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Mill Poems

Table of Contents

  1. The Windmill by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  2. The Old Windmill by Clarence Albert Murch
  3. At the Mill by Freeman E. Miller
  4. The Mill-Water by Madison Cawein
  5. The Old Discarded Mill by James Hampton Lee
  6. My Neighbor's Mill by Kate Slaughter McKinney
  7. The Mill Stream by Susan Francis Preston Clapp
  8. The Old Cane Mill by Nellie Gregg Tomlinson
  9. The Old Grist-Mill by Richard Henry Stoddard
  10. The Old Mill by the River by Isaac McLellan
  11. The Mill in the Forest by Douglas Malloch
  12. The Saw-mill on the Connecticut by Grace Hazard Conkling
  13. The Old Cider Press by Robert McIntyre
  14. The Old Cider Mill by James Arthur Lodge
  15. The Water Mill by Sarah Doudney
  16. Keepsake Mill by Robert Louis Stevenson
  17. The Miller of Dee by Charles Mackay

  1. The Windmill

    O beautiful, awful summer day,
    What hast thou given, what taken away?

    – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
    The Windmill
    by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The famous "Fireside Poet" Longfellow writes a moderately long country poem about a picturesque windmill.

    The summer sun is sinking low;
    Only the tree-tops redden and glow:
    Only the weathercock on the spire
    Of the neighboring church is a flame of fire;
    All is in shadow below.

    O beautiful, awful summer day,
    What hast thou given, what taken away?
    Life and death, and love and hate,
    Homes made happy or desolate,
    Hearts made sad or gay!

    ... On the road of life one mile-stone more!
    In the book of life one leaf turned o'er!
    Like a red seal is the setting sun
    On the good and the evil men have done,—
    Naught can to-day restore!

    Behold! a giant am I!
    Aloft here in my tower,
    With my granite jaws I devour
    The maize, and the wheat, and the rye,
    And grind them into flour.

    I look down over the farms;
    In the fields of grain I see
    The harvest that is to be,
    And I fling to the air my arms,
    For I know it is all for me.

    I hear the sound of flails
    Far off, from the threshing-floors
    In barns, with their open doors,
    And the wind, the wind in my sails,
    Louder and louder roars.

    I stand here in my place,
    With my foot on the rock below,
    And whichever way it may blow,
    I meet it face to face,
    As a brave man meets his foe.

    And while we wrestle and strive,
    My master, the miller, stands
    And feeds me with his hands;
    For he knows who makes him thrive,
    Who makes him lord of lands.

    On Sundays I take my rest;
    Church-going bells begin
    Their low, melodious din;
    I cross my arms on my breast,
    And all is peace within.

  2. The Old Windmill

    by Clarence Albert Murch

    Battered windmill, old and gray,
    Swinging there athwart the sky,
    Sport of every idle breeze
    That may chance to wander by.
    Blow they fair or blow they foul,
    Still you wag your dingy cowl
    Through the livelong night and day,
    Weather-beaten, old and gray.

    Is that endless monotone—
    Half a shriek and half a groan—
    That in dreary cadence drones
    From your old rheumatic bones,
    Echo of some sylvan tune,
    Or forgotten forest rune
    From the aisles of long ago,
    Calling, calling, soft and low
    Through the banished years that creep
    Back to some old forest dim,
    Where the woodland zephyrs sweep
    Dancing leaf and swaying limb?

    As the lazy breezes blow
    All your gaunt arms to and fro,
    Swinging ever round and round,
    To that weird, unearthly sound,
    Do you ever wish that some
    Wandering Don Quixote of wind
    With its stormy lance might come—
    End that weary, ceaseless grind?

    Life is like a windmill gray,
    Swinging ’twixt the earth and sky;
    Sport of every passing breeze
    That may chance to wander by.
    Still we grind with smile or scowl,
    Blow they fair or blow they foul;
    Sure that we shall be some day,
    Weather-beaten, old and gray.

  3. At the Mill

    by Freeman E. Miller

    The water-wheel goes 'round and 'round
    With heavy sighs of mournful sound,
    While dismal cries and weary moans
    Unite with sad and tearful groans,
    And weeping waves of water throw
    Afar the echoes of their sadness,
    And cadences of plaintive woe
    Dispel each little note of gladness.

    My daily life goes 'round and 'round,
    And rest for me is never found;
    The sobbing dirges of distress
    Are more than songs of happiness;
    The shadows of despairing doom
    Condemn to-day and curse to-morrow,
    And muffled terrors fill the gloom
    Which offers anguish to my sorrow.

    But hope, O, heart, for future weal!
    The waters rest beyond the wheel;
    So life may sing when toil is done
    And all its battles lost or won.
    There lives a sweeter music there,
    Of gentle and melodious measure.
    Where weeping never comes and where
    The ages perish into pleasure.

  4. The Mill-Water

    by Madison Cawein

    The water-flag and wild cane grow
    'Round banks whereon the sunbeams sow
    Fantastic gold when, on its shores,
    The wind sighs through the sycamores.

    In one green angle, just in reach,
    Between a willow-tree and beech,
    Moss-grown and leaky lies a boat
    The thick-grown lilies keep afloat.

    And through its waters, half awake,
    Slow swims the spotted water-snake;
    And near its edge, like some gray streak,
    Stands gaunt the still fly-up-the-creek.

    Between the lily-pads and blooms
    The water-spirits set their looms,
    That weave the lace-like light that dims
    The glimmering leaves of under limbs.

    Each lily is the hiding-place
    Of some dim wood-imp's elvish face,
    That watches you with gold-green eyes
    Where bubbles of its breathing rise.

    I fancy, when the waxing moon
    Leans through the trees and dreams of June,
    And when the black bat slants its wing,
    And lonelier the green-frogs sing;

    I fancy, when the whippoorwill
    In some old tree sings wild and shrill,
    With glow-worm eyes that dot the dark,
    Each holding high a firefly spark

    To torch its way,—the wood-imps come:
    And some float rocking here; and some
    Unmoor the lily leaves and oar
    Around the old boat by the shore.

    They climb through oozy weeds and moss;
    They swarm its rotting sides and toss
    Their firefly torches o'er its edge
    Or hang them in the tangled sedge.

    The boat is loosed. The moon is pale.
    Around the dam they slowly sail.
    Upon the bow, to pilot it,
    A jack-o'-lantern gleam doth sit.

    Yes, I have seen it in my dreams!—
    Naught is forgotten! naught, it seems!—
    The strangled face, the tangled hair
    Of the drown'd woman trailing there.

  5. The Old Discarded Mill

    by James Hampton Lee

    Eloquent, though so still,
    It stands by the fretting shoals,—
    The old discarded mill,
    Of the days that tried men's souls;
    Of the days when the water's flow
    First turned its wonderful wheel;
    Of a hundred years ago,
    When wood was King of Steel.

    Of the roof and the old mill-race
    The storms of the years have left
    But a semblance and a trace;—
    Yet the stream sweeps on, bereft!—
    Why sit by the foaming shoals,
    O man, while the mills decay?
    Give wings to your shrinking souls!
    Arise and achieve—today!

    Alone in the woods it stands,
    Enwrapped in a gray-mist dream
    That man will return whose hands
    Will harness it to the stream.—
    For the mill's with the stream in love,
    And the stream with the mill, as well!
    The water the wheel above
    Would be, there its love to tell!

    Came one from the city's heart
    Who loved as loves the sun;—
    Saw the mill and stream apart,
    And joined them again as one!—
    As a man finds the sweetest words
    When close to his heart she's pressed,
    So the water sings now with the birds;—
    It again has the wheel caressed!

  6. My Neighbor's Mill

    by Kate Slaughter McKinney

    I love to sit here at the window-sill
    When the sun falls asleep in the West,
    And watch the gray Twilight walk over the hill
    In garments of night partly dressed,
    And see, through the rooms of my neighbor’s mill,
    How she creeps like an unbidden guest.

    I love the low hum of the numberless wheels—
    They echo the heart-beats of time,
    Each unto my pen its purpose reveals,
    Like the magic of meter and rhyme;
    Or, as to the soul that in penitence kneels,
    Doth the sound of a slow vesper chime.

    We have been friends together, this old mill and I,
    Yes, friends that are true, tried, and strong;
    If over us gather a gray winter sky
    We faced it sometimes with a song,
    Or braved it in silence, scarce knowing why,
    As together we labored along.

    I fancy sometimes as I sit here alone
    With the calm of the night in my heart,
    When from the low roof the pigeons have flown,
    And the stars their sweet stories impart,
    That this mill unto me in a strange undertone
    Is speaking as heart unto heart.

    That it bids me look into the granary room
    Where the yellow wheat is packed;
    And anon to glance in with the sundown’s bloom
    Where the snowy flour is sacked,
    So I look—and it seems in the deepening gloom
    There clouds upon clouds are stacked.

    What else do I scan through the moonlight’s lace
    That scallops the window panes;
    Why, the dear old miller’s honest face,
    He’s counting his losses and gains,
    And methinks on his visage I can trace
    A look that my own heart pains.

    Ah! think of the thousands his bounty feeds—
    We beggars encircle his door,
    While he scatters alike his bundle of seeds
    To the humble, the rich, and the poor.
    Sure there’s a reward for such generous deeds,
    A reward that is brighter than ore!

    But the lights have gone out of my neighbor’s mill,
    And pale grows the red in the West;
    The Night has crept up to my own window-sill
    And pillowed my head on her breast,
    While over the way—how peaceful and still!
    The old mill’s asleep and at rest.

  7. The Mill Stream

    by Susan Francis Preston Clapp

    The mill stream flows o'er common ground,
    Yet wandering there, I stand spell-bound;
    And dreamy thoughts will o'er me steal
    While listening to the water-wheel.

    As round it rolls, I hear a chant
    Whose music grows significant,
    Till my whole being is possessed
    With something of the wheel's unrest.

    Mine ear hath caught an undertone
    To which my soul makes answering moan;
    Two plaintive voices seem to meet,
    In murmuring eddies, at my feet.

    Vague longings, when answered here,
    Foreshadowings of another sphere,
    Now join the water's plaintive flow,
    As onward, onward still they go.

    Forever striving to be free,
    My soul is in strange sympathy
    With the waters basely bound
    To turn the mill-wheel round and round.

    Within man's limitation set,
    The troubled waters foam and fret,
    But left unfettered in their course,
    Glide on serenely to their source.

  8. The Old Cane Mill

    by Nellie Gregg Tomlinson

    "What's sorghum?" Don't you know sorghum?
    My gran'son nigh sixteen,
    Don t boys know nothin' nowadays?
    Beats all I ever seen.
    Why sorghum's the bulliest stuff
    Wuz ever made ter eat.
    You spread it thick on homemade bread;
    It's most oncommon sweet.

    "Come from?" Wall yer jist better bet
    It don't come from no can.
    Jus' b'iled down juice from sorghum cane,
    Straight I'way 'lasses bran'.
    "What's cane?" It's some like corn, yer know,
    An' topped with plumes o' seed.
    Grows straight an' tall on yaller clay
    That wouldn't grow a weed.

    Long in September when 'twuz ripe,
    The cane-patch battle field
    Wuz charged by boys with wooden swords,
    Good temper wuz their shield.
    They stripped the stalks of all their leaves,
    Then men, with steel knives keen
    Slashed off the heads and cut the stalks
    An' piled them straight an' clean.

    The tops wuz saved ter feed the hens,
    Likewise fer nex' year's seed.
    The farmer allus has ter save
    Against the futur's need.
    The neighbors cum from miles erbout
    An' fetched the cane ter mill.
    They stacked it high betwixt two trees,
    At Gran'dads, on the hill.

    An' ol' hoss turned the cane mill sweep,
    He led hisself erroun.
    The stalks wuz fed inter the press,
    From them the sap wuz groun'.
    This juice run through a little trough
    Ter pans beneath a shed;
    There it wuz b'iled an' skimmed and b'iled,
    Till it wuz thick an' red.

    Then it wuz cooled an' put in bar'ls
    An' toted off to town
    While us kids got ter lick the pan,
    Which job wuz dun up brown.
    Gee whiz! but we did hev good times
    At taffy pullin' bees.
    We woun' the taffy roun' girls' necks—
    Bob wuz the biggest tease.

    Inside the furnace, on live coals,
    We het cane stalks red hot,
    Then hit 'em hard out on the groun'—
    Yer oughter hear 'em pop!
    Sometimes a barefoot boy would step
    Inter the skimmin's hole,
    Er pinch his fingers in the mill,
    Er fall off from the pole.

    When winter winds went whis'lin' through
    The door an' winder cracks,
    An' piled up snow wuz driftin'
    Till yer couldn't see yer tracks,
    Then we all drawed roun' the table
    An' passed the buckwheat cakes,
    Er mebbe it wuz good corn bread.
    "What's sorghum?" Good lan' sakes.

    Wall, son, yer hev my symperthy;
    Yer've missed a lot, I swan.
    Oh, sure yer dance an' joy-ride
    Frum ev'nin' untel dawn,
    Yer've football, skates an' golf ter he'p
    The passin' time ter kill,
    But give me mem'ry's boyhood days,
    Erroun' the ol' cane mill.

  9. The Old Grist-Mill

    by Richard Henry Stoddard

    Beside the stream the grist-mill stands,
    With bending roof and leaning wall;
    So old, that when the winds are wild,
    The miller trembles lest it fall:
    And yet it baffles wind and rain,
    Our brave old Mill! and will again.

    Its dam is steep, and hung with weeds:
    The gates are up, the waters pour,
    And tread the old wheel’s slippery round,
    The lowest step forevermore.
    Methinks they fume, and chafe with ire,
    Because they cannot climb it higher.

    From morn to night in autumn time,
    When harvests fill the neighboring plains,
    Up to the mill the farmers drive,
    And back anon with loaded wains:
    And when the children come from school
    They stop, and watch its foamy pool.

    The mill inside is small and dark;
    But peeping in the open door
    You see the miller flitting round,
    The dusty bags along the floor,
    The whirling shaft, the clattering spout,
    And the yellow meal a-pouring out!

    All day the meal is floating there,
    Rising and falling in the breeze;
    And when the sunlight strikes its mist
    It glitters like a swarm of bees:
    Or like the cloud of smoke and light
    Above a blacksmith’s forge at night.

    All day the meal is floating there,
    Rising and falling in the breeze;
    And when the sunlight strikes its mist
    It glitters like a swarm of bees:
    Or like the cloud of smoke and light
    Above a blacksmith’s forge at night.

    I stand beside the stream of Life,
    And watch the current sweep along:
    And when the flood-gates of my heart
    Are raised it turns the wheel of Song:
    But scant, as yet, the harvest brought
    From out the golden fields of Thought!

  10. The Old Mill by the River

    by Isaac McLellan

    Here in the years when life was bright
    With dewy mornings and sunset light,
    In the pleasant season of leafy June,
    In each idle, holiday afternoon
    I lov'd to wander with willow wand—
    I lov'd on the river border to stand
    And take the trout or the yellow bream
    That leap'd, that glanc'd athwart the stream.

    With broken window, with hingeless door,
    Thro' which the slanting sunbeams pour;
    With leaning gable, and settling wall,
    O'er which the draperied ivies fall;
    With rafter moldy, worm-eaten beam,
    O'er which the silken cobwebs stream,
    Fast by the river-banks serene
    The old forsaken mill is seen.
    Its roof shows many a chasm and rent,
    Its creaking vane is crack'd and bent,
    In and out the swallows fly
    Under the eaves their dwellings lie.
    The leather-wing'd bats, when day is dim,
    Thro' vacant rooms and granaries skim;
    Its shingles that ages ago were new,
    Splendid with painters' lavish hue,
    Are faded now and swing in the gale,
    Scarce held by the loosen'd rusty nail;
    The clapboards rattle and clank amain
    In gusts of the snow-fall and the rain,
    For the dust of many a lapsing year
    Hath writ its wasteful chronicle here.
    The dam o'er which the waters pour
    Is settling and crumbling by the shore;
    The slippery logs and mossy stone
    Yield to the current one by one;
    And swift thro' many a rent abyss
    The spouting rivulets foam and hiss,
    And soon must the crazy fabric decay,
    And the torrent sweep uncheck'd away.
    The water-wheel so black and vast,
    With beam like a battle-vessel's mast
    That once would churn with mighty sweep
    The boiling waters so dark and deep,
    Lies now a wreck in humbled pride,
    Trembling with each assault of the tide.
    Under the crumbling, blacken'd wheel
    The crystal bubbles circle and reel;
    Over and under the eddies boil
    Round molder'd timber and rotting post;
    In many a circling ripple they coil
    In sudden plunge, in wild turmoil,
    Now seen an instant, then quickly lost.

  11. The Mill in the Forest

    by Douglas Malloch

    A rendition in words of the musical idyl by Eilenberg.

    While twittering songsters yet announce the morn
    And all the wood is wondrous calm and still,
    Upon the zephyr tremulous is borne
    The waking rumble of the forest mill.

    The great wheel moves; the foaming waters pour
    On waiting sands in crystal melody;
    The saw's high treble and the pulley's roar
    Are mingled in a song of industry.

    Now through the day the busy millwheel turns;
    And through the day the saw untiring sings,
    Nor rests till red and gold the sunset burns
    And blaze and gilt on all the landscape flings.

    But, as the orb of day slips down the west,
    The waters turn to other ways more still;
    The weary wheel at last subsides to rest
    And peace comes down upon the silent mill.

    A yellow moon arises o'er the trees,
    The little stars, with eyes half-timid, peep;
    Night brings her black and somber tapestries
    And wraps the forest and the mill in sleep.

  12. The Saw-mill on the Connecticut

    by Grace Hazard Conkling

    Where clear the river ponders
    The marshes' slow maroon,
    There floats a leveled forest
    Upon a broad lagoon.

    The bowl of spacious meadow
    Is brimmed with trunks of trees
    And there's a wilding fragrance
    Embroidered on the breeze.

    Along the azure water
    Most patiently they lie,
    And hear the shrieking saw-mill
    And memorize the sky,

    And see the impartial sunlight
    They knew so well of old,
    Turn shavings into satin
    And saw-dust into gold.

    All in the ripe September
    I tried to pass today.
    The smooth road beckoned Follow!
    But the logs whispered . . . Stay!

    And lest alone the tree-folk
    Go sadly to their death,
    I watched the pine surrender
    Its rich and final breath,

    And heard the oak's last murmur
    Where poured its scented dust—
    "I do but travel onward
    As valiant farers must."

  13. The Old Cider Press

    by Robert McIntyre

    O the old Cider Press, how its thin yellow thread
    Runs backward to-night to the days that are dead,
    When it fell from the mill with mellifluous sound,
    Where the apples went in, and the oxen went round!
    O the great honest eyes of the slow-moving steers
    Seem to look at me now, like my own full of tears,
    As I smell the sweet odor, which must be, I guess,
    A breath of the past from the old Cider Press.

    O the old Cider Press on the old orchard hill!
    The brook was the hem and the forest the frill
    Of that outskirt of Eden we called the "old farm,"
    Where all knew the Lord and took hold of his arm.

  14. The Old Cider Mill

    by James Arthur Lodge

    If I could be a boy again
    For fifteen minutes, or even ten,
    I'd make a bee-line for that old mill,
    Hidden by tangled vines down by the rill;
    Where the apples were piled in heaps all 'round,
    Red, streaked and yellow all over the ground;
    And the old sleepy horse goes round and round
    And turns the wheels while the apples are ground.

    Straight for that cider mill I'd start,
    With light bare feet and lighter heart,
    A smiling face, a big straw hat,
    Hum-made breeches and all o' that.
    And when I got there I would just take a peep,
    To see if old cider mill John was asleep,
    And if he was I'd go snooking round
    'Till a great big round rye straw I'd found;
    I'd straddle a barrel and quick begin
    To fill with cider right up to my chin.

    As old as I am, I can shut my eyes
    And see the yellow jackets, bees and flies
    A-swarming 'round the juicy cheese
    And bung-holes; drinking as much as they please.
    I can see the clear sweet cider flow
    From the press above to the tub below,
    And a'steaming up into my old nose
    Comes the smell that only a cider mill knows.

    You may talk about your fine old Crow,
    Your champagne, sherry, and so and so,
    But of all the drinks of press or still,
    Give me the juice of that old cider mill.
    A small boy's energy and suction power
    For just ten minutes or quarter of an hour,
    And the happiest boy you ever saw
    You'd find at the end of that rye straw,
    And I'll forego forevermore
    All liquors known on this earthly shore.

  15. The Water Mill

    The mill will never grind again with water that is past.

    – Sarah Doudney
    The Water Mill
    by Sarah Doudney

    Oh! listen to the water mill, through all the livelong day,
    As the clicking of the wheels wears hour by hour away;
    How languidly the autumn wind does stir the withered leaves
    As in the fields the reapers sing, while binding up their sheaves!
    A solemn proverb strikes my mind, and as a spell is cast,
    "The mill will never grind again with water that is past."

    The summer winds revive no more leaves strewn o'er earth and main,
    The sickle nevermore will reap the yellow garnered grain;
    The rippling stream flows on—aye, tranquil, deep and still,
    But never glideth back again to busy water mill;
    The solemn proverb speaks to all with meaning deep and vast,
    "The mill will never grind again with water that is past."

    Ah! clasp the proverb to thy soul, dear loving heart and true,
    For golden years are fleeting by and youth is passing too;
    Ah! learn to make the most of life, nor lose one happy day,
    For time will ne'er return sweet joys neglected, thrown away;
    Nor leave one tender word unsaid, thy kindness sow broadcast—
    "The mill will never grind again with water that is past."

    Oh! the wasted hours of life, that have swiftly drifted by,
    Alas! the good we might have done, all gone without a sigh;
    Love that we might once have saved by a single kindly word,
    Thoughts conceived, but ne'er expressed, perishing unpenned, unheard.
    Oh! take the lesson to thy soul, forever clasp it fast—
    "The mill will never grind again with water that is past."

    Work on while yet the sun doth shine, thou man of strength and will,
    The streamlet ne'er doth useless glide by clicking water mill;
    Nor wait until to-morrow's light beams brightly on thy way,
    For all that thou canst call thine own lies in the phrase "to-day."
    Possession, power and blooming health must all be lost at last—
    "The mill will never grind again with water that is past."

    Oh! love thy God and fellowman, thyself consider last,
    For come it will when thou must scan dark errors of the past;
    Soon will this fight of life be o'er and earth recede from view,
    And heaven in all its glory shine, where all is pure and true.
    Ah! then thou'lt see more clearly still the proverb deep and vast,
    "The mill will never grind again with water that is past."

  16. Keepsake Mill

    by Robert Louis Stevenson

    Over the borders, a sin without pardon,
    Breaking the branches and crawling below,
    Out through the breach in the wall of the garden,
    Down by the banks of the river, we go.

    Here is the mill with the humming of thunder,
    Here is the weir with the wonder of foam,
    Here is the sluice with the race running under—
    Marvellous places, though handy to home!

    Sounds of the village grow stiller and stiller,
    Stiller the note of the birds on the hill;
    Dusty and dim are the eyes of the miller,
    Deaf are his ears with the moil of the mill.

    Years may go by, and the wheel in the river
    Wheel as it wheels for us, children, to-day,
    Wheel and keep roaring and foaming for ever
    Long after all of the boys are away.

    Home from the Indies and home from the ocean,
    Heroes and soldiers we all shall come home;
    Still we shall find the old mill wheel in motion,
    Turning and churning that river to foam.

    You with the bean that I gave when we quarrelled,
    I with your marble of Saturday last,
    Honoured and old and all gaily apparelled,
    Here we shall meet and remember the past.

  17. The Miller of Dee

    by Charles Mackay

    There dwelt a miller, hale and bold,
    Beside the river Dee;
    He worked and sang from morn till night,
    No lark more blithe than he;
    And this the burden of his song
    For ever used to be:
    “I envy nobody, no, not I,
    And nobody envies me.”

    “Thou’rt wrong, my friend, said good King Hal—
    “As wrong as wrong can be—
    For could my heart be light as thine,
    I’d gladly change with thee;
    And tell me now, what makes thee sing,
    With voice so loud and free,
    While I am sad, though I’m the king,
    Beside the river Dee.”

    The miller smiled and doffed his cap:
    “I earn my bread,” quoth he;
    “I love my wife, I love my friend,
    I love my children three;
    I owe no penny I cannot pay;
    I thank the river Dee,
    That turns the mill that grinds the corn
    That feeds my babes and me.”

    “Good friend,” said Hal, and sighed the while,
    “Farewell and happy be;
    But say no more, if thou’dst be true,
    That no one envies thee:
    Thy mealy cap is worth my crown,
    Thy mill, my kingdom’s fee;
    Such men as thou are England’s boast,
    O miller of the Dee!”

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