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Complete Poetical Works by Bret Harte

Part 5 out of 5

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From lust and rapine. Thou! whose fame
Searchest the grass with tongue of flame,
Making all creatures seem thy game;

When the whole woods before thee run,
Asked but--when all was said and done--
To lie, untrodden, in the sun!



O poor Romancer--thou whose printed page,
Filled with rude speech and ruder forms of strife,
Was given to heroes in whose vulgar rage
No trace appears of gentler ways and life!--

Thou who wast wont of commoner clay to build
Some rough Achilles or some Ajax tall;
Thou whose free brush too oft was wont to gild
Some single virtue till it dazzled all;--

What right hast thou beside this laureled bier
Whereon all manhood lies--whereon the wreath
Of Harvard rests, the civic crown, and here
The starry flag, and sword and jeweled sheath?

Seest thou these hatchments? Knowest thou this blood
Nourished the heroes of Colonial days--
Sent to the dim and savage-haunted wood
Those sad-eyed Puritans with hymns of praise?

Look round thee! Everywhere is classic ground.
There Greylock rears. Beside yon silver "Bowl"
Great Hawthorne dwelt, and in its mirror found
Those quaint, strange shapes that filled his poet's soul.

Still silent, Stranger? Thou who now and then
Touched the too credulous ear with pathos, canst not speak?
Hast lost thy ready skill of tongue and pen?
What, Jester! Tears upon that painted cheek?

Pardon, good friends! I am not here to mar
His laureled wreaths with this poor tinseled crown--
This man who taught me how 'twas better far
To be the poem than to write it down.

I bring no lesson. Well have others preached
This sword that dealt full many a gallant blow;
I come once more to touch the hand that reached
Its knightly gauntlet to the vanquished foe.

O pale Aristocrat, that liest there,
So cold, so silent! Couldst thou not in grace
Have borne with us still longer, and so spare
The scorn we see in that proud, placid face?

"Hail and farewell!" So the proud Roman cried
O'er his dead hero. "Hail," but not "farewell."
With each high thought thou walkest side by side;
We feel thee, touch thee, know who wrought the spell!


Did I ever tell you, my dears, the way
That the birds of Cisseter--"Cisseter!" eh?
Well "Ciren-cester"--one OUGHT to say,
From "Castra," or "Caster,"
As your Latin master
Will further explain to you some day;
Though even the wisest err,
And Shakespeare writes "Ci-cester,"
While every visitor
Who doesn't say "Cissiter"
Is in "Ciren-cester" considered astray.

A hundred miles from London town--
Where the river goes curving and broadening down
From tree-top to spire, and spire to mast,
Till it tumbles outright in the Channel at last--
A hundred miles from that flat foreshore
That the Danes and the Northmen haunt no more--
There's a little cup in the Cotswold hills
Which a spring in a meadow bubbles and fills,
Spanned by a heron's wing--crossed by a stride--
Calm and untroubled by dreams of pride,
Guiltless of Fame or ambition's aims,
That is the source of the lordly Thames!
Remark here again that custom contemns
Both "Tames" and Thames--you must SAY "Tems!"
But WHY? no matter!--from them you can see
Cirencester's tall spires loom up o'er the lea.

A. D. Five Hundred and Fifty-two,
The Saxon invaders--a terrible crew--
Had forced the lines of the Britons through;
And Cirencester, half mud and thatch,
Dry and crisp as a tinder match,
Was fiercely beleaguered by foes, who'd catch
At any device that could harry and rout
The folk that so boldly were holding out.

For the streets of the town--as you'll see to-day--
Were twisted and curved in a curious way
That kept the invaders still at bay;
And the longest bolt that a Saxon drew
Was stopped ere a dozen of yards it flew,
By a turn in the street, and a law so true
That even these robbers--of all laws scorners!--
Knew you couldn't shoot arrows AROUND street corners.

So they sat them down on a little knoll,
And each man scratched his Saxon poll,
And stared at the sky, where, clear and high,
The birds of that summer went singing by,
As if, in his glee, each motley jester
Were mocking the foes of Cirencester,
Till the jeering crow and the saucy linnet
Seemed all to be saying: "Ah! you're not in it!"

High o'er their heads the mavis flew,
And the "ouzel-cock so black of hue;"
And the "throstle," with his "note so true"
(You remember what Shakespeare says--HE knew);
And the soaring lark, that kept dropping through
Like a bucket spilling in wells of blue;
And the merlin--seen on heraldic panes--
With legs as vague as the Queen of Spain's;

And the dashing swift that would ricochet
From the tufts of grasses before them, yet--
Like bold Antaeus--would each time bring
New life from the earth, barely touched by his wing;
And the swallow and martlet that always knew
The straightest way home. Here a Saxon churl drew
His breath--tapped his forehead--an idea had got through!

So they brought them some nets, which straightway they filled
With the swallows and martlets--the sweet birds who build
In the houses of man--all that innocent guild
Who sing at their labor on eaves and in thatch--
And they stuck on their feathers a rude lighted match
Made of resin and tow. Then they let them all go
To be free! As a child-like diversion? Ah, no!
To work Cirencester's red ruin and woe.

For straight to each nest they flew, in wild quest
Of their homes and their fledgelings--that they loved the best;
And straighter than arrow of Saxon e'er sped
They shot o'er the curving streets, high overhead,
Bringing fire and terror to roof tree and bed,
Till the town broke in flame, wherever they came,
To the Briton's red ruin--the Saxon's red shame!

Yet they're all gone together! To-day you'll dig up
From "mound" or from "barrow" some arrow or cup.
Their fame is forgotten--their story is ended--
'Neath the feet of the race they have mixed with and blended.
But the birds are unchanged--the ouzel-cock sings,
Still gold on his crest and still black on his wings;
And the lark chants on high, as he mounts to the sky,
Still brown in his coat and still dim in his eye;
While the swallow or martlet is still a free nester
In the eaves and the roofs of thrice-built Cirencester.


When I bought you for a song,
Years ago--Lord knows how long!--
I was struck--I may be wrong--
By your features,
And--a something in your air
That I couldn't quite compare
To my other plain or fair
Fellow creatures.

In your simple, oval frame
You were not well known to fame,
But to me--'twas all the same--
Whoe'er drew you;
For your face I can't forget,
Though I oftentimes regret
That, somehow, I never yet
Saw quite through you.

Yet each morning, when I rise,
I go first to greet your eyes;
And, in turn, YOU scrutinize
My presentment.
And when shades of evening fall,
As you hang upon my wall,
You're the last thing I recall
With contentment.

It is weakness, yet I know
That I never turned to go
Anywhere, for weal or woe,
But I lingered
For one parting, thrilling flash
From your eyes, to give that dash
To the curl of my mustache,
That I fingered.

If to some you may seem plain,
And when people glance again
Where you hang, their lips refrain.
From confession;
Yet they turn in stealth aside,
And I note, they try to hide
How much they are satisfied
In expression.

Other faces I have seen;
Other forms have come between;
Other things I have, I ween,
Done and dared for!
But OUR ties they cannot sever,
And, though I should say it never,
You're the only one I ever
Really cared for!

And you'll still be hanging there
When we're both the worse for wear,
And the silver's on my hair
And off your backing;
Yet my faith shall never pass
In my dear old shaving-glass,
Till my face and yours, alas!
Both are lacking!



June 4th! Do you know what that date means?
June 4th! By this air and these pines!
Well,--only you know how I hate scenes,--
These might be my very last lines!
For perhaps, sir, you'll kindly remember--
If some OTHER things you've forgot--
That you last wrote the 4th of DECEMBER,--
Just six months ago I--from this spot;

From this spot, that you said was "the fairest
For once being held in my thought."
Now, really I call that the barest
Of--well, I won't say what I ought!
For here I am back from my "riches,"
My "triumphs," my "tours," and all that;
And YOU'RE not to be found in the ditches
Or temples of Poverty Flat!

From Paris we went for the season
To London, when pa wired, "Stop."
Mama says "his HEALTH" was the reason.
(I've heard that some things took a "drop.")
But she said if my patience I'd summon
I could go back with him to the Flat--
Perhaps I was thinking of some one
Who of me--well--was not thinking THAT!

Of course you will SAY that I "never
Replied to the letter you wrote."
That is just like a man! But, however,
I read it--or how could I quote?
And as to the stories you've heard (No,
Don't tell me you haven't--I know!),
You'll not believe one blessed word, Joe;
But just whence they came, let them go!

And they came from Sade Lotski of Yolo,
Whose father sold clothes on the Bar--
You called him Job-lotski, you know, Joe,
And the boys said HER value was par.
Well, we met her in Paris--just flaring
With diamonds, and lost in a hat
And she asked me "how Joseph was faring
In his love-suit on Poverty Flat!"

She thought it would shame me! I met her
With a look, Joe, that made her eyes drop;
And I said that your "love-suit fared better
Than any suit out of THEIR shop!"
And I didn't blush THEN--as I'm doing
To find myself here, all alone,
And left, Joe, to do all the "sueing"
To a lover that's certainly flown.

In this brand-new hotel, called "The Lily"
(I wonder who gave it that name?)
I really am feeling quite silly,
To think I was once called the same;
And I stare from its windows, and fancy
I'm labeled to each passer-by.
Ah! gone is the old necromancy,
For nothing seems right to my eye.

On that hill there are stores that I knew not;
There's a street--where I once lost my way;
And the copse where you once tied my shoe-knot
Is shamelessly open as day!
And that bank by the spring--I once drank there,
And you called the place Eden, you know;
Now I'm banished like Eve--though the bank there
Is belonging to "Adams and Co."

There's the rustle of silk on the sidewalk;
Just now there passed by a tall hat;
But there's gloom in this "boom" and this wild talk
Of the "future" of Poverty Flat.
There's a decorous chill in the air, Joe,
Where once we were simple and free;
And I hear they've been making a mayor, Joe,
Of the man who shot Sandy McGee.

But there's still the "lap, lap" of the river;
There's the song of the pines, deep and low.
(How my longing for them made me quiver
In the park that they call Fontainebleau!)
There's the snow-peak that looked on our dances,
And blushed when the morning said, "Go!"
There's a lot that remains which one fancies--
But somehow there's never a Joe!

Perhaps, on the whole, it is better,
For you might have been changed like the rest;
Though it's strange that I'm trusting this letter
To papa, just to have it addressed.
He thinks he may find you, and really
Seems kinder now I'm all alone.
You might have been here, Joe, if merely
To LOOK what I'm willing to OWN.

Well, well! that's all past; so good-night, Joe;
Good-night to the river and Flat;
Good-night to what's wrong and what's right, Joe;
Good-night to the past, and all that--
To Harrison's barn, and its dancers;
To the moon, and the white peak of snow;
And good-night to the canyon that answers
My "Joe!" with its echo of "No!"

P. S.

I've just got your note. You deceiver!
How dared you--how COULD you? Oh, Joe!
To think I've been kept a believer
In things that were six months ago!
And it's YOU'VE built this house, and the bank, too,
And the mills, and the stores, and all that!
And for everything changed I must thank YOU,
Who have "struck it" on Poverty Flat!

How dared you get rich--you great stupid!--
Like papa, and some men that I know,
Instead of just trusting to Cupid
And to me for your money? Ah, Joe!
Just to think you sent never a word, dear,
Till you wrote to papa for consent!
Now I know why they had me transferred here,
And "the health of papa"--what THAT meant!

Now I know why they call this "The Lily;"
Why the man who shot Sandy McGee
You made mayor! 'Twas because--oh, you silly!--
He once "went down the middle" with me!
I've been fooled to the top of my bent here,
So come, and ask pardon--you know
That you've still got to get MY consent, dear!
And just think what that echo said--Joe!



Behind the footlights hangs the rusty baize,
A trifle shabby in the upturned blaze
Of flaring gas and curious eyes that gaze.

The stage, methinks, perhaps is none too wide,
And hardly fit for royal Richard's stride,
Or Falstaff's bulk, or Denmark's youthful pride.

Ah, well! no passion walks its humble boards;
O'er it no king nor valiant Hector lords:
The simplest skill is all its space affords.

The song and jest, the dance and trifling play,
The local hit at follies of the day,
The trick to pass an idle hour away,--

For these no trumpets that announce the Moor,
No blast that makes the hero's welcome sure,--
A single fiddle in the overture!



"Speak, O man, less recent! Fragmentary fossil!
Primal pioneer of pliocene formation,
Hid in lowest drifts below the earliest stratum
Of volcanic tufa!

"Older than the beasts, the oldest Palaeotherium;
Older than the trees, the oldest Cryptogami;
Older than the hills, those infantile eruptions
Of earth's epidermis!

"Eo--Mio--Plio--whatsoe'er the 'cene' was
That those vacant sockets filled with awe and wonder,--
Whether shores Devonian or Silurian beaches,--
Tell us thy strange story!

"Or has the professor slightly antedated
By some thousand years thy advent on this planet,
Giving thee an air that's somewhat better fitted
For cold-blooded creatures?

"Wert thou true spectator of that mighty forest
When above thy head the stately Sigillaria
Reared its columned trunks in that remote and distant
Carboniferous epoch?

"Tell us of that scene,--the dim and watery woodland,
Songless, silent, hushed, with never bird or insect,
Veiled with spreading fronds and screened with tall club mosses,

"When beside thee walked the solemn Plesiosaurus,
And around thee crept the festive Ichthyosaurus,
While from time to time above thee flew and circled
Cheerful Pterodactyls.

"Tell us of thy food,--those half-marine refections,
Crinoids on the shell and Brachipods au naturel,--
Cuttlefish to which the pieuvre of Victor Hugo
Seems a periwinkle.

"Speak, thou awful vestige of the earth's creation,
Solitary fragment of remains organic!
Tell the wondrous secret of thy past existence,--
Speak! thou oldest primate!"

Even as I gazed, a thrill of the maxilla,
And a lateral movement of the condyloid process,
With post-pliocene sounds of healthy mastication,
Ground the teeth together.

And from that imperfect dental exhibition,
Stained with express juices of the weed nicotian,
Came these hollow accents, blent with softer murmurs
Of expectoration:

"Which my name is Bowers, and my crust was busted
Falling down a shaft in Calaveras County;
But I'd take it kindly if you'd send the pieces
Home to old Missouri!"

* See notes at end.



Where the sturdy ocean breeze
Drives the spray of roaring seas,
That the Cliff House balconies
There, in spite of rain that balked,
With his sandals duly chalked,
Once upon a tight-rope walked
Mr. Cooke.

But the jester's lightsome mien,
And his spangles and his sheen,
All had vanished when the scene
He forsook.
Yet in some delusive hope,
In some vague desire to cope,
ONE still came to view the rope
Walked by Cooke.

Amid Beauty's bright array,
On that strange eventful day,
Partly hidden from the spray,
In a nook,
Stood Florinda Vere de Vere;
Who, with wind-disheveled hair,
And a rapt, distracted air,
Gazed on Cooke.

Then she turned, and quickly cried
To her lover at her side,
While her form with love and pride
Wildly shook:
"Clifford Snook! oh, hear me now!
Here I break each plighted vow;
There's but one to whom I bow,
And that's Cooke!"

Haughtily that young man spoke:
"I descend from noble folk;
'Seven Oaks,' and then 'Se'nnoak,'
Lastly 'Snook,'
Is the way my name I trace.
Shall a youth of noble race
In affairs of love give place
To a Cooke?"

"Clifford Snook, I know thy claim
To that lineage and name,
And I think I've read the same
In Horne Tooke;
But I swear, by all divine,
Never, never, to be thine,
Till thou canst upon yon line
Walk like Cooke."

Though to that gymnastic feat
He no closer might compete
Than to strike a BALANCE-sheet
In a book;
Yet thenceforward from that day
He his figure would display
In some wild athletic way,
After Cooke.

On some household eminence,
On a clothes-line or a fence,
Over ditches, drains, and thence
O'er a brook,
He, by high ambition led,
Ever walked and balanced,
Till the people, wondering, said,
"How like Cooke!"

Step by step did he proceed,
Nerved by valor, not by greed,
And at last the crowning deed
Misty was the midnight air,
And the cliff was bleak and bare,
When he came to do and dare,
Just like Cooke.

Through the darkness, o'er the flow,
Stretched the line where he should go,
Straight across as flies the crow
Or the rook.
One wild glance around he cast;
Then he faced the ocean blast,
And he strode the cable last
Touched by Cooke.

Vainly roared the angry seas,
Vainly blew the ocean breeze;
But, alas! the walker's knees
Had a crook;
And before he reached the rock
Did they both together knock,
And he stumbled with a shock--
Unlike Cooke!

Downward dropping in the dark,
Like an arrow to its mark,
Or a fish-pole when a shark
Bites the hook,
Dropped the pole he could not save,
Dropped the walker, and the wave
Swift engulfed the rival brave
Of J. Cooke!

Came a roar across the sea
Of sea-lions in their glee,
In a tongue remarkably
Like Chinook;
And the maddened sea-gull seemed
Still to utter, as he screamed,
"Perish thus the wretch who deemed
Himself Cooke!"

But on misty moonlit nights
Comes a skeleton in tights,
Walks once more the giddy heights
He mistook;
And unseen to mortal eyes,
Purged of grosser earthly ties,
Now at last in spirit guise
Outdoes Cooke.

Still the sturdy ocean breeze
Sweeps the spray of roaring seas,
Where the Cliff House balconies
And the maidens in their prime,
Reading of this mournful rhyme,
Weep where, in the olden time,
Walked J. Cooke.


Oh, say, have you seen at the Willows so green--
So charming and rurally true--
A singular bird, with a manner absurd,
Which they call the Australian Emeu?
Have you
Ever seen this Australian Emeu?

It trots all around with its head on the ground,
Or erects it quite out of your view;
And the ladies all cry, when its figure they spy,
"Oh! what a sweet pretty Emeu!
Oh! do
Just look at that lovely Emeu!"

One day to this spot, when the weather was hot,
Came Matilda Hortense Fortescue;
And beside her there came a youth of high name,--
Augustus Florell Montague:
The two
Both loved that wild, foreign Emeu.

With two loaves of bread then they fed it, instead
Of the flesh of the white Cockatoo,
Which once was its food in that wild neighborhood
Where ranges the sweet Kangaroo,
That too
Is game for the famous Emeu!

Old saws and gimlets but its appetite whets,
Like the world-famous bark of Peru;
There's nothing so hard that the bird will discard,
And nothing its taste will eschew
That you
Can give that long-legged Emeu!

The time slipped away in this innocent play,
When up jumped the bold Montague:
"Where's that specimen pin that I gayly did win
In raffle, and gave unto you,
No word spoke the guilty Emeu!

"Quick! tell me his name whom thou gavest that same,
Ere these hands in thy blood I imbrue!"
"Nay, dearest," she cried, as she clung to his side,
"I'm innocent as that Emeu!"
He replied, "Miss M. H. Fortescue!"

Down she dropped at his feet, all as white as a sheet,
As wildly he fled from her view;
He thought 'twas her sin,--for he knew not the pin
Had been gobbled up by the Emeu;
All through
The voracity of that Emeu!



Maud Muller all that summer day
Raked the meadow sweet with hay;

Yet, looking down the distant lane,
She hoped the Judge would come again.

But when he came, with smile and bow,
Maud only blushed, and stammered, "Ha-ow?"

And spoke of her "pa," and wondered whether
He'd give consent they should wed together.

Old Muller burst in tears, and then
Begged that the Judge would lend him "ten;"

For trade was dull, and wages low,
And the "craps," this year, were somewhat slow.

And ere the languid summer died,
Sweet Maud became the Judge's bride.

But on the day that they were mated,
Maud's brother Bob was intoxicated;

And Maud's relations, twelve in all,
Were very drunk at the Judge's hall.

And when the summer came again,
The young bride bore him babies twain;

And the Judge was blest, but thought it strange
That bearing children made such a change;

For Maud grew broad and red and stout,
And the waist that his arm once clasped about

Was more than he now could span; and he
Sighed as he pondered, ruefully,

How that which in Maud was native grace
In Mrs. Jenkins was out of place;

And thought of the twins, and wished that they
Looked less like the men who raked the hay

On Muller's farm, and dreamed with pain
Of the day he wandered down the lane.

And looking down that dreary track,
He half regretted that he came back;

For, had he waited, he might have wed
Some maiden fair and thoroughbred;

For there be women fair as she,
Whose verbs and nouns do more agree.

Alas for maiden! alas for judge!
And the sentimental,--that's one-half "fudge;"

For Maud soon thought the Judge a bore,
With all his learning and all his lore;

And the Judge would have bartered Maud's fair face
For more refinement and social grace.

If, of all words of tongue and pen,
The saddest are, "It might have been,"

More sad are these we daily see:
"It is, but hadn't ought to be."


I have found out a gift for my fair;
I know where the fossils abound,
Where the footprints of Aves declare
The birds that once walked on the ground.
Oh, come, and--in technical speech--
We'll walk this Devonian shore,
Or on some Silurian beach
We'll wander, my love, evermore.

I will show thee the sinuous track
By the slow-moving Annelid made,
Or the Trilobite that, farther back,
In the old Potsdam sandstone was laid;
Thou shalt see, in his Jurassic tomb,
The Plesiosaurus embalmed;
In his Oolitic prime and his bloom,
Iguanodon safe and unharmed.

You wished--I remember it well,
And I loved you the more for that wish--
For a perfect cystedian shell
And a WHOLE holocephalic fish.
And oh, if Earth's strata contains
In its lowest Silurian drift,
Or palaeozoic remains
The same, 'tis your lover's free gift!

Then come, love, and never say nay,
But calm all your maidenly fears;
We'll note, love, in one summer's day
The record of millions of years;
And though the Darwinian plan
Your sensitive feelings may shock,
We'll find the beginning of man,
Our fossil ancestors, in rock!



What was it filled my youthful dreams,
In place of Greek or Latin themes,
Or beauty's wild, bewildering beams?

What visions and celestial scenes
I filled with aerial machines,
Montgolfier's and Mr. Green's!

What fairy tales seemed things of course!
The roc that brought Sindbad across,
The Calendar's own winged horse!

How many things I took for facts,--
Icarus and his conduct lax,
And how he sealed his fate with wax!

The first balloons I sought to sail,
Soap-bubbles fair, but all too frail,
Or kites,--but thereby hangs a tail.

What made me launch from attic tall
A kitten and a parasol,
And watch their bitter, frightful fall?

What youthful dreams of high renown
Bade me inflate the parson's gown,
That went not up, nor yet came down?

My first ascent I may not tell;
Enough to know that in that well
My first high aspirations fell.

My other failures let me pass:
The dire explosions, and, alas!
The friends I choked with noxious gas.

For lo! I see perfected rise
The vision of my boyish eyes,
The messenger of upper skies.



The skies they were ashen and sober,
The streets they were dirty and drear;
It was night in the month of October,
Of my most immemorial year.
Like the skies, I was perfectly sober,
As I stopped at the mansion of Shear,--
At the Nightingale,--perfectly sober,
And the willowy woodland down here.

Here, once in an alley Titanic
Of Ten-pins, I roamed with my soul,--
Of Ten-pins, with Mary, my soul;
They were days when my heart was volcanic,
And impelled me to frequently roll,
And made me resistlessly roll,
Till my ten-strikes created a panic
In the realms of the Boreal pole,--
Till my ten-strikes created a panic
With the monkey atop of his pole.

I repeat, I was perfectly sober,
But my thoughts they were palsied and sear,--
My thoughts were decidedly queer;
For I knew not the month was October,
And I marked not the night of the year;
I forgot that sweet morceau of Auber
That the band oft performed down here,
And I mixed the sweet music of Auber
With the Nightingale's music by Shear.

And now as the night was senescent,
And star-dials pointed to morn,
And car-drivers hinted of morn,
At the end of the path a liquescent
And bibulous lustre was born;
'Twas made by the bar-keeper present,
Who mixed a duplicate horn,--
His two hands describing a crescent
Distinct with a duplicate horn.

And I said: "This looks perfectly regal,
For it's warm, and I know I feel dry,--
I am confident that I feel dry.
We have come past the emeu and eagle,
And watched the gay monkey on high;
Let us drink to the emeu and eagle,
To the swan and the monkey on high,--
To the eagle and monkey on high;
For this bar-keeper will not inveigle,
Bully boy with the vitreous eye,--
He surely would never inveigle,
Sweet youth with the crystalline eye."

But Mary, uplifting her finger,
Said: "Sadly this bar I mistrust,--
I fear that this bar does not trust.
Oh, hasten! oh, let us not linger!
Oh, fly,--let us fly,--are we must!"
In terror she cried, letting sink her
Parasol till it trailed in the dust;
In agony sobbed, letting sink her
Parasol till it trailed in the dust,--
Till it sorrowfully trailed in the dust.

Then I pacified Mary and kissed her,
And tempted her into the room,
And conquered her scruples and gloom;
And we passed to the end of the vista,
But were stopped by the warning of doom,--
By some words that were warning of doom.
And I said, "What is written, sweet sister,
At the opposite end of the room?"
She sobbed, as she answered, "All liquors
Must be paid for ere leaving the room."

Then my heart it grew ashen and sober,
As the streets were deserted and drear,
For my pockets were empty and drear;
And I cried: "It was surely October,
On this very night of last year,
That I journeyed, I journeyed down here,--
That I brought a fair maiden down here,
On this night of all nights in the year!
Ah! to me that inscription is clear;
Well I know now, I'm perfectly sober,
Why no longer they credit me here,--
Well I know now that music of Auber,
And this Nightingale, kept by one Shear."



Lo! where the castle of bold Pfeiffer throws
Its sullen shadow on the rolling tide,--
No more the home where joy and wealth repose,
But now where wassailers in cells abide;
See yon long quay that stretches far and wide,
Well known to citizens as wharf of Meiggs:
There each sweet Sabbath walks in maiden pride
The pensive Margaret, and brave Pat, whose legs
Encased in broadcloth oft keep time with Peg's.

Here cometh oft the tender nursery-maid,
While in her ear her love his tale doth pour;
Meantime her infant doth her charge evade,
And rambleth sagely on the sandy shore,
Till the sly sea-crab, low in ambush laid,
Seizeth his leg and biteth him full sore.
Ah me! what sounds the shuddering echoes bore
When his small treble mixed with Ocean's roar!

Hard by there stands an ancient hostelrie,
And at its side a garden, where the bear,
The stealthy catamount, and coon agree
To work deceit on all who gather there;
And when Augusta--that unconscious fair--
With nuts and apples plieth Bruin free,
Lo! the green parrot claweth her back hair,
And the gray monkey grabbeth fruits that she
On her gay bonnet wears, and laugheth loud in glee!


High on the Thracian hills, half hid in the billows of clover,
Thyme, and the asphodel blooms, and lulled by Pactolian streamlet,
She of Miletus lay, and beside her an aged satyr
Scratched his ear with his hoof, and playfully mumbled his chestnuts.

Vainly the Maenid and the Bassarid gamboled about her,
The free-eyed Bacchante sang, and Pan--the renowned, the
accomplished--Executed his difficult solo. In vain were their
gambols and dances;
High o'er the Thracian hills rose the voice of the shepherdess,

"Ai! for the fleecy flocks, the meek-nosed, the passionless faces;
Ai! for the tallow-scented, the straight-tailed, the high-stepping;
Ai! for the timid glance, which is that which the rustic, sagacious,
Applies to him who loves but may not declare his passion!"

Her then Zeus answered slow: "O daughter of song and sorrow,
Hapless tender of sheep, arise from thy long lamentation!
Since thou canst not trust fate, nor behave as becomes a Greek maiden,
Look and behold thy sheep." And lo! they returned to her tailless!



He wore, I think, a chasuble, the day when first we met;
A stole and snowy alb likewise,--I recollect it yet.
He called me "daughter," as he raised his jeweled hand to bless;
And then, in thrilling undertones, he asked, "Would I confess?"

O mother dear! blame not your child, if then on bended knees
I dropped, and thought of Abelard, and also Eloise;
Or when, beside the altar high, he bowed before the pyx,
I envied that seraphic kiss he gave the crucifix.

The cruel world may think it wrong, perhaps may deem me weak,
And, speaking of that sainted man, may call his conduct "cheek;"
And, like that wicked barrister whom Cousin Harry quotes,
May term his mixed chalice "grog," his vestments "petticoats;"

But, whatsoe'er they do or say, I'll build a Christian's hope
On incense and on altar-lights, on chasuble and cope.
Let others prove, by precedent, the faith that they profess:
"His can't be wrong" that's symbolized by such becoming dress.


If Mr. Jones, Lycurgus B.,
Had one peculiar quality,
'Twas his severe advocacy
Of conjugal fidelity.

His views of heaven were very free;
His views of life were painfully
Ridiculous; but fervently
He dwelt on marriage sanctity.

He frequently went on a spree;
But in his wildest revelry,
On this especial subject he
Betrayed no ambiguity.

And though at times Lycurgus B.
Did lay his hands not lovingly
Upon his wife, the sanctity
Of wedlock was his guaranty.

But Mrs. Jones declined to see
Affairs in the same light as he,
And quietly got a decree
Divorcing her from that L. B.

And what did Jones, Lycurgus B.,
With his known idiosyncrasy?
He smiled,--a bitter smile to see,--
And drew the weapon of Bowie.

He did what Sickles did to Key,--
What Cole on Hiscock wrought, did he;
In fact, on persons twenty-three
He proved the marriage sanctity.

The counselor who took the fee,
The witnesses and referee,
The judge who granted the decree,
Died in that wholesale butchery.

And then when Jones, Lycurgus B.,
Had wiped the weapon of Bowie,
Twelve jurymen did instantly
Acquit and set Lycurgus free.



Oh, come, my beloved, from thy winter abode,
From thy home on the Yuba, thy ranch overflowed;
For the waters have fallen, the winter has fled,
And the river once more has returned to its bed.

Oh, mark how the spring in its beauty is near!
How the fences and tules once more reappear!
How soft lies the mud on the banks of yon slough
By the hole in the levee the waters broke through!

All nature, dear Chloris, is blooming to greet
The glance of your eye and the tread of your feet;
For the trails are all open, the roads are all free,
And the highwayman's whistle is heard on the lea.

Again swings the lash on the high mountain trail,
And the pipe of the packer is scenting the gale;
The oath and the jest ringing high o'er the plain,
Where the smut is not always confined to the grain.

Once more glares the sunlight on awning and roof,
Once more the red clay's pulverized by the hoof,
Once more the dust powders the "outsides" with red,
Once more at the station the whiskey is spread.

Then fly with me, love, ere the summer's begun,
And the mercury mounts to one hundred and one;
Ere the grass now so green shall be withered and sear,
In the spring that obtains but one month in the year.



What was it the Engines said,
Pilots touching,--head to head
Facing on the single track,
Half a world behind each back?
This is what the Engines said,
Unreported and unread.

With a prefatory screech,
In a florid Western speech,
Said the Engine from the WEST:
"I am from Sierra's crest;
And if altitude's a test,
Why, I reckon, it's confessed
That I've done my level best."

Said the Engine from the EAST:
"They who work best talk the least.
S'pose you whistle down your brakes;
What you've done is no great shakes,
Pretty fair,--but let our meeting
Be a different kind of greeting.
Let these folks with champagne stuffing,
Not their Engines, do the PUFFING.

"Listen! Where Atlantic beats
Shores of snow and summer heats;
Where the Indian autumn skies
Paint the woods with wampum dyes,--
I have chased the flying sun,
Seeing all he looked upon,
Blessing all that he has blessed,
Nursing in my iron breast
All his vivifying heat,
All his clouds about my crest;
And before my flying feet
Every shadow must retreat."

Said the Western Engine, "Phew!"
And a long, low whistle blew.
"Come, now, really that's the oddest
Talk for one so very modest.
You brag of your East! YOU do?
Why, I bring the East to YOU!
All the Orient, all Cathay,
Find through me the shortest way;
And the sun you follow here
Rises in my hemisphere.
Really,--if one must be rude,--
Length, my friend, ain't longitude."

Said the Union: "Don't reflect, or
I'll run over some Director."
Said the Central: "I'm Pacific;
But, when riled, I'm quite terrific.
Yet to-day we shall not quarrel,
Just to show these folks this moral,
How two Engines--in their vision--
Once have met without collision."

That is what the Engines said,
Unreported and unread;
Spoken slightly through the nose,
With a whistle at the close.


Beetling walls with ivy grown,
Frowning heights of mossy stone;
Turret, with its flaunting flag
Flung from battlemented crag;
Dungeon-keep and fortalice
Looking down a precipice
O'er the darkly glancing wave
By the Lurline-haunted cave;
Robber haunt and maiden bower,
Home of Love and Crime and Power,--
That's the scenery, in fine,
Of the Legends of the Rhine.

One bold baron, double-dyed
Bigamist and parricide,
And, as most the stories run,
Partner of the Evil One;
Injured innocence in white,
Fair but idiotic quite,
Wringing of her lily hands;
Valor fresh from Paynim lands,
Abbot ruddy, hermit pale,
Minstrel fraught with many a tale,--
Are the actors that combine
In the Legends of the Rhine.

Bell-mouthed flagons round a board;
Suits of armor, shield, and sword;
Kerchief with its bloody stain;
Ghosts of the untimely slain;
Thunder-clap and clanking chain;
Headsman's block and shining axe;
Thumb-screw, crucifixes, racks;
Midnight-tolling chapel bell,
Heard across the gloomy fell,--
These and other pleasant facts
Are the properties that shine
In the Legends of the Rhine.

Maledictions, whispered vows
Underneath the linden boughs;
Murder, bigamy, and theft;
Travelers of goods bereft;
Rapine, pillage, arson, spoil,--
Everything but honest toil,
Are the deeds that best define
Every Legend of the Rhine.

That Virtue always meets reward,
But quicker when it wears a sword;
That Providence has special care
Of gallant knight and lady fair;
That villains, as a thing of course,
Are always haunted by remorse,--
Is the moral, I opine,
Of the Legends of the Rhine.




Affection's charm no longer gilds
The idol of the shrine;
But cold Oblivion seeks to fill
Regret's ambrosial wine.
Though Friendship's offering buried lies
'Neath cold Aversion's snow,
Regard and Faith will ever bloom
Perpetually below.

I see thee whirl in marble halls,
In Pleasure's giddy train;
Remorse is never on that brow,
Nor Sorrow's mark of pain.
Deceit has marked thee for her own;
Inconstancy the same;
And Ruin wildly sheds its gleam
Athwart thy path of shame.


The dews are heavy on my brow;
My breath comes hard and low;
Yet, mother dear, grant one request,
Before your boy must go.
Oh! lift me ere my spirit sinks,
And ere my senses fail,
Place me once more, O mother dear,
Astride the old fence-rail.

The old fence-rail, the old fence-rail!
How oft these youthful legs,
With Alice' and Ben Bolt's, were hung
Across those wooden pegs!
'Twas there the nauseating smoke
Of my first pipe arose:
O mother dear, these agonies
Are far less keen than those.

I know where lies the hazel dell,
Where simple Nellie sleeps;
I know the cot of Nettie Moore,
And where the willow weeps.
I know the brookside and the mill,
But all their pathos fails
Beside the days when once I sat
Astride the old fence-rails.


I'm a gay tra, la, la,
With my fal, lal, la, la,
And my bright--
And my light--
Tra, la, le. [Repeat.]

Then laugh, ha, ha, ha,
And ring, ting, ling, ling,
And sing fal, la, la,
La, la, le. [Repeat.]



It was spring the first time that I saw her, for her papa and mamma
moved in
Next door, just as skating was over, and marbles about to begin;
For the fence in our back yard was broken, and I saw, as I peeped
through the slat,
There were "Johnny-jump-ups" all around her, and I knew it was
spring just by that.

I never knew whether she saw me, for she didn't say nothing to me,
But "Ma! here's a slat in the fence broke, and the boy that is next
door can see."
But the next day I climbed on our wood-shed, as you know Mamma says
I've a right,
And she calls out, "Well, peekin' is manners!" and I answered her,
"Sass is perlite!"

But I wasn't a bit mad, no, Papa, and to prove it, the very next day,
When she ran past our fence in the morning I happened to get in her
For you know I am "chunked" and clumsy, as she says are all boys of
my size,--
And she nearly upset me, she did, Pa, and laughed till tears came in
her eyes.

And then we were friends from that moment, for I knew that she told
Kitty Sage,--
And she wasn't a girl that would flatter--"that she thought I was
tall for my age."
And I gave her four apples that evening, and took her to ride on my
And-- "What am I telling you this for?" Why, Papa, my neighbor is

You don't hear one half I am saying,--I really do think it's too bad!
Why, you might have seen crape on her door-knob, and noticed to-day
I've been sad.
And they've got her a coffin of rosewood, and they say they have
dressed her in white,
And I've never once looked through the fence, Pa, since she died--at
eleven last night.

And Ma says it's decent and proper, as I was her neighbor and friend,
That I should go there to the funeral, and she thinks that YOU ought
to attend;
But I am so clumsy and awkward, I know I shall be in the way,
And suppose they should speak to me, Papa, I wouldn't know just what
to say.

So I think I will get up quite early,--I know I sleep late, but I know
I'll be sure to wake up if our Bridget pulls the string that I'll tie
to my toe;
And I'll crawl through the fence, and I'll gather the "Johnny-jump-ups"
as they grew
Round her feet the first day that I saw her, and, Papa, I'll give
them to you.

For you're a big man, and, you know, Pa, can come and go just where
you choose,
And you'll take the flowers in to her, and surely they'll never
But, Papa, don't SAY they're from Johnny; THEY won't understand,
don't you see?
But just lay them down on her bosom, and, Papa, SHE'LL know they're
from Me.


My Papa knows you, and he says you're a man who makes reading for
But I never read nothing you wrote, nor did Papa,--I know by his
So I guess you're like me when I talk, and I talk, and I talk all
the day,
And they only say, "Do stop that child!" or, "Nurse, take Miss Edith

But Papa said if I was good I could ask you--alone by myself--
If you wouldn't write me a book like that little one up on the shelf.
I don't mean the pictures, of course, for to make THEM you've got to
be smart
But the reading that runs all around them, you know,--just the
easiest part.

You needn't mind what it's about, for no one will see it but me,
And Jane,--that's my nurse,--and John,--he's the coachman,--just
only us three.
You're to write of a bad little girl, that was wicked and bold and
all that;
And then you're to write, if you please, something good--very good--
of a cat!

This cat, she was virtuous and meek, and kind to her parents, and
And careful and neat in her ways, though her mistress was such a bad
And hours she would sit and would gaze when her mistress--that's me--
was so bad,
And blink, just as if she would say, "Oh, Edith! you make my heart

And yet, you would scarcely believe it, that beautiful, angelic cat
Was blamed by the servants for stealing whatever, they said, she'd
get at.
And when John drank my milk,--don't you tell me! I know just the
way it was done,--
They said 'twas the cat,--and she sitting and washing her face in
the sun!

And then there was Dick, my canary. When I left its cage open one
They all made believe that she ate it, though I know that the bird
flew away.
And why? Just because she was playing with a feather she found on
the floor.
As if cats couldn't play with a feather without people thinking
'twas more!

Why, once we were romping together, when I knocked down a vase from
the shelf,
That cat was as grieved and distressed as if she had done it herself;
And she walked away sadly and hid herself, and never came out until
So they say, for they sent ME to bed, and she never came even to me.

No matter whatever happened, it was laid at the door of that cat.
Why, once when I tore my apron,--she was wrapped in it, and I called
Why, they blamed that on HER. I shall never--no, not to my dying
Forget the pained look that she gave me when they slapped ME and
took me away.

Of course, you know just what comes next, when a child is as lovely
as that:
She wasted quite slowly away; it was goodness was killing that cat.
I know it was nothing she ate, for her taste was exceedingly nice;
But they said she stole Bobby's ice cream, and caught a bad cold
from the ice.

And you'll promise to make me a book like that little one up on the
And you'll call her "Naomi," because it's a name that she just gave
For she'd scratch at my door in the morning, and whenever I'd call
out, "Who's there?"
She would answer, "Naomi! Naomi!" like a Christian, I vow and declare.

And you'll put me and her in a book. And mind, you're to say I was
And I might have been badder than that but for the example I had.
And you'll say that she was a Maltese, and--what's that you asked?
"Is she dead?"
Why, please, sir, THERE AIN'T ANY CAT! You're to make one up out of
your head!


"Crying!" Of course I am crying, and I guess you would be crying,
If people were telling such stories as they tell about me, about YOU.
Oh yes, you can laugh if you want to, and smoke as you didn't care
And get your brains softened like uncle's. Dr. Jones says you're
gettin' it now.

Why don't you say "Stop!" to Miss Ilsey? She cries twice as much as
I do,
And she's older and cries just from meanness,--for a ribbon or
anything new.
Ma says it's her "sensitive nature." Oh my! No, I sha'n't stop my
And I don't want no apples nor candy, and I don't want to go take a

I know why you're mad! Yes, I do, now! You think that Miss Ilsey
likes YOU,
And I've heard her REPEATEDLY call you the bold-facest boy that she
And she'd "like to know where you learnt manners." Oh yes! Kick
the table,--that's right!
Spill the ink on my dress, and go then round telling Ma that I look
like a fright!

What stories? Pretend you don't know that they're saying I broke
off the match
Twixt old Money-grubber and Mary, by saying she called him
When the only allusion I made him about sister Mary was, she
Cared more for his cash than his temper, and you know, Jack, you
said that to me.

And it's true! But it's ME, and I'm scolded, and Pa says if I keep
on I might
By and by get my name in the papers! Who cares? Why, 'twas only
last night
I was reading how Pa and the sheriff were selling some lots, and
it's plain
If it's awful to be in the papers, why, Papa would go and complain.

You think it ain't true about Ilsey? Well, I guess I know girls,
and I say
There's nothing I see about Ilsey to show she likes you, anyway!
I know what it means when a girl who has called her cat after one
Goes and changes its name to another's. And she's done it--and I
wish you joy!


Oh, you're the girl lives on the corner? Come in--if you want to--
come quick!
There's no one but me in the house, and the cook--but she's only a
Don't try the front way, but come over the fence--through the
window--that's how.
Don't mind the big dog--he won't bite you--just see him obey me!
there, now!

What's your name? Mary Ellen? How funny! Mine's Edith--it's
nicer, you see;
But yours does for you, for you're plainer, though maybe you're
gooder than me;
For Jack says I'm sometimes a devil, but Jack, of all folks, needn't
For I don't call the seamstress an angel till Ma says the poor thing
must "walk."

Come in! It's quite dark in the parlor, for sister will keep the
blinds down,
For you know her complexion is sallow like yours, but she isn't as
Though Jack says that isn't the reason she likes to sit here with
Jim Moore.
Do you think that he meant that she kissed him? Would you--if your
lips wasn't sore?

If you like, you can try our piano. 'Tain't ours. A man left it
To rent by the month, although Ma says he hasn't been paid for a
Sister plays--oh, such fine variations!--why, I once heard a
gentleman say
That she didn't mind THAT for the music--in fact, it was just in her

Ain't I funny? And yet it's the queerest of all that, whatever I
One half of the folks die a-laughing, and the rest, they all look
t'other way.
And some say, "That child!" Do they ever say that to such people as
Though maybe you're naturally silly, and that makes your eyes so

Now stop--don't you dare to be crying! Just as sure as you live, if
you do,
I'll call in my big dog to bite you, and I'll make my Papa kill you,
And then where'll you be? So play pretty. There's my doll, and a
nice piece of cake.
You don't want it--you think it is poison! Then I'LL eat it, dear,
just for your sake!


Our window's not much, though it fronts on the street;
There's a fly in the pane that gets nothin' to eat;
But it's curious how people think it's a treat
For ME to look out of the window!

Why, when company comes, and they're all speaking low,
With their chairs drawn together, then some one says, "Oh!
Edith dear!--that's a good child--now run, love, and go
And amuse yourself there at the window!"

Or Bob--that's my brother--comes in with his chum,
And they whisper and chuckle, the same words will come.
And it's "Edith, look here! Oh, I say! what a rum
Lot of things you can see from that window!"

And yet, as I told you, there's only that fly
Buzzing round in the pane, and a bit of blue sky,
And the girl in the opposite window, that I
Look at when SHE looks from HER window.

And yet, I've been thinking I'd so like to see
If what goes on behind HER, goes on behind ME!
And then, goodness gracious! what fun it would be
For us BOTH as we sit by our window!

How we'd know when the parcels were hid in a drawer,
Or things taken out that one never sees more;
What people come in and go out of the door,
That we never see from the window!

And that night when the stranger came home with our Jane
I might SEE what I HEARD then, that sounded so plain--
Like when my wet fingers I rub on the pane
(Which they won't let ME do on my window).

And I'd know why papa shut the door with a slam,
And said something funny that sounded like "jam,"
And then "Edith--where are you?" I said, "Here I am."
"Ah, that's right, dear, look out of the window!"

They say when I'm grown up these things will appear
More plain than they do when I look at them here,
But I think I see some things uncommonly clear,
As I sit and look down from the window.

What things? Oh, the things that I make up, you know,
Out of stories I've read--and they all pass below.
Ali Baba, the Forty Thieves, all in a row,
Go by, as I look from my window.

That's only at church time; other days there's no crowd.
Don't laugh! See that big man who looked up and bowed?
That's our butcher--I call him the Sultan Mahoud
When he nods to me here at the window!

And THAT man--he's our neighbor--just gone for a ride
Has three wives in the churchyard that lie side by side.
So I call him "Bluebeard" in search of his bride,
While I'm Sister Anne at the window.

And what do I call you? Well, here's what I DO:
When my sister expects you, she puts me here, too;
But I wait till you enter, to see if it's you,
And then--I just OPEN the window!

"Dear child!" Yes, that's me! Oh, you ask what that's for?
Well, Papa says you're "Poverty's self," and what's more,
I open the window, when YOU'RE at the door,
To see Love fly out of the window!"



BOBBY, aetat. 3 1/2. JOHNNY, aetat. 4 1/2.


Do you know why they've put us in that back room,
Up in the attic, close against the sky,
And made believe our nursery's a cloak-room?
Do you know why?


No more I don't, nor why that Sammy's mother,
What Ma thinks horrid, 'cause he bunged my eye,
Eats an ice cream, down there, like any other!
No more don't I!


Do you know why Nurse says it isn't manners
For you and me to ask folks twice for pie,
And no one hits that man with two bananas?
Do you know why?


No more I don't, nor why that girl, whose dress is
Off of her shoulders, don't catch cold and die,
When you and me gets croup when WE undresses!
No more don't I!


Perhaps she ain't as good as you and I is,
And God don't want her up there in the sky,
And lets her live--to come in just when pie is--
Perhaps that's why!


Do you know why that man that's got a cropped head
Rubbed it just now as if he felt a fly?
Could it be, Bobby, something that I dropded?
And is that why?


Good boys behaves, and so they don't get scolded,
Nor drop hot milk on folks as they pass by.

JOHNNY (piously)

Marbles would bounce on Mr. Jones' bald head--
But I sha'n't try!


Do you know why Aunt Jane is always snarling
At you and me because we tells a lie,
And she don't slap that man that called her darling?
Do you know why?


No more I don't, nor why that man with Mamma
Just kissed her hand.


She hurt it--and that's why;
He made it well, the very way that Mamma
Does do to I.


I feel so sleepy. . . . Was that Papa kissed us?
What made him sigh, and look up to the sky?


We weren't downstairs, and he and God had missed us,
And that was why!


THE LOST GALLEON. As the custom on which the central incident of
this legend is based may not be familiar to all readers, I will
repeat here that it is the habit of navigators to drop a day from
their calendar in crossing westerly the 180th degree of longitude of
Greenwich, adding a day in coming east; and that the idea of the
lost galleon had an origin as prosaic as the log of the first China
Mail Steamer from San Francisco. The explanation of the custom and
its astronomical relations belongs rather to the usual text-books
than to poetical narration. If any reader thinks I have overdrawn
the credulous superstitions of the ancient navigators, I refer him
to the veracious statements of Maldonado, De Fonte, the later
voyages of La Perouse and Anson, and the charts of 1640. In the
charts of that day Spanish navigators reckoned longitude E. 360
degrees from the meridian of the Isle of Ferro. For the sake of
perspicuity before a modern audience, the more recent meridian of
Madrid was substituted. The custom of dropping a day at some
arbitrary point in crossing the Pacific westerly, I need not say,
remains unaffected by any change of meridian. I know not if any
galleon was ever really missing. For two hundred and fifty years an
annual trip was made between Acapulco and Manila. It may be some
satisfaction to the more severely practical of my readers to know
that, according to the best statistics of insurance, the loss during
that period would be exactly three vessels and six hundredths of a
vessel, which would certainly justify me in this summary disposition
of ONE.

THE PLIOCENE SKULL. This extraordinary fossil is in the possession
of Prof. Josiah D. Whitney, of the State Geological Survey of
California. The poem was based on the following paragraph from the
daily press of 1868: "A human skull has been found in California, in
the pliocene formation. This skull is the remnant not only of the
earliest pioneer of this State, but the oldest known human being. . . .
The skull was found in a shaft 150 feet deep, two miles from Angels
in Calaveras County, by a miner named James Watson, who gave it to
Mr. Scribner, a merchant, who gave it to Dr. Jones, who sent it to
the State Geological Survey. . . . The published volume of the
State Survey of the Geology of California states that man existed
here contemporaneously with the mastodon, but this fossil proves
that he was here before the mastodon was known to exist."

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