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THE ANCIENT MARINER

Written by: William Wordsworth | Biography
 | Quotes (90) |
A POET'S REVERIE.
ARGUMENT.
How a Ship, having first sailed to the Equator, was driven by Storms, to the cold Country towards the South Pole; how the Ancient Mariner cruelly, and in contempt of the laws of hospitality, killed a Sea-bird; and how he was followed by many and strange Judgements; and in what manner he came back to his own Country.
The ANCIENT MARINER.
A POET'S REVERIE.
I.
It is an ancient Mariner, And he stoppeth one of three: "By thy long grey beard and thy glittering eye Now wherefore stoppest me?" "The Bridegroom's doors are open'd wide And I am next of kin; The Guests are met, the Feast is set,— May'st hear the merry din.
" But still he holds the wedding guest— "There was a Ship, quoth he—" "Nay, if thou'st got a laughsome tale, Mariner! come with me.
" He holds him with his skinny hand, Quoth he, there was a Ship— "Now get thee hence, thou grey-beard Loon Or my Staff shall make thee skip.
" He holds him with his glittering eye— The wedding guest stood still And listens like a three year's child; The Mariner hath his will.
The wedding-guest sate on a stone, He cannot chuse but hear: And thus spake on that ancient man, The bright-eyed Mariner.
The Ship was cheer'd, the Harbour clear'd— Merrily did we drop Below the Kirk, below the Hill, Below the Light-house top.
The Sun came up upon the left, Out of the Sea came he: And he shone bright, and on the right Went down into the Sea.
Higher and higher every day, Till over the mast at noon— The wedding-guest here beat his breast, For he heard the loud bassoon.
The Bride hath pac'd into the Hall, Red as a rose is she; Nodding their heads before her goes The merry Minstralsy.
The wedding-guest he beat his breast, Yet he cannot chuse but hear: And thus spake on that ancient Man, The bright-eyed Mariner.
But now the Northwind came more fierce, There came a Tempest strong! And Southward still for days and weeks Like Chaff we drove along.
And now there came both Mist and Snow, And it grew wond'rous cold; And Ice mast-high came floating by As green as Emerald.
And thro' the drifts the snowy clifts Did send a dismal sheen; Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken— The Ice was all between.
The Ice was here, the Ice was there, The Ice was all around: It crack'd and growl'd, and roar'd and howl'd— A wild and ceaseless sound.
At length did cross an Albatross, Thorough the Fog it came; As if it had been a Christian Soul, We hail'd it in God's name.
The Mariners gave it biscuit-worms, And round and round it flew: The Ice did split with a Thunder-fit; The Helmsman steer'd us thro'.
And a good south wind sprung up behind.
The Albatross did follow; And every day for food or play Came to the Mariner's hollo! In mist or cloud on mast or shroud It perch'd for vespers nine, Whiles all the night thro' fog-smoke white Glimmer'd the white moon-shine.
"God save thee, ancient Mariner! From the fiends that plague thee thus—" "Why look'st thou so?—with my cross bow I shot the Albatross.
" II: The Sun now rose upon the right, Out of the Sea came he; Still hid in mist; and on the left Went down into the Sea.
And the good south wind still blew behind, But no sweet Bird did follow Nor any day for food or play Came to the Mariner's hollo! And I had done an hellish thing And it would work e'm woe: For all averr'd, I had kill'd the Bird That made the Breeze to blow.
Nor dim nor red, like an Angel's head, The glorious Sun uprist: Then all averr'd, I had kill'd the Bird That brought the fog and mist.
'Twas right, said they, such birds to slay That bring the fog and mist.
The breezes blew, the white foam flew, The furrow follow'd free: We were the first that ever burst Into that silent Sea.
Down dropt the breeze, the Sails dropt down, 'Twas sad as sad could be And we did speak only to break The silence of the Sea.
All in a hot and copper sky The bloody sun at noon, Right up above the mast did stand, No bigger than the moon.
Day after day, day after day, We stuck, nor breath nor motion, As idle as a painted Ship Upon a painted Ocean.
Water, water, every where And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink.
The very deeps did rot: O Christ! That ever this should be! Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs Upon the slimy Sea.
About, about, in reel and rout The Death-fires danc'd at night; The water, like a witch's oils.
Burnt green and blue and white.
And some in dreams assured were Of the Spirit that plagued us so: Nine fathom deep he had follow'd us From the Land of Mist and Snow.
And every tongue thro' utter drouth Was wither'd at the root; We could not speak no more than if We had been choked with soot.
Ah wel-a-day! what evil looks Had I from old and young; Instead of the Cross the Albatross About my neck was hung.
III.
So past a weary time; each throat Was parch'd, and glaz'd each eye, When, looking westward, I beheld A something in the sky.
At first it seem'd a little speck And then it seem'd a mist: It mov'd and mov'd, and took at last A certain shape, I wist.
A speck, a mist, a shape, I wist! And still it near'd and near'd; And, as if it dodg'd a water-sprite, It plung'd and tack'd and veer'd.
With throat unslack'd, with black lips bak'd We could nor laugh nor wail; Thro' utter drouth all dumb we stood Till I bit my arm and suck'd the blood, And cry'd, A sail! a sail! With throat unslack'd, with black lips bak'd Agape they heard me call: Gramercy! they for joy did grin And all at once their breath drew in As they were drinking all.
See! See! (I cry'd) she tacks no more! Hither to work us weal Without a breeze, without a tide She steddies with upright keel! The western wave was all a flame, The day was well nigh done! Almost upon the western wave Rested the broad bright Sun; When that strange shape drove suddenly Betwixt us and the Sun.
And strait the Sun was fleck'd with bars (Heaven's mother send us grace) As if thro' a dungeon grate he peer'd With broad and burning face.
Alas! (thought I, and my heart beat loud) How fast she nears and nears! Are those her Sails that glance in the Sun Like restless gossameres? Are those her Ribs, thro' which the Sun Did peer, as thro' a grate? And are those two all, all her crew.
That Woman, and her Mate? His bones were black with many a crack, All black and bare, I ween; Jet-black and bare, save where with rust Of mouldy damps and charnel crust They were patch'd with purple and green.
Her lips were red, her looks were free, Her locks were yellow as gold: Her skin was as white as leprosy, And she was far liker Death than he; Her flesh made the still air cold.
The naked Hulk alongside came And the Twain were playing dice; "The Game is done! I've won, I've won!" Quoth she, and whistled thrice.
A gust of wind sterte up behind And whistled thro' his bones; Thro' the holes of his eyes and the hole of his mouth Half-whistles and half-groans.
With never a whisper in the Sea Off darts the Spectre-ship; While clombe above the Eastern bar The horned Moon, with one bright Star Almost between the tips.
One after one by the horned Moon (Listen, O Stranger! to me) Each turn'd his face with a ghastly pang And curs'd me with his ee.
Four times fifty living men, With never a sigh or groan, With heavy thump, a lifeless lump They dropp'd down one by one.
Their souls did from their bodies fly,— They fled to bliss or woe; And every soul it pass'd me by, Like, the whiz of my Cross-bow.
IV.
"I fear thee, ancient Mariner! I fear thy skinny hand; And thou art long and lank and brown As is the ribb'd Sea-sand.
" "I fear thee and thy glittering eye And thy skinny hand so brown—" "Fear not, fear not, thou wedding guest! This body dropt not down.
" Alone, alone, all all alone Alone on the wide wide Sea; And Christ would take no pity on My soul in agony.
The many men so beautiful, And they all dead did lie! And a million million slimy things Liv'd on—and so did I.
I look'd upon the rotting Sea, And drew my eyes away; I look'd upon the ghastly deck, And there the dead men lay.
I look'd to Heaven, and try'd to pray; But or ever a prayer had gusht, A wicked whisper came and made My heart as dry as dust.
I clos'd my lids and kept them close, Till the balls like pulses beat; For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky Lay like a load on my weary eye, And the dead were at my feet.
The cold sweat melted from their limbs, Nor rot, nor reek did they; The look with which they look'd on me, Had never pass'd away.
An orphan's curse would drag to Hell A spirit from on high: But O! more horrible than that Is the curse in a dead man's eye! Seven days, seven nights I saw that curse, And yet I could not die.
The moving Moon went up the sky And no where did abide: Softly she was going up And a star or two beside— Her beams bemock'd the sultry main Like April hoar-frost spread; But where the ship's huge shadow lay, The charmed water burnt alway A still and awful red.
Beyond the shadow of the ship I watch'd the water-snakes: They mov'd in tracks of shining white; And when they rear'd, the elfish light Fell off in hoary flakes.
Within the shadow of the ship I watch'd their rich attire: Blue, glossy green, and velvet black They coil'd and swam; and every track Was a flash of golden fire.
O happy living things! no tongue Their beauty might declare: A spring of love gusht from my heart, And I bless'd them unaware! Sure my kind saint took pity on me, And I bless'd them unaware.
The self-same moment I could pray; And from my neck so free The Albatross fell off, and sank Like lead into the sea.
V.
O sleep, it is a gentle thing Belov'd from pole to pole! To Mary-queen the praise be given She sent the gentle sleep from heaven That slid into my soul.
The silly buckets on the deck That had so long remain'd, I dreamt that they were fill'd with dew And when I awoke it rain'd.
My lips were wet, my throat was cold, My garments all were dank; Sure I had drunken in my dreams And still my body drank.
I mov'd and could not feel my limbs, I was so light, almost I thought that I had died in sleep, And was a blessed Ghost.
And soon I heard a roaring wind, It did not come anear; But with its sound it shook the sails That were so thin and sere.
The upper air burst into life And a hundred fire-flags sheen To and fro they were hurried about; And to and fro, and in and out The wan stars danc'd between.
And the coming wind did roar more loud; And the sails did sigh like sedge: And the rain pour'd down from one black cloud The moon was at its edge.
The thick black cloud was cleft, and still The Moon was at its side: Like waters shot from some high crag, The lightning fell, with never a jag A river steep and wide.
The loud wind never reach'd the Ship, Yet now the Ship mov'd on! Beneath the lightning and the moon The dead men gave a groan.
They groan'd; they stirr'd, they all uprose, Nor spake, nor mov'd their eyes: It had been strange, even in a dream To have seen those dead men rise, The helmsman steerd, the ship mov'd on; Yet never a breeze up-blew; The Mariners all gan work the ropes, Where they were wont to do: They rais'd their limbs like lifeless tools— We were a ghastly crew.
The body of my brother's son Stood by me knee to knee: The body and I pull'd at one rope, But he said nought to me.
"I fear thee, ancient Mariner!" "Be calm, thou wedding guest! 'Twas not those souls, that fled in pain, Which to their corses came again, But a troop of Spirits blest:" "For when it dawn'd—they dropp'd their arms, And cluster'd round the mast: Sweet sounds rose slowly thro' their mouths And from their bodies pass'd.
" Around, around, flew each sweet sound, Then darted to the sun: Slowly the sounds came back again Now mix'd, now one by one.
Sometimes a dropping from the sky I heard the Sky-lark sing; Sometimes all little birds that are How they seem'd to fill the sea and air With their sweet jargoning.
And now 'twas like all instruments, Now like a lonely flute; And now it is an angel's song That makes the heavens be mute.
It ceas'd: yet still the sails made on A pleasant noise till noon, A noise like of a hidden brook In the leafy month of June, That to the sleeping woods all night, Singeth a quiet tune.
Till noon we silently sail'd on Yet never a breeze did breathe: Slowly and smoothly went the Ship Mov'd onward from beneath.
Under the keel nine fathom deep From the land of mist and snow The spirit slid: and it was He That made the Ship to go.
The sails at noon left off their tune And the Ship stood still also.
The sun right up above the mast Had fix'd her to the ocean: But in a minute she 'gan stir With a short uneasy motion— Backwards and forwards half her length With a short uneasy motion.
Then, like a pawing horse let go, She made a sudden bound: It flung the blood into my head, And I fell into a swound.
How long in that same fit I lay, I have not to declare; But ere my living life return'd, I heard and in my soul discern'd Two voices in the air.
"Is it he?" quoth one, "Is this the man? By him who died on cross, With his cruel bow he lay'd full low The harmless Albatross.
" "The spirit who 'bideth by himself In the land of mist and snow, He lov'd the bird that lov'd the man Who shot him with his bow.
" The other was a softer voice, As soft as honey-dew: Quoth he the man hath penance done, And penance more will do.
VI.
FIRST VOICE.
"But tell me, tell me! speak again, Thy soft response renewing— What makes that ship drive on so fast? What is the Ocean doing?" SECOND VOICE.
"Still as a Slave before his Lord, The Ocean hath no blast: His great bright eye most silently Up to the moon is cast—" "If he may know which way to go, For she guides him smooth or grim, See, brother, see! how graciously She looketh down on him.
" FIRST VOICE.
"But why drives on that ship so fast Without or wave or wind?" SECOND VOICE.
"The air is cut away before, And closes from behind.
" "Fly, brother, fly! more high, more high, Or we shall be belated: For slow and slow that ship will go, When the Mariner's trance is abated.
" I woke, and we were sailing on As in a gentle weather: 'Twas night, calm night, the moon was high; The dead men stood together.
All stood together on the deck, For a charnel-dungeon fitter: All fix'd on me their stony eyes That in the moon did glitter.
The pang, the curse, with which they died, Had never pass'd away; I could not draw my eyes from theirs Nor turn them up to pray.
And now this spell was snapt: once more I view'd the ocean green, And look'd far forth, yet little saw Of what had else been seen.
Like one, that on a lonesome road Doth walk in fear and dread, And having once turn'd round, walks on And turns no more his head: Because he knows, a frightful fiend Doth close behind him tread.
But soon there breath'd a wind on me, Nor sound nor motion made: Its path was not upon the sea In ripple or in shade.
It rais'd my hair, it fann'd my cheek, Like a meadow-gale of spring— It mingled strangely with my fears, Yet it felt like a welcoming.
Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship Yet she sail'd softly too: Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze— On me alone it blew.
O dream of joy! is this indeed The light-house top I see? Is this the Hill? Is this the Kirk? Is this mine own countrée? We drifted o'er the Harbour-bar, And I with sobs did pray— "O let me be awake, my God! Or let me sleep alway!" The harbour-bay was clear as glass, So smoothly it was strewn! And on the bay the moonlight lay, And the shadow of the moon.
The rock shone bright, the kirk no less: That stands above the rock: The moonlight steep'd in silentness The steady weathercock.
And the bay was white with silent light, Till rising from the same Full many shapes, that shadows were, In crimson colours came.
A little distance from the prow Those crimson shadows were: I turn'd my eyes upon the deck— O Christ! what saw I there? Each corse lay flat, lifeless and flat; And by the Holy rood A man all light, a seraph-man, On every corse there stood.
This seraph-band, each wav'd his hand: It was a heavenly sight: They stood as signals to the land, Each one a lovely light: This seraph-band, each wav'd his hand, No voice did they impart— No voice; but O! the silence sank, Like music on my heart.
But soon I heard the dash of oars, I heard the pilot's cheer: My head was turn'd perforce away And I saw a boat appear.
The pilot, and the pilot's boy I heard them coming fast: Dear Lord in Heaven! it was a joy, The dead men could not blast.
I saw a third—I heard his voice: It is the Hermit good! He singeth loud his godly hymns That he makes in the wood.
He'll shrive my soul, he'll wash away The Albatross's blood.
VII.
This Hermit good lives in that wood Which slopes down to the Sea.
How loudly his sweet voice he rears! He loves to talk with Mariners That come from a far countrée.
He kneels at morn and noon and eve— He hath a cushion plump: It is the moss, that wholly hides The rotted old Oak-stump.
The Skiff-boat ner'd: I heard them talk, "Why, this is strange, I trow! Where are those lights so many and fair That signal made but now?" "Strange, by my faith!" the Hermit said— "And they answer'd not our cheer.
The planks look warp'd, and see those sails How thin they are and sere! I never saw aught like to them Unless perchance it were" "The skeletons of leaves that lag My forest brook along: When the Ivy-tod is heavy with snow, And the Owlet whoops to the wolf below That eats the she-wolf's young.
" "Dear Lord! it has a fiendish look—" (The Pilot made reply) "I am a-fear'd.
"—"Push on, push on!" "Said the Hermit cheerily.
" The Boat came closer to the Ship, But I nor spake nor stirr'd! The Boat came close beneath the Ship, And strait a sound was heard! Under the water it rumbled on, Still louder and more dread: It reach'd the Ship, it split the bay; The Ship went down like lead.
Stunn'd by that loud and dreadful sound, Which sky and ocean smote: Like one that hath been seven days drown'd My body lay afloat: But, swift as dreams, myself I found Within the Pilot's boat.
Upon the whirl, where sank the Ship, The boat spun round and round: And all was still, save that the hill Was telling of the sound.
I mov'd my lips: the Pilot shriek'd And fell down in a fit.
The Holy Hermit rais'd his eyes And pray'd where he did sit.
I took the oars: the Pilot's boy, Who now doth crazy go, Laugh'd loud and long, and all the while His eyes went to and fro, "Ha! ha!" quoth he—"full plain I see, The devil knows how to row.
" And now all in mine own Countrée I stood on the firm land! The Hermit stepp'd forth from the boat, And scarcely he could stand.
"O shrieve me, shrieve me, holy Man!" The Hermit cross'd his brow— "Say quick," quoth he, "I bid thee say What manner man art thou?" Forthwith this frame of mind was wrench'd With a woeful agony, Which forc'd me to begin my tale And then it left me free.
Since then at an uncertain hour, That agency returns; And till my ghastly tale is told This heart within me burns.
I pass, like night, from land to land; I have strange power of speech; The moment that his face I see I know the man that must hear me; To him my tale I teach.
What loud uproar bursts from that door! The Wedding-guests are there; But in the Garden-bower the Bride And Bride-maids singing are: And hark the little Vesper-bell Which biddeth me to prayer.
O Wedding-guest! this soul hath been Alone on a wide wide sea: So lonely 'twas, that God himself Scarce seemed there to be.
O sweeter than the Marriage-feast, 'Tis sweeter far to me To walk together to the Kirk With a goodly company.
To walk together to the Kirk And all together pray, While each to his great father bends, Old men, and babes, and loving friends, And Youths, and Maidens gay.
Farewell, farewell! but this I tell To thee, thou wedding-guest! He prayeth well who loveth well Both man, and bird and beast.
He prayeth best who loveth best All things both great and small: For the dear God, who loveth us, He made and loveth all.
The Mariner, whose eye is bright, Whose beard with age is hoar, Is gone; and now the wedding-guest Turn'd from the bridegroom's door.
He went, like one that hath been stunn'd And is of sense forlorn: A sadder and a wiser man He rose the morrow morn, LINES Written a few miles above TINTERN ABBEY, an revisiting the banks of the WYE during a Tour.
July 13, 1798.
Five years have passed; five summers, with the length Of five long winters! and again I hear These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs With a sweet inland murmur.
[6]—Once again Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs, Which on a wild secluded scene impress Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
[Footnote 6: The river is not affacted by the tides a few miles above Tintern.
] The day is come when I again repose Here, under this dark sycamore, and view These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts, Which, at this season, with their unripe fruits, Among the woods and copses lose themselves, Nor, with their green and simple hue, disturb The wild green landscape.
Once again I see These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines Of sportive wood run wild; these pastoral farms Green to the very door; and wreathes of smoke Sent up, in silence, from among the trees, With some uncertain notice, as might seem, Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods, Or of some hermit's cave, where by his fire The hermit sits alone.
Though absent long.
These forms of beauty have not been to me, As is a landscape to a blind man's eye: But oft, in lonely rooms, and mid the din Of towns and cities, I have owed to them, In hours of wariness, sensations sweet, Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart, And passing even into my purer mind, With tranquil restoration:—feelings too Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps, As may have had no trivial influence On that best portion of a good man's life; His little, nameless, unremembered acts Of kindness and of love.
Nor less, I trust, To them I may have owed another gift, Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood, In which the burthen of the mystery, In which the heavy and the weary weight Of all this unintelligible world Is lighten'd:—that serene and blessed mood; In which the affections gently lead us on, Until, the breath of this corporeal frame, And even the motion of our human blood Almost suspended, we are laid asleep In body, and become a living soul: While with an eye made quiet by the power Of harmony, and the deep power of joy, We see into the life of things.
If this Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft, In darkness, and amid the many shapes Of joyless day-light; when the fretful stir Unprofitable, and the fever of the world, Have hung upon the beatings of my heart, How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee O sylvan Wye! Thou wanderer through the woods, How often has my spirit turned to thee! And now, with gleams, of half-extinguish'd thought, With many recognitions dim and faint, And somewhat of a sad perplexity, The picture of the mind revives again: While here I stand, not only with the sense Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts That in this moment there is life and food For future years.
And so I dare to hope Though changed, no doubt, from what I was, when first I came among these hills; when like a roe I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams, Wherever nature led: more like a man Flying from something that he dreads, than one Who sought the thing he loved.
For nature then (The coarser pleasures of my boyish days, And their glad animal movements all gone by,) To me was all in all.
—I cannot paint What then I was.
The sounding cataract Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock, The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood, Their colours and their forms, were then to me An appetite: a feeling and a love, That had no need of a remoter charm, By thought supplied, or any interest Unborrowed from the eye.
—That time is past, And all its aching joys are now no more, And all its dizzy raptures.
Not for this Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur: other gifts Have followed, for such loss, I would believe Abundant recompence.
For I have learned To look on nature, not as in the hour Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes The still, sad music of humanity, Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power To chasten and subdue.
And I have felt A presence that disturbs me with the joy Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime Of something far more deeply interfused, Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, And the round ocean, and the living air, And the blue sky, and in the mind of man, A motion and a spirit, that impels All thinking things, all objects of all thought, And rolls through all things.
Therefore am I still A lover of the meadows and the woods, And mountains; and of all that we behold From this green earth; of all the mighty world Of eye and ear; both what they half create, [7] And what perceive; well pleased to recognize In nature and the language of the sense, The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse, The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul Of all my moral being.
[Footnote 7: This line has a close resemblance to an admirable line of Young, the exact expression of which I cannot recollect.
] Nor, perchance, If I were not thus taught, should I the more Suffer my genial spirits to decay? For thou art with me, here, upon the banks Of this fair river; thou, my dearest Friend, My dear, dear Friend, and in thy voice I catch The language of my former heart, and read My former pleasures in the shooting lights Of thy wild eyes.
Oh! yet a little while May I behold in thee what I was once, My dear, dear Sister! And this prayer I make, Knowing that Nature never did betray The heart that loved her; 'tis her privilege, Through all the years of this our life, to lead From joy to joy: for she can so inform The mind that is within us, so impress With quietness and beauty, and so feed With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues, Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men, Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all The dreary intercourse of daily life, Shall e'er prevail against us, or disturb Our chearful faith that all which we behold Is full of blessings.
Therefore let the moon Shine on thee in thy solitary walk; And let the misty mountain winds be free To blow against thee: and in after years, When these wild ecstasies shall be matured Into a sober pleasure, when thy mind Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms, Thy memory be as a dwelling-place For all sweet sounds and harmonies; Oh! then, If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief, Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts Of tender joy wilt thou remember me, And these my exhortations! Nor perchance, If I should be, where I no more can hear Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams Of past existence, wilt thou then forget That on the banks of this delightful stream We stood together; and that I, so long A worshipper of Nature, hither came, Unwearied in that service: rather say With warmer love, oh! with far deeper zeal Of holier love.
Nor wilt thou then forget, That after many wanderings, many years Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs, And this green pastoral landscape, were to me More dear, both for themselves, and for thy sake.



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