The Excellent Wessex Event (When She Wedded Me)

Timothy Adès

‘The Excellent Wessex Event’ is based on the 1967 Film ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ and a Betjeman Heroine. Winner of the Flamingofeather Long Poem Prize, 2013, it was published in Long Poem Magazine, 2014, with an Apparatus Criticus. “… a breathtaking, single–vowelled tour de force: ‘She fells these three fellers, Ms B. Everdene. / Terence weds her, then flees; she tells Peter: “Wed me!” ’ ” — Greg Freeman in Write Out Loud “Timothy Adès’ ‘The Excellent Wessex Event’ uses the Oulipo univocal lipogram omitting a, i, o and u to produce a narrative poem in rhyming couplets drawing upon the film version of Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd. This one-hundred-line sequence comes with a set of multi–language footnotes all with the same impediment.” — David Caddy's blog, Tears in the Fence

Introduction to ‘The Excellent Wessex Event’

This univocalic lipogram won an, um, won a Flamingo–Quill (that’s almost right) award, six months, no, many months ago. It honours two icons of British womanhood, drawing on Thomas Hardy’s book Far From A Madding Crowd, or strictly on a film of that book which was famous in my youth, and on a suburban mini–saga of sport and courtship by an illustrious Old Marlburian, which harks back to my boyhood, south of London. What is a lipogram? It’s a form of writing popular with a Gallic group known as Oulipo, that is to say ‘Writing Possibility Workshop’, although ‘lipo–’ may go back to Plato’s old word for ‘omit’ … not, I might add, to his similar word for ‘fat’. A lipogram is all about having a constraint, such as omitting a basic unit (or two) from a particular composition. If you look at this paragraph, you won’t find any omission of A, I, O or U. An accompanying apparatus criticus informs of variants found in manuscripts, or thought up by scholars, and will cast light on any occasional obscurity. I did classics as a schoolboy, and sat through any amount of this kind of thing. If at any point you can’t follow my non–local lingo, why not look for a translation on my www.
The Excellent Wessex Event (When She Wedded Me)
(N.B. PRECEDENCE: THE PEER EXEMPTED) We exempt the respected Ned Wessex, the peer: He needn’t feel he’d be the reference here. Well, he weren’t yet preferred, when these verses were penned! Ex Egbert the Elder, three brethren descend. HERSELF MS B. EVERDENE, MS B. EVERDENE, Deep–zested, tweed–chested, the Western sweet–teen! Her best speed exceeded the fleet leveret; Her feet were the slenderest, tenderest yet. Wessex! Wells, Mells, the Cheverells, the Kennet, the Test; There’s Tess Debrett–Deference, there’s Jed the Repressed; The beech–trees’ green excellence shelters the sheep; Beetles nestle, well–fed; replete trenchermen sleep. Let the fevered seethe elsewhere. Remember the scene? She fells these three fellers, Ms B. Everdene. Terence weds her, then flees; she tells Peter: ‘Wed me!’ Peter’s pellet fells Tel; she weds Zebedee Tree. Let the reckless recede: Wessex needn’t be pestered. Well, her sheep swelled, blenched, sweltered; her bell–wethers festered; Her ewes needed helpmeets, the sweet shepherdess! Bergère légère, sévère détresse. They freed the pent breezes, they gentled her sheep, Re–fettled the helpless, defenceless Belle–Peep. They helped her mend fences, keep bees, sell her fleeces, Brew beers, wrestle steers, breed red setters, press cheeses. She entered her jennet, she swept three events: She wrecked, she sternwheelered the three–decker fence. When she screen–tested, Elstree’s behests were exceeded: ‘Three cheers!’ Terence yelled: yet she’ll never be needed. (When she entered the Beckmesser Best Verse Event, ‘We deem ye’re the best’ wheezed the letter they sent. ‘These verses were excellent — best ever seen: Yet we need seven fewer — ye’ve sent seventeen!’). She revered the Berserkers, kept her épées well flexed: She peppered the mêlée, mere nerds were de–sexed! When she vented her spleen, the events were extreme…! She fenced well; she effected the deeds we esteem. She led her eleven (three sevens less ten): We felt her svelte vehemence, we keen Wessex men. She served — the bets lengthened — she swept the next set: ‘Twelve–twelve: even stevens! They’ll strengthen the net.’ Deep red were the tresses her green eyes reflected; Red–eyed, tremble–cheeked the wet men she’d rejected. She jested, she bested me, 17–3! Strength, speed, perfect deftness, Ms Everdene B. MR EVERDENE (he’s her begetter: he engendered her.) Mr Everdene’s seedbeds: well–weeded, well–dressed! He’s served me the genever, fresh–peeled the zest. ‘Seven bells!’ bleeps the ether. The Beeb tells the News: Kew’s new helter–skelter. Pelé meets Henley crews. We’ve smelt, these few weeks, Mr Everdene’s herbs: We’ve spell–checked (he’s the expert!) Perec’s e–less French verbs. He’s helped her ‘self–reference,’ yet nevertheless Kept secret the preference she’ll never express. He ‘respects’ Bells Yew Green, he ‘prefers’ Peterlee, Where the tenement–dwellers resettled, felt free. ‘Remember’, he stressed, ‘the best verses extend, Yet resemble, the precedents better men penned.’ [Theme: ‘Greensleeves’] He’s the Verderers’ Verger, he re–elmed The Glebe, Re–nested the egret, re–crested the grebe. He re–elvered the Exe, when her nether emergence Went eel–less. ‘We need fresher, greener detergents!’ The week when dense kex–weed enfeebled the Trent, (Even newts were perplexed!) he’s the geezer they sent. He metered the elements, tested the presence, Tended reed–beds, dredged trenches, expelled the excrescence. He let eels beget elvers: they revelled, went legless! Wrens, tree–creepers, greylegs, he never left eggless. He preserved the West Erg, where the Ténéré tree Met her Meddler. Meseemed he’d preserve even Me. THE PLEDGE [Sennet.] The Evercreech Levée! Green–belted her dress; Sheer–selvedged, her neckleted red–freckledness. We went there; the fenderless Edsel relented; She seemed pre–selected, her cheeks smelled sweet–scented. Well–heeled Wessex vespers! The well–tempered keys! The nerveless resplendence! The strength next the knees! We’ll let Messrs Sleepeezee pre–test the bed, The pelmet, the tester, the sheets, WHEN WE WED! The deckle–edged letters, the speech, the set jest, The new, well–hedged nest–egg (she’s pledged me the nest!); The leek–green Welsh dresser, the cleverest shelves Where the bent Penney’s rejects re–centre themselves. The SwebCentre’s deep–freezer–chest sets the scene; Crested Berkertex bed–sheets, we’ll sleep strewn between. There’ll be Everest fenêtres: the bevel’s recessed: Le vent ne pénètre, when the lever’s depressed. HERE’S THE STEEPLE [Enter the celeste, etc. Sweet glees] Yestereven the Western defenders were here: St Keverne, St Erney, St Clether, St Cleer. We feel we’ve repented whenever we’ve erred; They’ll bless the deep bed, get the sentence deferred. Presents! Here’s The Red Desert, Steele, Sterne, Stephen Spender, Ted Dexter, Pete Seeger, The Creep, The Pretender. Let’s get the blend perfect! The Reverend, the bells! … Elder Dempster! Three Weeks! Bêches de Mer! The Seychelles! WE NEVER EXPECTED THE EVENT’S REPELLENT END… She SPEWED crème de menthe, MESSED her velveteen breeches, She DRENCHED her three nephews, prevented the speeches. Ms JEZEBEL Everdene’s never been wed: She’s rendered me REDELESS — the new ETHELRED! Yes, she wended, went west, she bereft me, defected, She schlepped, de–selected, she left me dejected, Yes, she expleted, reverted, depleted, DESERTED THE BED! She dwells where the Menderes enters the Med.

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M Sweeney by Timothy Ades

Timothy Adès

These jests never preceded ‘The Excellent Wessex Event’: they weren’t needed.
Per: Messer
French Verse:
. . . Sweeney entre les merles
(See Mr T.S.E.’s “The Seven Septets.”)
. . . Sweeney entre les merles,
les merles et merlettes,
merlettes et merlesses,
perles, merles femelles. . .
et Sweeney, pêle-mêle,
se révèle près d’elles!
Gegen entgegengesetzte Sterne
strebt der edelste Held
selbst vergebens.
Entered Here . . .

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Lipograms from Stratford–on–Avon by Timothy Adès

Timothy Adès

by a glorious Bard

Let’s see whether he needed the letter e

XVIII Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Comparing you with a day possibly in July or August

I’ll put you up against a balmy day…
You win on looks. Not cold, and not too warm.
Winds cut up rough with darling buds of May;
A two–month contract can’t supply much balm.
Dog–days in August turn to burning hot,
Or may contrarily grow all too dim;
And all fair fowls fall foul of you–know–what,
Thrown by bad luck, or sunspots, out of trim.
But your hot days will last and last and last,
Maintaining tiptop form with full control;
Nor shall morticians brag of shadows cast
Across your path. My words shall grow your soul.
Humans may gasp and gawp, unstoppably:
I sign this gift, your immortality.

This was published in Acumen.

XXX When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,

Writing Off Past Pains

Now and again I sit in soundproof thought
And summon up (Proust’s parrot–cry) things past:
I sigh for lack of many things I sought:
Updating pains, I mourn for hours I lost.
I flood my thirsty ducts, that drown forlorn,
For staunch amigos hid in mortal night,
And cry for sorrows long ago outworn,
And moan my loss of many a long–lost sight.
I’m sad at what was sad, though now it’s not,
Start listing pains untold and pains unsaid,
Accounting still for many a sold–off lot,
And pay again, as if I hadn’t paid.
But oh, mio caro, if I think of you,
All loss is null and void, all sorrow too.
I From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty’s rose might never die,

With Your Good Looks, What About a Child?

Good–looking folk and animals should pup,
Immortalising rosy–blooming glory.
Maturing, I’ll pass on, I’ll go paunch–up,
And my young sprog will carry on my story;
But you contract your troth with inward look,
Nourish your glow with autophagic food,
Drying to scarcity your bounty’s brook,
Your own worst hitman, doing harm, not good.
What! You, this world’s outstanding work of art,
You, proclamation of a coming Spring,
Bury in your own bud your major part,
Wasting good stuff, soft churl, by niggarding!
For our world’s good, nor tomb nor gluttony
Should scoff this birthright of humanity.
CXXX My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red:

(1) A Gallant Comparison

My lady’s orbs can’t match two Suns at noon;
Coral, too ruddy, trumps my lady’s lip;
Snow shows my lady’s bosom slushy–brown;
Black wiry hairs top out my ladyship;
Carnations, snow or crimson, don’t abound
Around my lady’s physiognomy;
As for aromas, it was always found,
My lady’s just unsatisfactory;
Though to my lady’s larynx I’m in thrall,
It falls a long way short of musical;
Gods of Olympus probably walk tall;
My lady’s gait’s not astro–magical.
Don’t worry, though: my girl can still surpass
Any too crassly sold and broadcast lass.

(2) Perfect? Er — She’s Even Better

Her eyes resemble less the fervent sphere;
Her teeth: red–fretted? Redder the jewelled reef;
Steel nets, her tresses; stressed, her temples. Sere
December freezes: where’s the resplendent beef?
We’ve seen red setters, seen the egret’s vest,
Yet egret–sheen ne’er blenched her redless cheeks;
We scented Estée’s scent, then we regressed:
We smelled her scent, reeled senseless! Yes, she reeks!
Her speech refreshes me; nevertheless
Glees, even sennets, fetch me even better;
We’ve never seen the fleet feet *des déesses:
Well, when she steps, the pebbled weeds beset her.
Yet, yet, meseems, †mehercle! she’s the best:
The rest get bent creds: she exceeds the rest.

*French: des êtres célestes.
†See Terence, when rednecks express themselves.

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Loredana Lipogram

Deniz Otay (1993)

Translated by Timothy Adès

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Courtship Song of J. Arthur Prufrock

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Old Possum (1888-1965)

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse A persona che mai tornasse al mondo, Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse. Ma percioche giammai di questo fondo Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero, Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky Like a patient etherized upon a table; Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets, The muttering retreats Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells: Streets that follow like a tedious argument Of insidious intent To lead you to an overwhelming question ... Oh, do not ask, “What is it?” Let us go and make our visit. In the room the women come and go Talking of Michelangelo. The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes, The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes, Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening, Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains, Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys, Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap, And seeing that it was a soft October night, Curled once about the house, and fell asleep. And indeed there will be time For the yellow smoke that slides along the street, Rubbing its back upon the window-panes; There will be time, there will be time To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet; There will be time to murder and create, And time for all the works and days of hands That lift and drop a question on your plate; Time for you and time for me, And time yet for a hundred indecisions, And for a hundred visions and revisions, Before the taking of a toast and tea. In the room the women come and go Talking of Michelangelo. And indeed there will be time To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?” Time to turn back and descend the stair, With a bald spot in the middle of my hair — (They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”) My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin, My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin — (They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”) Do I dare Disturb the universe? In a minute there is time For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse. For I have known them all already, known them all: Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, I have measured out my life with coffee spoons; I know the voices dying with a dying fall Beneath the music from a farther room.                So how should I presume? And I have known the eyes already, known them all— The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase, And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin, When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall, Then how should I begin To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?                And how should I presume? And I have known the arms already, known them all— Arms that are braceleted and white and bare (But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!) Is it perfume from a dress That makes me so digress? Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.                And should I then presume?                And how should I begin? Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? ... I should have been a pair of ragged claws Scuttling across the floors of silent seas. And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully! Smoothed by long fingers, Asleep ... tired ... or it malingers, Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me. Should I, after tea and cakes and ices, Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis? But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed, Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter, I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter; I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker, And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, And in short, I was afraid. And would it have been worth it, after all, After the cups, the marmalade, the tea, Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me, Would it have been worth while, To have bitten off the matter with a smile, To have squeezed the universe into a ball To roll it towards some overwhelming question, To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead, Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”— If one, settling a pillow by her head                Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;                That is not it, at all.” And would it have been worth it, after all, Would it have been worth while, After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets, After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor— And this, and so much more?— It is impossible to say just what I mean! But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen: Would it have been worth while If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl, And turning toward the window, should say:                “That is not it at all,                That is not what I meant, at all.” No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be; Am an attendant lord, one that will do To swell a progress, start a scene or two, Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool, Deferential, glad to be of use, Politic, cautious, and meticulous; Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse; At times, indeed, almost ridiculous— Almost, at times, the Fool. I grow old ... I grow old ... I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. Shall I part my hair behind?   Do I dare to eat a peach? I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think that they will sing to me. I have seen them riding seaward on the waves Combing the white hair of the waves blown back When the wind blows the water white and black. We have lingered in the chambers of the sea By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
Courtship Song of J. Arthur Prufrock
“If I thought what I say to you would go / to anybody bound for worldly light, / this brand would stop pulsating and fall still. But nobody’s got out of our abyss / living, if I’m told truth; and so, I shall / inform you, unafraid of infamy”. OK Vamos, you and I, Now that dusk is sprawling on its backdrop sky, Aping an invalid whom chloroform’s put down; Vamos, through various not-that-busy ways, Susurrating slinkaways, Insomniac nights in short-stay low-class inns And sawdust snackbars flush with crayfish skins: Ways dogging you with boring how-d’you-do Cunningly bugging you To bring you a tyrannical conundrum… Oh, do not ask, “What is it?” Just carry out our visit. Backward and forward trips posh totty Talking of Italy’s Buonarotti. That sallow fog that rubs its back on window-glass, That sallow smog that rubs its jaws on window-glass, Licking its lingual prong into nooks of dusk, Hanging round pools that stand in drains, Took on its back soot-falls from filthy stacks, Slid by a run of doors, did a quick jump past a gap, Wound simply round a flat, took a nap. And this won’t fail: an opportunity For sallow smog that slips down murky ways Rubbing its back, again, on window-glass; An opportunity, an opportunity, To fix a phiz fit to quiz any phiz; To go all homicidal, or to bring Good things to birth; for works and days of hands That lift and drop conundrums in your lap; Your opportunity, my opportunity, To wallow in a thousand doubts of mind, A thousand visions won, a thousand lost, Partaking finally of Whittard’s Black, and toast. Backward and forward trips posh totty Talking of Italy’s Buonarotti. And this won’t fail: an opportunity To think: “Am I so bold? Am I so bold?” To turn again, go down that stair With a bald spot as hub-cap of my hair, (Folk will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”) My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to my chin, My cravat rich and unassuming, with a thrifty pin— (Folk will say: “Just look at his limbs, how thin!”) Am I so bold As to carry out a cosmic discommoding? In an instant I can find Ultimatums in my mind, with an option of swift unloading. For I know it all, right now, oh I know it all: Know of dusks, of mornings and long-past-noons, Counting out my days with mocca-spoons; Know of small-talk dying with a dying fall Which a distant music laid out cold. So how should I wax bold? And I know of orbs of sight, I know it all, Orbs that fix you in a formula, a way of saying, And caught in that formula I’d sprawl, stuck fast On a pin and wriggling against a wall: Say, how should I start Spitting out ciggy-butts of my days and ways? And how should I wax bold? And I know of arms, right now, oh I do know it all: Brightly dight with bling, skin unclad, lily-fair (Though in lamplight, downy with light brown hair). Is it a fragrant frock Brings on my logic-block? Arms laid along a board, or wrapping round a shawl. And am I to wax bold? And how should I start? Shall I talk of going at dusk through narrow ways Watching vapour curling up from solitary souls Smoking with no coats on, hanging out of windows?... What if I wasn’t I, but two tatty claws Scuttling on salt floods’ tranquil floors… . . . . . . . And noon is napping placidly, and dusk is too! Stroking of long digits: Laid out… lassitudinous… or it fidgits, Lying long on this floor, by yours truly, and you. Should I, upon a cuppa char, a pastry, a cassata, Push this occasion into ultimata? With orbs in flood, and off my food, my orison was said: I saw my balding topknot on a tundish, most unkind, But I’m not Giambattista and I don’t much mind; I saw my opportunity of triumph slip, I saw God’s Footman hold my coat, and curl his lip And in short, I was afraid. If I had, was it actually worth it, anyway, Following two cuppas and a fruit-slop on a spoon, Among china crocks and a chat about us two, Was it actually worth it, to do, If I bit off such a topic with a grin, If I shrank God’s cosmos into a ball To roll it towards a gigantic inquiry, To say: “I am Lazarus, I’m an apparition, Giving you my story, I’m giving you it all” – If a lady, comfortably placing a cushion, Should say: “That is not what I had in mind at all; That is not it, at all.” Was it actually worth it, anyway, If I had, was it actually worth it? What with nightfalls, dooryards and civic hosings-down, Works of fiction, cups of Lipton, a trailing skirt or gown, And that, and much on top of that? - I can’t possibly say what I’m driving at! But as if a magic gizmo put my ganglia in graphs upon a wall: If I had, was it actually worth it, If a lady took a cushion or was throwing off a shawl, And turning toward a window, should say: “That is not it, at all, That is not what I had in mind at all.” No! I’m not that Danish royal, not cut out for it; Just an auxiliary lord, who’ll do To bulk out a walkabout, start an act or two, Advising HRH; no doubt, a handy tool, Knowing my station, glad if I do good, Politic, cautious, acting as I should, Full of high opinion, but as thick as wood; Now and again, almost ridiculous – Almost, in fact, his Fool. I grow old … I grow old … I’ll roll up my turn-ups, I’ll turn out bold. Shall I part my hair abaft? Might I munch a mango, coolly? I shall walk damp sand in plus-fours, tint of lily. I saw nymphs with fishtails, singing songs, mutually. I do not think that choir will sing for yours truly. I saw nymphs riding on salt surf to far horizons, Combing foaming hair of salt surf blown back By wind that blows on surf both milky and black. You and I may tarry in old Triton’s halls With nymphs wrapt in salt-grass crimson and brown Till human music warms us and charms us to drown.
© With copious thanks to Fabbro & Fabbro (Old Possum’s old firm which also holds all copyright of his works) Published in Long Poem Magazine Translated by T. S. Eliot

Translation: Copyright © Timothy Adès

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Big Pond Quinsy

John Masefield (1878-1967)

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Edward Thomas (1878-1917)

Yes. I remember Adlestrop— The name, because one afternoon Of heat the express-train drew up there Unwontedly. It was late June. The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat. No one left and no one came On the bare platform. What I saw Was Adlestrop—only the name And willows, willow-herb, and grass, And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry, No whit less still and lonely fair Than the high cloudlets in the sky. And for that minute a blackbird sang Close by, and round him, mistier, Farther and farther, all the birds Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
D’you think I forgot about Adistrop? Not a bit of it! what? It was half-past two and it was hot, Almost July, and unusually My rapid train was brought to a stop. Sibilant vapour. Throaty cough. Nobody got on or off. Anybody on platform? Not. All I saw was a big signboard Saying ‘Adistrop’: just that word, And willows and grass and a plant too spry, Pink, and a fragrant ulmaria (? try ‘Wool of Mary’?) and haycocks, dry, Still and sightly as clouds on high, Solitary, stuck in a sunny sky; And a blackbird singing, but not for long, Not far off; all around, birdsong, From distant, hazily vaporous Avian byways of Oxon and Glos.

Translation: Copyright © Timothy Adès

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Tarantella – Lipogram

Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)

Translated by Timothy Adès

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Oak Ash and Thorn

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

Lipogram by Timothy Adès

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A E Housman (1859-1936)

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