Introductory Note. Castilian Spanish Literature: Mediaeval Era to 15th Century
The name Spanish is now generally restricted to the literature of the Castilian tongue. In the present article it is taken in the wider sense as embracing the literature of the whole Iberian Peninsula, with the exceptions of PORTUGAL (q.v.) and the Galicia, belongs to the Portuguese domain. Spanish literature thus considered falls into two divisionsCastilian and Catalan.
I. CASTILIAN LITERATURE.Of the Castilian texts now extant none are of earlier date than the 12th century, and very probably none go further back than 1150. that accepted as the oldestthe Mystery of the Magian Kings, as it is rather inappropriately designatedis a fragment of a short semi-liturgical play meant to be acted in the church of Toledo at the feast of Epiphany. Manifestly an imitation of the Latin ludi represented in France in the 12th century, the Spanish piece cannot have been composed much before 1150.
Heroic poetry. The great national hero Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar (died 1099), better known in history by the Arabic surname of the CID (q.v.), was celebrated in the vulgar tongue less than a century after his death in two poems, neither of which, however, has come down to us in its entirely. The first cantar, usually entitled Poema del Cid since the first edition by Tomas Antonio Sanchez, relates in its first part the valiant deeds (la gesta) of the Cid subsequent to his quarrel with King Alfonso VI.; in the second the capture of Valencia, the reconciliation of the hero with the king, and the marriage of his daughters with the "infants" of Carrion; [353-1] and then in the third treason of the infants, the vengeance of the Cid, and the second marriage of his daughters with the infants of Navarre and Aragon. The narrative of the last years of the Cid, which closes this third part, is very much curtailed. Whilst in the Poema the Cid appears as the loyal vassal, faithful to his king and deploring the necessity of separating from him, the Cid of the second poem, Crónica rimada del Cid, is almost a rebel and at least a refractory vassal who dares threat his sovereign as an equal. The portion of the Crónica which ahs been preserved deals in the main with the youth (mocedades) of Rodrigo; it contains the primitive version of his quarrel with the Count Gomez de Gormaz, and the marriage of the slayer of the count with Ximena, his daughter, and also a series of fabulous episodes, such as the Cids journey to France to fight with the twelve peers of Charlemagne, &c. If the Poema really belongs to the 12th century, some doubt attached to the date of the Crónica; it would seem that the form under which this latter text has reached us is more recent than that of the Poema, but, on the other hand, several traditions collected by the author bear an incontestable stamp of antiquity. The versification of both poems is very barbarous, the metre very irregular. Normally this great epic measure ought to be divided into two hemistichs of seven or eight syllables each; but here the lines sometimes fall short of this number and sometimes exceed nit. Instead of rhyme, assonance steadily prevails throughout; the strophes follow the model of the laisses of the French chansons de geste,that is they have a single assonace and vary greatly in extent
The other heroes of Spanish history, such as the last Gothic king Roderick, Bernardo del Carpio, the infants of Lara, have not given rise to long poems; at least we are acquainted with none of which they are the subject. Still some may have existed; and in fact the frequent allusions in the chronicle of Alfonso the Wise (13th century) to the narratives of the juglares suggest that Castilian heroic poetry was richer than the scarcity of the monuments still extant would elad us to belive. Fernan Gonzales, first independent count of Castile (10th century), has alone been celebrated in a poem of the 13th century, composed in single-rhyme quatrains.
Poems of 13th century. With the heroic poetry which takes its themes from the national history and legends, there grow up in the 14th century a religious and didactic poetry, the most eminent representative of which is Gonzalo de Berceo (1198-1268). This poet, born at Berceo in the province of Logroño, composed several lives of Spanish saints (St Domingo de Silos, St Millan de la Cogulla, St Oria), and also devotional poems, such as the Miracles and the Praises of the Virgin, and some religious hymns. Berceo names his poem prosa, decir, dictado, indicating thereby that he intended them to be read and recited, not sung like the cantaras. They are written in single-rhyme quatrains and in verses of twelve to fourteen syllables, according as the ending of each hemistich is masculine or feminine. In the same kind of versification were composed, also in the 13th century, two long poems,one on Alexander the Great, the other on Apollonius of Tyre,after Latin and French sources. The author of the first of these poems contrasts his system of versification, which he calls mester de clerecia, with the mester de joglaria, the one of the heroic poetry, intended to be sung, and declares that this single-rhyme quatrain (curso rimado por la quadena via) consists of counted syllables. The composer of Appolonio calls this same versification nueva maestria. The single-rhyme quatrain, introduced in imitation of the French poetry of the 12th century into Castilian literature, became from the tome of Berceo and the Alexandro and Appolonio the regular form in Castilian narrative and didactic poetry, and prevailed down to the close of the 14th century.
To the 13th century seem also to belong a Life of St Mary the Egyptian, translates from the French, perhaps through a Provençal version, and an Adoration of the Three Kings, in verses of eight or nine syllables rhyming in pairs (aa, bb, cc, &c.( as well as a fragment of a Debate between Soul and Body, in verses of six or seven syllables, evidently an imitation of one of those mediaeval Latin poems entitled Rixa Animi et Corporis. Mention may here also be made of the cantigas ("songs") of Alfonso the Wise in honour of the Virgin, although, being in the Galician dialect, these properly belong to the history of Portuguese literature.
The 14th century saw the birth of the most original mediaeval Spanish poet. Juan Ruiz (1300-1350), archpriest of Hita (near Guadalajara), has left us a poem of rather irregular composition, in which, while reproducing apologues translated from the Latin or French fabulists, and extracts from Ovids Art of Love, or from a poem entitled Pamphilus de Amore, or, lastly, form fabliaux and dits, such as the Bataille de Karesme et de Charnage, the author frequently gives way to his own inspiration. Ruiz celebrated love and woman; his book is of buen amor, that is, he shows by his own experience and the example of the authors whom he follows how a man ought to set to work to be a successful lover. The character of the female go-between, named "Trota-Conventos," here plays an important part; it was suggested to Ruiz by the Pamphilus, but he has greatly strengthened the characteristics and thus prepared the way for the Celestina of the close of the 15th century. By way of precaution, the author represents himself as one who has survived his illusions, and maintains that carnal love (loco amor) must in the long run give place to divine love; but this stratum of devotion is a thin one and ought not to disguise the real character of the work. His form of versification is the single-rhyme quatrain in the narrative, and of which the most successful are a "song of scholars" and a "song of the blind," their rhythm is different and much more varied. The Rimado de Palacio of the grand chancellor of Castile, Pedro Lopez de Ayala (1332-1407), does not exclusively refer to court life; the author takes up all classes of laymen and churchmen, whose vices he depicts in jocular style. Amid the tirades of this long moral poem there occur occasionally some cantares or even decires in strophes of eight line of eight lines of twelve syllables. Akin to this Rimado de Palacio are the Proverbios Morales of the Jew Santob (Shemtob) of Carrion, dedicated to King Pedro the Cruel, who reigned form 1350 to 1369, as well as the General Dance of Death and a new version of the Debate between Soul and Body, both in eight-line strophes of arte major (verses of twelve syllables), and both imitations of French originals. The 14th century also produced a long historical composition in verse, the Rhymed Chronicle of Alfonso XI. (died 1350), by Rodrigo Yanez, important fragments of which have come down to us; the versification of this chronicle is similar to that of Santobs Proverbs (strophes of four octosyllabic verses rhyming abab).
The word romance not only signifies in Spain, as in other Romantic countries, the vulgar tongue, but also bears the special meaning of a short epic narrative poem (historic ballad) or, at a later date, a short lyric poem. As regards the form, the "romances" (Spanish el romance, in contrast to French, &c., la romance) is a composition in long verses of fourteen syllables ending with one rhyme, or assonance, which have been generally, but wrongly, divided into two short lines, the first of which, naturally, is rhymeless. This being the form of the romance verse the Crónica rimada del Cid, and even the Poema (though in this case the influence of the French alexandrines is perceptible), might be considered as a series of romances tagged on one after the other; and in fact several of the old romances of the Cid, which form each an independent whole and have been printed as separate poems in the 16th century, are partly to be found in the Crónica. Other romances, notably those dealing with the heroes of the Carlovingian epic, so popular in Spain, or with the heroes which Spanish patriotism, for example, Bernando del Carpio, the rival and the conqueror of Roland in Castilian tradition,seem to be portions severed from those cantares de gesta composed by juglares of which Alfonso X. makes mention. It is only at the close of the 15th century, and especially during the 16th., that the romances, which had previously passed from mouth to mouth by song and recitation, began to be written down and afterwards to be printed, at first on broadsheets (pliegos sueltos) and subsequently in collections (romanceros), either general, in which romances of very different date, character, and subject are mixed up, or restricted to a single historical or legendary episode or to a single personage (for example, the Romancero del Cid). In those collections the epic verse is always regarded as octosyllabic and printed as such; occasionally certain editions divide the romance into strophes of four verses (cuartetas).
Prose chronicles, 13th-16th centuries. King Alfonso X. (died 1284), under whose patronage were published the memorable code entitled Las Siete Partidas and great scientific compilations, such as the Libros de Astronomica and the Lapidario, was also the founder of Spanish historiography in the vulgar tongue. The Crónica General, composed under his direction, consists of two distinct parts: the one treats of universal history from the creation of the world to the first centuries of the Christian era (La General é Grant Historia), the other exclusively of the national history (La Crónica ó Historia de España) down to the death of Ferdinand III. (1252), father of Alfonso. The main sources of the Crónica General are two Spanish chronicles of the 13th centuryLucas of Tuy and Rodriguez of Toledo,who wrote in Latin, but whose works were early translated into the vernacular. In the Historia de España of Alfonso X., which has collected many legends and which occasioannly refers to the songs of the juglares (for the purpose, however, of refuting them), the narrative relating to the Cid is partly based on an Arabic text. This portion has frequently been printed by itself, under the title of Crónica del Cid. Alfonsos example bore fruit. In the 14th century we find another Crónica General de España or de Castilla, constructed on the model of the first and embracing the years 1030-1312; next, the Grant Crónica de España and the Grant Crónica de los Conqueridores, compiled by command of the grandmaster of the order of St John of Jerusalem, Juan Fernandez de Heredia, about 1390. Special chronicles of each king of Castile were soon written. Our information is at fault in regard to the authorship of the chronicles of Alfonso x., Sancho Iv., Ferdinand IV., and Alfonso XI.; but the four following reignsthose of Pedro I., Henry II., John I., and Henry III.were dealt with by Pedro Lopez de Ayala, and here we can recognize the man of literary culture, who had acquired some knowledge of ancient history, for the form of the narrative becomes freer and more personal and the style rises with the thought. Several authors had a hand in the chronicle of John II., but the final redaction was by Fernan Perez de Guzman. The said reign of Henry IV. was related by Diego Enriquez del Castillo and Alfonso de Palencia, the glorious reign of the Catholic sovereigns Ferdinand and Isabella by Fernando del Pulgar and Andrès Bernaldes.
Biographies. Along with those royal chronicles must be mentioned some biographies of important persons. Thus in the 15th century the chronicles of Perdo Niño, count of Buelna (1379-1452), by Gutierre Diez de Gamez; that of Alvaro de Luna, constable of Castile (died 1453); also a very curious book of travels, the narrative of the embassy sent by Henry III. of Castile to Timur in 1403, written by the head of the mission, Ruy Gonzalez de CLAVIJO (q.v.).
Other prose works of the 13th and 14th centuries. The other productions of Castilian prose in the 13th and 14th centuries are for the most part didactic and sententious compositions, which, however, contain illustrations or tales of Eastern origin. The Spanish translation of Kalila and Dimna, made direct from an Arabic text, dates from the middle of the 13th century, and the romance of the Seven Sages (Sindibad), published under the title of Engaños é Assayamientos de las Mugeres, must be referred to almost the same period. From the second half of the 13th century the collections of sentences, dits, apologues, and moral tales become very numerous; first of all, versions of the Secretum Secretorum, attributed in the Middle Ages to Aristotle, one of which is entitled Poridat de las Poridades, next the Proverbios Buenos, the Bocados de Oro or Libro de Bonium, Rey de Persia, the Libro de los Gatos, which is derived from the Narrationes of Eudes of Cheriton. But the most celebrated is the Libro de los Castigos y Documentos of King Sancho IV. (died 1295), who also composed a Lucidario, a kind of encyclopaedia of theology, morals, and natural history. It was during the first half of the 14th century that the nephew of Alfonso X., the infant Juan Manuel (1282-1349), wrote those various works which place him in the first rank of mediaeval Spanish prose writers. The best known is the collection of tales, many of them borrowed from Oriental sources, entitled El Conde Lucanor; but besides this contribution to light literature he wrote graver and more specially instructive works, notably the Libro de los Estados or Libro del Infante, a kind of manual of education, domestic economy, and politics; the Libro del Caballero é del Escudero, a practical treatise on chivalry somewhat resembling a work of Raymond Lully on the same subject. Unfortunately Juan Manuels poems, which eh had collected in a Libro de las Cantigas or de los Cantares, have been lost. The knowledge of antiquity, previously so poor and vague, made remarkable progress in the 14th century. It was thought desirable to learn more about certain episodes of ancient history, such as the War of Troy, and therefore the poem on that subject by the Frenchman Benoit de Sainte-More and the Latin narrative of Guido de Columna were both translated. Pedro de Ayala translated or caused to be translated Pierre Bersuires French version of Livy, Boetius, and various writings of Isidore of Seville and Boccaccio.
Books of chivalry. While the Carlovingian cycle is mainly represented in Spain by romances, of which the oldest seem to be fragments of lost poems of the juglares, the British cycle (Lancelot, Tristram, Merlin, &c.) is represented almost exclusively by works in prose (compare ROMANCE). Those narratives are known, it is true, only by 15th and 16th century editions in which they have been more or less modified to suit the taste of the time, but it is impossible not to recognize that books such as El Baladro del Sabia Merlin and La Demanda del Sancto Grial (1515) presuppose a considerable antecedent literature of which they are only the afterglow. The principal French romances of the Round Table were translated and imitated in Spain and in Portugal as early as the first half of the 14th century at least; of that there is no doubt. And, even if there was not on this point satisfactory testimony, the prodigious development in Spanish literature of the caballerias or "book of chivalry," incontrovertibility derived from fictions of British origin, is proof enough that the Spaniards have at an early date been familiarized with this romance from France. The first book which begins the series of strictly Spanish caballerias is the Amadis de Gaula (i.e., of Wales, not France). We know the Amadis only by the version made about 1480 in four books by Garci Ordoñez de Montalvo (the oldest edition extant is dated 1508), but the work in its original form (three books), already widely distributed and celebrated by various Castilian poets from about 1350, must have been composed at the latest in the second third of the 14th century. A few rather vague hints and certain sentimental considerations lead one to seek for the unknown author of the first Amadis in Portugal, where the romances of the Round Table were even more highly appreciated than in Spain, and where they have exercised a deeper influence on the national literature. To Montalvo, however, falls the honour of having preserved the book by republishing it; he only made the mistake of diluting the original text too much and of adding a poor continuation, Las Sergas de Esplandian. Allied to Montalvos Amadis with its Esplandian appendage are the Don Florisando and the Lisuarte de Grecia, the Amadis de Grecia, the Don Florisel de Niquea, &c., which form what Cervantes called the "Amadis sect." Along with the Amadises range the Palmerines, the most celebrated of which are the Palmerin de Oliva, the Primaleon, and the Palmerin de Inglaterra. None of those caballerias inspired by the Amadis were printed or even written before the 16th century; and they bear in language and style the stamp of that period; but they cannot be separated from their mediaeval model, the spirit of which they have preserved intact. Among the caballerias we may also class some narratives belonging to the Carlovingian epic,the Historia del Emperador Carlomagno y de los Doce Pares, a very popular version still reprinted of the French romance of Fierabras, the Espejo de Caballerias, into which has passed a large part of the Orlando Innamorato of Boiardo, the Historia de la Reina Sibilla, &c.
Poetry of the 15th century. The first half of the 15th century, or, what comes almost to the same thing, the reign of John II. of Castile (1407-1454), is as regards its literature characterized by three facts(1) by the development of a court poetry, artificial and pretentious; (2) by the influence of Italian literature on Castilian prose and poetry, the imitation of Boccaccio and Dante, especially of the latter, which introduced into Spain a liking for allegory; and (3) by more assiduous intercourse with antiquitya fuller understanding of the Latin writers who had been brought to the front by the Italian renaissance. After the example of the Provençals, whose literary doctrines had made their way into Castile through Portugal and Catalonia, poetry is now styled the arte de trobar. The arte de trobar is strictly "court" poetry, which consists in short pieces of rather complicated versification,love plaints, debates, questions, and repartees, motes with their glosas, burlesque and satirical songsa poetry wholly "occasional," and which when separated from its natural environment loses great part of its charm. In order to understand and appreciate those pieces they must be read in the collections made by the poets of the time, and the one must be brought to throw light on the other. The most celebrated cancionero of the 15th century is that compiled for the amusement of his sovereign by Alfonso de Baena (who has not designated himself a Jew, as has been supposed, the word judino attached to his name in the preface being nothing but indino); it is, so to say, the official collection of the poetic court of John II., although it also contains some pieces by poets of earlier date. After Baenas collection may be mentioned the Cancionero de Stuñiga, which contains the Castilian poems of the trobadores who followed Alfonso V. of Aragon to Naples. Those cancioneros, consisting of the productions of a society, a group were succeeded by collections of a more general character in which versifiers of very different periods and localities are jumbled together, the pieces being classed simply according to their type. The earlier Cancionero General is that compiled by Juan Fernandez de Constantina, which appears to have issued from the Valencia press in the very beginning of the 15th century; the second much better known, was published for the first time at Valencia in 1511; its editor was called Fernando del Castillo. The other poetic school of the 15th century, which claims to be specially related to the Italians, had as its leaders Juan de Mena (1411-1456), author of the Coronacion and the Labirinto or Las Trecientas (a long poem so called because of the number of stanzas which, according to the scheme, were to compose it), and the marquis of Santillana, D. Iñigo Lopez de Mendoza (1398-1458), who in his sonnets was the first to imitate the structure of the Italian endecasillabo. Along with those two, who may de designated poetas, in distinction from the decidores and the trobadores of the cancioneros, must be ranked Francisco Imperial, a Genoese by descent, who also helped to acclimatize in Spain the forms of Italian poetry. The marquis of Santillana occupies a considerable place in the literature of the 15th century, not only by reason of his poems, but quite as much if not more through the support he afforded to all the writers of his time, and the impulse he gave to the study of antiquity and to the labours of translator who at his request turned Virgil, Ovid, Seneca, &c., into Castilian. He himself was not acquainted with Latin; but the generous efforts he made to stir up his fellow-countrymen to learn it have justly procured him the title of father of Spanish humanism. That he had an extensive knowledge of the national literature and of the literatures of France and Italy he has shown in the preface to his works, which is a sort of ars poetica as well as an historical exposition of the kinds of poetry cultivated in the Middle Ages by the Spaniards and the nieghbouring nations.
Prose of 15th century. With the exception of the chronicles and some caballerias, the prose of the 15th century contains nothing very striking. The translation of Virgil by Enrique de Villena (died 1434) is very clumsy and shows no advance on the versions of Latin authors made in the previous century; better worth reading is the Trabajos de Hercules, a whimsical production but with some savour in its st yle. A curious and amusing book, full of details about Spanish manners, is the Corbacho of the archpriest of Talavera, Alondo Martinez de Toledo, chaplain to King John II.; the Corbacho belongs to the numerous family of satires against women, and its title ("The Lash" or "Whip") borrowed from a work of Boccaccios with which it has otherwise nothing akin, correctly indicates that he has not spared them.
Dramatic literature. The ancient liturgical Spanish theatre is known to us only by fragments of the play of the Magian Kings, of which mention has already been made; but certain regulations of the code of the Siete Partidas (compiled between 1252 and 1257) prove that this theatre existed, and that at the great festivals, such as Christmas, Epiphany, and Easter, dramatic representations were given in church. These representations, originally a mere commentary on the liturgy, grew more complicated in course of time; they were gradually adulterated with buffoonery, which frequently brought down the censure of the clergy. Alfonso the Wiese even thought it necessary formally to forbid the "clerks" playing juegos de escarnios, and permitted in the sanctuary only dramas destined to commemorate the principal episode of the life of Christ. Of all the church festivals, the most popular in Spain was that or Corpus Christi, instituted by Urban IV. in 1264. At an early date was introduced the custom of accompanying the celebration of this festival with dramatic representations intended to explain to the faithful the Eucharistic mystery. Those dramas, called autos sacramentales, acquired more and more significance; in the 17th century, with Calderon, they become grand allegorical pieces, regular theological dissertations in the form of dramas. To the auto sacramental corresponds the auto al nacimiento, or drama of the nativity. The secular theatre is in Spain as elsewhere a product of the religious theatre. Expelled from the church, the juegos de escarnios took possession of the public squares and there obtained a free development; they cease to be a mere travesty of dogma to become a separate type, a drama whose movement is no longer determined by the liturgy, and whose actors are borrowed from real life in Spanish society. This new theatre starts about the close of the 15th century with the little pastoral pieces of Juan del Encina (died 1534), which, after Virgils example, he calls eglogas. Genuine shepherds, clumsy, rude, and long-haired (melenudos), are the interlocutors of those bucolics, into which are also sometimes introduced students, and even, by Lucas Fernandez, a contemporary and pupil of Encinas, gentlemen (caballeros) and soldiers. A book which, strictly speaking, does not belong to the theatre, the Tragicomedia de Calixto y Melibea, by Fernando de Rojas, much better known as La Celestina, and dating from about 1492, caused the new theatre, still so childish in the attempts of the school of Encina, to make a gigantic step onwards. The history of two lovers, who are brought together by a go-between (Celestina), and who after various vicissitudes ultimately commit suicide,this astonishing novel taught the Spaniards the art of dialogue, and for the first time exhibited persons of all classes of society (particularly the lowest) speaking in harmony with their natural surroundings, thinking and acting in accordance with their condition of life. The progress caused by the Celestina may be estimated by means of the Propaladia of Bartolomé Torres Naharro (Naples, 1517), a collection of pieces represented at Rome in presence of Leo X. and distributed by their author into two groupscomedias a noticia, those treating of things really known and seen, and comedias a fantasia, those bringing fictions on the stage, though it may be with the appearance of reality. The most interesting, if not the best composed, are the comedia coldadesca, depicting to the life the Spanish man-at-arms on the time, and the comedia tinelaria, a picture of the manners of the menials of the pontifical court. Torres Naharro is the first Spaniard who borrowed from France the division of the play into "days" (jornadas); shortly after Naharro we find the comedy of manners in Lope de Rueda, goldbeater of Seville (died about 1566), whose dramatic work is composed of regular comedies constructed on the model of Naharro and Italian authors of the beginning of the 16th century, and also of little pieces intended for performance in the intervals between the larger plays (entremeses and pasos), some of which, such as El Convidado, El Rufian Cobarde, Las Aceitunas, are storehouses of sprightliness and wit. Some of Naharros and especially of Ruedas pieces have already the character of the comedy of intrigue, which is emphatically the type of the classic stage. But to reach Lope de Vega the Spanish stage had to be enlarged in relation to national history. A poet of Seville, Juan de la Cueva (born about 1550), first brought on the boards subjects such as the exploits of the Cid, Bernardo del Carpio, and others, which had previously been treated of only in the "romances." To a poet called Berrio, of whose work nothing has been preserved, are attributed the comedias of Moors and Christians, in which were represented famous episodes of the age-long struggle against the infidel. And it is at this period that Cervantes (1585) experimental in the dramatic line; in his Tratos de Argel he gives us a picture of galley-life, painful recollections of his long captivity in Algiers. There is no need to linger over certain attempts at tragedy of the ancient type by Geronimo Bermudez (born 1530), Cristóbal de Virues (born about 1550), Lupercio Leonardo Argensola (1562-1613), &c., the only successful specimen of which is the Numancia of Cervantes; these works in fact, cold and manneristic, mere exercises in style and versification, remained without influence on the development of the Spanish stage. The pre-classic period of this stage is, as regards dramatic form, one of indecision. Some write in prose, like Rueda; others, like Naharro, show a preference for the redondillas of popular poetry; and there are those again who, to elevate the as to the mode of dividing the drama. At first a division into five acts, after the manner of the ancients, is adopted, and this is still followed by Cervantes in his first pieces; then Juan de la Cueva reduced the five acts to four, and in this he is imitated by most of the poets to the close of the 16th century (Lope de Vega himself in his youth composed pieces in four acts). It was only at this time that the custom which is still maintained of dividing all dramatic works into three acts or days was introduced,exception of course being made of short pieces like the loa (prologue), the entremes, the paso, the baile (different kinds of entracte).
353-1 Carrion de los Condes is a district in the province of Valencia.
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