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June 3, 2006

Quatrains on American history
Posted by Teresa at 07:55 PM * 84 comments

It’s the first time this side of The Well that I’ve found a venue playing games like ours. As usual, I stumbled across the thread while looking for something else. This one I found because they were playing with Stephen Vincent Benet:

Daniel Boone

When Daniel Boone goes by, at night, the phantom deer arise,
and all lost, wild America
is burning in their eyes.

Some further specimens:


When John J. Audubon looks up,
the blue jay does not blink,
and when he looks back down again,
the thief lies caught in ink.


Agnew was a man that most
Republicans adored;
sleek, corrupt and self assured,
and now, thank God, he’s toast.

Francis Marion

Just when they had the prey on the run,
their red coats exquisite
under the Carolina sun,
the swamp fox barked—and bit.

Three guesses who this one’s about:
Marooned in snow, he used all means to keep himself alive.
The County held eight Democrats,
and that sumbitch ate five!


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
and Robert Frost, that cranky git,
scratched his chin and stood and stood
until he got a poem from it.

The First Thirteen Presidents

From General George to Millard, all
Owned slaves, except for two:
Those Massachusetts liberals
John (senior) and John (Q.).

There are more.

I’m of the opinion that they should feel encouraged pay a call, or come to tea, or read another thread here that should be to their taste; and in the meantime, we should go over and admire their work.

Hello, hello?

Comments on Quatrains on American history:
#1 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 08:14 PM:

Er, the middle link goes to a wonderful page with this title:

Bad news, web surfer:
Low tide, flat sea, page not found.
Try the search engine?

If that's deliberate, it's wonderful. If it's not, it's still wonderful.

#2 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 09:02 PM:

William Harrison -- Tippecanoe!
Went out without his coat;
He took an oath, an ague too --
And that was all she wrote.

In Central Park, the boats do sail,
And happy folks stroll by;
Who now recalls this urban vale
Was proto-CGI?

One day Ike was President,
His SecDef also ran GM.
They dreamed of highroads of cement --
I wonder what became of them?

Here is the lady from Amherst, MA
Who'd no time to stop, and was stopped for anon;
In her time she was all but alone (so they say)
But the third in the carriage is bearing her on.

Aw, come on, were you expecting me to do anything else?

#3 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 09:03 PM:

James Buchanan

It mortified him to be called
America's worst president.
Now, helpless, he can only watch
his ceded throne, and George's ascent.

#4 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 09:04 PM:

Mike, that's exactly what I expected, and it's lovely.

#5 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 09:20 PM:

Cleveland was unique among
Our Chief Executives
For serving terms of office that were

Friend to business, banker's pal, he
Hobnobbed with fat cats.
Sound Money man, he was the perfect
Bourbon Democrat.

#6 ::: Nicole Fitzhugh ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 09:58 PM:

Alfred Packer! (the subject of the guess who quatrain) I read about him in a book of "strange and mysterious events in US history." (Scholastic Publishing used to be full of weird stuff like this that you could mail order.) Anyway, they said that at one point students at Harvard had campaigned to call one of their dining halls the Alfred Packer Memorial Dining Hall until someone in admin did the research. Even if urban legend, it's a great story.

#7 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 10:20 PM:

That's "Alferd."

I keep wondering if the folks at CU in Boulder (actual home of the Alferd Packer Grill) have thought of making the school mascot the alpaca.

The old Pioneer Museum in Fort Collins used to display a cane made by the famous maneater whilst in stir (and before he got sprung by Bonfils and Tammen). Now the museum is in a bigger building, and due to some idea of modern museum management, they only show about a tenth of their stuff.

#8 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 10:24 PM:

Were Bonfils and Tammen ever in office? I thought they were newspapermen.

#9 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 10:26 PM:

The dining-hall story is real, but it's in Colorado, not Cambridge.

Tomorrow is St. Valentine's Day,
And Alphonse has a score:
Let in the guys, that after play
Never departed more.

(I know, the Wiseguy Shakespeare has been long idle.)

These are the men who are crossing the plains
Laying iron rails through the Western unknown;
These are the people passed by by the trains,
This is a buffalo, this is a bone.

#10 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 10:36 PM:

Speaking of Bonfils and Tammen:

Bon and Tam of Denver Post
With Justice (Dame) made quite a threesome.
Spilled Teapot Dome ahead of most
Because the perps declined to grease 'em.

#11 ::: plover ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 10:45 PM:

Though vox pop cheered his trav'lers tales:
TypeeOmoo as well –
All sail was raised for mockery
From "Call me Ishmael."

#12 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 11:35 PM:

"You will not crucify mankind
Upon a cross of gold!"
Said Bryan, whose campaigns went on
To fold, and fold, and fold.

In ninety-six and ought and eight
He kept on rudely tryin'
To get elected President,
That William Jennings Bryan.

In later years, he served as one
Of Woodrow Wilson's men
And, lastly, on the high school stage
Inheriting the wind.

#13 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 11:51 PM:

Bonfils and Tammen didn't actually spring Packer, but they got him sprung by way of a crusade they ran in the Post. At least that's what I remember from multiple readings of Gene Fowler's Timber Line (which was also a source for the musical "The Unsinkable Molly Brown").

Here's a cultural one:

John Cage's music, still unchanged
Runs from zen to violence,
His lawyers, uncaged, get deranged
If someone steals his silence.

#14 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 12:07 AM:

Our 37th President
Played Checkers with aplomb.
And as a White House resident
He dropped a lot of bombs.

Eisenhower tried to drop him
From the ticket in '56.
Nothing doing. Dick was wise
To Ike and Stassen's naive tricks.

After 1962,
He told reporters, "Now that you
Have me to kick around no more
Your readers will begin to snore."

As President, he startled us
By paying court to Mao
And, even stranger, offering that
"We are all Keynesians now."

But for all his psychodrama
And secret wars in Indochina
And bugging of psychiatrists
And Kissingerian games of Risk--

America, you submit yourself
To rudely be played tricks on.
The means by which you manage this
Is Richard Milhous Nixon.

#15 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 12:13 AM:

Jackson's controversy boils
When Van B's hired to assist him
"To the victor belongs the spoils,"
Sniffs Marcy -- thus our present system.

#16 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 12:22 AM:

This is just to say
that my verse will launch, why, millions
Of parodies. Involving fruit.
Signed, William Carlos Williams.

#17 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 12:31 AM:

There's a yellow rose in Texas--
That I am going to See--
Nobody else could miss Her--
Not half so much as Me.

You can talk about your Emerson--
And sing of H. Thoreau--
But the King Hell Transcendentalist--
Is me, as you well Know.

#18 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 12:42 AM:

Oh, take me back behind the El
and give me pleasures heady:
A Coney hot dog of the mind
and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

#19 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 12:50 AM:


The oldest of the spawn she bore
Is currently the president;
He was elected five to four;
Used courts to trump the states.

#20 ::: Dan Lewis ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 02:29 AM:

Emily Dickinson
Denied the public's auctions--
She spurned-- a famous splash--
Mixed poetic concoctions
And-- kept-- in-- every-- dash--

#21 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 02:44 AM:

Can they include current events?

A man's polls went to hell in a carriage
"What to do, what to do," he cried loudly
"I know," his advisors said proudly
"We must all prohibit gay marriage!"

#22 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 02:49 AM:

Oh, oops. xaxa rhyming scheme. Ah well, back to the drawing board.

#23 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 03:03 AM:

One wonders if it really was
The peeking of a breast
Or the symbol of his post by which
John Ashcroft was distressed.

(Hey, he's history now!)

#24 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 05:04 AM:

Two vast and legless feet of clay,
Stand on the nation's throat.
Can storm and flood wash all away?
Not if liars count the vote.

#25 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 05:15 AM:

Oh, dear. I wasn't going to even read this thread...

"The world will little note, nor long
Remember what we say here."
"The war is done, the evening long,
I think you'll like the play, dear."

Our finest wordsmith used his prose
To lead, debate and set slaves free.
But as subsequent history shows,
He stank at prophecy.

#26 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 05:35 AM:

Nice, Abi. Linkmeister, the rhyme scheme isn't specified.

Emily Dickinson has now been done three times.

Mike, I loved the stanza for Alphonse (after Ophelia, yes?), and the other stanza that accompanied it.

#27 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 06:33 AM:

Thank you for the kind word, Teresa. As for the following, please excuse the meter. My muse flees in the presence of small children.

We start with God (or Gods, or none)
Then speech and press, assembling:
The ways and means that anyone
Can ask for change to anything.

But might makes right, or helps it thrive
Against the worst ill wishers.
So guns can keep the State alive
In well-regulated Militias.

The homely castle where you live
Affords no soldier boarder.
The third amemdment lets you give
New meaning to "No quarter!"

Your property and self are your own
And none may search or take them
Unless probable cause can be shown
And warrants evidence make them.

Due process of law is next in our reach
As part of the health of the nation.
Trials are needed, and only one each
Without any self incrimination.

In criminal trials, a jury must sit
And witnesses be openly heard.
Counsel assists, and the state will commit
To compel defence witnesses' word.

Where common law suits are tried
And sums are more than a score
A jury request cannot be denied
Nor appeals their findings ignore.

Excessive bail shall not be imposed
Lest poverty tyranny fuel.
And punishments, however composed,
Should not be unusual or cruel.

Naming rights here does not deny
That for the people others exist.
And inclusion herein does not imply
Disparagement to the ones missed.

Our Federal nation is made of States
To whom other powers are reserved.
The People as well, in any debates,
Must have their control preserved.

#28 ::: Janice E. ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 11:01 AM:

Somewhat less comprehensively ...

Knowing that his war record shone,
His whole campaign he bet.
Swift boats are fast -- he should have known
That lies are swifter yet.

#29 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 11:05 AM:

General Douglas MacArthur

"I shall return!" he boldly cried,
His modal quite specific.
Then, while regretting those who died,
Reconquered the Pacific.

#30 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 12:19 PM:

This Rider Rough, in Nineteen-two
The frightened cub declined to shoot.
Had he been President today
His Veep would have been glad to do't.

#31 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 12:23 PM:

He cocked his head, looked left and right
Then opened up his lips and lied.
For years of this, he's credited
With Communism's ebbing tide.

#32 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 12:33 PM:

Tecumseh's ghost did weep
At Harrison's vict'ry sweep -
But the ghost did grin
At Harrison's coffin

Teddy, Teddy, burning bright
From San Juan Hill to jungle's night
O, for your Trust-bustin', tree-huggin' mein
To ride the halls of gov'ment again!

#33 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 01:26 PM:

With all due respect to
The cult of TR
I don't think we need more
Imperial wars.

#34 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 04:22 PM:

Sigh...people, not general history. Read the rules...

My namesake:
"Remember the Ladies" she asked of her John
As he and the Framers defined all Man's rights.
Those rights were not given, by husband or son,
But taken by daughters and sisters with fights.

#35 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 05:02 PM:

Another MacArthur one:

The Saviour of the Phillipines
in North Korea mired,
cried 'nuke them all to save the day!'
-- and then was promptly fired.

#36 ::: Sundre ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 06:46 PM:

Our heroine came to be known
as Canada's Paul Revere,
But nowadays she lends her name
to a great chocolatier.

#37 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 07:40 PM:

All hail the New York millionaire
Whose fellow richies called him rat.
He fought Depression, made fascists beware,
This nation's greatest Democrat.

#38 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 07:41 PM:

A man played on a blue guitar
Then raised and smashed it to the ground.
Though acid might have made him mar
The music, he just abhorred the sound.

#39 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 03:02 AM:

A tribute to the founders of my university:

Lawyer, Merchant, Railroad tycoon
Governor of his state
Decades gone, but still on his Farm
Die Luft der Freiheit weht.

Her only child lost - oh how she mourned
But sorrow gave way to determination.
As she sold her jewels to make it strong
"The children of California shall be our children."

(Jane and Leland Stanford)

#40 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 08:44 AM:

George Washington

For his second term, beat Burr by 1-3-0 votes
His teeth were wood.
His word was good.
And he stood up in rowboats.

#41 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 08:48 AM:

George Washington

For his second term, beat Burr by 1-3-0 votes.
His teeth were wood.
His word was good.
And he stood up in rowboats.

#42 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 08:49 AM:

(gah, sorry.)

#43 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 09:05 AM:

Though both are scions of privilege
And members of the same closed club,
The father proudly is a Bush,
The son is scarcely a thin Shrub.

#44 ::: UrsulaV ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 09:20 AM:

Robert W. Service wrote many a poem
Of how the Yukon'd never been--
They generally rhyme, and tho' he's dead at this time
He'll be back when the ice-worms nest again.

(*cough* I should probably stick to the visual arts...)

#45 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 09:50 AM:

Frederick W Goudy

Of all the typographers ever about, he
Stands high in the national feeling,
Creating the faces of which we are proud. (We
Can hide all the s h e e p we've been s t e a l i n g.)

#46 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 11:44 AM:

Ursula, we read your blog for the wordplay, or at least the words...

here's my poor try;

The children farm all day long
seeds of higher learning plant
until encouraged to bloom and grow
in colleges of land-grant

#47 ::: L.N. Hammer ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 12:00 PM:

Hee! It's been a while since I've hung out at Eratosphere, but it's the best online poetry workshop I know of.

Another day within the manse,
Another manscript was torn --
The lonely, blocked-up writer's life
Of Nathaniel Q. Hawthorne.


#48 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 12:21 PM:

She cast a gaze seductive blue,
Dressed destined to go far,
And, once stained, her reputation flew,
When in turn, she accepted a cigar.

#49 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 12:57 PM:

The Greatest Generation
A footstep in tomorrow;
A bright new vision clear:
They led us out of sorrow
But did they mean to lead us here?

They host our little water-hole,
Inspire all to reach new heights,
Disemvowel the unmannered troll,
And reveal numinous sights and sites.

(Need I say ...)?

#50 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 01:01 PM:

Downtrodden slaves, reclaimed their soul
By mutiny on the barque Creole;
Escaping slavery soon they found
Their freedom on Bahamian ground.

#51 ::: Shawn Bilodeau ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 02:09 PM:

JFK (in his day)
Started the first space race.
We were soon at the moon.
Is Mars the next space place?

#52 ::: Cornfed ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 02:41 PM:

Ink-handed Horace bade him go
"West! young man" or so the stories tell
In prairie soil both corn and minds grow strong
Josiah Bushnell Grinnell

#53 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 04:04 PM:

Sic transit Saturn V

The guys at NASA threw away
The program's greatest glory.
Now we don't even go to space,
The Shuttle's a broken lorry.

#54 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 04:05 PM:

Of rosy-fingered dawn he wrote
Both the Trojans and the Greeks were smote
His identity may remain unclear
But his language requires no special ear

#55 ::: Dan Lewis ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 04:17 PM:

Joe married once, then twice, then thrice
As God had said he should
Restored celestial paradise
And saw that it was good

#56 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 05:23 PM:

To end injustice was, he thought,
A war to peacefully be fought;
The Nobel Prize was just the thing
To honour Martin Luther King.

#57 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 05:28 PM:


We ought to execrate the man
For whom escalation was the plan;
But praise him when he helped the fights
For civil and for voting rights.

#58 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 06:07 PM:

B. A. Baraccus, Murdoch, and Face,
helped Hannibal out of many a tight space.
Four lovable birds of a feather,
we loved it when a plan came together.

#59 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 06:30 PM:


Power from a gun barrel springs, said Mao.
Make love, not war! said Abby.
They're dead; but we, again at war,
Still debate their savvy.

#60 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 07:13 PM:

American detective history?

Goodwin was a gumshoe
Wolfe had the intellect
While Archie performed the derring-do
Nero always nailed the suspect

#61 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 09:10 PM:

I've been waiting for an open thread--I come here for advice now... I can't wait any longer, I'm sorry! I'm about to spend some gift certificates, and I'm looking at buying DVD's of the first two seasons of Deadwood. That's the show some of you really liked, right? The 2-season set is $129.95 and I have $125.00 in gcs, so I'm blowing my whole wad on this. This is the show, right? I've never seen it--I don't get HBO.

It's on sale, and there are only 5 left in stock, so I can't wait much longer.

Again, sorry for the off-topic comment. :-/

#62 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 09:31 PM:

UPDATE: How did I fail to notice Open Thread 66? And here we are just hours away from 6/6/06.

Moderator, feel free to move previous comment (and this one) to Open Thread 66...

#63 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 10:29 PM:

as an online discussion grows longer
and participants grow less fonder,
there is higher and higher probability
that someone's going to call someone "Nazi".

#64 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 10:09 AM:


That's because Archie was busy nailing Lily Rowan.


#65 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 11:26 AM:

The Horror Garden

The seeds that Baltimore did sow
Providence tended well;
Where, watered as they were by Poe,
They bloomed for HPL.

#66 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 12:29 PM:

By the way, the wooden teeth thing was an urban legend. Still is, I guess.

#67 ::: Jonathan Edelstein ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 01:05 PM:

By Stuyvesant his sword was banned
Who would expel his nation;
Upon the wall he made his stand:
Conscription, liberation.

#68 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 02:18 PM:

The Horror Garden II: The Return of Horror Garden

From gothic stock grow modern strains
Of monsters, ghosts, and hexes.
What Stephen King once did for Maine
Joe Lansdale does for Texas.

#69 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 02:23 PM:


I know. So was the cherry tree incident (on which the line "his word was good" is based) and the image of him standing in the boat while crossing the Delaware.

#70 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:02 PM:

Sarah, I shoulda used the word "nabbed" to avoid any hint of salaciousness. ;) And have you forgotten Lucy Valdon?

#71 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 08:02 PM:

A bit mortified that I didn't read that more carefully. I mean, it was only four lines long. Oy well.

#72 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 08:07 PM:

A bit mortified that I didn't read that more carefully. I mean, it was only four lines long. Oy well.

In that case:

Millard put the First Bath in
And said, "The muck stops here."
Raise rubber ducks to praise his name
And fill more tubs of cheer!

#73 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 08:08 PM:


#74 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 08:35 PM:

To honour President U.S. Grant
New Yorkers found more room
To house the wife of the president
With hubby, in Grant's Tomb.

#75 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 10:44 PM:

They griped, the men, in disrespect
that Major John Wes' Powell'd commanded:
"To hear him tell it, you'd suspect
he ran the Canyon single-handed!"

#76 ::: Karen Sideman ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 02:14 PM:

Any room for Europeans?

His inspiration may have flowed
through archetypes from sleep
But Freud and Jung he surely showed
that ce n'est pas un pipe

#77 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 06:56 PM:

A former New Yorker Asks:

I doubt that anyone would show
Up here who has forgot Don Regan;
But what I really want to know
Is: who the fck was Major Deegan?

#78 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2006, 11:21 AM:

As soon as my registration is approved, I'm going to stick this one over there, as it sneaks in a personal hero under cover.

Orval Faubus

Had he maintained his principles
He'd be one of the greats.
As it was, he got his hiney
Kicked by kids and Daisy Bates.

#79 ::: Amy ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2006, 05:54 PM:

These are cool!

It sounds like a game Gail Armstrong might play on her weblog, with Canadian or French history instead of American.

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#81 ::: Mary Aileen sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2018, 01:51 PM:

not even trying to conceal it

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I'm not sure what they're pushing, but it's definitely spam.

#83 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2018, 08:51 PM:

spam with no reply address? what's the payload?

#84 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2018, 09:05 PM:

That Youtube address, I think. (Some sites automagically turn URLs into links.)

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