To see a commentary note, click on a blue square. To see the Latin text, click on a green square. To see a corresponding scene in Charles Johnson’s Fortune in her Wits, click on a grey square  


AEM. Come, Dinon, begin.
DIN. No, no, I’ll take my cue from you.
AEM. [Sings.] Purge your brain, oh crackpot doctors, no more should you be death’s innkeepers. Oh you, who are mankind’s first sins sent into the world, and then mankind’s diseases, your learning begins to ail and wants to purge itself. Then some of you make your exit as vomit by the mouth, and some via the posterior. For you, being thus created, a means is found for your excrement to feed you. We laymen do a better job of evacuation, and administer a clyster to our money-chests.
BOTH Oh the holy thing! Only such an art is to be called liberal.
DIN. You stitchers of the law, you Stentorian race, now for you should be a lengthy recess. Your parents litigated while they procreated. Oh you, wretched if your wives come equipped with mouths like your own! But many wives have their own clients, and then other gentlemen plead your case. Most rightly, for no men should want to be deemed the legitimate sons of lawyers. Now, let it not be your concern to cheat by justice, but just to cheat, like us.
BOTH Oh the holy thing! Only such an art is to be called liberal.
AEM. Your art grows chills amidst its fires, alchemist, it has no silver save of the quick variety. When all philosophers who are or ever were go a-begging, who do you imagine will be enriched thanks to the Philosopher’s Stone?. Come hither, here you can turn a profit from this stone. What else, unless this stupid Philosopher’s Stone? This the wise man will cook and distill: though it be made of lead, it will produce gold. Why seek Fate’s course from the stars? Fools are born for the sake of the prudent.
BOTH Oh the holy thing! Only such an art is to be called liberal.
DIN. Astrologers, you prophets of the past, who feed naught else than your beards, to whom the heaven is thought to be better known than God, Who created it all, who think they know heaven so well that they refuse to go there, you, if from the secrets of the stars —
AEM. Get away quickly, astrologer, for Bombardomachides is here.
DIN. Opportunely. For this song was beginning to bore me. “Only such an art is to be called liberal.” (Exit.)


BOM. Aemylio.
AEM. Hey.
BOM. What sleep, what mist stops your ears? Aemylio, once more I thunder with no small a voice.
AEM. And once more I thunder “hey” to you.
BOM. Abandoning the dark places of infernal Dis, sent forth from the deep cave of black Tartarus, uncertain which region he hates the more, —
AEM. How long is the road to getting to the point. As far as I’m concerned, by Hercules, he’s used up his traveling-money.
BOM. What are you saying? A bold demon (oh much too bold), a bloody snake has seized my house. Let him reign here, but I do not wish him long to rein.
AEM. No doubt. And you do well to want me to learn this, I who was the first to tell it to you.
BOM. You told me. But how small a thing was that? Here it is fitting to unsheathe iambics like to the thunder, iambics that fulminate. Who should roar loud enough, wearing a thousand buskins?
AEM. By Hercules, now you’ve done a fine job of imitating a thousand buskins!
BOM. Someone is within (shall I say a man, or rather a god?) who has summoned waters from dry clouds, and driven the seas down to the deep. From deep within, Ocean has cast up great floods, its tides overwhelmed, and likewise, the laws of the aether confounded, the cosmos has seen both sun and stars.
AEM. Pray abbreviate your oration. “You Bears have touched the forbidden ocean, the seasons are out of joint,” and so forth. And after such rodomontade, the exorcist is here at last.
BOM. He’ll terrify the monsters with his great voice.
AEM. Gods forbid! Beware less you entrust the job to him, since you will be badly spoken of by the general public, if you consort with gentlemen of his profession.
BOM. Reputation does not dare stand mute about me. Be silent.
AEM. But I’m afraid for your reputation, as is right for me to do. Where is he?
BOM. He’ll join us very soon. This affair is going slowly. He’s here. And this is just a little but from — He was here — Hand me the keys.
AEM. Why?
BOM. My hinge will at his thrusting creak, he visits my hall — Lower your voice, wretch, you’ll die. But what am I saying? Unhappy man, you’re dead.
AEM. Oh as many of the gods as exist, what will become of me now? To take such a crime upon yourself so notoriously? You carry the keys? “First may the sea flood the arctic Wain, the greedy tide of the Sicilian straight stand still, ripe crops grow from the Ionian sea,” as you so prettily said just now. Lead the way, I’m following, I’m right behind you. (Exit.)
BOM. When you speak aright I praise you, your counsel pleases.
AEM. How often this business has come close to landing me in jail! How uselessly our good scheme has turned out!


Oh Dinon, have you heard that we’re reduced to nothing?
DIN. I’ve been listening to everything from the door, the gods damn you with your songs! This is to sing the triumphal hymn before the victory. Most obviously you’ve destroyed us. [Sings.] “Only such an art is to be called liberal.” When will that fellow be here whose voice, like that of an early-morning rooster, so frightens evil demons?
AEM. Presently.
DIN. Presently?
AEM. And he won’t come now, to my sorrow.
DIN. And what about the captives?
AEM. Hang on, I was getting there. For an new and elegant trick was in my mind just now. Go away, bring forth your legions, quickly fetch them here.
DIN. For what purpose?
AEM. Let them open some school there, you understand? Let them instruct others, the income from that profession is by far the richest. For they’ll be out of sight of those people and turn such a huge profit at soon the can ransom themselves from captivity with cold cash. Just led them be professors of something wonderful and unusual.
DIN. What if they teach literature?
AEM. Heavens, these days that’s unusual enough! But how far removed is the man who will learn literature only for free from a cash customer!
DIN. Cheiromancy, physiognomy, something of that sort?
AEM. All those crafts are disdained as worthless, unless the question is whether a little boy is going to get a whipping, or how many husbands a serving-girl’s going to have and who they will be.
DIN. Then what?
AEM. I’ll tell you. Nowadays all men want to appear witty and elegant, they strive for that any way they can. I know men who prefer to lose their friends and their lives than to lose a joke. Thus they seek after laughter, and they get what they want, for, by Hercules, they’re ridiculous. Gelasimus suffers from this same itch, as much as one can.
DIN. So you want our captives to be professors of the art of joking?
AEM. You’ve got it.
DIN. But they are incapable of raising a laugh, unless they drink themselves silly.
AEM. Right, nowadays that’s what’s considered joking. Furthermore, who is there who can’t play with the resemblance of words, and a certain sympathy between them? How many words pertain to a shoemaker which are almost predestined for witticisms of this sort? Let our joker have all of these in the world. And how many to the philosopher? “Art,” “predicable,” “the Porphyrian Tree,” “ladder of predicates,” “conversion,” “fallacies,” “major premise,” “minor premise,” “barbaric,” “by Caesar,” “they conceal,” “I bear,” “I carry,” “thus I raise,” “simply said,” “something subordinate,” “I argue ad hominem,” “reduplicative,” and so forth. For I come to the conclusion that this use of terminology is the best. Useful are to are the names of certain authors: Ramus, Scotus, Faber, Tostatus, Suaresius, Naso, Tranquillus, Suetonius, Tacitus, et cetera.
BOM. (Within.) Aemylio.
AEM. He’s calling me. Right away. What was I saying? Oh. There is another species, namely, to mock everybody: there are in readiness (for it is disgraceful to have an empty notebook) jests against men of all stripes. But jokes of this kind largely consist on openly mocking, in wrinkling the nose, in putting on a jocular expression. A beard is also admirably useful, if they handle it properly. Sometimes they swear an oath for the sake of self-adornment. But (good gods, it almost escaped my mind!) they use their money to hire people to do this at home, they hire others to attack them abroad, in banquets, disputations, comedies, speeches, and people to who write jokes out, for they need to have purchased jokes concerning the old, the young, men, women, and nobles. Teach them this stuff and similar, do your duty. But do you hear me? Always be in their company, lest, having been set loose, they take to their heels. Which I am about to do. (Exit.)
DIN. I’ll manage it. The art of joking. Ha, ha, ha! Oh the wonderful thing! [Sings.] “Only such an art is to be called liberal.” (Exit.)


CAL. S. So do you stubbornly strive to do everything contrary to my will? At your age I was meek and humble towards my father’s command. I went to sea, I increased the family fortune by making a profit. You refuse to marry a girl of freeborn appearance, who is supposed to have such a great dowry?
CAL. J. But today, Father?
CAL. S. Hurray, how elegant! Tomorrow you’ll also say, “But today, Father?”
CAL. J. But the astrologers are forbidding marriages on this ill-omened day.
CAL. S. He’s ruined, he’s superstitious. Now will you be like your father, Calliphanes? I’m ashamed and embarrassed because of you.
CAL. J. But I’m ill, Father, I’m in bad health.
CAL. S. No, you’re not ill now, but you’re doing poorly, Calliphanes. If your mind were there — And why shouldn’t it be.
CAL. J. Furthermore —
CAL. S. Come, what “furthermore?”
CAL. J. Nothing’s in readiness. The house is empty. Do these things befit a wedding?
CAL. S. Yes, I’ve done this on purpose, to spare expense, useful for nothing. What do marriage hymns and songs signify? As if you couldn’t bed her and exert your efforts on procreating children without the help of fiddlers. So you and her should do this thing as if I weren’t ordering it, without making any talk , unless perhaps with Aemylio and Aegle as witnesses.
CAL. J. Aegle? Oh, yes.
CAL. S. Just go away and humor me.
CAL. J. What if she refuses, Father?
CAL. S. She refuses in vain, thus her father has admonished her indoors. Approach her in the customary way of lovers. Ah! At that age I would have — Follow me inside, you hear? Unless you do what I’ve ordered you’ll feel I’m your father, transformed from merciful itno irate. I’ve spoken, Calliphanes. Good gods, what prudence it is to control a son in this way! (Exeunt.)


PS. What say you, Aemylio? Have you heard yet about the new school? Good gods! The witty thing! I greatly desire to have a look at it, and make trial of what they can do in jokes, and that they get a taste of what woman I am. I’m certainly not afraid I’d take last place. Did you hear how bravely I disputed with the demon? He didn’t even have a word with which he could answer me.
AEM. He hates your voice more, I think than church bells or the voice of that countryside preacher who calls him a lion. He’ll never dare carry off your soul with himself (even though he knew it was his), because such an ability of speech is said to reside init.
PS. By your very great merit I esteem you highly, you talk so elegantly. Should I allow myself to be laughed easily, if it should happen in that way? For these charms I’ll bestow upon you the ability to steal a kiss.
AEM. By Hercules, if it’s necessary for me to be remunerated in this way, you will quickly make me abhor all witticisms! But let’s do away with silliness. Do you want to be made fortunate?
PS. Indeed I desire that, even if I am unhappy, thank the gods.
AEM. Put on this splendid little garment, make yourself glitter with gems, and pretend to be Bombardomachides’ daughter.
PS. I desire that, by heavens, but I’m uncertain where you’re going.
AEM. Here in the house next door, that rich heir Gelasimus is vending jokes, and (like such men are wont to be) he is a pure blockhead, and I greatly wish to fleece the man. So I want that today a marriage takes place between you and him.
PS. A marriage? Ha, ha, he. By heavens, a witty jest!
AEM. Thus you’ll create wealth for yourself, you’ll govern him according to your will, and you’ll be much freer to love any man at all than you are now. You’ll be as you wish. He’s a good man, but he’ll be entirely ignorant, or he’ll sleep while awake at his cups.
PS. I understand. For when I’ve been made a lady, it’s right I should please myself in the manner of the Court. Then sometime you’ll visit me, Aemylio, and I’ll take care not to be forgetful of you.
AEM. But there’s need for haste. Prepare yourself quickly. I’ll produce you there. Psecas, undertake this business cleverly and carefully. For you do nothing if you don’t zealously pretend that your mind’s devoted to him.
PS. Pish? Can you not be a bore? Or do at my time of life do I need to be instructed how to allure men? I could entice even you, Aemylio. Go away. Don’t bother waiting for me to get ready. Regarding the rest, be calm.
AEM. Indeed, I’m not afraid that you’re not naughty enough. I’ll seek you for an instructress, if I’m ever failing.
PS. And I’ll gladly give you instruction, which I can. Just go away. (Exit Aemylio.) I’ll marry him without imprecations, but he’ll never impregnate me with a son. Somebody else will his take his turn for that business, less I produce a child who is a disgrace to myself and my character. (Exit.)

GNOMICUS, GELASIMUS, MORION (School’s in session)

GNO. Marcus Tullius Cicero, the first chorister of all orators (which word he himself used in De Oratore, Book II), whom I love more than my eyes, denied there could be an art of wit. He was wrong. I always esteemed Cicero as a man [as a witty man?].
GEL. Pish! Cicero had no wit. Who could never make a joke out of all those words for figures and tropes? I could to so from early dawn to this time of day — Ah, metaphor, you’re a good word, and I have a lot of pleasantries of this sort gathered from a university lecturer’s oratory. Oh good gods! I wrote down a very fine joke against Cicero which was uttered three days ago in the Schools of the university nearby. I’ll read it to you — (Stands on the chair.)
GNO. But don’t be to fierce against our Cicero. For he was the father of eloquence.
GEL. (Hunts for the page.) What’s this? Oh — “Great joke against the Lord Mayor’s horns” — I know that one — “Joke against a badly-dressed soldier. Do they make him show his tail?” — Oh — This is extracted from my notebooks, and it’s certainly great — Hum? What’s this? From the public declamations of November 9, one joke, six demi-jokes, and three outstanding maxims. Oh, I recall — “Sacred jokes and pious hilarities” — We’ll never sell those. — Oh, now I’ve found it. “Great joke against Cicero.”
GNO. Read it, I’m standing with my ears cocked.
GEL. (Reads.) “Cicero is a vain name. Let him depart now to the Tullianum, and this can be converted into a praise of Cicero in the following way — Cicero was the first chorister of orators, — ”
MOR. That’s your statement, Tutor
GEL. “ — the others can go to the Tullianum.”
GNO. Excellent! For there’s a place in a jail which is called the Tullianum.
MOR. Ha, ha, he?
GEL. Why are you laughing?
MOR. Ha, ha, he. “Let him depart to the Tullianum.” Ha, ha.
GEL. That statement can be taken in two ways, it’s an ambidextrous joke. There I’m witty on the side. You hear that, Tutor? Morion, write that down.
MOR. Of course.
GNO. Hey, is everything in readiness?
GEL. They’re in a ready mess. There again. I’m playing on your words, Tutor.
MOR. Joc — jo — joke. Gelasimus, is that spelled with a go or a jo?
GEL. With a jo. Have you been writing
MOR. I think so.
GEL. Read it back.
MOR. “The deck is amber — of the joke.”
GEL. Oh you evil thing! Hand me the pen.
MOR. Sure, it all amounts to the same thing. I wrote right well, Tutor.
GNO. Indeed, insanely well, to speak comically. Gelasimus, there I —
GEL. But I fear lest this doesn’t detract from my gravity. No, no, the very Doctors make jokes in these parts. The judges themselves are witty towards the condemned, they sleep, they nod their heads, and that’s a judicial joke. The nobles pay their creditors with jokes. Here people do everything as a joke: they make promises as a joke, they swear oaths as a joke, they cheat as a joke, they go to church as a joke. I almost said they live as a joke, they joke that seriously.
GNO. And I’ll do so: If we sing of forests, let the forests be worthy of a consul.
GEL. Morion, see if customers are nearby. Or is the view barren?
MOR. [Crying like a vendor.] Jokes, new jokes, fine new jokes, who buys new jokes?
GNO. Haven’t you hawked any yet? To use a comic phrase, this is a wicked day for selling jokes.
GEL. Soon it will give us a huge income, thus my eyebrow jumps. I’m not this witty today for nothing, have I neglected to turn a profit this morning? I’ve already sold some woman or other two jokes against Pope Joan, which she said she was going to send to her elect brother, a faithful pastor in England. And I’ve sold a couple about the keys and the triple crown.
GNO. How much did she buy them for?
GEL. One drachma apiece. But she wanted me throw in a demi-joke against Bellarmine as a bonus, so I gave her one: “You undermine the truth, Bellarmine.”
GNO. That’s good: “We saw the heavenly goat rising,” that is, “We are blessed,” attested by Erasmus of Rotterdam in his Adages. Anything else?
GEL. A justice also purchased four jokes in honor of the law, and six witty maxims which he can utter at dinner when he receives his neighbors at his annual banquets. Afterwards came some Jesuit (as near as I can guess, for his dress was regal), and paid me money in advance to write him a witty and clever dialogue between Luther and the Devil. I don’t mention the others —
MOR. Peace! Shh! A customer’s here. What do you want for yourself, master? New jokes, fine new jokes!


ACAD. I would be given the Senior Tutor of this school.
MOR. Be given? No, no. You’ll have him if you agree to purchase him.
ACAD. Who’s the Senior Tutor?
MOR. I’m Morion.
ACAD. But I want to meet him.
MOR. Don’t you want to meet me? I can joke occasionally.
GEL. Morion, please copy out this page.
MOR. The whole page? I think you want to kill me.
GNO. Young man, behold I am present at your service. I am present, whom you seek, Trojan Aeneas.
ACAD. If your name’s Aeneas, I want to meet somebody else.
GNO. No, no, but I’m speaking with the poet. I’m your man, tell me why you came.
ACAD. My duty is to serve as moderator between the disputants in the public Schools.
GNO. Oh, you’re an agonothete (from the Greek contest and establish), for so the learned call it.
ACAD. I want to seem witty. I’ll give as much money as the others did who have performed this office.
GEL. Right, for if you can’t conclude arguments, you’ll have to conclude a deal. You hear what I said? Morion, write that down quickly.
MOR. Gods damn you, I believe you were in the habit of joking in your mother’s womb, and you always act so to create yourself no work in writing.
GEL. But bear in mind, young man, in what place you are. You shouldn’t be too facetious. But have you no little joke at the ready?
ACAD. Nothing except “you have satisfied with your duty.”
MOR. A — r— ar — arg — Oh, I’ve got it now.
ACAD. But have you a good stock of philosophical witticisms?
GEL. You’ll see. Morion, hand me that pamphlet of philosophical jokes. I’ll read you a few.


WOM. Who’s inside?
MOR. Who’s this woman? What do you want?
WOM. You’re the Master of the school?
MOR. I am, I am. What’s it to you? Master? Of course.
WOM. Pray draw aside, there’s something I’ll tell you in your ear. I’m the wife, it if please you, of a boorish and foul-mouthed man who calls me a slut. “You’re a liar and a bitch,” he says. I want to buy some witticisms to use against him.
MOR. (In a loud voice.) You’re the wife of a boorish and foul-mouthed man who calls you a slut? You tell me this in my ear? No, no, what if there’s some hidden trickery here?
GNO. Please come closer, madam.
ACAD. Ha, ha, he. I can’t keep from applauding — take your money. (Claps his hands.) I think that because of this saying they’ll carry me about on their shoulders.
GNO. What sort of witticisms do you want?
WOM. Of all sorts, if you please.
GNO. (Aside.) Morion, hand me the pious hilarities, we’ll never sell them otherwise.
WOM. (Overhearing.) Not many pious ones, if it please you.
GNO. No, no, a few for Sunday. Do you want noble jokes too?
WOM. Whatever kind seems best to you.
GNO. And some are off-color.
WOM. It doesn’t matter, as long as only some are off-color. Show me them, name your price.
GNO. They’re not dear at six minas. But since you are pretty, and since virtue is prettier coming from a pretty body, you’ll take them away for six solidi.
WOM. Take them. May the gods preserve you.
MOR. You’ll never take them away thus, you’ll give me something (She kisses him. Exit.)
ACAD. Indeed, if I ever see you at the university I’ll entertain you lavishly with stewed prunes and first-rate beer. But it’s needful that you compose for me the refutation of a speech.
GEL. Coming up right away, it flows easily for me. Come here, Morion, write what I say. Ready?
ACAD. But pray compose it so that I may respond to other orations with the same refutation.
GEL. To all of them, if you wish. “Before we come to the disputation, something must be answered to you, for in the exordium of your oration you had — ”
MOR. What. Ex — Exordum — I think you take delight in words which are hard to write.
GEL. “ — something about my praises, but I frankly admit I have not deserved such praises. Furthermore, you spoke something — Furthermore, you said something about the Philosophical Ocean.”
ACAD. What if he doesn’t say anything?
GEL. Pish, have no fear, nobody will ever omit the Philosophical Ocean. But I perceive that no Venuses are born out of that one. Ha! What do you say, young man?
ACAD. Hum, hum, hum! My goodness, prettily said.
GEL. “You have said that — ” And then you insert his words.
ACAD. I pray you to do that, I can’t insert anything.
GEL. That’s good, there’s no need. Continue in this manner. “The rest has slipped my mind, and so —,” and then gird yourself for the disputation. Have you written that down, Morion?
MOR. Pretty much. (Reads.) “They have slipped, and so — And then gird yourself for the disputation.”
GEL. Pish, that shouldn’t have been written, “and then gird yourself.”
MOR. No? That should have been indicated to me, but I’ll erase it.
ACAD. Nothing better. Oh, if I could repeat that in witty tones!
GEL. That’s very easy, you’ll hear Morion. Morion, start in the middle and read the confutation as I taught you.
MOR. You taught me? No. I speak that way. “Before we cone to the disputation, something must be answered to you, for in the ex — the exordium of your oration you said something about my praises, but I frankly admit I have not deserved such praises. Furthermore you said something about the Philosophical Ocean. Pish, have no fear. Nobody will ever — ”
GEL. What? You wrote that? Erase it quickly, I tell you.
MOR. What? Isn’t that a joke? Won’t I be erasing a fine joke? Good, if you want — (Erases.) “But I see no venoms are born — ”
GEL. What? Venoms?
MOR. Of course. Isn’t this right?
GEL. Pish! Venuses.
MOR. Venuses. Good, it all amounts to the same thing. “The rest has slipped my mind, and so —“
ACAD. He reads very facetiously. For how much is this offered?
GEL. It’s worth its weight in gold, but for you I’ll settle for a solidus.
MOR. No, no. I’ll name the price for it, since I did a good job of reading it. You see these clothes, very jocular? You’ll give me your underpants.
ACAD. Look, here’s a solidus — a stranger’s here — Farewell, now I’ll confute all the men with whom I speak. (Exit.)


GNO. Another’s here. What quarter of the land is not full of our suffering?
BOM. Hey! Do you vend jokes in this school? Speak out and show this to me, whatever it is.
GNO. Indeed you speak the truth, but things more serious than trust in the truth, as Ovid says in the Tristia, which book he composed after he had been exiled by Augustus. But allow me to say to you, with the poet, tell me your name.
BOM. You know not my name? Oh the great wrong! As long as the mid-earth will bear the balanced sky, and the gleaming cosmos will continue its fixed turnings, and number will be absent for the sands, my name will not remain hidden from any men.
GNO. As near as I can see, this man hasn’t read Vergil yet, for when the poet said the same thing better: As long as rivers run into the sea, as long as shadows bathe the hollow places in the mountains, as long as heaven feeds the stars, your honor, your name, and your praises will ever endure.
MOR. By Hercules, I hardly dare. Hem! I’ll show myself brave. New jokes, fine new jokes, will you buy new jokes?
BOM. That’s what you say, villain?
MOR. Nothing, nothing at all. I have a habit of talking to myself. This man isn’t joking.
BOM. I bear silver, good silver, bent on purchasing jokes against the crushed battalions of my foemen, and whoever counts my minae will find they are two. (Shows his money.)
MOR. Ha, ha, I have it. Here’s a very fine joke for you. Reply to your enemy in this way: “Go off to the Tullianum,” and this can be transformed into a praise for them, if only you say “Don’t go off to the Tullianum,” ha, ha, he!
GEL. Does the plague grip you? That’s supposed to be said against Cicero.
MOR. I know this, but it can easily be applied to others. Isn’t there a place in a jail called the Tullianum? I can joke well enough in this place, gods be praised.
GEL. See, here are military jokes for you!
GNO. Alexander, or the boy of Pella, never spoke better. You say, for example, “The King of the Macedonians himself gave me — ” Then someone will say, “What did he give you? Money?” You very humorously reply, “His back,” or “He gave me his forfeit.”
BOM. But make sure this all marches on an iambic foot. You must do it now, for soon I’ll return my step this way. (Exit.)
GEL. By heaven how prosperously we’re going along, we’re doing this job elegantly.
MOR. We complement each other nicely, we’re all wits.
GNO. There’s a compact between savage bears, as said a man most educated in every genre of literature.
GEL. Hey! We’re being overwhelmed by a multitude! Go way, you’re a beast of many heads Ha, ha, ha. “Of many heads,” ha, ha! [To the audience.] Come back after a meal, you who are beast of many heads. Tutor, let’s go eat.
GNO. Right. For, as the poet says, My Muse plays with sober things, with jokes intermingled. (Exeunt.)

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