Pausing at the Asterisk

I typically pray the office using sources based on the 1928 (American) BCP. My question is how traditional the "brief pause at the asterisk" is for the reciting the Psalms. I know the 1979 BCP specifically instructs this, but I haven't found any vintage rubrics directing it.
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Comments

  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    The mysterious term Selah which appears in the Psalms is often translated as meaning 'pause' or 'meditate.' So the practice could be as ancient as the Psalms themselves.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    edited September 16
    At seminary in the U.S. I was told that the pause was to be long enough to say mentally two words - by tradition either 'Our Father' or 'Hail Mary' depending on churchmanship. ;) Some shacks make the pause a little longer.
  • And here I always thought the asterisk was for when it's being read antiphonally, so you know when to stop (on one side) and start (on the other) your reading.
  • It signifies that too, as I understand it. For some reason, though, the practice began of pausing in the middle of verses instead of between verses. So even if the psalm is being read “in choir,” there is a pause at the asterisk, before the other side finishes the verse.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    They did have choral singing in the Temple so that may be an ancient practice too. There are lots of notations for the director of music in the Psalms.

    At my theological college we paused for a count of three on the diamond. And read the psalms in a monastic murmur.
  • Compline wrote: »
    I typically pray the office using sources based on the 1928 (American) BCP. My question is how traditional the "brief pause at the asterisk" is for the reciting the Psalms. I know the 1979 BCP specifically instructs this, but I haven't found any vintage rubrics directing it.

    You do need to take a breath before singing the second half of the verse, so the origins are quite practical.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    I think the asterisk is the successor to the colon in the Coverdale version. It 'sort of' represents a prominent feature of Hebrew poetry, but not always reliably, which is odd bearing in mind that it predates the work of Lowth in the eighteenth century.

    When chanting the psalms, it marks the shift from the first half of the chant to the second. That doesn't, or shouldn't, involve much of a pause.

    The practice of inserting a longish pause there when saying psalms rather than singing them is IMHO a nasty and irritating modern innovation which seems to have spread in the last 20-25 years and is to be thoroughly deprecated. If people must insist on having that sort of a pause at all, it would usually makes better sense to put it between the verses rather than in the middle of them.

    If it comes from a prayer book published in 1979, it looks as though that might be source of it, and why, with a typical time lag, it suddenly started to spread about 20 years later. Which province's book is that as we haven't got one from 1979?
  • Enoch wrote: »
    If it comes from a prayer book published in 1979, it looks as though that might be source of it, and why, with a typical time lag, it suddenly started to spread about 20 years later. Which province's book is that as we haven't got one from 1979?
    The Episcopal Church (USA).
  • Sorry for the double post, but I missed the edit window.

    I don’t think the practice can be pinned on TEC’s 1979 BCP. The St. Dunstan Psalter, published in New York in 1917, references the practice in terms of the asterisk replacing the “familiar colon,” and speaks of the “restoration of the rhetorical punctuation.” It also says “The central pause in each Psalm verse should be long enough to afford a leisurely and plentiful breath supply; and should be rhythmical related to the preceding cadence. When there is no rhetorical pause here, breath need not necessarily be taken.”
  • Enoch wrote: »
    The practice of inserting a longish pause there when saying psalms rather than singing them is IMHO a nasty and irritating modern innovation which seems to have spread in the last 20-25 years and is to be thoroughly deprecated. If people must insist on having that sort of a pause at all, it would usually makes better sense to put it between the verses rather than in the middle of them.

    If it comes from a prayer book published in 1979, it looks as though that might be source of it, and why, with a typical time lag, it suddenly started to spread about 20 years later. Which province's book is that as we haven't got one from 1979?

    I tend to agree that the pause when speaking the psalms is irritating. Very often it interrupts a thought or idea, so it seems to hinder rather than help contemplation of the Psalmist's meaning.

    The 1979 book I referenced is the current one used by the Episcopal Church in the USA.

  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    I take a fluid approach to the colon or asterisk when reading the psalms, and read through where the sense demands it. Slight pauses between verses are customary here, rather than the clipping that one hears so often nowadays. It helps keep the congregation together.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    You get it in some places when psalms are sung antiphonally to plainsong chants ..... a huge pause in the middle of the line and no pause at all before the other half start the next line.
    Totally bizarre, an affectation. I never knew it when chanting psalms in Latin and only came across it when I joined an Anglican choir.
  • CyprianCyprian Shipmate
    edited September 17
    Compline wrote: »
    I typically pray the office using sources based on the 1928 (American) BCP. My question is how traditional the "brief pause at the asterisk" is for the reciting the Psalms. I know the 1979 BCP specifically instructs this, but I haven't found any vintage rubrics directing it.

    Living tradition often obviates the need for rubrics. When a practice is so commonplace that it comes as second nature, there is no need to include an instruction to do it. This might explain the absence of rubrics in older books.

    This is particularly evident in rites with much ceremonial. You can study the rubrics and memorise them off by heart but it's only when you see the rite performed by a regular worshipping community that you see the fullness of the liturgical action.

    At our mission, we observe the pause, partly because it would simply never occur to us not to, but also because when you're chanting you often need that time to draw breath. There is then slight overlap when the other side comes in with the next verse.
  • I've never come across shifting speakers midverse, as mousethief describes, so maybe it's an Orthodox thing. If we're saying the psalm, I don't like pausing midverse, as it breaks up the sense. As I'm not a singer, I must accept it if they need a break there, but it feels a bit wimpy to me.
  • If its a fully pointed psalter then its definitely a pause, a comma being just a hiatus.
  • I've never come across shifting speakers midverse, as mousethief describes, so maybe it's an Orthodox thing. If we're saying the psalm, I don't like pausing midverse, as it breaks up the sense. As I'm not a singer, I must accept it if they need a break there, but it feels a bit wimpy to me.

    It's not a matter of being wimpy. It's a matter of continuing monastic practices.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    I've never come across shifting speakers midverse, as mousethief describes, so maybe it's an Orthodox thing. If we're saying the psalm, I don't like pausing midverse, as it breaks up the sense. As I'm not a singer, I must accept it if they need a break there, but it feels a bit wimpy to me.

    It's not a matter of being wimpy. It's a matter of continuing monastic practices.

    Really? I have never come across it in RC monasteries.
  • Alan29 wrote: »
    I've never come across shifting speakers midverse, as mousethief describes, so maybe it's an Orthodox thing. If we're saying the psalm, I don't like pausing midverse, as it breaks up the sense. As I'm not a singer, I must accept it if they need a break there, but it feels a bit wimpy to me.

    It's not a matter of being wimpy. It's a matter of continuing monastic practices.

    Really? I have never come across it in RC monasteries.

    Not even when they are using plain chant? If so, they are not doing it correctly.
  • I've never seen it in an Orthodox church; I was speaking from memory of my Episcopalian days.
  • CyprianCyprian Shipmate
    edited September 17
    Alan29 wrote: »
    You get it in some places when psalms are sung antiphonally to plainsong chants ..... a huge pause in the middle of the line and no pause at all before the other half start the next line.
    Totally bizarre, an affectation. I never knew it when chanting psalms in Latin and only came across it when I joined an Anglican choir.

    I've just spent a week with an Orthodox community in France where Gregorian plainchant is the bedrock of their services. Their mid-verse pause isn't huge but it certainly exists, and there is no pause between the end of one verse and the beginning of the next, with the exception of just before the Gloria Patri at the end of the psalm.

    So if it's an affectation it is one that isn't limited to anglophone Anglican choirs, and seems to have made its way to francophone Orthodox religious communities. However, as this community's music is led by a nun who regularly visits Solesmes for instruction, and as Anglicanism is all but unknown in rural France, I doubt it can be so easily dismissed as Anglican affectation.

    I expect the length of the pause in the middle of the verse will be determined in large part by the acoustic of the building.

    There's an interesting comment here about this custom.
    I've never come across shifting speakers midverse, as mousethief describes, so maybe it's an Orthodox thing.

    It isn't. Orthodox who chant the psalms antiphonally to the 8 Gregorian tones divide the verses in just the same way as everyone else does. I don't want to speak for Mousethief but I didn't read him as saying that it is an Orthodox custom to divide the two choirs at the mid-point of the verse, but rather that, when he has come across the asterisk in liturgical texts, that is what he personally understood it to mean.

    (Please forgive the crossed post.)
  • If it's long enough to say 'Ave Maria' then it's old. Or 'Manchester United' then it's new.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    I've never seen it in an Orthodox church; I was speaking from memory of my Episcopalian days.
    My understanding is that antiphonal reading or singing of the psalms is a (Western) monastic practice that carried over (or was revived in the 1800s) in some quarters of Anglicanism. It is the reason for architectural arrangements where those in the choir sit facing one another in monastic churches, cathedrals, etc. (And by virtue of the fact that it originally met in a chapel, the reason why the British House of Commons sits in a chamber with benches that face each other.)
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Alan29 wrote: »
    I've never come across shifting speakers midverse, as mousethief describes, so maybe it's an Orthodox thing. If we're saying the psalm, I don't like pausing midverse, as it breaks up the sense. As I'm not a singer, I must accept it if they need a break there, but it feels a bit wimpy to me.

    It's not a matter of being wimpy. It's a matter of continuing monastic practices.

    Really? I have never come across it in RC monasteries.

    Not even when they are using plain chant? If so, they are not doing it correctly.

    Yes, when chanting psalms antiphonally using proper Gregorian psalm tones in Latin.
    I think they probably know what they are doing.
    Back in the day when I sang that stuff in a very similar setting we used to pause in the middle of a line just long enough to take a breath (or nod your head) with a similar pause before the other side took over the next line/verse. Nice smooth flow.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    Alan29 wrote: »
    I've never come across shifting speakers midverse, as mousethief describes, so maybe it's an Orthodox thing. If we're saying the psalm, I don't like pausing midverse, as it breaks up the sense. As I'm not a singer, I must accept it if they need a break there, but it feels a bit wimpy to me.

    It's not a matter of being wimpy. It's a matter of continuing monastic practices.

    Really? I have never come across it in RC monasteries.

    Unless RC monasteries are on the old rite (e.g. Clear Creek, OK) or are conservative in their customs they are still processing the aftermath of Vatican II. If you Google 'video Carthusian Vigils' you should come up with a recording of the first Nocturn of Vigils (Matins) according to the revised Carthusian Use from Grand Charteuse herself. The style of chanting their is very much the traditional one as they did not suffer major disruption thanks to the rather crass way in which the Vatican II documents on liturgy were implemented.

    It isn't surprising that the Carthusians have taken a minimalist approach with the post-Vatican II reforms they managed to ignore most of the Tridentine Reforms and only took onboard that which Rome absolutely insisted that they take on board. BTW, Rome had to insist for quite a long time to get the Carthusians to the bow the knee at the elevation, and make some additions to their Calendar. Listening to the recording it seems that they have dropped the threefold "O Lord, open thou my lips..." before Ps. 3, the Lord's Prayer, the Absolution, and the blessings before the readings, and that the readings are now done in French, which is kind of the minimum required by the 1967 directives.

    Last time I was at Ampleforth, the services there were well done examples of the Polyester Use so the chanting of the psalms was done to a modified form of Gregorian chant which sounded a lot like the sort of responsorial settings one gets in the Anglo-Catholic and upmarket RC parishes.
  • Knowledge of traditions in any community frequently only extends to what the previous generation did. Thus, others can know more about a shared tradition than any given group of current practitioners. Side views of a situation can thus be more accurate than the internal view.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    That is a pretty accurate assessment @ThunderBunk - you might get two generations (50-60 years) if you are lucky, but by then the recollections are getting foggy. These days memories of what went on before Vatican II/Alternative Services Measure are getting distinctly foggy.
  • Chorister wrote: »
    If it's long enough to say 'Ave Maria' then it's old. Or 'Manchester United' then it's new.

    What about "Inverness Caledonian Thistle"? Mind you, it would have to be the Piskies!
  • PDR wrote: »
    Alan29 wrote: »
    I've never come across shifting speakers midverse, as mousethief describes, so maybe it's an Orthodox thing. If we're saying the psalm, I don't like pausing midverse, as it breaks up the sense. As I'm not a singer, I must accept it if they need a break there, but it feels a bit wimpy to me.

    It's not a matter of being wimpy. It's a matter of continuing monastic practices.

    Really? I have never come across it in RC monasteries.


    It isn't surprising that the Carthusians have taken a minimalist approach with the post-Vatican II reforms they managed to ignore most of the Tridentine Reforms and only took onboard that which Rome absolutely insisted that they take on board. BTW, Rome had to insist for quite a long time to get the Carthusians to the bow the knee at the elevation, and make some additions to their Calendar. Listening to the recording it seems that they have dropped the threefold "O Lord, open thou my lips..." before Ps. 3, the Lord's Prayer, the Absolution, and the blessings before the readings, and that the readings are now done in French, which is kind of the minimum required by the 1967 directives.

    The three-fold "O Lord, Open our lips" was done at Mount St. Bernard's (Trappist) when I was there. The monks there are certainly not "traddies" in the "angry internet Catholic"* sense. It seemed to be their house custom to accompany Sext (and only Sext) on the guitar.

    *My own term, but anyone who has encountered them knows what I mean.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    I am generally uncomfortable around the "Angry Internet Catholic" a.k.a. "RadTrad" types. OCSO (Trappists) tend to be on the moderate-to-conservative side of the Reform, avoiding the fever swamps on either extreme. From what I have seen of their interpretations of the Agenda, they tend to follow the guidelines fairly closely, and I think that mild sort of conservatism helps them a lot. The Benedictines seem to have a lot more variety with some Houses using an Office that is barely distinguishable from the diocesan clergy's Liturgy of the Hours, through to something that is almost-but-not-quite the 1962 version. I guess that fits with the Benedictine tendency towards a large measure of autonomy for individual houses.

    That said, two of OCSO houses have gone back to the 1962 Monastic Breviary in the last ten years, but, AFAIK, use both forms of Mass. The two houses concerned were both ailing, but now have reasonably secure futures thanks to an up-tick in vocations in both houses. The 1960s Reform was not always kind to the monastic orders, as some of them had extreme difficulty adjusting.

  • PDR wrote: »
    the services there were well done examples of the Polyester Use

    I tried reading this thread to stretch my comprehension, but gave up here.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Cyprian wrote: »
    Living tradition often obviates the need for rubrics. When a practice is so commonplace that it comes as second nature, there is no need to include an instruction to do it. This might explain the absence of rubrics in older books.

    This is particularly evident in rites with much ceremonial. You can study the rubrics and memorise them off by heart but it's only when you see the rite performed by a regular worshipping community that you see the fullness of the liturgical action.

    At our mission, we observe the pause, partly because it would simply never occur to us not to, but also because when you're chanting you often need that time to draw breath. There is then slight overlap when the other side comes in with the next verse.
    That's a valid point of general application. However, I've been around long enough to be able to assure Shipmates that inserting a long(ish) pause into the middle of each verse when saying psalms aloud congregationally was not the commonplace CofE practice or tradition 50 years ago.

    There is a difference between saying psalms congregationally and singing them.

    From about the third quarter of the nineteenth century, earlier in many places for the canticles, the CofE sang prose psalms congregationally using Anglican chant. In the more recent part of that era, choirs and musicians used either The Cathedral Psalter or The Parish Psalter. There were arcane differences between them to which most churchgoers were oblivious. Any pause, if there was one at all, to take in breath between the first and second half of the verse was driven by the music, not a convention. It was not replicated when saying them. Before that cathedral choirs sang prose but nobody is quite sure how they did it. Ordinary congregations normally said prose psalms and sang metrical psalms in stead of hymns.

    Shoving an irritating pause into the middle of each verse to catch people out when saying psalms is a recent innovation.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    edited September 18
    Eutychus wrote: »
    PDR wrote: »
    the services there were well done examples of the Polyester Use

    I tried reading this thread to stretch my comprehension, but gave up here.

    Polyester Use = Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite and - in this case - its cognates.
  • Enoch wrote: »
    . However, I've been around long enough to be able to assure Shipmates that inserting a long(ish) pause into the middle of each verse when saying psalms aloud congregationally was not the commonplace CofE practice or tradition 50 years ago.

    I suppose (as ever) it depends on what sort of Anglican milieu one moves in. I would have said that 50 years ago it was rare for a Sunday service in the C of E to include said psalms. Mattins and Evensong would usually feature psalms sung to Anglican chant; psalms at the Eucharist were not common 50 years ago. Even now they have never become established in many parishes, and where they are used there are many different ways of treating them.

    So I would say (but your experience may be different) that saying psalms aloud congregationally, pause or no pause, was not commonplace C of E practice. Where it was done was in small group recitation of the office, or in monastic or collegiate settings, where the pause we are discussing was most likely observed. Though varying in length from a silent Hail Mary (3 syllables) to an agonisingly long wait.

    Personally I think that it allows for a more meditative approach than racing straight through. But I have been disconcerted in some places when although the pause at the asterisk is observed, the succeeding verse begins almost before the previous one is finished.
  • PDR wrote: »
    The Benedictines seem to have a lot more variety with some Houses using an Office that is barely distinguishable from the diocesan clergy's Liturgy of the Hours, through to something that is almost-but-not-quite the 1962 version. I guess that fits with the Benedictine tendency towards a large measure of autonomy for individual houses.

    True. Benedictine houses are supposed to build their Office on the guidelines in Thesaurus Liturgiae Horarum Monasticae, promulgated around 1977. It's in Latin but can be seen here.
  • I worry so much about getting the length of the pause right and concentrating about when to start the next line, that I can't think about the psalm at all. It just becomes all about the pause.
  • Yes. My wife and I went to Said Evensong at a well-known central London church some years ago, and found not just the Psalm but all the responses and even the Lord's Prayer terrifying. The words were rushed through when spoken, then everything suddenly stopped (I don't recall seeing any asterisks); there was a pause and then everything restarted just as suddenly. Fine if you were one of the in-group but totally off-putting for visitors.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    @Baptist Trainfan - In the UK it is a colon in the BCP not an asterisk. I think Comic Washup uses a little diamond to denote where the break is between the two halves of the verse. I usually do not like the resources put out under the Common Worship brand name, but they did do a decent job on the Office, which is an interesting reversal of what happened with the ASB where I had the feeling the Office was the weakest part of the whole project.

    I am an insider (i.e. an Anglican) and do not much care for the "gabble and stop approach" to the office. I prefer to take it somewhat slower with modest pauses between verses and half-verses, which gives visitors the opportunity to join in. I also dislike the psalms being sung too quickly.

    @Oblatus - I had forgotten how much the Thesaurus had car-bombed the old Benedictine Office. Mind you, it appeared when Rembert 'no friend of tradition' Weakland was the President of the Benedictine Federation, so I suppose I shall have to say "no surprises there then." One surprise I had when taking a look at psalter schemas is that the TEC-affiliated St Gregory's Abbey, Three Rivers, has one of the most traditional.
  • "Gabble and stop" - that describes it perfectly!
  • PDR wrote: »
    I had forgotten how much the Thesaurus had car-bombed the old Benedictine Office. Mind you, it appeared when Rembert 'no friend of tradition' Weakland was the President of the Benedictine Federation, so I suppose I shall have to say "no surprises there then." One surprise I had when taking a look at psalter schemas is that the TEC-affiliated St Gregory's Abbey, Three Rivers, has one of the most traditional.

    Yes, St Gregory's Abbey uses Schema A in the Thesaurus, basically the scheme from the Rule of St Benedict but with the psalms of Prime distributed elsewhere. They formerly used the (Latin) Breviarium Monasticum in its entirety; they've always sought to align with the universal Benedictine Office as much as possible.

    European, especially German, Benedictine houses seem to prefer Schema B, which a survey some years ago showed was the most-used of the four schemes in the Thesaurus worldwide.

    As for parish Offices, our parish does them daily, morning and evening, and I've never experienced gabble-and-stop, just normal-speed spoken recitation with a generous-but-not-ridiculous pause at midverse. Just a bit more than needed for a breath. I think visitors easily settle into the pattern once they've heard the officiant and the people do it for a couple of verses. We're not all perfectly in synch but fairly close. I personally don't find the practice tense or awkward, and I certainly hope no one is dirty-looking anyone who comes in early on the pause. It doesn't happen often, and the ones who do it are not always the visitors.
  • The pause does not always produce "gabble and stop". Last week I was staying with a community where the said the office in a manner which might be described as the two speeds my Mum claimed I had as a kid "Slow or Stop". By slow I mean so slow that you had to de-lib-er-ate-ly pro-noun-ce each word. It meant that any office took twice the time I consider normal for a said office. It was interesting, as the pause felt almost like resting back into the underlying silence.
  • PDR wrote: »
    Eutychus wrote: »
    PDR wrote: »
    the services there were well done examples of the Polyester Use

    I tried reading this thread to stretch my comprehension, but gave up here.

    Polyester Use = Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite and - in this case - its cognates.

    Wait, is this Ship slang, or what? Google isn't helping. I'm thoroughly confused.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    I think this is Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Polyester Use, I’m guessing, is slightly derogatory RC slang for it.
  • I have never heard such an expression used in RC circles for the Ordinary Form of the Roman rite. I find that it is Anglo-Catholics who tend to use (mainly disparaging) special names for the Roman Rite.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    Yes. That would fit, @Forthview.
  • Eutychus wrote: »
    PDR wrote: »
    Eutychus wrote: »
    PDR wrote: »
    the services there were well done examples of the Polyester Use

    I tried reading this thread to stretch my comprehension, but gave up here.

    Polyester Use = Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite and - in this case - its cognates.

    Wait, is this Ship slang, or what? Google isn't helping. I'm thoroughly confused.
    My impression has been that it’s @PDR’s own slang.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    edited September 21
    I picked it up off a friend of mine who is a conservative (but not angry) RC and liturgy geek. He tends to apply it to the 1970s round of revised liturgies, generally the 1970s translation of the Ordinary Form, but he has been know to apply it to Anglican or Lutheran books of the same era.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Forthview wrote: »
    I have never heard such an expression used in RC circles for the Ordinary Form of the Roman rite. I find that it is Anglo-Catholics who tend to use (mainly disparaging) special names for the Roman Rite.

    Nice.
  • Agreed. It does come off to me as disparaging. TBH, I think usage of it and similar terms detracts and undercuts credibility. It smells a bit of smugness.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    edited September 23
    Frustration rather than smugness in my case. The newer rite can be done really well, but there is a certain variety of liturgical expert who seem to make it their life's mission to do strange things to the revised rites. I certainly hear a lot of critique of parish liturgy along those lines from my more conservatively minded RC friends. Unfortunately, there seems to be nothing that will seem to shift the dominance of the bland offerings of certain well know Catholic publishing houses.

    And in all honesty - I really don't like modern liturgy. A lot of it smells of the lecture theatre rather than the cloister or the parish church.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    PDR wrote: »
    Frustration rather than smugness in my case. The newer rite can be done really well, but there is a certain variety of liturgical expert who seem to make it their life's mission to do strange things to the revised rites. I certainly hear a lot of critique of parish liturgy along those lines from my more conservatively minded RC friends. Unfortunately, there seems to be nothing that will seem to shift the dominance of the bland offerings of certain well know Catholic publishing houses.

    And in all honesty - I really don't like modern liturgy. A lot of it smells of the lecture theatre rather than the cloister or the parish church.

    I am so old that I remember the Tridentine Rite being done really, really badly - a place where there were many priests all celebrating at separate altars racing to get finished so they could get to breakfast first and grab the best bacon. Another place where the priest used to promise 15 minute Masses on weekdays. Terrible sentimental "Mary and me" Victorian hymns with music hall tunes and utter doggerel for words. Abysmal parish choirs belting out worthless mass settings by the likes of Tozer (who he?) People arriving at the Gospel and nipping out at the priests communion so they could tick off that they had fulfilled their obligation.
    The list could go on. The point is that bad liturgy is bad liturgy no matter what prayer book is used.
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