the Knighting of Don Quixote

AND being thus tossed in mind, he made a short, beggarly supper; which being finished, he called for his host, and, shutting the stable door very fast, he laid himself down upon his knees in it before him, saying, ‘I will never rise from the place where I am, valorous knight, until your courtesy shall grant unto me a boon that I mean to demand of you, the which will redound unto your renown, and also to the profit of all human kind.’ The innkeeper seeing his guest at his feet, and hearing him speak those words, remained confounded beholding him, not knowing what he might do or say, and did study and labour to make him arise; but all was in vain, until he must have promised unto him that he would grant him any gift that he sought at his hands. “I did never expect less,’ replied Don Quixote, ‘from your magnificence, my lord; and therefore I say unto you, that the boon which I demand of you, and that hath been granted unto me by your liberality, is, that to-morrow, in the morning, you will dub me knight, and this night I will watch mine armour in the chapel of your castle, and in the morning, as I have said, the rest of my desires shall be accomplished, that I may go in due manner throughout the four parts of the world, to seek adventures, to the benefit of the needy, as is the duty of knighthood, and of knights-errant, as I am; whose desires are wholly inclined and dedicated to such achievements.’ The host, who, as we noted before, was a great giber, and had before gathered some arguments of the defect of wit in his guest, did wholly now persuade himself that his suspicions were true, when he heard him speak in that manner; and that he might have an occasion of laughter, he resolved to feed his humour that night; and therefore answered him, that he had very great reason in that which he desired and sought, and that such projects were proper and natural to knights of the garb and worth he seemed to be of; and that he himself likewise, in his youthful years, had followed that honourable exercise, going through divers parts of the world to seek adventures, without either omitting the dangers of Malaga, the Isles of Riaran, the compass of Seville, the quicksilver house of Segovia, the olive field of Valencia, the circuit of Granada, the wharf of St. Lucar, the Potro or Cowlt of Cordova, and the little taverns of Toledo; and many other places, wherein he practised the dexterity of his hands; doing many wrongs, soliciting many widows, undoing certain maidens, and deceiving many pupils, and finally making himself known and famous in all the tribunals and courts almost of all Spain; and that at last he had retired himself to that his castle, where he was sustained with his own and other men’s goods, entertaining in it all knights-errant, of whatsoever quality and condition they were, only for the great affection he bore towards them, and to the end they might divide with him part of their winnings in recompense of his goodwill. He added besides, that there was no chapel in his castle wherein he might watch his arms, for he had broken it down, to build it up anew; but, notwithstanding, he knew very well that in a case of necessity they might lawfully be watched in any other place, and therefore he might watch them that night in the base-court of the castle; for in the morning, an it pleased God, the ceremonies requisite should be done in such sort as he should remain a dubbed knight, in so good fashion as in all the world he could not be bettered. He demanded of Don Quixote whether he had any money; who answered that he had not a blank, for he had never read in any history of knights-errant that any one of them ever carried any money. To this his host replied, that he was deceived; for, admit that histories made no mention thereof, because the authors of them deemed it not necessary to express a thing so manifest and needful to be carried as was money and clean shirts, it was not therefore to be credited that they had none; and therefore he should hold, for most certain and manifest, that all the knights-errant, with the story of whose acts so many books are replenished and heaped, had their purses well lined for that which might befall, and did moreover carry with them a little casket of ointments and salves, to cure the wounds which they received, for they had not the commodity of a surgeon to cure them, every time that they fought abroad in the fields and deserts, if they had not by chance some wise enchanter to their friend, who would presently succour them, bringing unto them, in some cloud, through the air, some damsel or dwarf, with a vial of water of so great virtue, as tasting one drop thereof, they remained as whole of their sores and wounds as if they had never received any. But when they had not that benefit, the knights of times past held it for a very commendable and secure course that their squires should be provided of money and other necessary things, as lint and ointments for to cure themselves; and when it befell that the like knights had no squires to attend upon them (which happened but very seldom), then would they themselves carry all this provision behind them on their horses, in some slight and subtle wallets, which could scarce be perceived as a thing of very great consequence; for, if it were not upon such an occasion, he carriage of wallets was not very tolerable among knights-errant. And in this respect he did advise him, seeing he might yet command him, as one that, by receiving the order of knighthood at his hands, should very shortly become his godchild, that he should not travel from thenceforward without money and other the preventions he had then given unto him; and he should perceive himself how behooveful they would prove unto him when he least expected it.

  Don Quixote promised to accomplish all that he had counselled him to do, with all punctuality; and so order was forthwith given how he should watch his arms in a great yard that lay near unto one side of the inn. Wherefore Don Quixote gathered all his arms together, laid them on a cistern that stood near unto a well; and, buckling on his target, he laid hold on his lance, and walked up and down before the cistern very demurely, and when he began to walk, the night likewise began to lock up the splendour of the day. The innkeeper, in the mean season, recounted to all the rest that lodged in the inn the folly of his guest, the watching of his arms, and the knighthood which he expected to receive. They all admired very much at so strange a kind of folly, and went out to behold him from afar off, and saw that sometimes he pranced to and fro with a quiet gesture; other times, leaning upon his lance, he looked upon his armour, without beholding any other thing save his arms for a good space.

  The night being shut up at last wholly, but with such clearness of the moon as it might well compare with his brightness that lent her her splendour, everything which our new knight did was easily perceived by all the beholders. In this season one of the carriers that lodged in the inn resolved to water his mules, and for that purpose it was necessary to remove Don Quixote’s armour that lay on the cistern; who, seeing him approach, said unto him, with a loud voice, ‘O thou, whosoever thou beest, bold knight! that comest to touch the armour of the most valorous adventurer that ever girded sword, look well what thou dost, and touch them not, if thou meanest not to leave thy life in payment of thy presumption.’ The carrier made no account of those words (but it were better he had, for it would have redounded to his benefit), but rather, laying hold on the leatherings, threw the armour a pretty way off from him, which being perceived by Don Quixote, he lifted up his eyes towards heaven, and addressing his thoughts (as it seemed) to his Lady Dulcinea, he said, ‘Assist me, dear lady, in this first dangerous scorn and adventure offered to this breast, that is enthralled to thee, and let not thy favour and protection fail me in this my first trance!’ And, uttering these and other such words, he let slip his target, and, lifting up his lance with bold hands, he paid the carrier so round a knock therewithal on the pate, as he overthrew him to the ground in so evil taking, as, if he had seconded it with another, he should not have needed any surgeon to cure him. This done, he gathered up his armour again, and laying them where they had been before, he walked after up and down by them, with as much quietness as he did at the first.

  But very soon after, another carrier, without knowing what had happened (for his companion lay yet in a trance on the ground), came also to give his mules water, and coming to take away the arms, that he might free the cistern of encumbrances, and take water the easier—Don Quixote saying nothing nor imploring favour of his mistress or any other, let slip again his target, and, lifting his lance, without breaking of it in pieces, made more than three of the second carrier’s noddle; for he broke it in four places. All the people of the inn, and amongst them the host likewise, repaired at this time to the noise; which Don Quixote perceiving, embracing his target, and laying hand on his sword, he said: ‘O lady of all beauty! courage and vigour of my weakened heart! it is now high time that thou do convert the eyes of thy greatness to this thy captive knight, who doth expect so marvellous great an adventure.’ Saying thus, he recovered, as he thought, so great courage, that if all the carriers of the world had assailed him, he would not go one step backward. The wounded men’s fellows, seeing them so evil dight, from afar off began to rain stones on Don Quixote, who did defend himself the best he might with his target, and durst not depart from the cistern, lest he should seem to abandon his arms. The innkeeper cried to them to let him alone; for he had already informed them that he was mad, and so such a one would escape scot-free although he had slain them all. Don Quixote likewise cried out louder, terming them all disloyal men and traitors, and that the lord of the castle was a treacherous and bad knight, seeing that he consented that knights-errant should be so basely used; and that, if he had not yet received the order of knighthood, he would make him understand his treason: ‘But of you base and rascally kennel,’ quoth he, ‘I make no reckoning at all. Throw at me, approach, draw near, and do me all the hurt you may, for you shall ere long perceive the reward you shall carry for this your madness and outrage.’ Which words he spoke with so great spirit and boldness, as he struck a terrible fear into all those that assaulted him; and therefore, moved both by it, and the innkeeper’s persuasions, they left off throwing stones at him, and he permitted them to carry away the wounded men, and returned to the guard of his arms with as great quietness and gravity as he did at the beginning.

  The innkeeper did not like very much these tricks of his guest, and therefore he determined to abbreviate, and give him the unfortunate order of knighthood forthwith, before some other disaster befel. And with this resolution coming unto him, he excused himself of the insolences those base fellows had used to him, without his privity or consent; but their rashness, as he said, remained well chastised. He added how he had already told unto him, that there was no chapel in his castle, and that for what yet rested unperfected of their intention, it was not necessary, because the chief point of remaining knighted consisted chiefly in blows of the neck and shoulders, as he had read in the ceremonial book of the order, and that might be given in the very midst of the fields; and that he had already accomplished the obligation of watching his arms, which with only two hours’ watch might be fulfilled; how much more after having watched four, as he had done. All this Don Quixote believed, and therefore answered, that he was most ready to obey him, and requested him to conclude with all the brevity possible; for if he saw himself knighted, and were once again assaulted, he meant not to leave one person alive in all the castle, except those which the constable should command, whom he would spare for his sake.

  The constable being thus advertised, and fearful that he would put this his deliberation in execution, brought out a book presently, wherein he was wont to write down the accounts of the straw and barley which he delivered from time to time to such carriers as lodged in his inn, for their beasts; and, with a butt of a candle, which a boy held lighted in his hand before him, accompanied by the two damsels above mentioned, he came to Don Quixote, whom he commanded to kneel upon his knees, and, reading in his manual (as it seemed, some devout orison), he held up his hand in the midst of the lecture, and gave him a good blow on the neck, and after that gave him another trim thwack over the shoulders with his own sword, always murmuring something between the teeth, as if he prayed. This being done, he commanded one of the ladies to gird on his sword, which she did with a singular good grace and dexterity, which was much, the matter being of itself so ridiculous, as it wanted but little to make a man burst with laughter at every passage of the ceremonies; but the prowess which they had already beheld in the new knight did limit and contain their delight. At the girding on of his sword, the good lady said, ‘God make you a fortunate knight, and give you good success in all your debates!’ Don Quixote demanded then how she was called, that he might thenceforward know to whom he was so much obliged for the favour received. And she answered, with great buxomness, that she was named Tolosa, and was a butcher’s daughter of Toledo, that dwelt in Sancho Benega’s Street, and that she would ever honour him as her lord. Don Quixote replied, requesting her, for his sake, to call herself from thenceforth the Lady Tolosa, which she promised him to perform. The other lady buckled on his spur, with whom he had the very like conference, and, asking her name, she told him she was called Molinera, and was daughter to an honest miller of Antequera. Her likewise our knight entreated to call herself the Lady Molinera, proffering her new services and favours. The new and never-seen-before ceremonies being thus, speedily finished, as it seemed, with a gallop, Don Quixote could not rest until he was mounted on horseback, that he might go to seek adventures; wherefore, causing Rozinante to be instantly saddled, he leaped on him, and embracing his host, he said unto him such strange things, gratifying the favour he had done him in dubbing him knight, as it is impossible to hit upon the manner of recounting them right. The innkeeper, that he might be quickly rid of him, did answer his words with others no less rhetorical, but was in his speech somewhat briefer; and, without demanding of him anything for his lodging, he suffered him to depart in a fortunate hour.

A Courtship of Twenty Years

Thursday, 25 September 2014

John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill (1806–73). Autobiography.
Vol. 25, pp. 116-120, 149 of The Harvard Classics

John Stuart Mill in his autobiography boldly tells of his love for his friend's wife. After twenty years, she was freed from her first husband and was happily married to John Stuart Mill. Read the account of Mill's courtship.

Chapter VI
Commencement of the Most Valuable Friendship of My Life. My Father’s Death. Writings and Other Proceedings up to 1840

IT was the period of my mental progress which I have now reached that I formed the friendship which has been the honour and chief blessing of my existence, as well as the source of a great part of all that I have attempted to do, or hope to effect hereafter, for human improvement. My first introduction to the lady who, after a friendship of twenty years, consented to become my wife, was in 1830, when I was in my twenty-fifth and she in her twenty-third year. With her husband’s family it was the renewal of an old acquaintanceship. His grandfather lived in the next house to my father’s in Newington Green, and I had sometimes when a boy been invited to play in the old gentleman’s garden. He was a fine specimen of the old Scotch puritan; stern, severe, and powerful, but very kind to children, on whom such men make a lasting impression. Although it was years after my introduction to Mrs. Taylor before my acquaintance with her became at all intimate or confidential, I very soon felt her to be the most admirable person I had ever known. It is not to be supposed that she was, or that any one, at the age at which I first saw her, could be, all that she afterwards became. Least of all could this be true of her, with whom self-improvement, progress in the highest and in all senses, was a law of her nature; a necessity equally from the ardour with which she sought it, and from the spontaneous tendency of faculties which could not receive an impression or an experience without making it the source or the occasion of an accession of wisdom. Up to the time when I first saw her, her rich and powerful nature had chiefly unfolded itself according to the received type of feminine genius. To her outer circle she was a beauty and a wit, with an air of natural distinction, felt by all who approached her: to the inner, a woman of deep and strong feeling, of penetrating and intuitive intelligence, and of an eminently meditative and poetic nature. Married at a very early age, to a most upright, brave, and honourable man, of liberal opinions and good education, but without the intellectual or (3*) artistic tastes which would have made him a companion for her, though a steady and affectionate friend, for whom she had true esteem and the strongest affection through life, and whom she most deeply lamented when dead; shut out by the social disabilities of women from any adequate exercise of her highest faculties in action on the world without; her life was one of inward meditation, varied by familiar intercourse with a small circle of friends, of whom (4*) one only (long since deceased) was a person of genius, or of capacities of feeling or intellect kindred with her own, but all had more or less of alliance with her in sentiments and opinions. Into this circle I had the good fortune to be admitted, and I soon perceived that she possessed in combination, the qualities which in all other persons whom I had known I had been only too happy to find singly. In her, complete emancipation from every kind of superstition (including that which attributes a pretended perfection to the order of nature and the universe), and an earnest protest against many things which are still part of the established constitution of society, resulted not from the hard intellect, but from strength of noble and elevated feeling, and co-existed with a highly reverential nature. In general spiritual characteristics, as well as in temperament and organisation, I have often compared her, as she was at this time, to Shelley: but in thought and intellect, Shelley, so far as his powers were developed in his short life, was but a child compared with what she ultimately became. Alike in the highest regions of speculation and in the smaller practical concerns of daily life, her mind was the same perfect instrument, piercing to the very heart and marrow of the matter; always seizing the essential idea or principle. The same exactness and rapidity of operation, pervading as it did her sensitive as well as her mental faculties, would, with her gifts of feeling and imagination, have fitted her to be a consummate artist, as her fiery and tender soul and her vigorous eloquence would certainly have made her a great orator, and her profound knowledge of human nature and discernment and sagacity in practical life, would, in the times when such a carrière was open to women, have made her eminent among the rulers of mankind. Her intellectual gifts did but minister to a moral character at once the noblest and the best balanced which I have ever met with in life. Her unselfishness was not that of a taught system of duties, but of a heart which thoroughly identified itself with the feelings of others, and often went to excess in consideration for them by imaginatively investing their feelings with the intensity of its own. The passion of justice might have been thought to be her strongest feeling, but for her boundless generosity, and a lovingness ever ready to pour itself forth upon any or all human beings who were capable of giving the smallest feeling in return. The rest of her moral characteristics were such as naturally accompany these qualities of mind and heart: the most genuine modesty combined with the loftiest pride; a simplicity and sincerity which were absolute, towards all who were fit to receive them; the utmost scorn of whatever was mean and cowardly, and a burning indignation at everything brutal or tyrannical, faithless or dishonourable in conduct and character, while making the broadest distinction between mala in se and mere mala prohibita—between acts giving evidence of intrinsic badness in feeling and character, and those which are only violations of conventions either good or bad, violations which whether in themselves right or wrong, are capable of being committed by persons in every other respect lovable or admirable.

Citizens Lured from Their Homes

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Plutarch (A.D. 46?–c.A.D. 120). Plutarch’s Lives.
Vol. 12, pp. 13-23 of The Harvard Classics

When the serpent of Minerva disappeared from her temple, the priests said that the goddess had left Athens for the sea. More­over, the oracles urged the Athenians to seek safety in their ships. Themistocles prompted these deceits. Why?



  Now, though Xerxes had already passed through Doris and invaded the country of Phocis, and was burning and destroying the cities of the Phocians, yet the Greeks sent them no relief; and, though the Athenians earnestly desired them to meet the Persians in Bœotia, before they could come into Attica, as they themselves had some forward by sea at Artemisium, they gave no ear to their request, being wholly intent upon Peloponnesus, and resolved to gather all their forces together within the Isthmus, and to build a wall from sea to sea in that narrow neck of land; so that the Athenians were enraged to see themselves betrayed, and at the same time afflicted and dejected at their own destitution. For to fight alone against such a numerous army was to no purpose, and the only expedient now left them was to leave their city and cling to their ships; which the people were very unwilling to submit to, imagining that it would signify little now to gain a victory, and not understanding how there could be deliverance any longer after they had once forsaken the temples of their gods and exposed the tombs and monuments of their ancestors to the fury of their enemies.

Dying Concerns Every Man

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Michel de Montaigne

Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-1592), That to Philosophise Is to Learne How to Die.
Vol. 32, pp. 9-22 of The Harvard Classics

The Romans made an art of dying. The Egyptians looked on death with complacency. Moderns fear it. Montaigne argues that the purpose of philosophy is to teach men how to die.

CICERO saith, that to Philosophise is no other thing than for a man to prepare himselfe to death: which is the reason that studie and contemplation doth in some sort withdraw our soule from us, and severally employ it from the body, which is a kind of apprentisage and resemblance of death; or else it is, that all the wisdome and discourse of the world, doth in the end resolve upon this point, to teach us not to feare to die. Truly either reason mockes us, or it only aimeth at our contentment, and in fine, bends all her travell to make us live well, and as the holy Scripture saith, “at our ease.” All the opinions of the world conclude, that pleasure is our end, howbeit they take divers meanes unto and for it, else would men reject them at their first coming. For who would give eare unto him, that for it’s end would establish our paine and disturbance? The dissentions of philosophicall sects in this case are verbal: Transcurramus solertissimas nugas; 1 “Let us run over such over-fine fooleries and subtill trifles.” There is more wilfulnesse and wrangling among them, than pertains to a sacred profession. But what person a man undertakes to act, he doth ever therewithall personate his owne. Allthough they say, that in vertue it selfe, the last scope of our aime is voluptuousnes. It pleaseth me to importune their eares still with this word, which so much offends their hearing. And if it imply any chief pleasure or exceeding contentments, it is rather due to the assistance of vertue, than to any other supply, voluptuousnes being more strong, sinnowie, sturdie, and manly, is but more seriously voluptuous. And we should give it the name of pleasure, more favorable, sweeter, and more naturall; and not terme it vigor, from which it hath his denomination. Should this baser sensuality deserve this faire name, it should be by competencie, and not by privilege. I finde it lesse void of incommodities and crosses than vertue. And besides that, her taste is more fleeting, momentarie, and fading, she hath her fasts, her eyes, and her travels, 2 and both sweat and bloud. Furthermore she hath particularly so many wounding passions, and of so severall sorts, and so filthie and loathsome a societie waiting upon her, that she is equivalent to penitencie. Wee are in the wrong, to thinke her incommodities serve her as a provocation and seasoning to her sweetness, as in nature one contrarie is vivified by another contrarie: and to say, when we come to vertue, that like successes and difficulties overwhelme it, and yeeld it austere and inaccessible. Whereas much more properly then unto voluptuousnes, they ennobled, sharpen, animate, and raise that divine and perfect pleasure, which it meditates and procureth us. Truly he is verie unworthie her acquaintance, that counter-ballanceth her cost to his fruit, and knowes neither the graces nor use of it. Those who go about to instruct us, how her pursuit is very hard and laborious, and her jovisance 3 well-pleasing and delightfull: what else tell they us, but that shee is ever unpleasant and irksome? For, what humane meane 4 did ever attaine unto an absolute enjoying of it? The perfectest have beene content but to aspire and approach her, without ever possessing her. But they are deceived; seeing that of all the pleasures we know, the pursute of them is pleasant. The enterprise is perceived by the qualitie of the thing, which it hath regard unto: for it is a good portion of the effect, and consubstantiall. That happiness and felicitie, which shineth in vertue, replenisheth her approaches and appurtenances, even unto the first entrance and utmost barre. Now of all the benefits of vertue, the contempt of death is the chiefest, a meane that furnisheth our life with an ease-full tranquillitie, and gives us a pure and amiable taste of it: without which every other voluptuousnes is extinguished. Loe, here the reasons why all rules encounter and agree with this article. And albeit they all leade us with a common accord to despise griefe, povertie, and other accidentall crosses, to which man’s life is subject, it is not with an equall care: as well because accidents are not of such a necessitie, for most men passe their whole life without feeling any want or povertie, and othersome without feeling any griefe or sickness, as Xenophilus the Musitian, who lived an hundred and six years in perfect and continuall health: as also if the worst happen, death may at all times, and whensoever it shall please us, cut off all other inconveniences and crosses. But as for death, it is inevitable.

Omnes eodem cogimur, omnium
Versatur urna, serius, ocius
Sors exitura, et nos in æternum
Exilium impositura cymbæ5

All to one place are driv’n, of all
Shak’t is the lot-pot, where-hence shall
Sooner or later drawne lots fall,
And to deaths boat for aye enthrall.

A King for a Souvenir

Monday, 22 September 2014

Jean Froissart (c.1337–1410?). The Chronicles of Froissart.
Vol. 35 pp. 42-53 of The Harvard Classics

In the days when kings rode to battle leading their troops it was possible to make good the boast of the doughboy: "I'll bring you a king for a souvenir."
(Froissart dates Battle of Poitiers, Sept. 22, 1356.)

The Battle of Poitiers
Of the Battle of Poitiers between the Prince of Wales and the French King

WHEN the prince saw that he should have battle and that the cardinal was gone without any peace or truce making, and saw that the French king did set but little store by him, he said then to his men: ‘Now, sirs, though we be but a small company as in regard to the puissance of our enemies, let us not be abashed therefor; for the victory lieth not in the multitude of people, but whereas God will send it;. If it fortune that the journey be ours, we shall be the most honoured people of all the world; and if we die in our right quarrel, I have the king my father and brethren, and also ye have good friends and kinsmen; these shall revenge us. Therefore, sirs, for God’s sake I require you do your devoirs this day; for if God be pleased and Saint George, this day ye shall see me a good knight.’ These words and such other that the prince spake comforted all his people. The lord sir John Chandos that day never went from the prince, nor also the lord James Audley of a great season; but when he saw that they should needs fight, he said to the prince: ‘Sir, I have served always truly my lord your father and you also, and shall do as long as I live. I say this because I made once a vow that the first battle that other the king your father or any of his children should be at, how that I would be one of the first setters on, 1 or else to die in the pain: therefore I require your grace, as in reward for any service that ever I did to the king your father or to you, that you will give me licence to depart from you and to set myself thereas I may accomplish my vow.’ The prince accorded to his desire and said, ‘Sir James, God give you this day that grace to be the best knight of all other,’ and so took him by the hand. Then the knight departed from the prince and went to the foremost front of all the battles, all only accompanied with four squires, who promised not to fail him. This lord James was a right sage and a valiant knight, and by him was much of the host ordained and governed the day before. Thus sir James was in front of the battle ready to fight with the battle of the marshals of France. In like wise the lord Eustace d’Aubrecicourt did his pain to be one of the foremost to set on. When sir James Audley began to set forward to his enemies, it fortuned to sir Eustace d’Aubrecicourt as ye shall hear after. Ye have heard before how the Almains in the French host were appointed to be still a-horseback. Sir Eustace being a-horseback laid his spear in the rest and ran into the French battle, and then a knight of Almaine, called the lord Louis of Recombes, who bare a shield silver, five roses gules, and sir Eustace bare ermines, two branches of gules, 
2 —when this Almain saw the lord Eustace come from his company, he rode against him and they met so rudely, that both knights fell to the earth. The Almain was hurt in the shoulder, therefore he rose not so quickly as did sir Eustace, who when he was up and had taken his breath, he came to the other knight as he lay on the ground; but then five other knights of Almaine came on him all at once and bare him to the earth, and so perforce there he was taken prisoner and brought to the earl of Nassau, who as then took not heed of him; and I cannot say whether they sware him prisoner or no, but they tied him to a chare and there let him stand. 3

Æneas and the Old Witch

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Virgil reading the Aenid to Augustus and Octavia

Vergil (70 B.C.–19 B.C.). Æneid.
Vol. 13, pp. 207-218 of The Harvard Classics

The Sybil, an old witch, personally conducts Æneas through the gate and into the jaws of hell, where terrors abound on every hand and frightful mysterious forms rule. There he is told of the greatness and glory that was to come.
(Virgil died Sept. 21, 19 B. C.)

The Sixth Book of the Æneis

THE ARGUMENT.—The Sibyl foretells Æneas the adventures he should meet with in Italy. She attends him to hell; describing to him the various scenes of that place, and conducting him to his father Anchises, who instructs him in those sublime mysteries of the soul of the world, and the transmigration; and shews him that glorious race of heroes which was to descend from him, and his posterity.

HE said, and wept; then spread his sails before
The winds, and reach’d at length the Cumæan shore:
Their anchors dropp’d, his crew the vessels moor.
They turn their heads to sea, their sterns to land,
And greet with greedy joy th’ Italian strand.
Some strike from clashing flints their fiery seed;
Some gather sticks, the kindled flames to feed,
Or search for hollow trees, and fell the woods,
Or trace thro’ valleys the discover’d floods.

Women's Rights in the Harem

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Chapters from the Koran.
Vol. 45, pp. 967-974 of The Harvard Classics

The Koran defines the powers of a husband over his wives. Thus a woman unfaithful to her lord may be walled up alive.
(Mohammed arrives at Kuba after "The Flight," Sept. 20, 622.)

Medina Suras
The Chapter of Women

  IN the name of the merciful and compassionate God.

  O ye folk! fear your Lord, who created you from one soul, and created therefrom its mate, and diffused from them twain many men and women. And fear God, in whose name ye beg of one another, and the wombs; verily, God over you doth watch. 1

  And give unto the orphans their property, and give them not the vile in exchange for the good, and devour not their property to your own property; verily, that were a great sin. But if ye fear that ye cannot do justice between orphans, then marry what seems good to you of women, by twos, or threes, or fours; and if ye fear that ye cannot be equitable, then only one, or what your right hands possess. 2 That keeps you nearer to not being partial.

Humor That Survived Slavery

Friday, 19 September 2014

Miguel de Cervantes

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616). Don Quixote, Part 1.
Vol. 14, pp. 48-54 of The Harvard Classics

Held as a Moorish slave for five years, Cervantes was submitted to almost daily tortures. But even the horrors of slavery could not dull his sense of humor, as evinced by his most witty and amusing novel.
(Cervantes ransomed from slavery, Sept. 19, 1580.)

The First Part
VI. Of the Pleasant and Curious Search Made by the Curate and the Barber of Don Quixote’s Library

WHO slept yet soundly. The curate sought for the keys of the library, the only authors of his harm, which the gentleman’s niece gave unto him very willingly. All of them entered into it, and among the rest of the old woman; wherein they found more than a hundred great volumes, and those very well bound, besides the small ones. And as soon as the old woman had seen them, she departed very hastily out of the chamber, and eftsoons returned with as great speed, with a holy-water pot and a sprinkler in her hand, and said: ‘Hold, master licentiate, and sprinkle this chamber all about, lest there should lurk in it some one enchanter of the many which these books contain, and cry quittance with us for the penalties we mean to inflict on these books, by banishing them out of the world.’ The simplicity of the good old woman caused the licentiate to laugh: who commanded the barber to fetch him down the books from their shelves, one by one, that he might peruse their arguments; for it might happen some to be found which in no sort deserved to be chastised with fire. ‘No,’ replied the niece, ‘no; you ought not to pardon any of them, seeing they have all been offenders: it is better you throw them all into the base-court, and there make a pile of them, and then set them a-fire; if not, they may be carried into the yard, and there make a bonfire of them, and the smoke will offend nobody.’ The old woman said as much, both of them thirsted so much for the death of these innocents; but the curate would not condescend thereto until he had first read the titles, at the least, of every book.

Home After Storms and Adventures

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Richard Henry Dana, Jr.

Richard Henry Dana, Jr. (1815–1882). Two Years before the Mast.
Vol. 23, pp. 348-356 of The Harvard Classics

Every sight was full of beauty. We were coming back to our homes, and the signs of civilization from which we had been so long banished - " wrote Dana, as his ship entered Boston Harbor.
(Dana returns from two-year voyage, Sept. 18, 1836.)

Chapter XXXVI
Soundings—Sights from Home—Boston Harbor—Leaving the Ship

FRIDAY, SEPT. 16TH. Lat. 38š N., long. 69š 00' W. A fine south-west wind; every hour carrying us nearer in toward land. All hands on deck at the dog watch, and nothing
talked about, but our getting in; where we should make the land; whether we should arrive before Sunday; going to church; how Boston would look; friends; wages paid;—and the like. Every one was in the best of spirits; and, the voyage being nearly at an end, the strictness of discipline was relaxed; for it was not necessary to order in a cross tone, what every one was ready to do with a will. The little differences and quarrels which a long voyage breeds on board a ship, were forgotten, and every one was friendly; and two men, who had been on the eve of a battle half the voyage, were laying out a plan together for a cruise on shore. When the mate came forward, he talked to the men, and said we should be on George’s Bank before to-morrow noon; and joked with the boys, promising to go and see them, and to take them down to Marble, head in a coach.

Romance on a New England Farm

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

John Greenleaf Whittier

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892), Selected Poems.
Vol. 42, pp. 1351-1364 of The Harvard Classics

For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: 'It might have been.'" On this theme Whittier based the story of a fair farmer girl and a rich judge.
(Whittier died Sept. 17, 1892.)

Maud Muller

MAUD MULLER on a summer’s day
Raked the meadow sweet with hay.

Beneath her torn hat glowed the wealth
Of simple beauty and rustic health.

Singing, she wrought, and her merry glee
The mock-bird echoed from his tree.

But when she glanced to the far-off town,
White from its hill-slope looking down,

The sweet song died, and a vague unrest
And a nameless longing filled her breast,—

A wish that she hardly dared to own,
For something better than she had known.

Penalty for Silence

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

A Description of Elizabethan England.
Vol. 35, pp. 363-370 of The Harvard Classics

"Such felons as stand mute [do not confess] are pressed to death by huge weights laid upon a board that lieth over their breast and a sharp stone under their backs." Old English punishments, recorded by Holinshed, make startling reading.

Chapter XVII
Of Sundry Kinds of Punishment Appointed for Offenders
[1577, Book III., Chapter 6; 1587, Book II., Chapter 2.]

IN cases of felony, manslaughter, robbery, murder, rape, piracy, and such capital crimes as are not reputed for treason or hurt of the estate, our sentence pronounced upon the offender is, to hang till he be dead. For of other punishments used in other countries we have no knowledge or use; and yet so few grievous crimes committed with us as elsewhere in the world. To use torment also or question by pain and torture in these common cases with us is greatly abhorred, since we are found always to be such as despise death, and yet abhor to be tormented, choosing rather frankly to open our minds than to yield our bodies unto such servile haulings and tearings as are used in other countries. And this is one cause wherefore our condemned persons do go so cheerfully to their deaths; for our nation is free, stout, haughty, prodigal of life and blood, as Sir Thomas Smith saith, lib. 2, cap. 25, De Republica, and therefore cannot in any wise digest to be used as villains and slaves, in suffering continually beating, servitude, and servile torments. No, our gaolers are guilty of felony, by an old law of the land, if they torment any prisoner committed to their custody for the revealing of his accomplices.

Refused to Serve Three Terms

Monday, 15 September 2014

George Washington

Washington’s Farewell Address (1796)
Vol. 43, pp. 233-249 of The Harvard Classics

George Washington retired to private life in 1796, entrusting "the preservation of the Union" to the "love of liberty." His last appeal is a vital message to American citizens, as pertinent today as when he penned it.
(George Washington published "Farewell Address," Sept. 15, 1796.)

[Washington refused to be a candidate for a third term of the Presidency; and in May, 1796, he sent to Hamilton a rough draft of his farewell address, asking for his criticism. After much revision by both the document was published on Sept. 19, and was read to the House of Representatives. The advice contained in it has ever since exercised a profound influence on the policy of the nation.]

Friends and Fellow-Citizens:

THE PERIOD for a new election of a Citizen, to administer the Executive Government of the United States, being not far distant, and the time actually arrived, when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person, who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprize you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those, out of whom a choice is to be made.

Dante and St. Peter

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Dante Alighieri

Dante Alighieri (1265–1321). The Divine Comedy.
Vol. 20, pp. 387-395 of The Harvard Classics

Dante, having journeyed through Hell and Purgatory, comes at last to St. Peter on his throne. St. Peter calls for the aid of St. James and St. John before passing final judgment on Dante's righteousness.
(Dante died Sept. 14, 1321.)

Inferno [Hell]

Canto XXIV

ARGUMENT.—Under the escort of his faithful master, Dante not without difficulty makes his way out of the sixth gulf; and in the seventh, sees the robbers tormented by venomous and pestilent serpents. The soul of Vanni Fucci, who had pillaged the sacristy of St. James in Pistoia, predicts some calamities that impended over that city, and over the Florentines.

IN the year’s early nonage, 1 when the sun
Tempers his tresses in Aquarius’ urn,
And now toward equal day the nights recede;
Whenas the rime upon the earth puts on
Her dazzling sister’s image, but not long
Her milder sway endures; then riseth up
The village hind, whom fails his wintry store,
And looking out beholds the plain around
All whiten’d; whence impatiently he smites
His thighs, and to his hut returning in,
There paces to and fro, wailing his lot,
As a discomfited and helpless man;
Then comes he forth again, and feels new hope
Spring in his bosom, finding e’en thus soon
The world hath changed its countenance, grasps his crook,
And forth to pasture drives his little flock:
So me my guide dishearten’d, when I saw
His troubled forehead; and so speedily
That ill was cured; for at the fallen bridge
Arriving, toward me with a look as sweet,
He turn’d him back, as that I first beheld
At the steep mountain’s foot. Regarding well
The ruin, and some counsel first maintain’d
With his own thought, he opened wide his arm
And took me up. As one, who, while he works,
Computes his labor’s issue, that he seems
Still to foresee the effect; so lifting me
Up to the summit of one peak, he fix’d
His eye upon another. “Grapple that,”
Said he, “but first make proof, if it be such
As will sustain thee.” For one capt with lead
This were no journey. Scarcely he, though light,
And I, though onward push’d from crag to crag,
Could mount. And if the precinct of this coast
Were not less ample than the last, for him
I know not, but my strength had surely fail’d.
But Malebolge all toward the mouth
Inclining of the nethermost abyss,
The site of every valley hence requires,
That one side upward slope, the other fall.
  At length the point from whence the utmost stone
Juts down, we reach’d; soon as to that arrived,
So was the breath exhausted from my lungs
I could no further, but did seat me there.

Good That Came from a Game Pit

Saturday, 13 September 2014

John Bunyan (1628–1688). The Pilgrim’s Progress.
Vol. 15, pp. 13-23 of The Harvard Classics

From cockfighting, bear baiting, and like sports, the wife of John Bunyan converted him to a life of humility and reverence. While imprisoned for preaching, he used his idle time in writing a fantastic story of a soul's salvation - probably the most famous allegory ever written.
(John Bunyan liberated and pardoned, Sept. 13, 1672.)

The Pilgrim’s Progress, in the Similitude of a Dream; The First Part

AS I walk’d through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a Den, and I laid me down in that place to sleep; and as I slept, I dreamed a Dream. I dreamed, and behold I saw a Man cloathed with Rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a Book in his hand, and a great Burden upon his back. I looked, and saw him open the Book, and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled; and not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry, saying What shall I do?

Love Letters of Elizabeth Browning

Friday, 12 September 2014

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861), Sonnets from the Portuguese.
Vol. 41, pp. 923-932 of The Harvard Classics

In all literary history there is no happier love story than that of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. During their secret courtship Miss Barrett sent Browning many beautiful love letters written in verse.
(Browning married Elizabeth Barrett, Sept. 12, 1846.)


THOUGHT once how Theocritus had sung
Of the sweet years, the dear and wished-for years,
Who each one in a gracious hand appears
To bear a gift for mortals, old or young:
And, as I mused it in its antique tongue,
I saw, in gradual vision through my tears,
The sweet, sad years, the melancholy years,
Those of my own life, who by turns had flung
A shadow across me. Straightway I was ’ware,
So weeping, how a mystic Shape did move
Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair;
And a voice said in mastery, while I strove,—
“Guess now who holds thee?”—“Death,” I said. But, there,
The silver answer rang,—“Not Death, but Love.”

Wages - Why and How Much?

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Adam Smith

Adam Smith. (1723–1790). Wealth of Nations.
Vol. 10, pp. 66-74 of The Harvard Classics

What regulates wages, on what do they depend? Adam Smith, world's authority on economic problems, advances his theories on these matters.

Book I
VIII. Of the Wages of Labour

THE PRODUCE of labour constitutes the natural recompence or wages of labour.

  In that original state of things, which precedes both the appropriation of land and the accumulation of stock, the whole produce of labour belongs to the labourer. He has neither landlord nor master to share with him.

Famous Poet-Physician

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809–1894), Selected Poems.
Vol. 42, pp. 1365-1370 of The Harvard Classics

One of America's famous New Englanders, Oliver Wendell Holmes, devoted his life principally to medicine. His name, however, was made famous through his poem, "Old Ironsides," by which he saved America's most famous battleship from de­struction when her fighting days were ended.

The Chambered Nautilus

THIS is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
        Sails the unshadowed main,—
        The venturous bark that flings
    On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
    In gulfs enchanted, where the siren sings,
        And coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.

When Nature Beckons

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson. (1803–1882), Nature.
Vol. 5, pp. 223-230 of The Harvard Classics

"There are days during the year," says Emerson, "when the world of nature reaches perfection." Can anyone escape this call, especially in the glorious Indian Summer?
(Emerson retires from the ministry, Sept. 9, 1832.)

The rounded world is fair to see,
Nine time folded in mystery:
Though baffled seers cannot impart
The secret of its laboring heart,
Throb thine with Nature’s throbbing breast,
And all is clear from east to west,
Spirit that lurks each form within
Beckons to spirit of its kin;
Self-kindled every atom glows,
And hints the future which it owes.

THERE are days which occur in this climate, at almost any season of the year, wherein the world reaches its perfection, when the air, the heavenly bodies, and the earth, make a harmony, as if nature would indulge her offspring; when, in these bleak upper sides of the planet, nothing is to desire that we have heard of the happiest latitudes, and we bask in the shining hours of Florida and Cuba; when everything that has life gives sign of satisfaction, and the cattle that lie on the ground seem to have great and tranquil thoughts. These halcyons may be looked for with a little more assurance in that pure October weather, which we distinguish by the name of the Indian Summer. The day, immeasurably long, sleeps over the broad hills and warm wide fields. To have lived through all its sunny hours, seems longevity enough. The solitary places do not seem quite lonely. At the gates of the forest, the surprised man of the world is forced to leave his city estimates of great and small, wise and foolish. The knapsack of custom falls off his back with the first step he makes into these precincts. Here is sanctity which shames our religions, and reality which discredits our heroes. Here we find nature to be the circumstance which dwarfs every other circumstance, and judges like a god all men that come to her. We have crept out of our close and crowded houses into the night and morning, and we see what majestic beauties daily wrap us in their bosom. How willingly we would escape the barriers which render them comparatively impotent, escape the sophistication and second thought, and suffer nature to entrance us. The tempered light of the woods is like a perpetual morning, and is stimulating and heroic. The anciently reported spells of these places creep on us. The stems of pines, hemlocks, and oaks, almost gleam like iron on the excited eye. The incommunicable trees begin to persuade us to live with them, and quit our life of solemn trifles. Here no history, or church, or state, is interpolated on the divine sky and the immortal year. How easily we might walk onward into the opening landscape, absorbed by new pictures, and by thoughts fast succeeding each other, until by degrees the recollection of home was crowded out of the mind, all memory obliterated by the tyranny of the present, and we were led in triumph by nature.

When Europe Lay Under Ice

Monday, 8 September 2014

Hermann von Helmholtz

Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894), Ice and Glaciers.
Vol. 30, pp. 211-223 of The Harvard Classics

There was a time when the snow fell and did not melt in sum­mer. Then from the frozen north there descended huge masses of ice that covered northern Europe and most of North America. Glaciers reveal a new world to us.
(Helmholtz died Sept. 8, 1894.)

A Lecture Delivered at Frankfort-on-the-Main, and at Heidelberg, in February, 1865
(Translated by Edmund Atkinson)

THE WORLD of ice and of eternal snow, as unfolded to us on the summits of the neighbouring Alpine chain, so stern, so solitary, so dangerous, it may be, has yet its own peculiar charm. Not only does it enchain the attention of the natural philosopher, who finds in it the most wonderful disclosures as to the present and past history of the globe, but every summer it entices thousands of travellers of all conditions, who find there mental and bodily recreation. While some content themselves with admiring from afar the dazzling adornment which the pure, luminous masses of snowy peaks, interposed between the deeper blue of the sky and the succulent green of the meadows, lend to the landscape, others more boldly penetrate into the strange world, willingly subjecting themselves to the most extreme degrees of exertion and danger, if only they may fill themselves with the aspect of its sublimity.

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