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ManHunt

The Manhunt is written from the perspective of the wife of a soldier who has sustained serious injuries at war and has returned home. The poem explores the physical and mental effects of living with injuries sustained when on active service in the armed forces.

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ManHunt

The poem is made up of a series of couplets, mostly unrhymed. This creates a sense of fragmentation, which matches the feelings of the soldier's wife as she seeks to understand the man her husband has become.

The poem describes the phases of a wife's search for answers from her injured husband who has recently returned from a war zone. The poem ends when the search is brought to a close.

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ManHunt

The title puns on the idea of the 'manhunt', meaning literally a hunt to capture a man, often a criminal. Here the wife's search is for the husband she knew so well but who seems lost to her, metaphorically, after his experiences at war. Many of the first lines of the couplets have prominent verbs, reflecting the activities of the wife as she conducts her "search". Words and phrases like "explore", "handle and hold", "mind and attend" are all references to careful treatment of her husband's injured body, as well as suggesting her patient care for his mental state. The speaker refers to parts of the husband's body metaphorically, comparing them to inanimate objects rather than to living things. His jaw is a "blown hinge", suggesting that he is no longer open to her, perhaps unable to talk of his feelings and experiences. His collar bone is "damaged, porcelain", a metaphor that brings to mind something hard but also easily chipped and cold, a reminder of the "frozen river which ran through his face". There are lots of sensual, loving verbs in the poem, reflecting the intimacy of husband and wife, and keen devotion from the wife hoping to heal her husband. The wife says that she is able to "climb the rungs of his broken ribs", a closely observed detail of her hands exploring the altered body of her husband. The idea of the ladder is reflective of the effort involved in the wife's gradual search for answers.

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ManHunt

The Manhunt is about the patience and care of love. The wife in the poem is methodical and thorough in her search, exploring her husband's injured body with love and care. The poem also explores the cost of war on those serving in the armed forces. The man has a "grazed heart", perhaps literally from an injury caused by "the metal beneath his chest", but also metaphorically. He is unable to connect with his wife, unwilling to speak of his experiences, and so their loving relationship is affected. The image of the metal bullet still inside him as a "foetus" suggests that, like having a baby, the couple's relationship will be forever changed by what he has gone through.

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ManHunt

Lines 23 and 24 present the metaphor of "a sweating, unexploded mine buried deep in his mind". The source of the problem is not physical but mental, and threatens to cause problems at any time. The importance of the wife's care and delicacy is highlighted by her discovery of this problem. The poem is not about judging the rights and wrongs of war, but the impact of war on one particular relationship. This is made clear in the final line of the poem: "Then, and only then, did I come close". Her search is not fully successful, she only comes "close", and only after she realises that her husband's problems lie as much in memories of his experiences as they do in his physical scars.

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Comparing ManHunt

In Paris with You

  • The male speaker in the poem In Paris with You is unwilling to discuss his experiences of the past, instead he is keen to focus on the present. The husband in The Manhunt is similarly closed on the subject of the past.

The Farmer's Bride, To His Coy Mistress

  • The Manhunt is written from the perspective of a woman exploring her feelings for her husband and their relationship. Many of the other poems in this collection are from a male point of view, such as The Farmer's Bride and To His Coy Mistress.
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ManHunt practice

Question  Write about the presentation of relationships in The Manhunt and To His Coy Mistress. Answer Points you could make:

  • The Manhunt includes detailed and closely observed references to the body of a loved one, reflective of the closeness of the relationship.
  • In To His Coy Mistress there are similar images, yet these represent the fantasy of the male speaker as he tries to convince his mistress to have *** with him.
  • To His Coy Mistress balances the ideal relationship with that which is possible given the time available.
  • Similarly, The Manhunt explores the strength of a relationship that endures even in the most difficult of circumstances.
  • The Manhunt has a female speaker who is determined to search for the man she feels she lost to war. She wants to understand her husband's feelings and so is searching his body for clues.
  • To His Coy Mistress has a male speaker who is similarly determined. However, he feels that time will prevent his relationship flourishing if his mistress does not act with more urgency.
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Hour

Hour is about the feelings that arise from spending time with a loved one. The poem suggests that to be with a loved one, even for just an hour, is precious and valuable. It also presents the traditional idea of time as an obstacle to lovers.

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Hour

Hour follows the structure of a Shakespearean sonnet: it has fourteen lines and a predictable rhyme scheme (a-b-a-b-c-d-c-d-e-f-e-f-g-g). Sonnets often use a final rhyming couplet to offer a 'turn' in the meaning; however, Duffy only offers a partial turn, which is confirmation of the idea that love will always triumph by finding unlikely sources of value.

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Hour

Hour has many references to money and riches, contrasting the concept of material wealth and possessions against love and time spent with a loved one.

Line three puns on the word "spend", and is typical of the way in which the poem investigates the themes of love and money:

We find an hour together, spend it not on flowersOr wine, but the whole of the summer sky and a grass ditch.

The traditional territory of lovers ("Flowers" and "wine") is replaced by alternatives: for example, "a grass ditch" is an improbable romantic location. There is simplicity and perfection to "the whole of the summer sky", an image rich in meaning, a visual feast for a loving couple lying down together and looking up. They enjoy the "Midas light". (Midas was the mythical king whose touch turned things to gold.)

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Hour

As the poem's title suggests, time is an important consideration for the lovers. "For thousands of seconds we kiss" is a striking phrase, offering the idea of excess - "thousands" - with the limitation of available time, measured in seconds. This precise measurement indicates how precious time is to the speaker, a "treasure" to be carefully counted.

The pleasure and riches that the couple gather in an hour allow them to feel as if they are frozen in time: "Time slows, for here/we are millionaires, backhanding the night". The hour spent together in the golden light gives them a sense of power, making them feel as if they can bribe the darkness to hold back, giving the lovers immense joy and wealth.

There is a contrast between images traditionally seen as romantic (or associated with wealth) and the ordinary: "Flowers" and "grass ditch" compare to a "jewel" and "cuckoo spit" (insect eggs left on long grass); "sunlight" contrasts with a "chandelier"; "gold" contrasts with "straw". These contrasts emphasise the romance of the lovers' time together. Traditional ideas are shown to be unimportant compared to the personal experience of the two characters.

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Hour

Attitudes, themes and ideas

The traditional battle of love versus time is boldly presented in the poem: "Time hates love". The poem questions the assumption that time will triumph, forcing a separation. Instead "love spins gold, gold, gold from straw". Duffy alludes to the fairytale character Rumpelstiltskin, able to transform straw into gold. This reference adds a magical feel to the closing lines. It is an image that sums up the key theme: love can find riches in anything - "straw" or even "a grass ditch".

The poem is about enjoying the intimacy of a moment in time rather than thinking about the world beyond. The simple nature of the experience is a reminder that material possessions cannot replace something as magical and powerful as time spent with a loved one.

The opening words "Love's time's beggar" echo another poem in the 'Relationships' section, Shakespeare's Sonnet 116 ("Love's not Time's fool"), which also explores the relationship between love and the passage of time.

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Hour

Comparison

Sonnet 116, To His Coy Mistress, In Paris With You

  • Like Hour, Sonnet 116 makes reference to the idea of the battle between love and time, as does To His Coy Mistress.
  • To His Coy Mistress is about the value of being in the present and enjoying the moment, rather than thinking ahead - the same key theme as Hour.
  • Like Hour, In Paris with You also rejects traditional ideas associated with love.
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Hour

Question Compare the attitudes to love presented in Hour and Sonnet 116. Answer Points you could make:

  • Hour presents love as a powerful force, able to transform the ordinary into something rich and magical.
  • Sonnet 116 presents love as similarly powerful but presents love as resistant to change instead of having the power to transform.
  • Sonnet 116 describes love as enduring, unchanged until the "edge of doom".
  • In Hour time is compressed, and yet the poem suggests love is forever resourceful, able to find riches in a short amount of time.
  • In Hour the love of the couple is described in terms of valuable objects like "treasure" and "gold".
  • In Sonnet 116 we are told that love's "worth's unknown", as if it is something too important to give a fixed value.
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Ghazal

Ghazal is a love poem in which a speaker seeks to secure the love and attention of another. The precise details are unclear, but the poem gives the impression that the feelings of the speaker are not shared by the object of their affections.

Like traditional ghazals, this poem is made up of a sequence of two-line stanzas (or 'couplets'). The two lines of the couplets do not rhyme but the end of each couplet does, partly through the repetition of the word "me".

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Ghazal

Attitudes, themes and ideas

There is frequent reference to the idea that a lover can complete a person. "I am the grass and you the breeze" and "dew to bedew me" are both natural images of pairs and things that together enhance each other. Both images are concerned with physical closeness and suggest the idea that the love of another person is an experience which causes a transformation or change. Grass is made to move and create a rhythmic sound when the wind blows through it, for example.

"Be heaven and earth to me and I'll be twice the me/I am" is a key line in the poem. It expresses the speaker's opinion that by receiving the love of the person they desire they will become greater, as if having the love of another is a powerful force which increases a person's worth.

But Ghazal also explores the way in which love and longing can be both positive and negative: "yours is the iron fist in the velvet glove", and "mine is the venomous tongue.../charmer, use your charm" are contrasting images that reflect the pleasure and pain of love.

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Ghazal

Comparison

In Paris with You

  • Both Ghazal and In Paris with You are about feelings of longing for someone. Ghazal is less clear about the outcome whereas In Paris with You suggests that the relationship is a reality.

The Farmer's Bride

  • The Farmer's Bride has a similar sense of longing but is negative, dwelling on the way in which the farmer wishes to subdue and control his wife rather than being prepared to change like the speaker in Ghazal.
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Ghazal

Question Write about the relationships presented in To His Coy Mistress and Ghazal.

Answer Points you could make:

  • Both poems are about wooing a lover, seeking to convince the other of the merits of a relationship.
  • To His Coy Mistress is directly sexual whereas Ghazal is focused on the relationship as a whole.
  • Both poems link the idea of love to larger ideas like the passage of time.
  • In both poems the speakers propose the idea that without love they are nothing. In To His Coy Mistress the argument centres around the idea of life being wasted without surrendering to passion whereas Ghazal is more concerned with enduring love.
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Brothers

The poem Brothers is about a boy spending an afternoon with his younger brother and his friend, and explores the relationship between siblings. It is written from an adult perspective but considers the feelings of the older brother who thinks of his younger brother as an inconvenience.

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Brothers

The poem does not use rhyme or have a strict pattern to its rhythm. This is typical of modern poetry.

There are three stanzas; they recount three stages of the afternoon. The first stanza sets the scene, showing the relationship between the speaker and his brother as well as the speaker and his friend. The second stanza presents the disruption to plans for the afternoon (because the younger brother doesn't have his bus fare). The final stanza concludes the story, revealing the separation of the brothers.

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Brothers

The opening metaphor sets the tone for the relationship between the two brothers: "Saddled" suggests the negative feelings the speaker has for his brother, as if he is an inconvenience, restricting the freedom of the speaker.

The feelings of the characters in the poem are revealed through the choice of verbs. In the first stanza the speaker and his friend "ambled", "talking" as they went, whereas the younger brother "skipped" and was "spouting six-year-old views". The enthusiastic spirit of the younger brother reflects his pride and excitement at being with the older brother he clearly worships. This continues in the second stanza: "sighed" and "stroll" contrast with "windmilled", a metaphor full of the energy. The older children lack the outward enthusiasm of the younger boy, but then they are "doing what grown-ups do". The third stanza makes it clear that the older boys are still children, despite how they would like to be seen by the world: they "chased Olympic Gold" when running for the bus, a metaphor for competitive natures that they cannot help but reveal.

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Brothers

The aspiration to be older and do "what grown-ups do" is apparent through the poem. In the first stanza, the older children discuss football and are dismissive of the younger boy as if they are wiser. In line 9 the speaker sees age as an advantage: "His smile, like mine, said I was nine and he was ten". The speaker is reflecting the naively superior feelings of the older boys. The shared smile also hints at their close friendship, an intimacy which is craved by the younger brother but will be denied him because of the "distance" between the brothers. The childhood feeling of superiority is later regretted by the speaker, however. "Looking back" is used both literally to refer to the older boy checking on the progress of his younger brother to find his bus fare, as well as metaphorically suggesting a look back through time. The friendship in the poem is important, and yet the final image suggests the loss that the speaker feels at not being closer to his brother. "I ran on, unable to close the distance I'd set in motion". It seems that the younger boy will miss the bus and so be separated from the brother he wants to be like and be with. The older boy is probably relieved not to be "saddled" with him any more. However, "looking back" at the image of brothers separated by a distance - in age and time - is a cause for sadness.

Brothers is about the inevitability of the boys' distant relationship; in the poem they are physically separated, and in life they are metaphorically separated by time. Because he is three years older than his brother the speaker is "unable to close the distance I'd set in motion". As he ages friendship with his contemporaries will take precedence over his relationship with his younger sibling.

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Brothers

Sister Maude

  • Brothers explores the relationship between siblings and the way in which time inevitably - and regrettably - separates them. There is affection between the brothers, particularly in the adoration of the younger boy. In Sister Maude a much more destructive relationship between siblings is presented. Like Brothers, this poem hints at the way in which the move towards adulthood brings a distance between siblings.

Harmonium

  • Harmonium has a similarly nostalgic tone, using a moment from the past to closely explore a family relationship (a son's feelings for his father). But Brothers seems more regretful in tone. Both poems use apparently insignificant events to illuminate a relationship.
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Brothers

Question

Write about the feelings for a family member in Brothers and Praise Song for My Mother and the ways in which they are presented.

AnswerPoints you could make:

  • In Praise Song for My Mother the tone is very celebratory and positive whereas in Brothers the childhood rejection of a younger brother is explored in a regretful way.
  • Brothers uses a single event to explore the feelings of the two siblings, both at the time and when looking back.
  • Praise Song for My Mother is more general in its references, reflective of the constant support the child was given by her mother.
  • Both poems end with an image of separation, although in Praise Song for My Mother this is seen as a natural, positive part of becoming an adult.
  • In Brothers the distance is presented as regrettably inevitable.
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The Farmers Bride

The poem tells the story of a farmer who marries "a maid" and refers to their early experience of marriage. It is told from the farmer's perspective; his wife is not given voice. She appears to be badly affected by the experience of marriage and becomes withdrawn and uncommunicative: "like a little frightened fay". She attempts to run away and is food "All in a shiver and a scare". She chooses to sleep in an attic room, away from her husband, who longs for her.

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The Farmers Bride

The Farmer's Bride opens with a reference to "Three Summers since" and towards the end "Christmas-time" is mentioned, so there is a sense of time passing with the tragic situation unchanged. There are six stanzas which vary in length but throughout there is a strong use of rhyme. The rhyme scheme of the first stanza, for example, is a-b-b-a-c-d-c-d-d.

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The Farmers Bride

To the farmer, the relationship with his wife should be functional and uncomplicated. Feelings should not need to be a consideration; the option of taking time to "woo" or encourage love is out of the question. He is full of regret that there is not "Some other in the house than we!", imparting a sense of loneliness and tragedy because they have no children. A wife, to him, should provide comfort to her husband, have children and keep house. Stairs separate the farmer's bed from his wife's; the farmer is frustrated and longs to consummate his marriage (making it complete through sexual union), as was legally his right in the 19th century.

Men are also dominant in the poem, just as they would have been in 19th century. "I chose a maid" makes it clear that the farmer controlled the relationship from the outset.

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The Farmers Bride

To His Coy Mistress

  • As in To His Coy Mistress, the female perspective is considered less important or unfathomable in The Farmer's Bride. The desires of men are given voice at the expense of the woman's point of view.
  • Time, specifically the passage of time, is a key theme in both poems. The male narrators are aware of time passing while their desires are unfulfilled. To them time passing is a type of loss. They both want to change their relationships for the better, in their opinion, by cementing them through sexual union.
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The Farmers Bride

Question Compare the way in which Charlotte Mew in The Farmer's Bride and Carol Ann Duffy in Hour show feelings.Answer Points you could make:

  • In The Farmer's Bride the poet uses imagery to connect the farmer's wife with nature, particularly wild animals. This tells us about the farmer's attitude to marriage and power, as well as indicating his feelings for the wife (she cannot be tamed).
  • In Hour the poet uses imagery associated with "treasure" to suggest the huge value to lovers of a single hour spent together.
  • Punctuation is used to break up the rhythm in The Farmer's Bride, indicating the troubled mind of the speaker.
  • In Hour a single-word sentence is used to encapsulate the perfection and completeness of the moment.
  • Hour creates and reflects feelings of optimism and happiness by frequent references to brightness and light.
  • The Farmer's Bride describes colours in the landscape - "the oaks are brown", "the low grey sky", "the black earth" - to suggest bleakness and a lack of fulfilment.
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To His Coy Mistress

The speaker of the poem is trying to convince his "mistress" that they should seize the day and not hold back from expressing their feelings for each other, and so should sleep together. The fact that this is something he is proposing tells us the couple are not married.

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To His Coy Mistress

The poem has three sections. In the first stanza the ideal courtship is presented, with extravagant references to the care and devotion with which the speaker would "woo" his lover "had we but time". The second stanza makes it clear that they have not got time, and that death is not only inevitable but imminent. The final stanza proposes that they fight against the progression of time and seek pleasure while they are able.

The poem is written in rhyming couplets, a popular format in rhyming poetry.

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To His Coy Mistress

In the first stanza there are humorously exaggerated references to traditional romantic ideas. He speaks of spending "An hundred years" to "praise/Thine eyes" and "Two hundred to adore each breast". This is all undermined by the poem's opening words: "Had we but world enough, and time". He is presenting a courtship which may sound wonderful, but is one he states from the outset is impossible. He tells his lover "you deserve this state", even though he knows it is all an exaggerated fantasy. Death and decay are used in the second stanza to show the lover the pointlessness of resisting. Once dead "then worms shall try/That long preserved virginity". He also makes a pun of her "quaint honour", which could be seen as a reference to her naïve preservation of her virginity even though death ("turn to dust") is inevitable. It is also a reference to her body - "quaint" was a euphemism for ****** around the late 16th century - and the idea that in death we become "dust".The second stanza also echoes words from the Christian burial tradition: "dust" and "ashes" are both referred to and act as a reminder to the mistress that life only has one outcome, so waiting is pointless. The rhyming of "dust" and "lust" on lines 29 and 30 effectively summarises the choice the mistress must make.The final line of the second stanza uses parenthetical commas (commas used to enclose thoughts) to convince us (and the lover), that the speaker has logically reached a conclusion: "The grave's a fine and private place,/But none, I think, do there embrace".

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To His Coy Mistress

The final stanza, in which the speaker grows impatient to convince his mistress, is full of references to speed, urgency and passion. The simile "while the youthful hue/Sits on thy skin like morning dew" restates the speaker's desire, with a focus on his mistress' body. The "morning dew" is also an effective simile in that dew very quickly disappears as the day advances, like her youthful appearance. He suggests that "like amorous birds of prey" they should "at once our time devour". This imagery is quite animalistic, and hints at his barely-contained desires. They should not, he thinks, be waiting for death. He speaks of "instant fires", meaning their feelings of desire, urging his mistress that they should "sport us while we may".

They should, he suggests "roll all our strength and all/Our sweetness up into one ball". The alliteration of the 's' sounds on the positive words "strength" and "sweetness" are part of a shift in the poem away from the negative language of earlier to more active, more enjoyable words and ideas.

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To His Coy Mistress

Attitudes, themes and ideas

The poem in many ways challenges religious, particularly Christian, ideas. He speaks of making the most of life because "yonder all before us lie/Deserts of vast eternity". After life, he suggests, is nothing. Waiting and resisting urges in life is pointless, he suggests. In poetry, especially love poetry, time is personified as being the enemy of lovers. Time will bring death, the awareness of which is always with the speaker: "at my back I always hear/Time's winged chariot hurrying near". A chariot is an old type of carriage pulled by horses, commonly associated with war. The final couplet is hopeful of the lovers' chances of making the most of life: "though we cannot make our sun/Stand still, yet we will make him run". The word "will" is definite; the couplet acknowledges that time and death are inevitable, whilst at the same time suggesting that action and determination are the best approaches. The poem is a famous example of the classical idea of "carpe diem" or "seize the day". The speaker is urging his mistress to make the best of life by living it to the full and not simply waiting - pointlessly denying pleasures - for death. This idea clashes with one of the popular movements of the 17th century, Puritanism, which emphasised the importance of denying personal pleasures (especially those considered in any way sinful), and the simple worshipping of God.

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To His Coy Mistress

Comparison

Hour

  • Hour is also about the preciousness of time to lovers, and presents the idea that time is a force which is against lovers.

Sonnet 43

  • To His Coy Mistress contrasts with Sonnet 43 in that this is a poem about the power and urgency of desire rather than the purity of love.
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To His Coy Mistress

Question Discuss the relationships between men and women in To His Coy Mistress and The Farmer's Bride, and the way in which they are presented.

Answer Points you could make:

  • Both poems are about males trying to impose their will on a female. In each, the female is resistant to the relationship although the reasons differ, and in each this resistance is challenged by the male speakers.
  • To His Coy Mistress is an address to the potential lover and is very sensual at times, reflecting the feelings of the speaker for his "mistress".
  • The Farmer's Bride is about the wife and is much less positive in the references to her, presenting her as a confused, scared animal rather than an object of love and desire.
  • Both poems use vocabulary and punctuation to reflect the feelings of the speakers, feelings which are often intended to be kept hidden.
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