We come now to the third ground for abusing old age, and that is, that it is devoid of sensual pleasures. O glorious boon of age, if it does indeed free us from youth’s most vicious fault! Now listen, most noble young men, to what that remarkably great and distinguished man, Archytas of Tarentum, said in an ancient speech repeated to me when I was a young man serving with Quintus Maximus at Tarentum: “No more deadly curse,” said he, “has been given by nature to man than carnal pleasure, through eagerness for which the passions are driven recklessly and uncontrollably to its gratification. From it come treason and the overthrow of states; and from it spring secret and corrupt conferences with public foes. In short, there is no criminal purpose and no evil deed which the lust for pleasure will not drive men to undertake. Indeed, rape, adultery, and every like offence are set in motion by the enticements of pleasure and by nothing else; and since nature — or some god, perhaps — has given to man nothing more excellent than his intellect, therefore this divine gift has no deadlier foe than pleasure; for where lust holds despotic sway self-control has no place, and in pleasure’s realm there is not a single spot where virtue can put her foot.”
[Sequitur tertia vituperatio senectutis, quod eam carere dicunt voluptatibus. O praeclarum munus aetatis, si quidem id aufert a nobis, quod est in adulescentia vitiosissimum! Accipite enim, optimi adulescentes, veterem orationem Archytae Tarentini, magni in primis et praeclari viri, quae mihi tradita est cum essem adulescens Tarenti cum Q. Maximo. Nullam capitaliorem pestem quam voluptatem corporis hominibus dicebat a natura datam, cuius voluptatis avidae libidines temere et effrenate ad potiendum incitarentur. Hinc patriae proditiones, hinc rerum publicarum eversiones, hinc cum hostibus clandestina colloquia nasci; nullum denique scelus, nullum malum facinus esse, ad quod suscipiendum non libido voluptatis impelleret; stupra vero et adulteria et omne tale flagitium nullis excitari aliis illecebris nisi voluptatis; cumque homini sive natura sive quis deus nihil mente praestabilius dedisset, huic divino muneri ac dono nihil tam esse inimicum quam voluptatem. Nec enim lubidine dominante temperantiae locum esse, neque omnino in voluptatis regno virtutem posse consistere.]
De Senectute [Cato Maior; On Old Age], Part 3, ch. 12 / sec. 39ff (3.12.39-41) (44 BC) [tr. Falconer (1923)]
(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:
Nowe folo∣with the iij vituperacion & defaute by the which yong men seyne that olde age is noiouse myschaunte & wretchid by cause it hath almost no flesshely delectacyons or sensualitees as for to gete with childeren and yssue to encrece and multiplie the world. To whom I answere forwith that it is right a noble gyfte rewarde & the right grete worship of olde age that it be sequestred depryved and dischargid of the delectacyons of sensualitee of the body or flesshely lustis for yf it be so that olde age be pryved and sequestred of such delectacyons It had takin awey from us olde men that thyng whiche is right vicious & right foule in the age of adolescence & yongthe.
And neverthelesshe my right good and lovyng yong men Scipion and Lelius an auncyent senatour purposid an oracion that a philosopher callid Archites made whiche was takyn of Haniballe duc of Cartage when he werrid in Ytaile. He was recoverde by Quintus Fabius the noble senatour when he recoverd Tarente, takyn by the said Haniballe. Archites was pryncypally a grete man connyngly lernyd in sciences and in vertues and was right famous and noble. This oracion purposid which Archites made was yeven to me when I adolescent and yong of age was at Tarente with the seid Fabius, and by this oracyon seid Archites that nature which ordeyned to men complexions gave nevir no pestelence peyne nor turment more damageable to yong men than is flesshely delectacyon. The coveitous playsirs of delectacyon moven tyce and steeren men over boldely and withoute bridell of reason or shame or any restraynt to execute and make an ende of their foule lustys. For thought delectacy∣ons ben made and conspired treasons divisions and dissencyons of countrees & the destruccions of their comon profite, and the secretes of parlementys disclosed to our ennemyes and adversarye partye there is noon untrou∣the there is noon evyll werke but pleasyre of delectacyon which shall constrayne men to encline therto, by cause that they enioyen owt of mesure of spousehode brekyng & that so fervently the cause of defoulyng of maydens virgins the anontry of weddyd women & all such corrupte untrew werkys, whiche ben nevir mevid nor undirtakyn but by the insolence & wantownes & wenlacys of flesshely delectacyon. Archites also saide that as nature by power of which god hath yeven to men noth̄yng bettir than is the soule by the which they have undirstondyng & mynde, also to that soule which is an office & a gift dyvine nothyng is so grete ennemye nor so contrary as ben flesshely delectacyons, for sith delectacyon & flesshely pleasir have dominacyon in the regyon of man. That is to witt in the courage of his body, the vertue of attemperance may not be lodgid therin & wthin the regyon of man which is yeven to delectacyon may not abyde any wisedome nor vertue.
[tr. Worcester/Worcester/Scrope (1481)]
Now followeth the third dispraise and fault which is laid in old age, because (say they) it is without pleasure, and must forego voluptuous appetites. O noble and excellent gift, wherewith old age is so blessed, if it take from us that thing, which is in youth most vicious and detestable. But you (noble and virtuous gentlemen, Scipio and Laelius) hear what Archytas, the famous philosopher of Tarentum, was wont to say, whose oration touching on the same matter was lent and delivered to me, when I was a young man and served under Quintus Maximus at the siege of Tarentum. He said that no plague was given by nature so great and pernicious unto men, as the bestial pleasures and voluptuousness of the body: which which pleasures the dissolute and libidinous lusts of men do so much affect and desire, that with all licentious profanation and outrage, their minds be incited and stirred to pursue the same, thinking all things lawful for their unbridled appetites, so that they may enjoy their beastly desires and still wallow in the filthy puddle of their hellish sensuality. Hence (said he_ as from a fountain do spring out all kinds of mischief, as treason, betraying of countries, the ruin and subversion of commonwealths, secret conventicles, and privy conferences with the enemies; finally (he said), there was none so great a villainy, nor any so flagitious and horrible an enormity, which the inordinate desire of pleasure would not egg and prick forward men's froward wills to enterprise: furthermore, that whoredom, adultery, and all such like heinous facts of carnal concupiscency were by none other lures or enticements provoked but by pleasure. And whereas either nature or God hath given unto man nothing of so noble excellency as the mind or reasonable soul, there is nothing so great an enemy until this inestimable and divine gift as pleasure.
For where pleasure beareth away and ruleth the roast, there is no mansion or dwelling-place left for temperance and sobriety, and, to be short, virtue cannot remain where pleasure reigneth.
[tr. Newton (1569)]
There followeth the third Objection to age; they say that it wanteth pleasures. Oh excellent gift of age, if it take away that which makes our youth vitious; therefore hear now, O yee excellent young men, the old oration of Architas the Tarentine, a singular and worthy man, which was delivered me when I was a young man with Q. Maximus at Tarentum. He said that there was no deadlier plague given by nature to men, then the pleasure of the body, the greedy lusts whereof are rash and unbrideledly, stirred up to get and gain. From hence are derived treasons, from hence arise the overthrowes of Commonwealths, and the privy conspiracies and whisperings with the enemies. That to conclude, there was no wickednesse, nor no evill deed, to the undertaking of which, the lust of pleasure did not incite a man; and that whoredome, adultery, and all such evill was stirred up by no other bait then pleasure. And forasmuch as nature, or some God, hath given nothing more excellent to a man, then his minde; to this divine gift, there is no greater enemy then pleasure. For lust bearing rule, there is no place for temperance, neither in the Kingdome of pleasure can virtue consist.
[tr. Austin (1648)]
Now must I draw my forces 'gainst that Host
Of Pleasures, which i'th' Sea of age are lost.
Oh, thou most high transcendent gift of age!
Youth from its folly thus to disengage.
And now receive from me that most divine
Oration of that noble Tarentine,
Which at Tarentum I long since did hear;
When I attended the great Fabius there.
Yee Gods, was it man's Nature? or his Fate?
Betray'd him with sweet pleasures poyson'd bait?
Which he, with all designs of art, or power,
Doth with unbridled appetite devour;
And as all poysons seek the noblest part,
Pleasure possesses first the head and heart;
Intoxicating both, by them, she finds,
And burns the Sacred Temples of our Minds.
Furies, which Reasons divine chains had bound,
(That being broken) all the World confound.
Lust, Murder, Treason, Avarice, and Hell
It self broke loose; in Reason's Pallace dwell,
Truth, Honour, Justice, Temperance, are fled,
All her attendants into darkness led.
But why all this discourse? when pleasure's rage
Hath conquer'd reason, we must treat with age.
Age undermines, and will in time surprize
Her strongest Forts, and cut off all supplies.
And joyn'd in league with strong necessity,
Pleasure must flie, or else by famine die.v [tr. Denham (1669)]
The third Accusation against Old Age is, that it deprives us of the Enjoyments of Pleasure. O glorious Priviledge of Age, if through thy means we can get rid of the most pernicious Bane, to which our You is liable! Give me leave to repeat to you, what a great Orator has said upon this Subject.
"Nature has not implanted in Man any more execrable Curse, than that of bodily Pleasures; to the gratification of which we are hurried on, wich such unbounded and licentious Appetites. For to what else is oweing the Subversion of so many States and Kingdoms? What Villainy too daring, what Undertaking too hazardous, which the Desire of satisfying our unbounded Lusts will not instigate us to attempt? To what are Rapes, Adulteries, or such like abominable Enormities owing, but to the gratification of our Appetites? And since the Faculties of Reason, and Judgment, are the most excellent Qualities, which Nature, or Providence, has conferred upon us; it is certain that nothing can be more destructive, more pernicious to this divine Gift, than the Indulging bodily Pleasures? For it is impossible to observe an Degrees of Temperance, while we are under the Dominion of our unruly Passions, nor can Virtue consiste with the pursuit of such Enjoyments."
[tr. Hemming (1716)]
We come now to the Third Objection, which is, That Old Age is deprived of Pleasure. O excellent State! if it deprives us of what is most vitious in You! For, hear ye well-disposed young Men, the old Remark of Architas the Tarentine, a most ingenious Man, which was given to me when I was a young Fellow at Tarentum, with Q. Maximus. He said, "That Nature had not given Mankind a greater Plague than the Pleasure of the body, whose eager Desires for the Enjoyment of it, are altogether loose and unbridled: That from hence arise Conspiracies against our Country, Subversions of the Commonwealth, and treasonable Conferences with the Enemy. In short, that there was no Wickedness nor Capital Crime, but this Lust after Pleasure would put a man upon undertaking; that Whoredom, Adultery, and all such Vices, were excited by no other Allurements than those of Pleasure. That as Nature, or some God, had given to Man nothing more valuable than his Mind, so to that Gift was joined nothing so much its Enemy as Pleasure; for when Lust is predominant, there is no Room for Temperance; nor can Virtue possibly consist in Pleasure's Throne."
[tr. J. D. (1744)]
The third Charge against Old-Age was, That it is (they say) insensible to Pleasure, and the Enjoyments arising from the Gratifications of the Senses. And a most blessed and heavenly Effect it truly is, if it eases of what in Youth was the sorest and cruellest Plague of Life. Pray listen, my good Friends, to an old Discourse of Archytas the Tarentine, a great and excellent Man in his Time, which I learned when I was but young myself, at Tarentum, under Fabius Maximus, at the Time he recovered that Place. The greatest Curse, the heaviest Plague, said he, derived on Man from Nature, is bodily Pleasure, when the Passions are indulged, and strong inordinate Desires are raised and set in Motion for obtaining it. For this have Men betray'd their Country; for this have States and Governments been plunged in Ruin; for this have treacherous Correspondences been held with publick Enemies: In short, there is no Mischief so horrid, no Villany so execrable, that this will not prompt to perpetrate. And as Adultery, and all the Crimes of that Tribe, are the natural Effects of it; so of course are all the fatal Consequences that ensue on them. 'Tis owned, that the most noble and excellent Gift of Heaven to Man, is his Reason: And 'tis as sure, that of all the Enemies Reason has to engage with, Pleasure is the most capital, and the most pernicious: For where its great Incentive, Lust, prevails, Temperance can have no Place; nor under the Dominion of Pleasure, can Virtue possibly subsist.
[tr. Logan (1750)]
Let us now proceed to examine the third article of complaint against old age, as "bereaving us," it seems, "of the sensual gratifications." Happy effect indeed, if it deliver us from those snares which allure youth into some of the worst vices to which that age is addicted. Suffer me upon this occasion, my excellent young friends, to acquaint vou with the substance of a discourse which was held many years since by that illustrious philosopher Archytas, of Tarentum, as it was related to me when I was a young man in the army of Quintus Maximus, at the siege of that city. "Nature," said this illustrious sage, "has not conferred on mankind a more dangerous present than those pleasures which attend the sensual indulgences; as the passions they excite are too apt to run away with reason, in a lawless and unbridled pursuit of their respective enjoyments. It is in order to gratify inclinations of this ensnaring kind that men are tempted to hold clandestine correspondence with the enemies of the state, to subvert governments, and turn traitors to their country. In short, there is no sort of crimes that afiect the public welfare to which an inordinate love of the sensual pleasures may not directly lead. And as to vices of a more private tendency -- rapes, adulteries and every other flagitious violation of the moral duties -- are they not perpetrated solely from this single motive? Reason, on the other hand," continued Archytas," is the noblest gift which God, or nature, has bestowed on the sons of men. Now nothing is so great an enemy to that divine endowment, as the pleasures of sense. For neither temperance, nor any other of the more exalted virtues, can find a place in that breast which is under the dominion of the voluptuous passions."
[tr. Melmoth (1773)]
The third charge against old age comes next, namely, that they say that it is without pleasures. O glorious privilege of old age, if indeed it takes away from us that which in youth is most faulty! For listen, excellent young men, to an ancient discourse of Archytas of Tarentum, a singularly great and renowned man, which was delivered to me when I was a young man with Quintus Maximus: He said, that no deadlier plague than the pleasure of the body was given to men by Nature; of which pleasure the passions being excessively fond, impelled men to enjoy them rashly and precipitously. That hence rose betrayals of country, hence subversions of states, hence clandestine correspondence with enemies. In a word, that there is no atrocity, no wicked deed, to the undertaking of which the lust of pleasure did not incite; and that seductions and adulteries, and every such crime, are called into existence by no other allurements but pleasure; and whereas, whether Nature or some deity had given nothing to man more excellent than the understanding, nothing was more hostile to this divine gift and endowment than pleasure. For neither, when lust bore sway, was there room for temperance, nor could virtue hold any place at all in the reign of pleasure.
[Cornish Bros. ed. (1847)]
Then follows the third topic of blame against old age, that they say it has no pleasures. Oh, noble privilege of age! if indeed it takes from us that which is in youth the greatest defect. For listen, most excellent young men, to the ancient speech of Archytas of Tarentum, a man eminently great and illustrious, which was reported to me when I, a young man, was at Tarentum with Quintus Maximus. He said that no more deadly plague than the pleasure of the body was inflicted on men by nature; for the passions, greedy of that pleasure, were in a rash and unbridled manner incited to possess it; that hence arose treasons against one's country, hence the ruining of states, hence clandestine conferences with enemies: in short, that there was no crime, no wicked act, to the undertaking of which the lust of pleasure did not impel; but that fornications and adulteries and every such crime, were provoked by no other allurements than those of pleasure. And whereas either nature or some god had given to man nothing more excellent than his mind; that to this divine function and gift, nothing was so hostile as pleasure: since where lust bore sway, there was no room for self-restraint; and in the realm of pleasure, virtue could by no possibility exist.
[tr. Edmonds (1874)]
I come now to the third charge against old age, that, as it is alleged, it lacks the pleasures of sense. O admirable service of old age, if indeed it takes from us what in youth is more harmful than all things else! For I would have you hear, young men, an ancient discourse of Archytas of Tarentum, a man of great distinction and celebrity, as it was repeated to me when in my youth I was at Tarentum with Quintus Maximus. "Man has received from nature," said he, "no more fatal scourge than bodily pleasure, by which the passions in their eagerness for gratification are made reckless and are released from all restraint. Hence spring treasons against one's country; hence, overthrows of states; hence, clandestine plottings with enemies. In fine, there is no form of guilt, no atrocity of evil, to the accomplishment of which men are not driven by lust for pleasure. Debaucheries, adulteries, and all enormities of that kind have no other inducing cause than the allurements of pleasure. Still more, while neither Nature nor any god has bestowed upon man aught more noble than mind, nothing is so hostile as pleasure to this divine endowment and gift. Nor while lust bears sway can self-restraint find place, nor under the reign of pleasure can virtue have any foothold whatever."
[tr. Peabody (1884)]
The third charge against old age is that it LACKS SENSUAL PLEASURES. What a splendid service does old age render, if it takes from us the greatest blot of youth! Listen, my dear young friends, to a speech of Archytas of Tarentum, among the greatest and most illustrious of men, which was put into my hands when as a young man I was at Tarentum with Q. Maximus. "No more deadly curse than sensual pleasure has been inflicted on mankind by nature, to gratify which our wanton appetites are roused beyond all prudence or restraint. Fornications and adulteries, and every abomination of that kind, are brought about by the enticements of pleasure and by them alone. Intellect is the best gift of nature or God: to this divine gift and endowment there is nothing so inimical as pleasure. For when appetite is our master, there is no place for self-control; nor where pleasure reigns supreme can virtue hold its ground."
[tr. Shuckburgh (1895)]
Thirdly, it is alleged against old age,
It has no sensual pleasures to enjoy.
Divinest gift of age, to take away sensual pleasures.
What is the greatest blot on youthful years!
Hear, my dear friends, a speech Archytas made
(Who was a very old and famous man),
And told me at Tarentum, where I was
With Quintus Maximus, when quite a youth:
'No greater curse than sensuality
Has Nature given to man: its foul desires
To feed, lust grows unbridled and unwise;
Hence countries are betrayed, states overthrown,
Secret arrangements with our foes are made.
There is no crime, no ill deed to which lust
Cannot entice : abominable vice
Of every kind is due to this alone.
Nature herself, or some kind deity
Has given to man no greater gift than mind:
But to this gift, this faculty divine,
No greater enemy can be than lust.
When that bears sway, all moderation's gone,
And 'neath its rule virtue cannot survive.
[tr. Allison (1916)]
Next we come to the third allegation against old age. This was its deficiency in sensual pleasures. But if age really frees us from youth's most dangerous failing, then we are receiving a most blessed gift.
Let me tell you, my dear friends, what was said years ago by that outstandingly distinguished thinker, Archytas of Tarentum, the city at which I heard of his words when I was a young soldier serving under Fabius. "The most fatal curse given by nature to mankind," said Archytas, "is sensual greed: this incites men to gratify their lusts heedlessly and uncontrollably, thus bringing about national betrayals, revolutions, and secret negotiations with the enemy. Lust will drive men to every sin and crime under the sun. Mere lust, without any additiona impulse, is the cause of rape, adultery, and every other sexual outrage. Nature, or a god, has given human beings a mind as their outstanding possession, and this divine gift and endowment has no worse foe than sensuality. For in the realm of the physical passions there can be no room for self-control; where self-indulgence reigns, decent behavior is excluded.
[tr. Grant (1960, 1971 ed.)]
I turn now to the third charge against old age -- one commonly leveled with vehemence: men say that it is cut off from pleasures. What a glorious blessing the years confer if they take away from us the greatest weakness that afflicts our younger days! Let me repeat to you, my dear young friends, what Archytas of Tarentum said many, many years ago. (He was one of the truly great -- a distinguished man -- and his discourse was reported to me when as a young man I visited Tarentum in the company of Quintus Maximus.) Archytas declared that nature had afflicted man with no plague more deadly than physical pleasure, since the hope of pleasure roused men’s desires to fever-pitch and spurred them on, like wild, unbridled beasts, to attainment.
Pleasure, he said, was the ultimate source of treason, of riot and rebellion, of clandestine negotiations with an enemy; to sum it up, there was no crime, no foul perversion, which men were not led to commit by the desire for pleasure. As for crimes of passion, adultery, and the like, he declared that pleasure and its blandishments were the sole cause of them "Here is man," said he. "Nature, or if you will, God, has given him nothing more precious and distinctive than his mind, yet nothing is so hostile to this blessing -- this godlike power -- as pleasure."
Further, he asserted that when the appetites had the upper hand there was no room left for self-discipline -- in fact, to put it generally, virtue could find no foothold anywhere in the kingdom of pleasure.
[tr. Copley (1967)]
Now I come to the third reason why old age is so strenuously condemned: that when we are old we can’t enjoy sensual pleasures. On the contrary, what a gift it is that age takes away from us the most objectionable vices of the young! When I was a young man in the army, someone quoted to me from a speech -- and it is well worth listening to it today -- that was delivered long ago by a distinguished philosopher, Archytas of Tarentum. “Nature,” he said, “has never visited on man a more virulent pestilence than sex. There is nothing we will not do, however rash and ill-considered, in order to satisfy our desires. Sex has impelled men to treason, to revolution, to collusion with the enemy. Under the influence of sex, there is no criminal enterprise they will not undertake, no sin they will not commit. Infidelity, of course, and then any kind of depraved perversion you can think of -- all are driven by the search for sexual pleasure. Nature -- or perhaps some god -- has given us nothing more valuable than the power to reason; but there is nothing more inimical to reason than sex. Lust will always overcome self-control; there is no moral value that can stand up to the attacks of unbridled desire.”
[tr. Cobbold (2012)]
THEY SAY OLD AGE DEPRIVES US OF ALMOST ALL OF THE PLEASURES. Oh, this is a wonderful gift of old age, if it does indeed relieve us of most of the reasons youth gets itself into trouble. Remember, you young folks, the famous warning from Dr. Johnson, the especially great and famous eighteenth century savant. I came to admire him when I was a young man at Oxford. He said that the body is all vice. The body's avid desire for the pleasures makes it seek them rashly and without control until it finds gratification. Oh the trouble! These things often create traitors of their countries: they ruin governments and cause secret dealings with enemies. The desire for bodily pleasure drives people to commit debauchery, adultery, and crimes of all sorts. Since nature's (or God's) greatest gift to mankind is our reason, nothing is so harmful to God's gift than the desire for pleasure because it makes us act so irrationally. By golly, when we are in hot pursuit of pleasure, there is no place for modration or good sense. If the pleasure is too great and lasts too long, it will blot out any trace of rational thinking.
[tr. Gerberding (2014)]
Again old age is given a third censure.
It is devoid, they say, of sensual pleasure,
But that’s also a wonderful gift without price
Taking from us youth’s most wicked vice!
Listen, my good lads, to the time-honoured advice
Of Archytas from Tarentum, great and blessed,
Who in my young days his thoughts expressed,
While I was in Tarentum with Q. Maximus:
No evildoing can be worse than the voluptuous
Pleasure of the senses was his complaint
Which makes men blind and act with no restraint.
From it descend treason, revolution and
Pacts with the enemies of the Fatherland.
All evil actions and crimes combined
Have an urge for lust not far behind,
And then adultery and lewdness
Are set on fire by voluptuousness.
There must have been some god who gave mankind,
Or maybe it wasn’t a god but nature,
The divine privilege of the mind
Which is the enemy of pleasure.
Indeed under the rule of passion
Temperance has no place at all,
And virtue can be kept in thrall
By sensuality’s enticing coils.
[tr. Bozzi (2015)]
We come now to the third objection to growing older -- that the pleasures of the flesh fade away. But if this is true, I say it is indeed a glorious gift that age frees us from youth's most destructive failing. Now listen, my most noble young friends, to the ancient words of that excellent and most distinguished young man, Archytas of Tarentum, repeated to me when I was serving as a young soldier in that very city with Quintus Maximus. He said the most fatal curse given to men by nature is sexual desire. From it spring passions of uncontrollable and reckless lust seeking gratification. From it come secret plotting with enemies, betrayals of one's country, and teh voer throw of governments. Indeed, there is no evil act, no unscrupulous deed that a man driven by lust will not perform. Uncontrolled sensuality will drive men to rape, adultery, and every other sexual outrage. And since nature -- or perhaps some god -- has given men no finer gift than human intelligence, this divine endowment has no greater foe than naked sensuality. Where lust rules, there is no place for self-control. And in the kingdom of self-indulgence, there is no room for decent behavior.
[tr. Freeman (2016)]
The third typical criticism of old age follows this, and that is that people complain that it lacks [sexual] pleasures. Oh! Glorious wealth of age, if it takes that from us, the most criminal part of youth! Take this from me, most noble young men, this is the ancient speech of Archytas of Tarentum, which was repeated to me when I was a young man working for Quintus Maximus there: “Nature has given man no deadlier a curse than sexual desire.”
[tr. @sentantiq (2019)]
Added on 31-Aug-23 | Last updated 31-Aug-23
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