Harold Monro



The Imagists Discussed


Literatur: Monro
Literatur: The Egoist




THE "Imagistes" have apparently become reduced in number since the publication of their first Anthology * in March 1914. The Preface to this new volume explains: "Differences of taste and judgment, however, have arisen among the contributors to that book; growing tendencies are forcing them along different paths." Most conspicuous among absentees are Ezra Pound and Ford Madox Hueffer. The anonymous preface-writer repudiates leadership for the present group of six. "Instead of an arbitary selection by an editor, each poet has been allowed to represent himself by the work he considers his best." Further, "The poets in this volume do not represent a clique... they are united by certain common principles, arrived at independently." We are not told who formulated these principles, here set down to the number of six. Some of the poets of the other anthology must certainly have contributed towards them, or at least have taken part in the discussions which, as has already been more than once publicly admitted, led to their original formulation. These newly stated principles differ, however, to some extent from the first Imagiste "Dont's," which were published in the Chicago magazine Poetry, and from other records of the nature and aims of the original Imagiste school. In justice it should be noted that no particular novelty is claimed for them. They "are not new.... They are the essentials of all great poetry, "we are told, and with this, when I read No. 5 ("To produce poetry that is hard and clear, never blurred nor indefinite") and No. 6 ("Finally, most of us believe that concentration is of the very essence of all poetry"), I am certainly in agreement. The four remaining principles may be summarized as follows: To avoid cliché; to abandon absolutely all forms of the rhetorical and grandiose; to insist on precision of language; to create new rhythms.

The Imagistes, or Imagists, as, dropping the affectation of the "e," they now, I am glad to find, prefer to be called, show themselves in agreement with most of the more important English theorists of the past. Thus (to quote very sparsely) Ben Jonson already in the seventeenth century: "The true artificer... hath avoided faint, obscure, obscene, sordid, humble, improper, or effeminate phrase." Dryden: "Propriety of words is the clothing of those thoughts with such expressions as are naturally proper to them." Addison: "The great masters in composition, know very well that many an elegant phrase becomes improper for a poet or an orator, when it has been debased by common use," and again: "He must not swell into a false sublime." Burke: "Still it will be difficult to conceive how words can move the passions which belong to real objects without representing those objects clearly." Samuel Johnson: "Words too familiar or too remote defeat the purpose of the poet." Coleridge, too, several times mentions the points emphasized in the Imagist principles. Wordsworth (if Christ was a Socialist) might almost be called an Imagist in theory. Even Matthew Arnold was no enemy of free verse, and must frequently have recommended accuracy of vision, precision of language, and concentration — though I cannot check this at the moment.

There have been some misconceptions about the Imagists, partly on account of their fixed principle of not admitting their obligations. This is only compatible with their drastic self-detachment, and with their insistence on the necessity of an absolutely fresh start in poetry. I think, however, they would gain a larger measure of public confidence if they more freely admitted themselves not among the first to discover poetry as an Art, and would probably benefit in their own production by recognizing themselves more clearly as [78] one of the latest groups in the forward movement of English poetry — not the only one.

They have not at any time taken much trouble to make themselves clear. Mr. Pound has offered us several illuminating, though not entirely lucid, restatements of theory; interspersed among the writings of Mr. Hueffer are many allusions, direct or indirect, to the Imagist position, with more particular reference to impressionism: but it has never become very clear in what particular respects they may be considered innovators, and the very term Imagist is sufficiently mystifying to alienate the sympathies of the general public, though its exotic sound may attract small, inquisitive, detached groups of the wrong people.

An advance copy of the present anthology has reached me only a day before this article must go to press. Fortunately, however, I have already followed the Imagist movement, and am acquainted with a majority of the poems it has so far produced.




If I were to attempt an account of the Imagist movement to some stranger to English literature I should do it somewhat on these lines:

Certain younger American and English poets made the discovery that a greater proportion of the English-speaking public remained still under an impression that poetry had ceased with the reign of Queen Victoria. (Most other people, who had thought about it at all, knew this also, but did not bother much.) They found, too, that a large number of very feeble poets were fostering that false public impression by continuing to write, in the obsolete Victorian manner, poetry so feeble that not even the most ignorant or sentimental public in the world could possibly have been duped by it. The Imagists were indignant. "This," they cried, "is not poetry: you are being misled." Unlike the Italian Futurists, they remained uncertain how much of the past had to be condemned; indeed I don't think they ever came to an agreement on this point. Most of them soon, however, rejected the sonnet, and the conventional stanza forms which appeared to have been imported or manufactured to serve the requirements of a certain limited epoch or period, and had now, also, become tainted beyond all further use by those feeble poetasters having made of them veritable moulds for their clichés. A large number of the French younger poets, they discovered, had long ago abandoned the traditional verse-forms; a powerful Italian school also existed which was waging one of the most violent revolutions in the annals of literature. They hastened to study first these new French, later these new Italian, poets. "Eureka," they cried. They imitated them; many of their first poems were, or, at any rate, read like, translations. One of them had studied Provençal; others knew Greek; they examined Japanese and Chinese poetry; they threw away most of their early compositions and experimented in every new style they could find. They took every possible opportunity of preparing themselves a public. The Americans, they found, were too interested in magazine verse, and were also developing a dangerous tendency to admire a new kind of literary fungus that had recently sprung up — the Cosmic Poet, that is, roughly, the fellow who had read something somewhere that some one had written about Darwin or about the Nebular Hypothesis, and had developed a diseased habit of writing in an inflated manner about these cosmic matters usually without having taken the trouble, or perhaps without possessing the intelligence, to understand them. The American, they knew, will discuss Cosmic Consciousness at his dinner table with no less glibness than terrestial meteorology. The American public head had been rather swelled by Whitman. The Imagists did not bother much about Whitman: there was more to be learned, it seemed, from French poetry. Whitman was too artless; he made the whole thing seem too easy, and, most important, one could not imitate him without being discovered. Some of these poets of the New World were so overcome by the discovery that the forms they had been practising and the language they had been using were wrong, that they devoted their energies solely to the cultivation of new forms and the adoption of a renovated language, oblivious of the fact that Idea must primarily dictate both. This English movement was from the first, I think, not broad enough. Several of the Imagists seem to have been struck partially blind at the first sight of their new world; and they are still blinking. Some simply made the discovery, and then started preparing their public before they had written their poetry. Others were so terrified at Cosmicism that they ran away into a kind of exaggerated Microcosmicism, and found their greatest emotional excitement in everything that seemed intensely small. But, above all, Skepticism, having once attacked them, played havoc in their ranks. They found themselves obliged to reduce their production by 90 per cent., and they recommended everyone else to do the same. The forms they still felt they might use, the vocabulary that remained at their disposal, were so extremely limited; so much good material had to be thrown into the large waste-paper basket of Cliché, that they remained now almost unprovided with a language or a style. Moreover, the ideas of the New World scarcely ran to meet them. In practice they ascertained that the many things that always have been worth writing about still remained the most obvious and most insidious subjects they could find. At this point they divided into two clearly defined groups. Some decided to tolerate the old subjects, but to discover a new manner of presenting, or representing, them; others, not so satisfied, probed nervously the psychological recesses of the New World and dragged out all the strangest rags of fancy they could find, exhibiting them solely on account of their whimsical colours and shapes.

Poets of the Imagist and other kindred modern schools are no longer "visited by the Muses": they are not at home to them. It will be no use to say that their poetry "does not sing." It is not meant to. They themselves no longer profess to sing. The word Song is abandoned, cliché, swept out with Ode, Sonnet, Quatrain, and other similar verbal lumber. The test of Intellect is more important to them than the tests of prosody or tradition. Their minds are obsessed by the Town. They are more concerned effectively to describe their rapid impressions than faithfully to record their abiding sentiments. The passing event and its effect on their minds is everything to them. They suspect the "beauties of poetry." They prefer a single word that may accurately register an impression to a line that will be quoted for its loveliness of verbal construction. Thus they think in terms of the poem, not of the single line. They scorn the great public figure; they despise occasional poetry, or the long poem with its gradually developed beauty. The method of the Imagists is to model little detached patterns of words; one such pattern may be left single and called a poem, or several of them may be grouped together. In Principle 2 a sentence occurs which might almost be taken for a printer's error. "In poetry, a new cadence means a new idea." Is one to believe that if one first design a poem, then the idea will be present by reason of the design? In their correct order these words should read: In poetry, a new idea means (better makes) a new cadence.




"Some Imagist Poets," * as an anthology, records a transitionary point in the Imagist movement. All the poets here represented figure as people who have fully recognized the difficulties of their art and are now eventually ready for a decision how to deal with them. The writer of the preface declares: "This school" (of Imagists) "has already become a household word" — bad English; vain exaggeration. The fact is that it is on the point of deciding whether it intends to be taken [79] seriously. The fruit of this decision will depend on whether its poets reconcile themselves to bringing imagination to the support of intellect. The only reference in the Principles to the name of the school is in No. 4: "To present an image (hence the term 'Imagiste')" — which, even with the qualifying sentences which follow, means nothing. The references to free-verse are, however, much more explicit; and it may be hoped, I think assumed, that, as innovators, they will busy themselves with the formation of new rhythmic word-groups, while the idea of presenting an image will take a place of secondary importance. Symptoms of this development are conspicuous in the present anthology, and for this reason I call it transitional.

All these poets are primarily impressionists. I will take them singly. Richard Aldington in his "Childhood," the longest poem in the book (some 120 lines), records the effects on a sensitive child of the civilization of a modern small town:

"I hate that town;
 I hate the town I lived in when I was little;
 I hate to think of it.
 There were always clouds, smoke, rain
 In that dingy little valley.
 It rained; it always rained.
 I think I never saw the sun until I was nine —
 And then it was too late;
 Everything's too late after the first seven years."

and the consequence:

"I don't believe in God.
 I do believe in avenging gods
 Who plague us for sins we never sinned
 But who avenge us."

He contributes several shorter poems. I quote the opening lines of "The Poplar":

"Why do you always stand there shivering
 Between the white stream and the road?

"The people pass through the dust
 On bicycles, in carts, in motor-cars;
 The waggoners go by at dawn;
 The lovers walk on the grass path at night.

"Stir from your roots, walk, poplar!
 You are more beautiful than they are."

Such lines would seem to belie some of my remarks in the last paragraph of Section II. For this very reason they may be considered the most auspicious ones in the anthology. "The Faun sees Snow for the first Time" is a delightful conceit. Richard Aldington and the lady who writes under the initials H. D. both are content to derive most of their subjects from Greek origins. Mr. Aldington's rhythms, though arbitrary, are smooth. He does not use rhyme.

H. D. writes short poems which may be considered representative substitutes for the Sonnet. Here she presents one image:


"Whirl up, sea —
 Whirl your pointed pines,
 Splash your great pines
 On our rocks,
 Hurl your green over us,
 Cover us with your pools of fir."

That is all. It can be said in the one minute before lunch. There is no mould to be filled, no risk of padding, no fear of words being exploited to complete a rhyme. Yet I remember the sentence of Lowell: "Imagination, as it is too often misunderstood, is mere fantasy, the image-making power, common to all who have the gift of dreams." It is petty poetry; it is minutely small: it seems intended to be. Such images should appear by the dozen in poetry. Such reticence denotes either poverty of imagination or needlessly excessive restraint.

She can exert a vigorous cadence, as in these lines from "The Garden":

"O wind,
      rend open the heat,
      cut apart the heat,
      rend it sideways.

H. D. is the truest "Imagist" of the group. But its future work will scarcely develop along the lines of her example. Her poems have a slight flavour of brine; they are as fragile as sea-shells. If I came too near them I should be afraid of crushing them into the sand with my clumsy feet.

Mr. John Gould Fletcher is typically the modern poet discussed above. His "Blue Symphony" consists appropriately of a series of word-patterns grouped together with the object of producing one whole impression on the reader, creating one definite sensation. There was an "Orange Symphony" in a number of THE EGOIST last year which I liked so much that I cannot reconcile myself to this poem. Nevertheless it is an interesting piece of work on a larger scale than most of the others hereabouts; and its effects are obtained without much strain.

But the nine short poems entitled "London Excursion" illustrate the whole series of Imagist difficulties in their most pronounced form. He beats the awful bounds of their new freedom. Is it surprising that the tortures of those difficulties appear in every word he writes?

Mr. Fletcher makes an excursion to London, let us suppose with the object of writing a poem. There would have been several old-fashioned ways of treating the subject. Possibly he reviewed them in his mind; more probably he has now long trained himself not even to consider them. He finds things distinctly unlike their representation in old-fashioned poetry, yet, at the same time, tantalizingly like. However like they be, he must write something different. He is resolved, too, on accuracy of observation, of rhythm, and of expression. But each hampers the others. His observations land him in a series of crude statements. These should be modified by their rhythm. Rhythm is found to embarrass their accuracy. His expression, again, must precisely reproduce his observation. It cannot, however, because what he has observed cannot be reproduced in poetry. His nearest approach to poetry is in lines of reflective anticipation such as these:

"Lost amid greenness
 We will sleep all night;
 And in the morning
 Coming forth, we will shake wet wings
 Over the settled dust of to-day."

Hardly any of his statements of fact are anything like poetry:

"A clock with quivering hands
 Leaps to the trajectory-angle of our departure."

is not.   The more indefinite

"Bulging outcrush into old tumult;
 Attainment, as of a narrow harbour,
 Of some shop forgotten by traffic
 With cool-corridored walls."

may be more like it.

"An arch under which we slide
 Divides our lives for us:
 After we have passed it
 We know we have left something behind
 We shall not see again."

is imaginative, but here rhythm and poetic expression have both failed him. The reader is so held by the contortions of Mr. Fletcher battling with his difficult art that the emotional values of the poem almost escape him.   "London Excursion" remains more interesting as experiment than effective as poetry. The old poetry was chliché-ridden: this new will be even more forbidding to the general public. Yet if the design of art be to represent accurately, this poem, in being as ugly as what it represents, is true to that design.

As not much space remains at my disposal, and it is not easy to write with brevity on this stimulating [80] subject, I shall dismiss D. H. Lawrence in a few words. Strictly speaking he is not an Imagist. For one thing he is a rhymer, even to the extent of "whither" and "dither": in none of his seven poems is the ornament of rhyme absent. "The Mowers" is at the same time the most conventional and the most interesting. The other poets in this volume lift one clear from the region of the customary into a place where one's standards of judgment and taste must be thrown out. Mr. Lawrence poses questions that require a lot of answering. His eccentricities are irritating, being only half ones. I cannot think him a natural growth of the movement, and I consider that I may be pardoned for dismissing him on the present occasion with these few remarks.



The two poets who still remain for discussion are F. S. Flint and Amy Lowell. The one seems to have yoked the difficulties of the Imagist position on to his shoulders; the other to have succeeded in shirking them. Mr. Flint turns the eccentricities of the school to his own advantage. He writes like a man who almost hates poetry, but can't help loving it. I find in him free-verse with a rhythm so definite that it seems fully to warrant the typographical device of the division into lines. For instance:

"Have I performed
 the dozen acts or so
 that make me the man
 men see?

"The door opens,
 and on the landing —
 I can see nothing: the pain, the weariness!"

His "Fragment" is delightful.   "Accident" is a startlingly impressive little chip of experience.   "Eau-Forte" is a carefully designed piece of realism – with an unfortunately weak ending. He performs contortions with more happiness than Mr. Fletcher. His instinct for accuracy does not ask too much of the object. One feels him inquiring, "What does this mean?" and answering in as plain terms as an Imagist can.

"The hoot of the steamers on the Thames is plain."

he remarks, and no one can suspect him, for the moment, of thinking in terms of poetry. Yet he is willing to use his imagination.

Miss Lowell, when she exerts her imagination, resigns the attitude of the poet, and passes helplessly into prose. It is a noteworthy peculiarity of this anthology that its sincerest, most imaginative, and most successful poem is in prose. Surely no subtleties of argument can be applied to the subject.   "The Bombardment" is a very fine piece of careful and concentrated prose. The point is indifferent — except that verse only, or prose written down like verse, might have been expected in the book. Miss Lowell, never presumably having experienced a bombardment, was obliged to imagine it, and there is no doubt she has done so remarkably well. Yet the piece is a confession of failure, since she appears in the volume as a poet. Her contributions in verse beginning

"Why do the lilies goggle their tongues at me"


"My thoughts
 Chink against my ribs,"


"Little cramped words scrawling all over the paper  Like draggled fly's legs,"

bring me reflectively back to Wordsworth's declaration "I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity."

"Some poets," wrote Thomas Ryner, "labour to appear skilful with that wretched affectation." The words "Labour to appear skilful" represent the most conspicuous defect of Imagism.



Die Anmerkungen stehen als Fußnoten auf den in eckigen Klammern bezeichneten Seiten.

[77] * "Des Imagistes: an Anthology" (Poetry Bookshop, 2/6 net).   zurück

[78] * "Some Imagist Poets" (London: Constable and Co.   Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co. 1915).   zurück





Erstdruck und Druckvorlage

The Egoist.
Bd. 2, 1915, Nr. 5, 1. Mai, S. 77-80.

Die Textwiedergabe erfolgt nach dem ersten Druck (Editionsrichtlinien).

The Egoist   online
URL: https://modjourn.org/journal/egoist/
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000529711

The Egoist   inhaltsanalytische Bibliographie
URL: https://www.unionofegoists.com/journals/the-egoist-1914/#index-of-issues








Monro, Harold: The Future of Poetry.
In: The Poetry Review.
Jg. 1, 1912, Nr. 1, Januar, S. 10-13. [PDF]
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000494721

Monro, Harold: The Nineties.
In: The Poetry Review.
Jg. 1, 1912, Nr. 6, Juni, S. 247-250.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000494721

Monro, Harold: Personal Notes on Some Recent American Poetry.
In: The Poetry Review.
Jg. 1, 1912, Nr. 10, Oktober, S. 485-488.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000494721

Monro, Harold: The Imagists.
In: Poetry and Drama.
Jg. 1, 1913, Nr. 2, Juni, S. 127-128.
URL: https://archive.org/details/poetrydrama01monruoft
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011596380

Monro, Harold: Futurist Poetry.
In: Poetry and Drama.
Jg. 1, 1913, Nr. 3, September, S. 264.
URL: https://archive.org/details/poetrydrama01monruoft
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011596380

Monro, Harold: Broadsides and Chap-books.
In: Poetry and Drama.
Jg. 1, 1913, Nr. 3, September, S. 265.
URL: https://archive.org/details/poetrydrama01monruoft
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011596380

Monro, Harold: The Origin of Futurism.
In: Poetry and Drama.
Jg. 1, 1913, Nr. 4, Dezember, S. 389.
URL: https://archive.org/details/poetrydrama01monruoft
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011596380

Monro, Harold: Futurism and Ourselves.
In: Poetry and Drama.
Jg. 1, 1913, Nr. 4, Dezember, S. 390-391.
URL: https://archive.org/details/poetrydrama01monruoft
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011596380

Monro, Harold: [Rezension zu:] William Carlos Williams: The Tempers.
In: Poetry and Drama.
Jg. 1, 1913, Nr. 4, Dezember, S. 502-503.
URL: https://archive.org/details/poetrydrama01monruoft
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011596380

Monro, Harold: Readings of Poetry.
In: Poetry and Drama.
Jg. 2, 1914, Nr. 5, März, S. 2.
URL: https://archive.org/details/poetrydrama01monruoft
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011596380

Monro, Harold: The Imagists Discussed.
In: The Egoist.
Bd. 2, 1915, Nr. 5, 1. Mai, S. 77-80.
URL: https://modjourn.org/journal/egoist/
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000529711




Literatur: Monro

Brandmeyer, Rudolf: Poetiken der Lyrik: Von der Normpoetik zur Autorenpoetik. In: Handbuch Lyrik. Theorie, Analyse, Geschichte. Hrsg. von Dieter Lamping. 2. Aufl. Stuttgart 2016, S. 2-15.

Ehlers, Sarah: Making It Old. The Victorian/Modern Divide in Twentieth-Century American Poetry. In: Modern Language Quarterly 73.1 (2012), S. 7-67.

Gery, John u.a. (Hrsg.): Imagism. Essays on Its Initiation, Impact and Influence. New Orleans, La. 2013.

Hibberd, Dominic: Harold Monro. Poet of the New Age. Basingstoke u.a. 2001.

Hibberd, Dominic: The New Poetry, Georgians and Others: The Open Window (1910–11), The Poetry Review (1912–15), Poetry and Drama (1913–14), and New Numbers (1914). In: The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines. Hrsg. von Peter Brooker u.a. Bd. 1: Britain and Ireland 1880-1955. Oxford 2009, S. 176-196.

Jakeman, Robyn: "The Beautiful Future": Harold Monro, F. T. Marinetti, and Early Modernist Poetry in England. In: Modernism/Modernity 29.3 (2022), S. 631-651.

Martin, Meredith: The Rise and Fall of Meter. Poetry and English National Culture, 1860-1930. Princeton u.a. 2012.

Pondrom, Cyrena N.: The Road from Paris. French Influence on English Poetry, 1900 – 1920. Cambridge: University Press 2010.

Wicht, Wolfgang: "Language Is Made out of Concrete Things": The Imagist Movement and the Beginning of Anglo-American Modernism. In: Anglistik und Englischunterricht 79 (2013), S. 79-98.



Literatur: The Egoist

Binckes, Faith / Snyder, Carey (Hrsg.): Women, Periodicals and Print Culture in Britain, 1890s-1920s. The Modernist Period. Edinburgh 2019.

Bornstein, George: Material Modernism. The Politics of the Page. New York 2001.

Brooker, Peter: The Freewoman, The New Freewoman et The Egoist: femmes modernes et modernisme masculin. In: Revues modernistes anglo-américaines. Lieux d'échanges, lieux d’exil. Hrsg. von Benoît Tadié. Paris 2006, S. 129-140.

Clarke, Bruce: D. H. Lawrence and the Egoist Group. In: Journal of Modern Literature 18.1 (1992), S. 65-76.
URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/3831547

Clarke, Bruce: Dora Marsden and Early Modernism: Gender, Individualism, Science. Ann Arbor 1996.

Clarke, Bruth: Suffragism, Imagism, and the "Cosmic Poet": Scientism and Spirituality in The Freewoman and The Egoist. In: Little Magazines & Modernism. New Approaches. Hrsg. von Suzanne Churchill u. Adam McKible. Aldershot, England 2007, S. 119-131.

Cuny, Noëlle: D'un style scientifique dans certaines revues d’avant-garde (BLAST, The Signature, The Egoist, 1914-1915). In: Études de stylistique anglaise [En ligne] 2 (2011), S. 23-38.
URL: http://journals.openedition.org/esa/1783

Doyle, Charles: Richard Aldington. A Biography. Basingstoke u.a. 1989.

Harding, Jason: Tradition and Egoism: T. S. Eliot and The Egoist. In: T. S. Eliot and the Concept of Tradition. Hrsg. von Giovanni Cianci. Cambridge u.a. 2007, S. 90-102.

Marek, Jayne: Women Editing Modernism. Lexington 1995.

Morrisson, Mark S.: The Public Face of Modernism. Little Magazines, Audiences, and Reception, 1905-1920. Madison, Wis. u.a. 2001.
Kap 3: Marketing British Modernism: The Freewoman, the Egoist, and Counterpublic Speres (S. 84-132).

Rabaté, Jean-Michel: Tradition moderniste ou taxonomie des petites revues: The New Age, The Egoist, transition. In: Revues modernistes anglo-américaines. Lieux d'échanges, lieux d’exil. Hrsg. von Benoît Tadié. Paris 2006, S. 31-57.

Rabaté, Jean-Michel: Gender and Modernism: The Freewoman (1911-12); The New Freewoman (1913), and The Egoist (1914-19). In: The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines. Hrsg. von Peter Brooker u.a. Bd. 1: Britain and Ireland 1880-1955. Oxford 2009, S. 269-289.

Thacker, Andrew: Dora Marsden and The Egoist: "Our War Is With Words". In: English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920. Vol. 36.2 (1993), S. 179-196.



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