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— UNABBREVIATED

Saŋyutta Nikāya
I. Sagātha Vagga
5. Bhikkhunī Saŋyutta

The Book of the Kindred Sayings
I. Kindred Sayings with Verses
5. Suttas of the Sisters[1]

Translated by Mrs. Rhys Davids
Assisted by Sūriyagoḍa Sumangala Thera
Public Domain

 


 

Sutta 1

The Āḷavite[2]

 


 

[1.1][ati][bps] THUS HAVE I HEARD:

The Exalted One was once staying near Sāvatthī, at Jeta Grove, in Anāthapiṇḍika's Park.

2. Now the Alavite sister dressed herself early and, taking bowl and robe, entered Sāvatthī for alms.

And when she had gone about Sāvatthī for it, and was returning after her meal, she entered Dark Wood seeking solitude.[3]

Then Māra the evil one, desirous to arouse fear, wavering, and dread in her, desirous of making her desist from[4] being alone, went up to her, and addressed her in verse: —

Ne'er shalt thou find escape while in the world!
What profiteth thee then thy loneliness?
Take thou thy fill of sense-desires and love.
Be not a woman who repents too late.

Then the Ālavite thought:

'Who now is this, human or non-human, that speaketh verse?

Sure 't is Māra the evil one speaketh verse, desirous of arousing in me fear, wavering, and dread, desirous of making me desist from being alone.'

And the Sister, knowing it was Māra, replied with verses: —

There is escape[5] while in the world, and well
By insight[6] have I found and made it mine.
Thou kin to all the careless,[7] evil one!
Not thine is it to know the Way, the Goal.[8]
Like spears and javelins are desires of sense,
That pierce and rend the mortal frames of us.
This that thou callest sense-desire and love:
For me a thing detested hath become.

Then Māra thought:

'The Alavite Sister knows me!'
and sad and sorrowful he vanished there and then.

 


 

Sutta 2

Somā

 


 

[2.1][ati][bps][ati-olen] THUS HAVE I HEARD:

The Exalted One was once staying near Sāvatthī, at Jeta Grove, in Anāthapiṇḍika's Park.

2. Now sister Somā dressed herself early and, taking bowl and robe, entered Sāvatthī for alms.

And when she had gone about Sāvatthī for it, when she was returning from her alms-round, after her meal, entered Dark Wood for noonday-rest,[9] and plunging into its depths sat down under a certain tree.

Then Māra the evil one, desirous of arousing fear, wavering, and dread in her, desirous of making her desist from concentrated thought, went up to her and addressed her in verse: —

That vantage-ground[10] the sages may attain
Is hard to win. With her two-finger wit[11]
That may no woman ever hope to achieve.

Then Soma thought:

'Who now is this, human or non-human, that speaketh verse?

Sure 't is Māra" the evil one speaketh verse, desirous of arousing in me fear, wavering, and dread, desirous of making me desist from being alone.

And the Sister, knowing it was Māra,' replied in verses: —

What should the woman's nature signify
When consciousness is tense and firmly set,
When knowledge rolleth ever on,[12] when she
By insight rightly comprehends the Norm?

To one for whom the question doth arise:
Am I a woman [in these matters], or
Am I a man, or what not am I then?[13]
To such an one is Māra fit to talk.

Then Māra the evil one thought:

'Sister Somā knows me!' and sad and sorrowful he vanished there and then.

 


 

Sutta 3

Gotamī

 


 

[3.1][ati][bps] THUS HAVE I HEARD:

The Exalted One was once staying near Sāvatthī, at Jeta Grove, in Anāthapiṇḍika's Park.

2. Now sister Lean Gotamī[14][15] dressed herself early and, taking bowl and robe, entered Sāvatthī for alms.

And when she had gone about Sāvatthī for it, when she was returning from her alms-round, after her meal, entered Dark Wood for noonday-rest, and plunging into its depths sat down under a certain tree.

Then Māra the evil one, desirous of arousing fear, wavering, and dread in her, desirous of making her desist from concentrated thought, went up to her and addressed her in verse: —

How now? Dost sit alone with tearful face,
As mother stricken by the loss of child?
Thou who hast plunged into the woods alone,
Is it a man that thou hast come to seek?

Then Sister Gotamī thought:

'Who now is this, human or non-human, that speaketh verse?

'Sure't is Māra the evil one speaketh verse, desirous of arousing in me fear, wavering, and dread, desirous of making me desist from being alone.

And the Sister, knowing it was Māra,' replied in verses: —

Past are the days when I was she whose child
Was lost! Men to that past belong — for me![16]
I do not grieve, I am not shedding tears.
And as for thee, good sir, I fear thee not.
Lost on all sides is love of worldly joys.
The gloom of ignorance is rent in twain.
Defeating all the myrmidons of death,
Here do I bide [to rest,] sane and immune.

Then Māra the evil one thought:

'Sister Gotamī knows me!'
and sad and sorrowful he vanished there and then.

 


 

Sutta 4

Vijayā[17]

 


 

[3.1][ati][bps] THUS HAVE I HEARD:

The Exalted One was once staying near Sāvatthī, at Jeta Grove, in Anāthapiṇḍika's Park.

2. Now sister Vijayādressed herself early and, taking bowl and robe, entered Sāvatthī for alms.

And when she had gone about Sāvatthī for it, when she was returning from her alms-round, after her meal, entered Dark Wood for noonday-rest, and plunging into its depths sat down under a certain tree.

Then Māra the evil one, desirous of arousing fear, wavering, and dread in her, desirous of making her desist from concentrated thought, went up to her and addressed her in verse: —

A maiden thou and beautiful — and I
So young a lad! Now where to fivefold art
Of sounds melodious[18] we may list, 0 come,
Lady, and let us take our fill of joy!

Then Sister Vijaya thought:

'Who now is this, human or non-human, that speaketh verse?

'Sure't is Māra the evil one speaketh verse, desirous of arousing in me fear, wavering, and dread, desirous of making me desist from being alone.

And the Sister, knowing it was Māra,' replied in verses: —

Sights, sounds and tastes and smells[19] and things to touch,
Wherein the mind delights, I leave them all
To thee, Māra; nought of that ilk I seek.
This body vile, this brittle, crumbling thing,
Doth touch me only with distress and shame.
Craving for joys of sense is rooted out.
How beings are reborn in other worlds
Material, how others dwell, again,
Where matter is not, and th' ecstatic states,
Good [of their kind to bring men to those worlds][20]
From all of these the darkness is dispelled.

Then Māra the evil one thought:

'Sister Vijayā knows me!'
and sad and sorrowful he vanished there and then.

 


 

Sutta 5

Uppalavaṇṇā[21]

 


 

[3.1][ati][bps] THUS HAVE I HEARD:

The Exalted One was once staying near Sāvatthī, at Jeta Grove, in Anāthapiṇḍika's Park.

2. Now sister Uppalavaṇṇā dressed herself early and, taking bowl and robe, entered Sāvatthī for alms.

And when she had gone about Sāvatthī for it, when she was returning from her alms-round, after her meal, entered Dark Wood for noonday-rest, and plunging into its depths stood at the foot of a sal-tree[22] in full blossom.

Then Māra the evil one, desirous of arousing fear, wavering, and dread in her, desirous of making her desist from concentrated thought, went up to her and addressed her in verse: —

Thou that art come where over thee, crowned with blossom [Waveth] the sal-tree, Sister, and standest there lonely, Beauty like thine none is there able to rival.[23] Fearest thou not, foolish girl, the wiles of seducers?

Then Sister Uppalavanna thought:

'Who now is this, human or non-human, that speaketh verse?

'Sure't is Māra the evil one speaketh verse, desirous of arousing in me fear, wavering, and dread, desirous of making me desist from being alone.

And the Sister, knowing it was Māra,' replied in verses: —

Were there an hundred thousand seducers as thou art,
Ne'er would I tremble affrighted nor turn a hair of me!
Māra, I fear not thee, lone tho' I stand here.
Lo! I can vanish, or enter into thy body.
Yea, I stand 'twixt eyebrows; thou canst not see me.

For consciousness is wholly self-controlled,
The Paths to Potency are throughly learnt.
Yea, I am free from all the bonds there be.
In sooth, good sir, I have no fear of thee.

Then Māra the evil one thought:

'Sister Uppalavaṇṇā knows me!'
and sad and sorrowful he vanished there and then.

 


 

Sutta 6

Cālā[24]

 


 

[6.1][ati][bps] THUS HAVE I HEARD:

The Exalted One was once staying near Sāvatthī, at Jeta Grove, in Anāthapiṇḍika's Park.

2. Now sister Cālā dressed herself early and, taking bowl and robe, entered Sāvatthī for alms.

And when she had gone about Sāvatthī for it, when she was returning from her alms-round, after her meal, entered Dark Wood for noonday-rest, and plunging into its depths sat down under a certain tree.

Then Māra the evil one, desirous of arousing fear, wavering, and dread in her, desirous of making her desist from concentrated thought, went up to her and said:

'Wherein, Sister, dost thou find no pleasure'[25]

'In [re]birth, friend,[26] I find no pleasure.'

'Why findest thou no pleasure in [re]birth?

Once born we enjoy the pleasures of the senses.

Who hath put this into thy mind, Sister[27]: —
"find no pleasure in rebirth?"'

[Cālā: — ]

Once born we die. Once born we see life's ills —
The bonds, the torments and the life cut off.
The Buddha hath revealed the Norm to us —
How we may get beyond the power of birth,
How we may put an end to every ill.
He brought and stablished me upon the Truth[28]
They that are born in worlds material,
And they that dwell in immaterial heav'ns[29]: —
If they know not how they may end it all —
Are goers, all of them, again to birth.

Then Māra the evil one thought:

'Sister Cālā knows me!'
and sad and sorrowful he vanished there and then.

 


 

Sutta 7

Upacālā

 


 

[7.1][ati][bps] THUS HAVE I HEARD:

The Exalted One was once staying near Sāvatthī, at Jeta Grove, in Anāthapiṇḍika's Park.

2. Now sister Upacālā dressed herself early and, taking bowl and robe, entered Sāvatthī for alms.

And when she had gone about Sāvatthī for it, when she was returning from her alms-round, after her meal, entered Dark Wood for noonday-rest, and plunging into its depths sat down under a certain tree.

Then Māra the evil one, desirous of arousing fear, wavering, and dread in her, desirous of making her desist from concentrated thought, went up to her and said:

'Where, Sister, dost thou wish to rise again?'[30]

'Nowhere, friend, do I wish to rise again.'|| ||

[Māra: —]

Nay, are there not the Three and Thirty Gods,
And gods who govern in the realms of shades,[31]
They of the Blissful Heavens, they who rejoice
In fresh creations, they who hold control
Over what others have created[32]? Think,
And here or there set thon thy heart's desire.
The bliss of each in turn may then be thine.

[Upacālā:—]

[Ay, think upon] the Three and Thirty Gods,
And gods who govern in the realms of shades,
They of the Blissful Heav'ns, they who rejoice
In fresh creations, they who hold control
Over what others have created:—[Think!]
All they come evermore 'neath Māra's sway,
For all are bound by bonds of sense-desire.

On fire is all the world, and racked in flames.[33]
Ablaze is all the world, the heav'ns do quake.
But that which quaketh not, influctuate,
Untrodden by the average worldling's[34] feet,
Where Māra cometh not, nor hath way-gate —
There doth my heart abide in blest retreat.

Then Māra the evil one thought:

'Sister Upacālā knows me!'
and sad and sorrowful he vanished there and then.

 


 

Sutta 8

Sīsupacālā

 


 

[8.1][ati][bps] THUS HAVE I HEARD:

The Exalted One was once staying near Sāvatthī, at Jeta Grove, in Anāthapiṇḍika's Park.

2. Now sister Sīsupacālā dressed herself early and, taking bowl and robe, entered Sāvatthī for alms.

And when she had gone about Sāvatthī for it, when she was returning from her alms-round, after her meal, entered Dark Wood for noonday-rest, and plunging into its depths sat down under a certain tree.

Then Māra the evil one, desirous of arousing fear, wavering, and dread in her, desirous of making her desist from concentrated thought, went up to her and said:

'Of whose shibboleth,[35] Sister, dost thou approve?

'Of no one's shibboleth, friend, do I approve.'

[Māra:—]

What? In whose name, then, didst thou shave
Thy head and like a nun art seen, if thou
No heretic and no shibboleth[36] dost approve?
What, futile and infatuate, is thy quest?

[Sīsupacālā: —]

'Tis they that are without, who cast the nets
Of vain beliefs on which they pin their faith: —
Theirs are the doctrines I do not approve.
'Tis they that lack conversance with the Norm.

Lo! in the princely Sākya clan is born
A Buddha peerless 'mong the sons of men,
Who all hath overcome,[37] before whose face
Māra doth flee away, who everywhere
Unconquered stands, he that is wholly freed
And fetterless, the Seer who seeth all,
For whom all karma is destroyed, who in
The perishing of every germ that birth
Once more engenders, is at liberty!
This is the Exalted One, my Master he,
And his the system whereof I approve.

Then Māra the evil one thought:

'Sister Sīsupacālā knows me!'
and sad and sorrowful he vanished there and then.

 


 

Sutta 9

Selā

 


 

[9.1][ati][bps] THUS HAVE I HEARD:

The Exalted One was once staying near Sāvatthī, at Jeta Grove, in Anāthapiṇḍika's Park.

2. Now sister Selā dressed herself early and, taking bowl and robe, entered Sāvatthī for alms.

And when she had gone about Sāvatthī for it, when she was returning from her alms-round, after her meal, entered Dark Wood for noonday-rest, and plunging into its depths sat down under a certain tree.

Then Māra the evil one, desirous of arousing fear, wavering, and dread in her, desirous of making her desist from concentrated thought, went up to her and addressed her in verse: —

Who was't that made the human puppet['s form]?[38]
Where is the maker of the human doll?[38]
Whence, tell me, hath the puppet come to be?
Where will the puppet cease and pass away?

[Selā: —]

Neither self-made the puppet is, nor yet
By other wrought is this ill-plighted thing.[39]
By reason of a cause[40] it came to be,
By rupture of a cause it dies away.
Like to a certain seed sown in the field,
Which, when it lighteth on the taste of earth
And moisture likewise, by these twain doth grow,
So the five aggregates, the elements,
And the six spheres of sense — even all these —
By reason of a cause they came to be;
By rupture of a cause they die away.

Then Māra the evil one thought:

'Sister Selā knows me!'
and sad and sorrowful he vanished there and then.

 


 

Sutta 10

Vajirā

 


 

[10.1][ati][bps] THUS HAVE I HEARD:

The Exalted One was once staying near Sāvatthī, at Jeta Grove, in Anāthapiṇḍika's Park.

2. Now sister Vajirā dressed herself early and, taking bowl and robe, entered Sāvatthī for alms.

And when she had gone about Sāvatthī for it, when she was returning from her alms-round, after her meal, entered Dark Wood for noonday-rest, and plunging into its depths sat down under a certain tree.

Then Māra the evil one, desirous of arousing fear, wavering, and dread in her, desirous of making her desist from concentrated thought, went up to her and addressed her in verse: —

By whom was wrought this 'being'? Where is he
Who makes him? Whence doth a being rise?
Where doth the being cease and pass away?[41]

Then Sister Vajirā thought:

'Who now is this, human or non-human, that speaketh verse?

'Sure't is Māra the evil one speaketh verse, desirous of arousing in me fear, wavering, and dread, desirous of making me desist from being alone.

And the Sister, knowing it was Māra,' replied in verses: —

'Being'! Why dost thou harp upon[42] that word?
'Mong false opinions, Māra, hast thou strayed.
Mere bundle of conditioned factors, this!
No 'being ' can be here discerned to be.
For just as, when the parts are rightly set,
The word 'chariot' ariseth [in our minds],
So doth our usage covenant to say:
'A being' when the aggregates are there.

Nay, it is simply ill[42] that rises, ill
That doth persist, and ill that wanes away.
Nought beside ill it is that comes to pass,
Nought else but ill it is doth cease to be.[43]

Then Māra the evil one thought:

'Sister Vajirā knows me!'
and sad and sorrowful he vanished there and then.

Here endeth the Sisters Suttas.

 


[1] This Chapter V. has already been translated into German by Windisch, op. cit., and into English in Psalms of the Sisters (Appendix).
I repeat the latter translation here to make some emendations, and to give a few commentarial elucidations.

[2] Her name was Selā, and as such she is numbered among the Theris, or senior sisters of the Anthology (Pss p. 43, n. 4). The Saŋyutta contains the more adequate rejoinder to the tempter.

[3] B. states that Dark Wood (Andha-Vana) was a gāvuta, or 1/4 yojana south of Sāvatthī (? about 1-1/2 miles), and was so called from having been the haunt of 500 bandits who gouged out the eyes of their victims (akkhibhedapattā). They had so treated Yasodhara the preacher, when he had collected moneys for repairing the Chetiya of Buddha Kassapa. Dark Wood should thus perhaps be better rendered Blind Wood, Andhavana meaning either. The grove, adds B., was then guarded by royal custodians, and was often visited by a brother or sister in quest of solitude.
Viveka may mean spiritual detachment, but the Comy. here specifies it as physical (kāyavivek'atthikinī).

[4] Lit. 'fall from.'

[5] Nissaranan ti nibbānaṃ. Comy.

[6] Paññā, equated by paccavekkhana-ñāṇaṃ.

[7] Cf. IV, 3, Ī 4.

[8] Way and goal = padaṃ.

[9] Divā-vihārāya: lit. 'for the day-sojourn.' [Ed.: ? not 'lit' at all: day-residence, day-abiding is 'lit']

[10] Thānaṃ, meaning both 'place' and 'opportunity.' B. explains it as Arahantship.

[11] On this delightfully impudent figure cf. Sisters, p. 45. B. gives another application of it: insignificant understanding, or because taking her cotton wool in two fingers she cuts the thread. For aptness we commend Dharmapāla's figure of testing the boiling rice. [Ed.: The 'two-finger wit' 'testing the boiling rice' figure exists to this day in Italy. She takes grains of boiled rice between her fingers and squeezes to test their tenderness. This is the extent of her wisdom.]

[12] 'The knowledge (ñaṇa) in the attainment of the fruitions proceeding,' lit. rolling on. For vutta-° in the text, read vatta°.

[13] Questions, says B., arising under the influence of natural desire, conceit, false opinion. Comy.

[14] 'Lean through paucity of flesh and blood.' Comy. The legend of Kisa-Gotamī, of whom we know only the family name: 'she of the Gotama's,' is the most widely known of almost all those that have survived concerning the earliest followers of the Buddha, thanks mainly to E. Arnold's Light of Asia. B. here repeats the story of the mustard-seed, and gives a prior account of the Gotamī, narrated more fully, not in the Therigāthā Comy., but in that on Dhp. ii, 270-5.

[15] Verbatim as in Ī 2.

[16] We give here a different rendering from Windisch's, which inṁ fluenced that in Pss. of the Sisters. The Comy. sees in accanta simply antam atītaṃ, an end or term that is past, viz. of the days when marriage and maternity filled her life. Bhāvan apuŋsakaṃ etaṃ: — 'This is a sexless state; that which was for me the end of child-dying, that was also for me the end of men' [as males]. Men were 'that-endish,' ending there (tad-antikā, not antikaṃ, 'near at hand'). Cf. anta-ko, IV, 1, Ī 1, and antiyā, the Singh, v.l. here.

[17] Of this Sister the Comy. tells nothing. Her name is equivalent to Victrix, and her verses coincide with the opening verses of Queen Khemā's longer poem (Sisters, p. 83). Between these two women, indeed, tradition has recorded a tie of companionship, if we may assume that Vijayā Then (op. citp. 91) is the bhikkhuni of the Saŋyutta.

[18] The Comy. gives the usual list of instruments (see op. cit., p. 183, n. 4).

[19] See above, IV, 2, Ī 5.

[20] I have modified the rendering given op. cit. p. 184. B. pronounces santā samāpatti, 'the good attainment,' to mean only the eightfold 'worldly attainment' of Jhāna practised for rebirth, and not as an accessory in the quest for Arahantship. The former was 'good' so far as it went. 'Darkness,' as always, is a figure for ignorance. Cf. with the last lines in Ī 6. We have followed S.Z. Aung's views in discarding 'form' in this connection, because of its ambiguity. The belief was that, in the Rūpa heavens there was such sublimated matter as served for vision and hearing, not to speak of locomotion, but in the formless, Arūpa heavens life was of purely mental stuff.

[21] Nor concerning this redoubtable lady has B. aught new to say.

[22] On this tree and its appearance see Pss. of the Brethren, p. 330.

[23] B. does not admit an alternative rendering for dutiya, such as Windisch finds in the Therīgāthā Comy. We do not find there such an alternative, unless, for ekikā va, we read ekikā vā. And we judge that, in ver. 230 of the Sisters' Pss., 'none to companion thee' ... should have been rendered 'no one can rival thee.' ... This does more justice to the literary quality of the verse. It was redundant to add anything as to her want of a chaperone after the word ekā.
We follow Windisch in finding that Māra's fourth line in the text, absent in Therigāthā, is an intrusive errant from Uppalavaṇṇā's reply, where alone it fits, forming the second line. So we omit it. Nevertheless the Comy. accepts the intrusion, with the exegesis: 'Just as thou, come hither, meetest with neither acquaintance nor love, so they too (the sisters alluded to as less fair) would be even as thou art.' This seems a little pointless. It should be 'thou here alone, for all thy beauty, gettest no more credit than a plainer woman.'

[24] On C(h)ālā and her sisters and the discrepant ascriptions in the Canon, see Pss. of the Sisters, 186 f.

[25] Or 'whereof dost thou not approve.' Cf. above, II, 3, Ī 9.

[26] Avuso, used by the Order to all save spiritual superiors, or kings.

[27] '"Some fool" is Māra's suggestion, hence her emphasis on the teaching of the All-wise.' Comy.

[28] 'Made me enter into, or settled me in the True (sacce nivesayi, a very unusual, but vivid phrase). I.e. the Third Truth or Fact of Nibbāna: — the end of sorrow. Comy.

[29] Cf. above, Ī 4. She sees in rebirth so great and fearful a vista as compared with the tempter's limited opening.

[30] Uppajjaii, arise, used for 'be reborn.'

[31] The Yāma or Plutonic gods. On 'King Yama' see 'Devadūta-vagga,' A. i, 138 f.; also M. iii. 178 f.

[32] On these curious features in Buddhist cosmogony we can find as yet no discussion to add to Childers' art: Nimmānarati, a definition given also in Therīgāthā Comy., 169.

[33] Padhūpito. Cf. above, I, 5, Ī 1.

[34] Puthujjana, lit. many-folk, the 'masses' or 'million,' hoi polloi.

[35] Pāsaṇḍa is exegetically derived from 'the snares (pāsā) of opinions thrown over the hearts of men.' Comy.

[36] The Saŋyutta has the singular, the Therīgāthā, the plural.

[37] I.e. 'all [the mystery of the] factors of life and all [the mystery of] rebirth.' Comy.

[38] Bimbaṃ 'applied to the individual organism' (attabhāva). Comy. Windisch renders by Leib, which does not include mind. The whole 5-aggregate person is meant. The same figure occurs in Raṭṭhapāla's and Ānanda's verses: Pss. of the Brethren, ver. 769; 1020, where body and mind are explicitly included.

[39] Agha is as vague as our 'evil,' hence we have taken into account B.'s dukkha-patiṭṭhānattā attabhāvo.

[40] Or condition (hetu); always, in Buddhist philosophy, understood as impersonal.

[41] We have slightly altered here to get closer following of the original. 'Satta,' 'being,' is used for living intelligent creatures in general, including devas. 'All souls' would be perhaps a better rendering, the emphasis in the word being upon a permanent entity held to reside in a perishable frame, the worst of heresies for Buddhism. 'In the ultimate or highest sense,' comments B., 'a "being" is not found (or known).' So Kathāvatthu (Points of Controversy, p. 8, n. 3). Māra was apparently pointing to himself or to Vajirā in 'harping on (paccesi, cf. Dialogues, j, 252, n. 3; lit. 'going back to'). In Theragāthā, ver. 60, Comy., the verb is paralleled by gavesanto, seeking.

[42] The suffering attending the life of the five aggregates. Comy. It is as if Vajirā went on to say: 'If you must have a unity, a unified notion that is perpetually present when the five aggregates are present, take Suffering rather than Satta. There is constancy of being for you, so only you see in that too the threefold pulse of life: — genesis, equilibrium, dying away.

[43] It is a curious accident that verses so famous and quoted in the Canon (Kathā-vatthu) and other works, e.g. Mil. i, 45, and by B. himself, e.g. Visuddhi-magga, ch. xviii, as these should (1) not be incorporated in the Therīgāthā, (2) receive so brief a notice in the Comy., (3) be accompanied by no legend about their author.


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