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Johnson, Thomas H., ed. Complete Poems. Boston: Llittle, Brown, 1960. PS1541 .A1



So I pull my Stockings off

Wading in the Water

For the Disobedience’ Sake

Boy that lived for "or’ter"

Went to Heaven perhaps at Death

And perhaps he didn’t

Moses wasn’t fairly used --

Ananias wasn’t --




The Frost was never seen --

If met, too rapid passed,

Or in too unsubstantial Team --

The Flowers notice first

A Stranger hovering round

A Symptom of alarm

In Villages remotely set

But search effaces him

Till some retrieveless Night

Our Vigilance at waste

The Garden gets the only shot

That never could be traced.

Unproved is much we know --

Unknown the worst we fear --

Of Strangers is the Earth the Inn

Of Secrets is the Air --

To analyze perhaps

A Philip would prefer

But Labor vaster than myself

I find it to infer.




The Past is such a curious Creature

To look her in the Face

A Transport may receipt us

Or a Disgrace --

Unarmed if any meet her

I charge him fly

Her faded Ammunition

Might yet reply.




Whatever it is -- she has tried it --

Awful Father of Love --

Is not Ours the chastising --

Do not chastise the Dove --

Not for Ourselves, petition --

Nothing is left to pray --

When a subject is finished --

Words are handed away --

Only lest she be lonely

In thy beautiful House

Give her for her Transgression

License to think of us --




Immortal is an ample word

When what we need is by

But when it leaves us for a time

‘Tis a necessity.

Of Heaven above the firmest proof

We fundamental know

Except for its marauding Hand

It had been Heaven below.




The Show is not the Show

But they that go --

Menagerie to me

My Neighbor be --

Fair Play --

Both went to see --




He preached upon "Breadth" till it argued him narrow --

The Broad are too broad to define

And of "Truth" until it proclaimed him a Liar --

The Truth never flaunted a Sign --

Simplicity fled from his counterfeit presence

As Gold the Pyrites would shun --

What confusion would cover the innocent Jesus

To meet so enabled a Man!




Our own possessions -- though our own --

‘Tis well to hoard anew --

Remembering the Dimensions

Of Possibility.




To disappear enhances --

The Man that runs away

Is tinctured for an instant

With Immortality

But yesterday a Vagrant --

Today in Memory lain

With superstitious value

We tamper with "Again"

But "Never" far as Honor

Withdraws the Worthless thing

And impotent to cherish

We hasten to adorn --

Of Death the sternest function

That just as we discern

The Excellence defies us --

Securest gathered then

The Fruit perverse to plucking,

But leaning to the Sight

With the ecstatic limit

Of unobtained Delight --




The Sea said "Come" to the Brook --

The Brook said "Let me grow" --

The Sea said "Then you will be a Sea --

I want a Brook -- Come now"!

The Sea said "Go" to the Sea --

The Sea said "I am he

You cherished" -- "Learned Waters --

Wisdom is stale -- to Me"




A Sparrow took a Slice of Twig

And thought it very nice

I think, because his empty Plate

Was handed Nature twice --

Invigorated, waded

In all the deepest Sky

Until his little Figure

Was forfeited away --




A word is dead

When it is said,

Some say.

I say it just

Begins to live

That day.




We like March.

His Shoes are Purple --

He is new and high --

Makes he Mud for Dog and Peddler.

Makes he Forests dry.

Knows the Adder Tongue his coming

And presents her Spot --

Stands the Sun so close and mighty

That our Minds are hot.

News is he of all the others --

Bold it were to die

With the Blue Birds exercising

On his British Sky.


We like March -- his shoes are Purple.

He is new and high --

Makes he Mud for Dog and Peddler --

Makes he Forests Dry --

Knows the Adder’s Tongue his coming

And begets her spot --

Stands the Sun so close and mighty --

That our Minds are hot.

News is he of all the others --

Bold it were to die

With the Blue Birds buccaneering

On his British sky --




We introduce ourselves

To Planets and to Flowers

But with ourselves

Have etiquettes


And awes




I bet with every Wind that blew

Till Nature in chagrin

Employed a Fact to visit me

And scuttle my Balloon --




A Deed knocks first at Thought

And then -- it knocks at Will --

That is the manufacturing spot

And Will at Home and well

It then goes out an Act

Or is entombed so still

That only to the ear of God

Its Doom is audible --




Fortitude incarnate

Here is laid away

In the swift Partitions

Of the awful Sea --

Babble of the Happy

Cavil of the Bold

Hoary the Fruition

But the Sea is old

Edifice of Ocean

Thy tumultuous Rooms

Suit me at a venture

Better than the Tombs




Let my first Knowing be of thee

With morning’s warming Light --

And my first Fearing, lest Unknowns

Engulf thee in the night --




Now I knew I lost her --

Not that she was gone --

But Remoteness travelled

On her Face and Tongue.

Alien, though adjoining

As a Foreign Race --

Traversed she though pausing

Latitudeless Place.

Elements Unaltered --

Universe the same

But Love’s transmigration --

Somehow this had come --

Henceforth to remember

Nature took the Day

I had paid so much for --

His is Penury

Not who toils for Freedom

Or for Family

But the Restitution

Of Idolatry.




Of Nature I shall have enough

When I have entered these

Entitled to a Bumble bee’s





Some we see no more, Tenements of Wonder

Occupy to us though perhaps to them

Simpler are the Days than the Supposition

Leave us to presume

That oblique Belief which we call Conjecture

Grapples with a Theme stubborn as Sublime

Able as the Dust to equip its feature

Adequate as Drums

To enlist the Tomb.




The Riddle we can guess

We speedily despise --

Not anything is stale so long

As Yesterday’s surprise --




Who goes to dine must take his Feast

Or find the Banquet mean --

The Table is not laid without

Till it is laid within.

For Pattern is the Mind bestowed

That imitating her

Our most ignoble Services

Exhibit worthier.




Like Trains of Cars on Tracks of Plush

I hear the level Bee --

A Jar across the Flowers goes

Their Velvet Masonry --

Withstands until the sweet Assault

Their Chivalry consumes --

While He, victorious tilts away

To vanquish other Blooms.




Its Hour with itself

The Spirit never shows.

What Terror would enthrall the Street

Could Countenance disclose

The Subterranean Freight

The Cellars of the Soul --

Thank God the loudest Place he made

Is license to be still.




The Popular Heart is a Cannon first --

Subsequent a Drum --

Bells for an Auxiliary

And an Afterward of Rum --

Not a Tomorrow to know its name

Nor a Past to stare --

Ditches for Realms and a Trip to Jail

For a Souvenir --




My Triumph lasted till the Drums

Had left the Dead alone

And then I dropped my Victory

And chastened stole along

To where the finished Faces

Conclusion turned on me

And then I hated Glory

And wished myself were They.

What is to be is best descried

When it has also been --

Could Prospect taste of Retrospect

The tyrannies of Men

Were Tenderer -- diviner

The Transitive toward.

A Bayonet’s contrition

Is nothing to the Dead.




So much of Heaven has gone from Earth

That there must be a Heaven

If only to enclose the Saints

To Affidavit given.

The Missionary to the Mole

Must prove there is a Sky

Location doubtless he would plead

But what excuse have I?

Too much of Proof affronts Belief

The Turtle will not try

Unless you leave him -- then return

And he has hauled away.




Because He loves Her

We will pry and see if she is fair

What difference is on her Face

From Features others wear.

It will not harm her magic pace

That we so far behind --

Her Distances propitiate

As Forests touch the Wind

Not hoping for his notice vast

But nearer to adore

‘Tis Glory’s far sufficiency

That makes our trying poor.




It came at last but prompter Death

Had occupied the House --

His pallid Furniture arranged

And his metallic Peace --

Oh faithful Frost that kept the Date

Had Love as punctual been

Delight had aggrandized the Gate

And blocked the coming in.




Somewhere upon the general Earth

Itself exist Today --

The Magic passive but extant

That consecrated me --

Indifferent Seasons doubtless play

Where I for right to be --

Would pay each Atom that I am

But Immortality --

Reserving that but just to prove

Another Date of Thee --

Oh God of Width, do not for us

Curtail Eternity!




The Clover’s simple Fame

Remembered of the Cow --

Is better than enameled Realms

Of notability.

Renown perceives itself

And that degrades the Flower --

The Daisy that has looked behind

Has compromised its power --




Had I not seen the Sun

I could have borne the shade

But Light a newer Wilderness

My Wilderness has made --




If my Bark sink

‘Tis to another sea --

Mortality’s Ground Floor

Is Immortality --




Like Rain it sounded till it curved

And then I new ‘twas Wind --

It walked as wet as any Wave

But swept as dry as sand --

When it had pushed itself away

To some remotest Plain

A coming as of Hosts was heard

It filled the Wells, it pleased the Pools

It warbled in the Road --

It pulled the spigot from the Hills

And let the Floods abroad --

It loosened acres, lifted seas

The sites of Centres stirred

Then like Elijah rode away

Upon a Wheel of Cloud.




Like Time’s insidious wrinkle

On a beloved Face

We clutch the Grace the tighter

Though we resent the crease

The Frost himself so comely

Dishevels every prime

Asserting from his Prism

That none can punish him




My Heart ran so to thee

It would not wait for me

And I affronted grew

And drew away

For whatsoe’er my pace

He first achieve they Face

How general a Grace

Allotted two --

Not in malignity

Mentioned I this to thee --

Had he obliquity

Soonest to share

But for the Greed of him --

Boasting my Premium --

Basking in Bethleem

Ere I be there --




Power is a familiar growth --

Not foreign -- not to be --

Beside us like a bland Abyss

In every company --

Escape it -- there is but a chance --

When consciousness and clay

Lean forward for a final glance --

Disprove that and you may --




Risk is the Hair that holds the Tun

Seductive in the Air --

That Tun is hollow -- but the Tun --

With Hundred Weights -- to spare --

Too ponderous to suspect the snare

Espies that fickle chair

And seats itself to be let go

By that perfidious Hair --

The "foolish Tun" the Critics say --

While that delusive Hair

Persuasive as Perdition,

Decoys its Traveller.




The Beggar at the Door for Fame

Were easily supplied

But Bread is that Diviner thing

Disclosed to be denied




The Lilac is an ancient shrub

But ancienter than that

The Firmamental Lilac

Upon the Hill tonight --

The Sun subsiding on his Course

Bequeaths this final Plant

To Contemplation -- not to Touch --

The Flower of Occident.

Of one Corolla is the West --

The Calyx is the Earth --

The Capsules burnished Seeds the Stars

The Scientist of Faith

His research has but just begun --

Above his synthesis

The Flora unimpeachable

To Time’s Analysis --

"Eye hath not seen" may possibly

Be current with the Blind

But let not Revelation

By theses be detained --




To flee from memory

Had we the Wings

Many would fly

Inured to slower things

Birds with surprise

Would scan the cowering Van

Of men escaping

From the mind of man




Safe Despair it is that raves --

Agony is frugal.

Puts itself severe away

For its own perusal.

Garrisoned no Soul can be

In the Front of Trouble --

Love is one, not aggregate --

Nor is Dying double --




The Butterfly’s Assumption Gown

In Chrysoprase Apartments hung

This afternoon put on --

How condescending to descend

And be of Buttercups the friend

In a New England Town --




The Suburbs of a Secret

A Strategist should keep,

Better than on a Dream intrude

To scrutinize the Sleep.




The Butterfly in honored Dust

Assuredly will lie

But none will pass the Catacomb

So chastened as the Fly --




To pile like Thunder to its close

Then crumble grand away

While Everything created hid

This -- would be Poetry --

Or Love -- the two coeval come --

We both and neither prove --

Experience either and consume --

For None see God and live --




The incidents of love

Are more than its Events --

Investment’s best Expositor

Is the minute Per Cents --




The Stars are old, that stood for me --

The West a little worn --

Yet newer glows the only Gold

I ever cared to earn --

Presuming on that lone result

Her infinite disdain

But vanquished her with my defeat

‘Twas Victory was slain.




White as an Indian Pipe

Red as a Cardinal Flower

Fabulous as a Moon at Noon

February Hour --




Silence is all we dread.

There’s Ransom in a Voice --

But Silence is Infinity.

Himself have not a face.




Like Brooms of Steel

The Snow and Wind

Had swept the Winter Street --

The House was hooked

The Sun sent out

Faint Deputies of Heat --

Where rode the Bird

The Silence tied

His ample -- plodding Steed

The Apple in the Cellar snug

Was all the one that played.




Had this one Day not been.

Or could it cease to be

How smitten, how superfluous,

Were every other Day!

Lest Love should value less

What Loss would value more

Had it the stricken privilege,

It cherishes before.




Elijah’s Wagon knew no thill

Was innocent of Wheel

Elijah’s horses as unique

As was his vehicle --

Elijah’s journey to portray

Expire with him the skill

Who justified Elijah

In feats inscrutable --




Longing is like the Seed

That wrestles in the Ground,

Believing if it intercede

It shall at length be found.

The Hour, and the Clime --

Each Circumstance unknown,

What Constancy must be achieved

Before it see the Sun!




Not any higher stands the Grave

For Heroes than for Men --

Not any nearer for the Child

Than numb Three Score and Ten --

This latest Leisure equal lulls

The Beggar and his Queen

Propitiate this Democrat

A Summer’s Afternoon --




Dominion lasts until obtained --

Possession just as long --

But these -- endowing as they flit

Eternally belong.

How everlasting are the Lips

Known only to the Dew --

These are the Brides of permanence

Supplanting me and you.




Who were "the Father and the Son"

We pondered when a child,

And what had they to do with us

And when portentous told

With inference appalling

By Childhood fortified

We thought, at least they are no worse

Than they have been described.

Who are "the Father and the Son"

Did we demand Today

"The Father and the Son" himself

Would doubtless specify --

But had they the felicity

When we desired to know.

We better Friends had been, perhaps,

Than time ensue to be --

We start -- to learn that we believe

But once -- entirely --

Belief, it does not fit so well

When altered frequently --

We blush, that Heaven if we achieve --

Event ineffable --

We shall have shunned until ashamed

To own the Miracle --




A Wind that rose

Though not a Leaf

In any Forest stirred

But with itself did cold engage

Beyond the Realm of Bird --

A Wind that woke a lone Delight

Like Separation’s Swell

Restored in Arctic Confidence

To the Invisible --




Because that you are going

And never coming back

And I, however absolute,

May overlook your Track --

Because that Death is final,

However first it be,

This instant be suspended

Above Mortality --

Significance that each has lived

The other to detect

Discovery not God himself

Could now annihilate

Eternity, Presumption

The instant I perceive

That you, who were Existence

Yourself forgot to live --

The "Life that is" will then have been

A thing I never knew --

As Paradise fictitious

Until the Realm of you --

The "Life that is to be," to me,

A Residence too plain

Unless in my Redeemer’s Face

I recognize your own --

Of Immortality who doubts

He may exchange with me

Curtailed by your obscuring Face

Of everything but He --

Of Heaven and Hell I also yield

The Right to reprehend

To whoso would commute this Face

For his less priceless Friend.

If "God is Love" as he admits

We think that me must be

Because he is a "jealous God"

He tells us certainly

If "All is possible with" him

As he besides concedes

He will refund us finally

Our confiscated Gods --




A Word dropped careless on a Page

May stimulate an eye

When folded in perpetual seam

The Wrinkled Maker lie

Infection in the sentence breeds

We may inhale Despair

At distances of Centuries

From the Malaria --




I cannot see my soul but know ‘tis there

Nor ever saw his house nor furniture,

Who has invited me with him to dwell;

But a confiding guest consult as well,

What raiment honor him the most,

That I be adequately dressed,

For he insures to none

Lest men specified adorn

Procuring him perpetual drest

By dating it a sudden feast.




There is no Frigate like a Book

To take us Lands away

Nor any Coursers like a Page

Of prancing Poetry --

This Traverse may the poorest take

Without oppress of Toll --

How frugal is the Chariot

That bears the Human soul.




This is the place they hoped before,

Where I am hoping now.

The seed of disappointment grew

Within a capsule gay,

Too distant to arrest the feet

That walk this plank of balm --

Before them lies escapeless sea --

The way is closed they came.




The most triumphant Bird I ever knew or met

Embarked upon a twig today

And till Dominion set

I famish to behold so eminent a sight

And sang for nothing scrutable

But intimate Delight.

Retired, and resumed his transitive Estate --

To what delicious Accident

Does finest Glory fit!




When Memory is full

Put on the perfect Lid --

This Morning’s finest syllable

Presumptuous Evening said --




I saw that the Flake was on it

But plotted with Time to dispute --

"Unchanged" I urged with a candor

That cost me my honest Heart --

But "you" -- she returned with valor

Sagacious of my mistake

"Have altered -- Accept the pillage

For the progress’ sake" --




Confirming All who analyze

In the Opinion fair

That Eloquence is when the Heart

Has not a Voice to spare --




I worked for chaff and earning Wheat

Was haughty and betrayed.

What right had Fields to arbitrate

In matters ratified?

I tasted Wheat and hated Chaff

And thanked the ample friend --

Wisdom is more becoming viewed

At distance than at hand.




Is Heaven a Physician?

They say that He can heal --

But Medicine Posthumous

Is unavailable --

Is Heaven an Exchequer?

They speak of what we owe --

But that negotiation

I’m not a Party to --




September’s Baccalaureate

A combination is

Of Crickets -- Crows -- and Retrospects

And a dissembling Breeze

That hints without assuming --

An Innuendo sear

That makes the Heart put up its Fun

And turn Philosopher.




So proud she was to die

It made us all ashamed

That what we cherished, so unknown

To her desire seemed --

So satisfied to go

Where none of us should be

Immediately -- that Anguish stooped

Almost to Jealousy --




That sacred Closet when you sweep --

Entitled "Memory" --

Select a reverential Broom --

And do it silently.

‘Twill be a Labor of surprise --

Besides Identity

Of other Interlocutors

A probability --

August the Dust of that Domain --

Unchallenged -- let it lie --

You cannot supersede itself

But it can silence you --




The Bone that has no Marrow,

What Ultimate for that?

It is not fit for Table

For Beggar or for Cat.

A Bone has obligations --

A Being has the same --

A Marrowless Assembly

Is culpabler than shame.

But how shall finished Creatures

A function fresh obtain?

Old Nicodemus’ Phantom

Confronting us again!




The Spider as an Artist

Has never been employed --

Though his surpassing Merit

Is freely certified

By every Broom and Bridget

Throughout a Christian Land --

Neglected Son of Genius

I take thee by the Hand --




‘Twas later when the summer went

Than when the Cricket came --

And yet we knew that gentle Clock

Meant nought but Going Home --

‘Twas sooner when the Cricket went

Than when the Winter came

Yet that pathetic Pendulum

Keeps esoteric Time.




While we were fearing it, it came --

But came with less of fear

Because that fearing it so long

Had almost made it fair --

There is a Fitting -- a Dismay --

A Fitting -- a Despair

‘Tis harder knowing it is Due

Than knowing it is Here.

They Trying on the Utmost

The Morning it is new

Is Terribler than wearing it

A whole existence through.




The Mountains stood in Haze --

The Valleys stopped below

And went or waited as they liked

The River and the Sky.

At leisure was the Sun --

His interests of Fire

A little from remark withdrawn --

The Twilight spoke the Spire,

So soft upon the Scene

The Act of evening fell

We felt how neighborly a Thing

Was the Invisible.




The Way to know the Bobolink

From every other Bird

Precisely as the Joy of him --

Obliged to be inferred.

Of impudent Habiliment

Attired to defy,

Impertinence subordinate

At times to Majesty.

Of Sentiments seditious

Amenable to Law --

As Heresies of Transport

Or Puck’s Apostacy.

Extrinsic to Attention

Too intimate with Joy --

He compliments existence

Until allured away

By Seasons or his Children --

Adult and urgent grown --

Or unforeseen aggrandizement

Or, happily, Renown --

By Contrast certifying

The Bird of Birds is gone --

How nullified the Meadow --

Her Sorcerer withdrawn!




The harm of Years is on him --

The infamy of Time --

Depose him like a Fashion

And give Dominion room.


Forget his Morning Forces --

The Glory of Decay

Is a minuter Pageant

Than least Vitality.




A stagnant pleasure like a Pool

That lets its Rushes grow

Until they heedless tumble in

And make the Water slow

Impeding navigation bright

Of Shadows going down

Yet even this shall rouse itself

When freshets come along.




Art thou the thing I wanted?

Begone -- my Tooth has grown --

Supply the minor Palate

That has not starved so long --

I tell thee while I waited

The mystery of Food

Increased till I abjured it

And dine without Like God --


Art thou the thing I wanted?

Begone -- my Tooth has grown --

Affront a minor palate

Thou could’st not goad so long --

I tell thee while I waited --

The mystery of Food

Increased till I abjured it

Subsisting now like God --




Could Hope inspect her Basis

Her Craft were done --

Has a fictitious Charter

Or it has none --

Balked in the vastest instance

But to renew --

Felled by but one assassin --

Prosperity --




Had we our senses

But perhaps ‘tis well they’re not at Home

So intimate with Madness

He’s liable with them

Had we the eyes without our Head --

How well that we are Blind --

We could not look upon the Earth --

So utterly unmoved --




I know Suspense -- it steps so terse

And turns so weak away --

Besides -- Suspense is neighborly

When I am riding by --

Is always at the Window

Though lately I descry

And mention to my Horses

The need is not of me --




I thought that nature was enough

Till Human nature came

But that the other did absorb

As Parallax a Flame --

Of Human nature just aware

There added the Divine

Brief struggle for capacity

The power to contain

Is always as the contents

But give a Giant room

And you will lodge a Giant

And not a smaller man




In this short Life

That only lasts an hour

How much -- how little -- is

Within our power




Lain in Nature -- so suffice us

The enchantless Pod

When we advertise existence

For the missing Seed --

Maddest Heart that God created

Cannot move a sod

Pasted by the simple summer

On the Longed for Dead




Left in immortal Youth

On that low Plain

That hath nor Retrospection

Nor Again --

Ransomed from years --

Sequestered from Decay

Canceled like Dawn

In comprehensive Day --




The most pathetic thing I do

Is play I hear from you --

I make believe until my Heart

Almost believes it too

But when I break it with the news

You knew it was not true

I wish I had not broken it --

Goliah -- so would you --




Until the Desert knows

That Water grows

His Sands suffice

But let him once suspect

That Caspian Fact

Sahara dies

Utmost is relative --

Have not or Have

Adjacent sums

Enough -- the first Abode

On the familiar Road

Galloped in Dreams --




Yesterday is History,

‘Tis so far away --

Yesterday is Poetry --

‘Tis Philosophy --

Yesterday is mystery --

Where it is Today

While we shrewdly speculate

Flutter both away




The things we thought that we should do

We other things have done

But those peculiar industries

Have never been begun --

The Lands we thought that we should seek

When large enough to run

By Speculation ceded

To Speculation’s Son --

The Heaven, in which we hoped to pause

When Discipline was done

Untenable to Logic

But possibly the one --




Of Life to own --

From Life to draw --

But never tough the reservoir --




Two Lengths has every Day --

Its absolute extent

And Area superior

By Hope or Horror lent --

Eternity will be

Velocity or Pause

At Fundamental Signals

From Fundamental Laws.

To die is not to go --

On Doom’s consummate Chart

No Territory new is staked --

Remain thou as thou art.




Death’s Waylaying not the sharpest

Of the thefts of Time --

There Marauds a sorer Robber,

Silence -- is his name --

No Assault, nor any Menace

Doth betoken him.

But from Life’s consummate Cluster --

He supplants the Balm.




Go slow, my soul, to feed thyself

Upon his rare approach --

Go rapid, lest Competing Death

Prevail upon the Coach --

Go timid, should his final eye

Determine thee amiss --

Go boldly -- for thou paid’st his price

Redemption -- for a Kiss --




The Mushroom is the Elf of Plants --

At Evening, it is not --

At Morning, in a Truffled Hut

It stop upon a Spot

As if it tarried always

And yet its whole Career

Is shorter than a Snake’s Delay

And fleeter than a Tare --

‘Tis Vegetation’s Juggler --

The Germ of Alibi --

Doth like a Bubble antedate

And like a Bubble, hie --

I feel as if the Grass was pleased

To have it intermit --

This surreptitious scion

Of Summer’s circumspect.

Had Nature any supple Face

Or could she one contemn --

Had Nature an Apostate --

That Mushroom -- it is Him!




Delight’s Despair at setting

Is that Delight is less

Than the sufficing Longing

That so impoverish.

Enchantment’s Perihelion

Mistaken oft has been

For the Authentic orbit

Of its Anterior Sun.




From his slim Palace in the Dust

He relegates the Realm,

More loyal for the exody

That has befallen him.



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