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Poems, 1799 by Robert Southey

Part 2 out of 3

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I have no place to pray on board
So I came here alone,
That I might freely kneel and pray,
And call on Christ and groan.

If to the main-mast head I go,
The wicked one is there,
From place to place, from rope to rope,
He follows every where.

I shut my eyes,--it matters not--
Still still the same I see,--
And when I lie me down at night
'Tis always day with me.

He follows follows every where,
And every place is Hell!
O God--and I must go with him
In endless fire to dwell.

He follows follows every where,
He's still above--below,
Oh tell me where to fly from him!
Oh tell me where to go!

But tell me, quoth the Stranger then,
What this thy crime hath been,
So haply I may comfort give
To one that grieves for sin.

O I have done a cursed deed
The wretched man replies,
And night and day and every where
'Tis still before my eyes.

I sail'd on board a Guinea-man
And to the slave-coast went;
Would that the sea had swallowed me
When I was innocent!

And we took in our cargo there,
Three hundred negroe slaves,
And we sail'd homeward merrily
Over the ocean waves.

But some were sulky of the slaves
And would not touch their meat,
So therefore we were forced by threats
And blows to make them eat.

One woman sulkier than the rest
Would still refuse her food,--
O Jesus God! I hear her cries--
I see her in her blood!

The Captain made me tie her up
And flog while he stood by,
And then he curs'd me if I staid
My hand to hear her cry.

She groan'd, she shriek'd--I could not spare
For the Captain he stood by--
Dear God! that I might rest one night
From that poor woman's cry!

She twisted from the blows--her blood
Her mangled flesh I see--
And still the Captain would not spare--
Oh he was worse than me!

She could not be more glad than I
When she was taken down,
A blessed minute--'twas the last
That I have ever known!

I did not close my eyes all night,
Thinking what I had done;
I heard her groans and they grew faint
About the rising sun.

She groan'd and groan'd, but her groans grew
Fainter at morning tide,
Fainter and fainter still they came
Till at the noon she died.

They flung her overboard;--poor wretch
She rested from her pain,--
But when--O Christ! O blessed God!
Shall I have rest again!

I saw the sea close over her,
Yet she was still in sight;
I see her twisting every where;
I see her day and night.

Go where I will, do what I can
The wicked one I see--
Dear Christ have mercy on my soul,
O God deliver me!

To morrow I set sail again
Not to the Negroe shore--
Wretch that I am I will at least
Commit that sin no more.

O give me comfort if you can--
Oh tell me where to fly--
And bid me hope, if there be hope,
For one so lost as I.

Poor wretch, the stranger he replied,
Put thou thy trust in heaven,
And call on him for whose dear sake
All sins shall be forgiven.

This night at least is thine, go thou
And seek the house of prayer,
There shalt thou hear the word of God
And he will help thee there!


The stories of the two following ballads are wholly imaginary. I may say
of each as John Bunyan did of his 'Pilgrim's Progress',

"It came from mine own heart, so to my head,
And thence into my fingers trickled;
Then to my pen, from whence immediately
On paper I did dribble it daintily."


Jaspar was poor, and want and vice
Had made his heart like stone,
And Jaspar look'd with envious eyes
On riches not his own.

On plunder bent abroad he went
Towards the close of day,
And loitered on the lonely road
Impatient for his prey.

No traveller came, he loiter'd long
And often look'd around,
And paus'd and listen'd eagerly
To catch some coming sound.

He sat him down beside the stream
That crossed the lonely way,
So fair a scene might well have charm'd
All evil thoughts away;

He sat beneath a willow tree
That cast a trembling shade,
The gentle river full in front
A little island made,

Where pleasantly the moon-beam shone
Upon the poplar trees,
Whose shadow on the stream below
Play'd slowly to the breeze.

He listen'd--and he heard the wind
That waved the willow tree;
He heard the waters flow along
And murmur quietly.

He listen'd for the traveller's tread,
The nightingale sung sweet,--
He started up, for now he heard
The sound of coming feet;

He started up and graspt a stake
And waited for his prey;
There came a lonely traveller
And Jaspar crost his way.

But Jaspar's threats and curses fail'd
The traveller to appal,
He would not lightly yield the purse
That held his little all.

Awhile he struggled, but he strove
With Jaspar's strength in vain;
Beneath his blows he fell and groan'd,
And never spoke again.

He lifted up the murdered man
And plunged him in the flood,
And in the running waters then
He cleansed his hands from blood.

The waters closed around the corpse
And cleansed his hands from gore,
The willow waved, the stream flowed on
And murmured as before.

There was no human eye had seen
The blood the murderer spilt,
And Jaspar's conscience never knew
The avenging goad of guilt.

And soon the ruffian had consum'd
The gold he gain'd so ill,
And years of secret guilt pass'd on
And he was needy still.

One eve beside the alehouse fire
He sat as it befell,
When in there came a labouring man
Whom Jaspar knew full well.

He sat him down by Jaspar's side
A melancholy man,
For spite of honest toil, the world
Went hard with Jonathan.

His toil a little earn'd, and he
With little was content,
But sickness on his wife had fallen
And all he had was spent.

Then with his wife and little ones
He shared the scanty meal,
And saw their looks of wretchedness,
And felt what wretches feel.

That very morn the Landlord's power
Had seized the little left,
And now the sufferer found himself
Of every thing bereft.

He lent his head upon his hand,
His elbow on his knee,
And so by Jaspar's side he sat
And not a word said he.

Nay--why so downcast? Jaspar cried,
Come--cheer up Jonathan!
Drink neighbour drink! 'twill warm thy heart,
Come! come! take courage man!

He took the cup that Jaspar gave
And down he drain'd it quick
I have a wife, said Jonathan,
And she is deadly sick.

She has no bed to lie upon,
I saw them take her bed.
And I have children--would to God
That they and I were dead!

Our Landlord he goes home to night
And he will sleep in peace.
I would that I were in my grave
For there all troubles cease.

In vain I pray'd him to forbear
Tho' wealth enough has he--
God be to him as merciless
As he has been to me!

When Jaspar saw the poor man's soul
On all his ills intent,
He plied him with the heartening cup
And with him forth he went.

This landlord on his homeward road
'Twere easy now to meet.
The road is lonesome--Jonathan,
And vengeance, man! is sweet.

He listen'd to the tempter's voice
The thought it made him start.
His head was hot, and wretchedness
Had hardened now his heart.

Along the lonely road they went
And waited for their prey,
They sat them down beside the stream
That crossed the lonely way.

They sat them down beside the stream
And never a word they said,
They sat and listen'd silently
To hear the traveller's tread.

The night was calm, the night was dark,
No star was in the sky,
The wind it waved the willow boughs,
The stream flowed quietly.

The night was calm, the air was still,
Sweet sung the nightingale,
The soul of Jonathan was sooth'd,
His heart began to fail.

'Tis weary waiting here, he cried,
And now the hour is late,--
Methinks he will not come to night,
'Tis useless more to wait.

Have patience man! the ruffian said,
A little we may wait,
But longer shall his wife expect
Her husband at the gate.

Then Jonathan grew sick at heart,
My conscience yet is clear,
Jaspar--it is not yet too late--
I will not linger here.

How now! cried Jaspar, why I thought
Thy conscience was asleep.
No more such qualms, the night is dark,
The river here is deep,

What matters that, said Jonathan,
Whose blood began to freeze,
When there is one above whose eye
The deeds of darkness sees?

We are safe enough, said Jaspar then
If that be all thy fear;
Nor eye below, nor eye above
Can pierce the darkness here.

That instant as the murderer spake
There came a sudden light;
Strong as the mid-day sun it shone,
Though all around was night.

It hung upon the willow tree,
It hung upon the flood,
It gave to view the poplar isle
And all the scene of blood.

The traveller who journies there
He surely has espied
A madman who has made his home
Upon the river's side.

His cheek is pale, his eye is wild,
His look bespeaks despair;
For Jaspar since that hour has made
His home unshelter'd there.

And fearful are his dreams at night
And dread to him the day;
He thinks upon his untold crime
And never dares to pray.

The summer suns, the winter storms,
O'er him unheeded roll,
For heavy is the weight of blood
Upon the maniac's soul.


No eye beheld when William plunged
Young Edmund in the stream,
No human ear but William's heard
Young Edmund's drowning scream.

Submissive all the vassals own'd
The murderer for their Lord,
And he, the rightful heir, possessed
The house of Erlingford.

The ancient house of Erlingford
Stood midst a fair domain,
And Severn's ample waters near
Roll'd through the fertile plain.

And often the way-faring man
Would love to linger there,
Forgetful of his onward road
To gaze on scenes so fair.

But never could Lord William dare
To gaze on Severn's stream;
In every wind that swept its waves
He heard young Edmund scream.

In vain at midnight's silent hour
Sleep closed the murderer's eyes,
In every dream the murderer saw
Young Edmund's form arise.

In vain by restless conscience driven
Lord William left his home,
Far from the scenes that saw his guilt,
In pilgrimage to roam.

To other climes the pilgrim fled,
But could not fly despair,
He sought his home again, but peace
Was still a stranger there.

Each hour was tedious long, yet swift
The months appear'd to roll;
And now the day return'd that shook
With terror William's soul.

A day that William never felt
Return without dismay,
For well had conscience kalendered
Young Edmund's dying day.

A fearful day was that! the rains
Fell fast, with tempest roar,
And the swoln tide of Severn spread
Far on the level shore.

In vain Lord William sought the feast
In vain he quaff'd the bowl,
And strove with noisy mirth to drown
The anguish of his soul.

The tempest as its sudden swell
In gusty howlings came,
With cold and death-like feelings seem'd
To thrill his shuddering frame.

Reluctant now, as night came on,
His lonely couch he prest,
And wearied out, he sunk to sleep,
To sleep, but not to rest.

Beside that couch his brother's form
Lord Edmund seem'd to stand,
Such and so pale as when in death
He grasp'd his brother's hand;

Such and so pale his face as when
With faint and faltering tongue,
To William's care, a dying charge
He left his orphan son.

"I bade thee with a father's love
My orphan Edmund guard--
Well William hast thou kept thy charge!
Now take thy due reward."

He started up, each limb convuls'd
With agonizing fear,
He only heard the storm of night--
'Twas music to his ear.

When lo! the voice of loud alarm
His inmost soul appals,
What ho! Lord William rise in haste!
The water saps thy walls!

He rose in haste, beneath the walls
He saw the flood appear,
It hemm'd him round, 'twas midnight now,
No human aid was near.

He heard the shout of joy, for now
A boat approach'd the wall,
And eager to the welcome aid
They crowd for safety all.

My boat is small, the boatman cried,
This dangerous haste forbear!
Wait other aid, this little bark
But one from hence can bear.

Lord William leap'd into the boat,
Haste--haste to yonder shore!
And ample wealth shall well reward,
Ply swift and strong the oar.

The boatman plied the oar, the boat
Went light along the stream,
Sudden Lord William heard a cry
Like Edmund's drowning scream.

The boatman paus'd, methought I heard
A child's distressful cry!
'Twas but the howling wind of night
Lord William made reply.

Haste haste--ply swift and strong the oar!
Haste haste across the stream!
Again Lord William heard a cry
Like Edmund's drowning scream.

I heard a child's distressful scream
The boatman cried again.
Nay hasten on--the night is dark--
And we should search in vain.

Oh God! Lord William dost thou know
How dreadful 'tis to die?
And can'st thou without pity hear
A child's expiring cry?

How horrible it is to sink
Beneath the chilly stream,
To stretch the powerless arms in vain,
In vain for help to scream?

The shriek again was heard. It came
More deep, more piercing loud,
That instant o'er the flood the moon
Shone through a broken cloud.

And near them they beheld a child,
Upon a crag he stood,
A little crag, and all around
Was spread the rising flood.

The boatman plied the oar, the boat
Approach'd his resting place,
The moon-beam shone upon the child
And show'd how pale his face.

Now reach thine hand! the boatman cried
Lord William reach and save!
The child stretch'd forth his little hands
To grasp the hand he gave.

Then William shriek'd; the hand he touch'd
Was cold and damp and dead!
He felt young Edmund in his arms
A heavier weight than lead.

The boat sunk down, the murderer sunk
Beneath the avenging stream;
He rose, he scream'd, no human ear
Heard William's drowning scream.



[Illustration: heavy black-and-white drawing (woodcut) of the title.]

A.D. 852. Circa dies istos, mulier quaedam malefica, in villa quae
Berkeleia dicitur degens, gulae amatrix ac petulantiae, flagitiis modum
usque in senium et auguriis non ponens, usque ad mortem impudica
permansit. Haec die quadam cum sederet ad prandium, cornicula quam pro
delitiis pascebat, nescio quid garrire coepit; quo audito, mulieris
cultellus de manu excidit, simul et facies pallescere coepit, et emisso
rugitu, hodie, inquit, accipiam grande incommodum, hodieque ad sulcum
ultimum meum pervenit aratrum, quo dicto, nuncius doloris intravit;
muliere vero percunctata ad quid veniret, affero, inquit, tibi filii tui
obitum & totius familiae ejus ex subita ruina interitum. Hoc quoque
dolore mulier permota, lecto protinus decubuit graviter infirmata;
sentiensque morbum subrepere ad vitalia, liberos quos habuit
superstites, monachum videlicet et monacham, per epistolam invitavit;
advenientes autem voce singultiente alloquitur. Ego, inquit, o pueri,
meo miserabili fato daemoniacis semper artibus inservivi; ego omnium
vitiorum sentina, ego illecebrarum omnium fui magistra. Erat tamen mihi
inter haec mala, spes vestrae religionis, quae meam solidaret animam
desperatam; vos expctabam propugnatores contra daemones, tutores contra
saevissimos hostes. Nunc igitur quoniam ad finem vitae perveni, rogo vos
per materna ubera, ut mea tentatis alleviare tormenta. Insuite me
defunctam in corio cervino, ac deinde in sarcophago lapideo supponite,
operculumque ferro et plumbo constringite, ac demum lapidem tribus
cathenis ferreis et fortissimis circundantes, clericos quinquaginta
psalmorum cantores, et tot per tres dies presbyteros missarum
celebratores applicate, qui feroces lenigent adversariorum incursus. Ita
si tribus noctibus secura jacuero, quarta die me infodite humo.

Factumque est ut praeceperat illis. Sed, proh dolor! nil preces, nil
lacrymae, nil demum valuere catenae. Primis enim duabus noctibus, cum
chori psallentium corpori assistabant, advenientes Daemones ostium
ecclesiae confregerunt ingenti obice clausum, extremasque cathenas
negotio levi dirumpunt: media autem quae fortior erat, illibata manebat.
Tertia autem nocte, circa gallicinium, strepitu hostium adventantium,
omne monasterium visum est a fundamento moveri. Unus ergo daemonum, et
vultu caeteris terribilior & statura eminentior, januas Ecclesiae; impetu
violento concussas in fragmenta dejecit. Divexerunt clerici cum laicis,
metu stelerunt omnium capilli, et psalmorum concentus defecit. Daemon
ergo gestu ut videbatur arroganti ad sepulchrum accedens, & nomen
mulieris modicum ingeminans, surgere imperavit. Qua respondente, quod
nequiret pro vinculis, jam malo tuo, inquit, solveris; et protinus
cathenam quae caeterorum ferociam daemonum deluserat, velut stuppeum
vinculum rumpebat. Operculum etiam sepulchri pede depellens, mulierem
palam omnibus ab ecclesia extraxit, ubi prae foribus niger equus superbe
hinniens videbatur, uncis ferreis et clavis undique confixus, super quem
misera mulier projecta, ab oculis assistentium evanuit. Audiebantur
tamen clamores per quatuor fere miliaria horribiles, auxilium

Ista itaque quae retuli incredibilia non erunt, si legatur beati Gregorii
dialogus, in quo refert, hominem in ecclesia sepultam, a daemonibus foras
ejectum. Et apud Francos Carolus Martellus insignis vir fortudinis, qui
Saracenos Galliam ingressos, Hispaniam redire compulit, exactis vitae suae
diebus, in Ecclesia beati Dionysii legitur fuisse sepultus. Sed quia
patrimonia, cum decimis omnium fere ecclesiarum Galliae, pro stipendio
commilitonum suorum mutilaverat, miserabiliter a malignis spiritibus de
sepulchro corporaliter avulsus, usque in hodiernum diem nusquam

Matthew of Westminster.

This story is also related by Olaus Magnus, and in the Nuremberg
Chronicle, from which the wooden cut is taken.



The Raven croak'd as she sate at her meal,
And the Old Woman knew what he said,
And she grew pale at the Raven's tale,
And sicken'd and went to her bed.

Now fetch me my children, and fetch them with speed,
The Old Woman of Berkeley said,
The monk my son, and my daughter the nun
Bid them hasten or I shall be dead.

The monk her son, and her daughter the nun,
Their way to Berkeley went,
And they have brought with pious thought
The holy sacrament.

The old Woman shriek'd as they entered her door,
'Twas fearful her shrieks to hear,
Now take the sacrament away
For mercy, my children dear!

Her lip it trembled with agony,
The sweat ran down her brow,
I have tortures in store for evermore,
Oh! spare me my children now!

Away they sent the sacrament,
The fit it left her weak,
She look'd at her children with ghastly eyes
And faintly struggled to speak.

All kind of sin I have rioted in
And the judgment now must be,
But I secured my childrens souls,
Oh! pray my children for me.

I have suck'd the breath of sleeping babes,
The fiends have been my slaves,
I have nointed myself with infants fat,
And feasted on rifled graves.

And the fiend will fetch me now in fire
My witchcrafts to atone,
And I who have rifled the dead man's grave
Shall never have rest in my own.

Bless I intreat my winding sheet
My children I beg of you!
And with holy water sprinkle my shroud
And sprinkle my coffin too.

And let me be chain'd in my coffin of stone
And fasten it strong I implore
With iron bars, and let it be chain'd
With three chains to the church floor.

And bless the chains and sprinkle them,
And let fifty priests stand round,
Who night and day the mass may say
Where I lie on the ground.

And let fifty choristers be there
The funeral dirge to sing,
Who day and night by the taper's light
Their aid to me may bring.

Let the church bells all both great and small
Be toll'd by night and day,
To drive from thence the fiends who come
To bear my corpse away.

And ever have the church door barr'd
After the even song,
And I beseech you children dear
Let the bars and bolts be strong.

And let this be three days and nights
My wretched corpse to save,
Preserve me so long from the fiendish throng
And then I may rest in my grave.

The Old Woman of Berkeley laid her down
And her eyes grew deadly dim,
Short came her breath and the struggle of death
Did loosen every limb.

They blest the old woman's winding sheet
With rites and prayers as due,
With holy water they sprinkled her shroud
And they sprinkled her coffin too.

And they chain'd her in her coffin of stone
And with iron barr'd it down,
And in the church with three strong chains
They chain'd it to the ground.

And they blest the chains and sprinkled them,
And fifty priests stood round,
By night and day the mass to say
Where she lay on the ground.

And fifty choristers were there
To sing the funeral song,
And a hallowed taper blazed in the hand
Of all the sacred throng.

To see the priests and choristers
It was a goodly sight,
Each holding, as it were a staff,
A taper burning bright.

And the church bells all both great and small
Did toll so loud and long,
And they have barr'd the church door hard
After the even song.

And the first night the taper's light
Burnt steadily and clear.
But they without a hideous rout
Of angry fiends could hear;

A hideous roar at the church door
Like a long thunder peal,
And the priests they pray'd and the choristers sung
Louder in fearful zeal.

Loud toll'd the bell, the priests pray'd well,
The tapers they burnt bright,
The monk her son, and her daughter the nun
They told their beads all night.

The cock he crew, away they flew
The fiends from the herald of day,
And undisturb'd the choristers sing
And the fifty priests they pray.

The second night the taper's light
Burnt dismally and blue,
And every one saw his neighbour's face
Like a dead man's face to view.

And yells and cries without arise
That the stoutest heart might shock,
And a deafening roaring like a cataract pouring
Over a mountain rock.

The monk and nun they told their beads
As fast as they could tell,
And aye as louder grew the noise
The faster went the bell.

Louder and louder the choristers sung
As they trembled more and more,
And the fifty priests prayed to heaven for aid,
They never had prayed so before.

The cock he crew, away they flew
The fiends from the herald of day,
And undisturb'd the choristers sing
And the fifty priests they pray.

The third night came and the tapers flame
A hideous stench did make,
And they burnt as though they had been dipt
In the burning brimstone lake.

And the loud commotion, like the rushing of ocean,
Grew momently more and more,
And strokes as of a battering ram
Did shake the strong church door.

The bellmen they for very fear
Could toll the bell no longer,
And still as louder grew the strokes
Their fear it grew the stronger.

The monk and nun forgot their beads,
They fell on the ground dismay'd,
There was not a single saint in heaven
Whom they did not call to aid.

And the choristers song that late was so strong
Grew a quaver of consternation,
For the church did rock as an earthquake shock
Uplifted its foundation.

And a sound was heard like the trumpet's blast
That shall one day wake the dead,
The strong church door could bear no more
And the bolts and the bars they fled.

And the taper's light was extinguish'd quite,
And the choristers faintly sung,
And the priests dismay'd, panted and prayed
Till fear froze every tongue.

And in He came with eyes of flame
The Fiend to fetch the dead,
And all the church with his presence glowed
Like a fiery furnace red.

He laid his hand on the iron chains
And like flax they moulder'd asunder,
And the coffin lid that was barr'd so firm
He burst with his voice of thunder.

And he bade the Old Woman of Berkeley rise
And come with her master away,
And the cold sweat stood on the cold cold corpse,
At the voice she was forced to obey.

She rose on her feet in her winding sheet,
Her dead flesh quivered with fear,
And a groan like that which the Old Woman gave
Never did mortal hear.

She followed the fiend to the church door,
There stood a black horse there,
His breath was red like furnace smoke,
His eyes like a meteor's glare.

The fiendish force flung her on the horse
And he leapt up before,
And away like the lightning's speed they went
And she was seen no more.

They saw her no more, but her cries and shrieks
For four miles round they could hear,
And children at rest at their mother's breast,
Started and screamed with fear.

The Surgeon's Warning.

The subject of this parody was given me by a friend, to whom also I am
indebted for some of the stanzas.

Respecting the patent coffins herein mentioned, after the manner of
Catholic Poets, who confess the actions they attribute to their Saints
and Deity to be but fiction, I hereby declare that it is by no means my
design to depreciate that useful invention; and all persons to whom this
Ballad shall come are requested to take notice, that nothing here
asserted concerning the aforesaid Coffins is true, except that the maker
and patentee lives by St. Martin's Lane.


The Doctor whispered to the Nurse
And the Surgeon knew what he said,
And he grew pale at the Doctor's tale
And trembled in his sick bed.

Now fetch me my brethren and fetch them with speed
The Surgeon affrighted said,
The Parson and the Undertaker,
Let them hasten or I shall be dead.

The Parson and the Undertaker
They hastily came complying,
And the Surgeon's Prentices ran up stairs
When they heard that their master was dying.

The Prentices all they entered the room
By one, by two, by three,
With a sly grin came Joseph in,
First of the company.

The Surgeon swore as they enter'd his door,
'Twas fearful his oaths to hear,--
Now send these scoundrels to the Devil,
For God's sake my brethren dear.

He foam'd at the mouth with the rage he felt
And he wrinkled his black eye-brow,
That rascal Joe would be at me I know,
But zounds let him spare me now.

Then out they sent the Prentices,
The fit it left him weak,
He look'd at his brothers with ghastly eyes,
And faintly struggled to speak.

All kinds of carcasses I have cut up,
And the judgment now must be--
But brothers I took care of you,
So pray take care of me!

I have made candles of infants fat
The Sextons have been my slaves,
I have bottled babes unborn, and dried
Hearts and livers from rifled graves.

And my Prentices now will surely come
And carve me bone from bone,
And I who have rifled the dead man's grave
Shall never have rest in my own.

Bury me in lead when I am dead,
My brethren I intreat,
And see the coffin weigh'd I beg
Lest the Plumber should be a cheat.

And let it be solder'd closely down
Strong as strong can be I implore,
And put it in a patent coffin,
That I may rise no more.

If they carry me off in the patent coffin
Their labour will be in vain,
Let the Undertaker see it bought of the maker
Who lives by St. Martin's lane.

And bury me in my brother's church
For that will safer be,
And I implore lock the church door
And pray take care of the key.

And all night long let three stout men
The vestry watch within,
To each man give a gallon of beer
And a keg of Holland's gin;

Powder and ball and blunder-buss
To save me if he can,
And eke five guineas if he shoot
A resurrection man.

And let them watch me for three weeks
My wretched corpse to save,
For then I think that I may stink
Enough to rest in my grave.

The Surgeon laid him down in his bed,
His eyes grew deadly dim,
Short came his breath and the struggle of death
Distorted every limb.

They put him in lead when he was dead
And shrouded up so neat,
And they the leaden coffin weigh
Lest the Plumber should be a cheat.

They had it solder'd closely down
And examined it o'er and o'er,
And they put it in a patent coffin
That he might rise no more.

For to carry him off in a patent coffin
Would they thought be but labour in vain,
So the Undertaker saw it bought of the maker
Who lives by St. Martin's lane.

In his brother's church they buried him
That safer he might be,
They lock'd the door and would not trust
The Sexton with the key.

And three men in the vestry watch
To save him if they can,
And should he come there to shoot they swear
A resurrection man.

And the first night by lanthorn light
Thro' the church-yard as they went,
A guinea of gold the sexton shewed
That Mister Joseph sent.

But conscience was tough, it was not enough
And their honesty never swerved,
And they bade him go with Mister Joe
To the Devil as he deserved.

So all night long by the vestry fire
They quaff'd their gin and ale,
And they did drink as you may think
And told full many a tale.

The second night by lanthorn light
Thro' the church-yard as they went,
He whisper'd anew and shew'd them two
That Mister Joseph sent.

The guineas were bright and attracted their sight
They look'd so heavy and new,
And their fingers itch'd as they were bewitch'd
And they knew not what to do.

But they waver'd not long for conscience was strong
And they thought they might get more,
And they refused the gold, but not
So rudely as before.

So all night long by the vestry fire
They quaff'd their gin and ale,
And they did drink as you may think
And told full many a tale.

The third night as by lanthorn light
Thro' the church-yard they went,
He bade them see and shew'd them three
That Mister Joseph sent.

They look'd askance with eager glance,
The guineas they shone bright,
For the Sexton on the yellow gold
Let fall his lanthorn light.

And he look'd sly with his roguish eye
And gave a well-tim'd wink,
And they could not stand the sound in his hand
For he made the guineas chink.

And conscience late that had such weight,
All in a moment fails,
For well they knew that it was true
A dead man told no tales,

And they gave all their powder and ball
And took the gold so bright,
And they drank their beer and made good cheer,
Till now it was midnight.

Then, tho' the key of the church door
Was left with the Parson his brother,
It opened at the Sexton's touch--
Because he had another.

And in they go with that villain Joe
To fetch the body by night,
And all the church look'd dismally
By his dark lanthorn light.

They laid the pick-axe to the stones
And they moved them soon asunder.
They shovell'd away the hard-prest clay
And came to the coffin under.

They burst the patent coffin first
And they cut thro' the lead,
And they laugh'd aloud when they saw the shroud
Because they had got at the dead.

And they allowed the Sexton the shroud
And they put the coffin back,
And nose and knees they then did squeeze
The Surgeon in a sack.

The watchmen as they past along
Full four yards off could smell,
And a curse bestowed upon the load
So disagreeable.

So they carried the sack a-pick-a-back
And they carv'd him bone from bone,
But what became of the Surgeon's soul
Was never to mortal known.


Hark--how the church-bells thundering harmony
Stuns the glad ear! tidings of joy have come,
Good tidings of great joy! two gallant ships
Met on the element,--they met, they fought
A desperate fight!--good tidings of great joy!
Old England triumphed! yet another day
Of glory for the ruler of the waves!
For those who fell, 'twas in their country's cause,
They have their passing paragraphs of praise
And are forgotten.
There was one who died
In that day's glory, whose obscurer name
No proud historian's page will chronicle.
Peace to his honest soul! I read his name,
'Twas in the list of slaughter, and blest God
The sound was not familiar to mine ear.
But it was told me after that this man
Was one whom lawful violence [1] had forced
From his own home and wife and little ones,
Who by his labour lived; that he was one
Whose uncorrupted heart could keenly feel
A husband's love, a father's anxiousness,
That from the wages of his toil he fed
The distant dear ones, and would talk of them
At midnight when he trod the silent deck
With him he valued, talk of them, of joys
That he had known--oh God! and of the hour
When they should meet again, till his full heart
His manly heart at last would overflow
Even like a child's with very tenderness.
Peace to his honest spirit! suddenly
It came, and merciful the ball of death,
For it came suddenly and shattered him,
And left no moment's agonizing thought
On those he loved so well.
He ocean deep
Now lies at rest. Be Thou her comforter
Who art the widow's friend! Man does not know
What a cold sickness made her blood run back
When first she heard the tidings of the fight;
Man does not know with what a dreadful hope
She listened to the names of those who died,
Man does not know, or knowing will not heed,
With what an agony of tenderness
She gazed upon her children, and beheld
His image who was gone. Oh God! be thou
Her comforter who art the widow's friend!

[Footnote 1: The person alluded to was pressed into the service.]


It was a little island where he dwelt,
Or rather a lone rock, barren and bleak,
Short scanty herbage spotting with dark spots
Its gray stone surface. Never mariner
Approach'd that rude and uninviting coast,
Nor ever fisherman his lonely bark
Anchored beside its shore. It was a place
Befitting well a rigid anchoret,
Dead to the hopes, and vanities, and joys
And purposes of life; and he had dwelt
Many long years upon that lonely isle,
For in ripe manhood he abandoned arms,
Honours and friends and country and the world,
And had grown old in solitude. That isle
Some solitary man in other times
Had made his dwelling-place; and Henry found
The little chapel that his toil had built
Now by the storms unroofed, his bed of leaves
Wind-scattered, and his grave o'ergrown with grass,
And thistles, whose white seeds winged in vain
Withered on rocks, or in the waves were lost.
So he repaired the chapel's ruined roof,
Clear'd the grey lichens from the altar-stone,
And underneath a rock that shelter'd him
From the sea blasts, he built his hermitage.

The peasants from the shore would bring him food
And beg his prayers; but human converse else
He knew not in that utter solitude,
Nor ever visited the haunts of men
Save when some sinful wretch on a sick bed
Implored his blessing and his aid in death.
That summons he delayed not to obey,
Tho' the night tempest or autumnal wind.
Maddened the waves, and tho' the mariner,
Albeit relying on his saintly load,
Grew pale to see the peril. So he lived
A most austere and self-denying man,
Till abstinence, and age, and watchfulness
Exhausted him, and it was pain at last
To rise at midnight from his bed of leaves
And bend his knees in prayer. Yet not the less
Tho' with reluctance of infirmity,
He rose at midnight from his bed of leaves
And bent his knees in prayer; but with more zeal
More self-condemning fervour rais'd his voice
For pardon for that sin, 'till that the sin
Repented was a joy like a good deed.

One night upon the shore his chapel bell
Was heard; the air was calm, and its far sounds
Over the water came distinct and loud.
Alarmed at that unusual hour to hear
Its toll irregular, a monk arose.
The boatmen bore him willingly across
For well the hermit Henry was beloved.
He hastened to the chapel, on a stone
Henry was sitting there, cold, stiff and dead,
The bell-rope in his band, and at his feet
The lamp that stream'd a long unsteady light

[Footnote 1: This story is related in the English Martyrology, 1608.]

English Eclogues.

The following Eclogues I believe, bear no resemblance to any poems in
our language. This species of composition has become popular in Germany,
and I was induced to attempt by an account of the German Idylls given me
in conversation. They cannot properly be stiled imitations, as I am
ignorant of that language at present, and have never seen any
translations or specimens in this kind.

With bad Eclogues I am sufficiently acquainted, from ??tyrus [1] and
Corydon down to our English Strephons and Thirsises. No kind of poetry
can boast of more illustrious names or is more distinguished by the
servile dulness of imitated nonsense. Pastoral writers "more silly than
their sheep" have like their sheep gone on in the same track one after
another. Gay stumbled into a new path. His eclogues were the only ones
that interested me when I was a boy, and did not know they were
burlesque. The subject would furnish matter for a long essay, but this
is not the place for it.

How far poems requiring almost a colloquial plainness of language may
accord with the public taste I am doubtful. They have been subjected to
able criticism and revised with care. I have endeavoured to make them
true to nature.

[Footnote 1: The letters of this name are illegible (worn away?) in
the original text; from the remaining bits I have guessed all but the
first two, which are not visible under any magnification. text Ed.]



Old friend! why you seem bent on parish duty,
Breaking the highway stones,--and 'tis a task
Somewhat too hard methinks for age like yours.

Why yes! for one with such a weight of years
Upon his back. I've lived here, man and boy,
In this same parish, near the age of man
For I am hard upon threescore and ten.
I can remember sixty years ago
The beautifying of this mansion here
When my late Lady's father, the old Squire
Came to the estate.

Why then you have outlasted
All his improvements, for you see they're making
Great alterations here.

Aye-great indeed!
And if my poor old Lady could rise up--
God rest her soul! 'twould grieve her to behold
The wicked work is here.

They've set about it
In right good earnest. All the front is gone,
Here's to be turf they tell me, and a road
Round to the door. There were some yew trees too
Stood in the court.

Aye Master! fine old trees!
My grandfather could just remember back
When they were planted there. It was my task
To keep them trimm'd, and 'twas a pleasure to me!
All strait and smooth, and like a great green wall!
My poor old Lady many a time would come
And tell me where to shear, for she had played
In childhood under them, and 'twas her pride
To keep them in their beauty. Plague I say
On their new-fangled whimsies! we shall have
A modern shrubbery here stuck full of firs
And your pert poplar trees;--I could as soon
Have plough'd my father's grave as cut them down!

But 'twill be lighter and more chearful now,
A fine smooth turf, and with a gravel road
Round for the carriage,--now it suits my taste.
I like a shrubbery too, it looks so fresh,
And then there's some variety about it.
In spring the lilac and the gueldres rose,
And the laburnum with its golden flowers
Waving in the wind. And when the autumn comes
The bright red berries of the mountain ash,
With firs enough in winter to look green,
And show that something lives. Sure this is better
Than a great hedge of yew that makes it look
All the year round like winter, and for ever
Dropping its poisonous leaves from the under boughs
So dry and bare!

Ah! so the new Squire thinks
And pretty work he makes of it! what 'tis
To have a stranger come to an old house!


It seems you know him not?

No Sir, not I.
They tell me he's expected daily now,
But in my Lady's time he never came
But once, for they were very distant kin.
If he had played about here when a child
In that fore court, and eat the yew-berries,
And sat in the porch threading the jessamine flowers,
That fell so thick, he had not had the heart
To mar all thus.

Come--come! all a not wrong.
Those old dark windows--

They're demolish'd too--
As if he could not see thro' casement glass!
The very red-breasts that so regular
Came to my Lady for her morning crumbs,
Won't know the window now!

Nay they were high
And then so darken'd up with jessamine,
Harbouring the vermine;--that was a fine tree
However. Did it not grow in and line
The porch?

All over it: it did one good
To pass within ten yards when 'twas in blossom.
There was a sweet-briar too that grew beside.
My Lady loved at evening to sit there
And knit; and her old dog lay at her feet
And slept in the sun; 'twas an old favourite dog
She did not love him less that he was old
And feeble, and he always had a place
By the fire-side, and when he died at last
She made me dig a grave in the garden for him.
Ah I she was good to all! a woful day
'Twas for the poor when to her grave she went!

They lost a friend then?

You're a stranger here
Or would not ask that question. Were they sick?
She had rare cordial waters, and for herbs
She could have taught the Doctors. Then at winter
When weekly she distributed the bread
In the poor old porch, to see her and to hear
The blessings on her! and I warrant them
They were a blessing to her when her wealth
Had been no comfort else. At Christmas, Sir!
It would have warm'd your heart if you had seen
Her Christmas kitchen,--how the blazing fire
Made her fine pewter shine, and holly boughs
So chearful red,--and as for misseltoe,
The finest bough that grew in the country round
Was mark'd for Madam. Then her old ale went
So bountiful about! a Christmas cask,
And 'twas a noble one! God help me Sir!
But I shall never see such days again.

Things may be better yet than you suppose
And you should hope the best.

It don't look well
These alterations Sir! I'm an old man
And love the good old fashions; we don't find
Old bounty in new houses. They've destroyed
All that my Lady loved; her favourite walk
Grubb'd up, and they do say that the great row
Of elms behind the house, that meet a-top
They must fall too. Well! well! I did not think
To live to see all this, and 'tis perhaps
A comfort I shan't live to see it long.

But sure all changes are not needs for the worse
My friend.

May-hap they mayn't Sir;--for all that
I like what I've been us'd to. I remember
All this from a child up, and now to lose it,
'Tis losing an old friend. There's nothing left
As 'twas;--I go abroad and only meet
With men whose fathers I remember boys;
The brook that used to run before my door
That's gone to the great pond; the trees I learnt
To climb are down; and I see nothing now
That tells me of old times, except the stones
In the church-yard. You are young Sir and I hope
Have many years in store,--but pray to God
You mayn't be left the last of all your friends.

Well! well! you've one friend more than you're aware of.
If the Squire's taste don't suit with your's, I warrant
That's all you'll quarrel with: walk in and taste
His beer, old friend! and see if your old Lady
E'er broached a better cask. You did not know me,
But we're acquainted now. 'Twould not be easy
To make you like the outside; but within--
That is not changed my friend! you'll always find
The same old bounty and old welcome there.



Harry! I'm tired of playing. We'll draw round
The fire, and Grandmamma perhaps will tell us
One of her stories.

Aye--dear Grandmamma!
A pretty story! something dismal now;
A bloody murder.

Or about a ghost.

Nay, nay, I should but frighten you. You know
The other night when I was telling you
About the light in the church-yard, how you trembled
Because the screech-owl hooted at the window,
And would not go to bed.

Why Grandmamma
You said yourself you did not like to hear him.
Pray now! we wo'nt be frightened.

Well, well, children!
But you've heard all my stories. Let me see,--
Did I never tell you how the smuggler murdered
The woman down at Pill?

No--never! never!

Not how he cut her head off in the stable?

Oh--now! do tell us that!

You must have heard
Your Mother, children! often tell of her.
She used to weed in the garden here, and worm
Your uncle's dogs [1], and serve the house with coal;
And glad enough she was in winter time
To drive her asses here! it was cold work
To follow the slow beasts thro' sleet and snow,
And here she found a comfortable meal
And a brave fire to thaw her, for poor Moll
Was always welcome.

Oh--'twas blear-eyed Moll
The collier woman,--a great ugly woman,
I've heard of her.

Ugly enough poor soul!
At ten yards distance you could hardly tell
If it were man or woman, for her voice
Was rough as our old mastiff's, and she wore
A man's old coat and hat,--and then her face!
There was a merry story told of her,
How when the press-gang came to take her husband
As they were both in bed, she heard them coming,
Drest John up in her night-cap, and herself
Put on his clothes and went before the Captain.

And so they prest a woman!

'Twas a trick
She dearly loved to tell, and all the country
Soon knew the jest, for she was used to travel
For miles around. All weathers and all hours
She crossed the hill, as hardy as her beasts,
Bearing the wind and rain and winter frosts,
And if she did not reach her home at night
She laid her down in the stable with her asses
And slept as sound as they did.

With her asses!

Yes, and she loved her beasts. For tho' poor wretch
She was a terrible reprobate and swore
Like any trooper, she was always good
To the dumb creatures, never loaded them
Beyond their strength, and rather I believe
Would stint herself than let the poor beasts want,
Because, she said, they could not ask for food.
I never saw her stick fall heavier on them
Than just with its own weight. She little thought
This tender-heartedness would be her death!
There was a fellow who had oftentimes,
As if he took delight in cruelty.
Ill-used her Asses. He was one who lived
By smuggling, and, for she had often met him
Crossing the down at night, she threatened him,
If he tormented them again, to inform
Of his unlawful ways. Well--so it was--
'Twas what they both were born to, he provoked her,
She laid an information, and one morn
They found her in the stable, her throat cut
From ear to ear,'till the head only hung
Just by a bit of skin.

Oh dear! oh dear!

I hope they hung the man!

They took him up;
There was no proof, no one had seen the deed,
And he was set at liberty. But God
Whoss eye beholdeth all things, he had seen
The murder, and the murderer knew that God
Was witness to his crime. He fled the place,
But nowhere could he fly the avenging hand
Of heaven, but nowhere could the murderer rest,
A guilty conscience haunted him, by day,
By night, in company, in solitude,
Restless and wretched, did he bear upon him
The weight of blood; her cries were in his ears,
Her stifled groans as when he knelt upon her
Always he heard; always he saw her stand
Before his eyes; even in the dead of night
Distinctly seen as tho' in the broad sun,
She stood beside the murderer's bed and yawn'd
Her ghastly wound; till life itself became
A punishment at last he could not bear,
And he confess'd [2] it all, and gave himself
To death, so terrible, he said, it was
To have a guilty conscience!

Was he hung then?

Hung and anatomized. Poor wretched man,
Your uncles went to see him on his trial,
He was so pale, so thin, so hollow-eyed,
And such a horror in his meagre face,
They said he look'd like one who never slept.
He begg'd the prayers of all who saw his end
And met his death with fears that well might warn
From guilt, tho' not without a hope in Christ.

[Footnote 1: I know not whether this cruel and stupid custom is common
in other parts of England. It is supposed to prevent the dogs from doing
any mischief should they afterwards become mad.]

[Footnote 2: There must be many persons living who remember these
circumstances. They happened two or three and twenty years ago, in the
neighbourhood of Bristol. The woman's name was Bees. The stratagem by
which she preserved her husband from the press-gang, is also true.]



The coffin [1] as I past across the lane
Came sudden on my view. It was not here,
A sight of every day, as in the streets
Of the great city, and we paus'd and ask'd
Who to the grave was going. It was one,
A village girl, they told us, who had borne
An eighteen months strange illness, and had pined
With such slow wasting that the hour of death
Came welcome to her. We pursued our way
To the house of mirth, and with that idle talk
That passes o'er the mind and is forgot,
We wore away the time. But it was eve
When homewardly I went, and in the air
Was that cool freshness, that discolouring shade
That makes the eye turn inward. Then I heard
Over the vale the heavy toll of death
Sound slow; it made me think upon the dead,
I questioned more and learnt her sorrowful tale.
She bore unhusbanded a mother's name,
And he who should have cherished her, far off
Sail'd on the seas, self-exil'd from his home,
For he was poor. Left thus, a wretched one,
Scorn made a mock of her, and evil tongues
Were busy with her name. She had one ill
Heavier, neglect, forgetfulness from him
Whom she had loved so dearly. Once he wrote,
But only once that drop of comfort came
To mingle with her cup of wretchedness;
And when his parents had some tidings from him,
There was no mention of poor Hannah there,
Or 'twas the cold enquiry, bitterer
Than silence. So she pined and pined away
And for herself and baby toil'd and toil'd,
Nor did she, even on her death bed, rest
From labour, knitting with her outstretch'd arms
Till she sunk with very weakness. Her old mother
Omitted no kind office, and she work'd
Hard, and with hardest working barely earn'd
Enough to make life struggle and prolong
The pains of grief and sickness. Thus she lay
On the sick bed of poverty, so worn
With her long suffering and that painful thought
That at her heart lay rankling, and so weak,
That she could make no effort to express
Affection for her infant; and the child,
Whose lisping love perhaps had solaced her
With a strange infantine ingratitude
Shunn'd her as one indifferent. She was past
That anguish, for she felt her hour draw on,
And 'twas her only comfoft now to think
Upon the grave. "Poor girl!" her mother said,
"Thou hast suffered much!" "aye mother! there is none
"Can tell what I have suffered!" she replied,
"But I shall soon be where the weary rest."
And she did rest her soon, for it pleased God
To take her to his mercy.

[Footnote 1: It is proper to remark that the story related in this
Eclogue is strictly true. I met the funeral, and learnt the
circumstances in a village in Hampshire. The indifference of the child
was mentioned to me; indeed no addition whatever has been made to the
story. I should have thought it wrong to have weakened the effect of a
faithful narrative by adding any thing.]



Sir for the love of God some small relief
To a poor woman!

Whither are you bound?
'Tis a late hour to travel o'er these downs,
No house for miles around us, and the way
Dreary and wild. The evening wind already
Makes one's teeth chatter, and the very Sun,
Setting so pale behind those thin white clouds,
Looks cold. 'Twill be a bitter night!

Aye Sir
'Tis cutting keen! I smart at every breath,
Heaven knows how I shall reach my journey's end,
For the way is long before me, and my feet,
God help me! sore with travelling. I would gladly,
If it pleased God, lie down at once and die.

Nay nay cheer up! a little food and rest
Will comfort you; and then your journey's end
Will make amends for all. You shake your head,
And weep. Is it some evil business then
That leads you from your home?

Sir I am going
To see my son at Plymouth, sadly hurt
In the late action, and in the hospital
Dying, I fear me, now.

Perhaps your fears
Make evil worse. Even if a limb be lost
There may be still enough for comfort left
An arm or leg shot off, there's yet the heart
To keep life warm, and he may live to talk
With pleasure of the glorious fight that maim'd him,
Proud of his loss. Old England's gratitude
Makes the maim'd sailor happy.

'Tis not that--
An arm or leg--I could have borne with that.
'Twas not a ball, it was some cursed thing
That bursts [1] and burns that hurt him. Something Sir
They do not use on board our English ships
It is so wicked!

Rascals! a mean art
Of cruel cowardice, yet all in vain!

Yes Sir! and they should show no mercy to them
For making use of such unchristian arms.
I had a letter from the hospital,
He got some friend to write it, and he tells me
That my poor boy has lost his precious eyes,
Burnt out. Alas! that I should ever live
To see this wretched day!--they tell me Sir
There is no cure for wounds like his. Indeed
'Tis a hard journey that I go upon
To such a dismal end!

He yet may live.
But if the worst should chance, why you must bear
The will of heaven with patience. Were it not
Some comfort to reflect your son has fallen
Fighting his country's cause? and for yourself
You will not in unpitied poverty
Be left to mourn his loss. Your grateful country
Amid the triumph of her victory
Remember those who paid its price of blood,
And with a noble charity relieves
The widow and the orphan.

God reward them!
God bless them, it will help me in my age
But Sir! it will not pay me for my child!

Was he your only child?

My only one,
The stay and comfort of my widowhood,
A dear good boy!--when first he went to sea
I felt what it would come to,--something told me
I should be childless soon. But tell me Sir
If it be true that for a hurt like his
There is no cure? please God to spare his life
Tho' he be blind, yet I should be so thankful!
I can remember there was a blind man
Lived in our village, one from his youth up
Quite dark, and yet he was a merry man,
And he had none to tend on him so well
As I would tend my boy!

Of this be sure
His hurts are look'd to well, and the best help
The place affords, as rightly is his due,
Ever at hand. How happened it he left you?
Was a seafaring life his early choice?

No Sir! poor fellow--he was wise enough
To be content at home, and 'twas a home
As comfortable Sir I even tho' I say it,
As any in the country. He was left
A little boy when his poor father died,
Just old enough to totter by himself
And call his mother's name. We two were all,
And as we were not left quite destitute
We bore up well. In the summer time I worked
Sometimes a-field. Then I was famed for knitting,
And in long winter nights my spinning wheel
Seldom stood still. We had kind neighbours too
And never felt distress. So he grew up
A comely lad and wonderous well disposed;
I taught him well; there was not in the parish
A child who said his prayers more regular,
Or answered readier thro' his catechism.
If I had foreseen this! but 'tis a blessing
We do'nt know what we're born to!

But how came it
He chose to be a Sailor?

You shall hear Sir;
As he grew up he used to watch the birds
In the corn, child's work you know, and easily done.
'Tis an idle sort of task, so he built up
A little hut of wicker-work and clay
Under the hedge, to shelter him in rain.
And then he took for very idleness
To making traps to catch the plunderers,
All sorts of cunning traps that boys can make--
Propping a stone to fall and shut them in,
Or crush them with its weight, or else a springe
Swung on a bough. He made them cleverly--
And I, poor foolish woman! I was pleased
To see the boy so handy. You may guess
What followed Sir from this unlucky skill.
He did what he should not when he was older:
I warn'd him oft enough; but he was caught
In wiring hares at last, and had his choice
The prison or the ship.

The choice at least
Was kindly left him, and for broken laws
This was methinks no heavy punishment.

So I was told Sir. And I tried to think so,
But 'twas a sad blow to me! I was used
To sleep at nights soundly and undisturb'd--
Now if the wind blew rough, it made me start
And think of my poor boy tossing about
Upon the roaring seas. And then I seem'd
To feel that it was hard to take him from me
For such a little fault. But he was wrong
Oh very wrong--a murrain on his traps!
See what they've brought him too!

Well! well! take comfort
He will be taken care of if he lives;
And should you lose your child, this is a country
Where the brave sailor never leaves a parent
To weep for him in want.

Sir I shall want
No succour long. In the common course of years
I soon must be at rest, and 'tis a comfort
When grief is hard upon me to reflect
It only leads me to that rest the sooner.

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