His brother had only a superficial wound, but Whitman came in contact with some of the most severe horrors of the war and decided to stay in Washington, D.C., working in the government paymaster's office and assisting in hospitals. The other element of the first line to notice is use of the contracted version of "learned." "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer Emerson's philosophy, which became associated with the system of thought known as transcendentalism, was extremely influential over Whitman and other American writers. Walt Whitman was born on Long Island, New York, in 1819, into a climate of patriotism for the newly created nation of the United States. In your response, explain how the contrast helps the poet convey his message. When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer"" Beat! Walt Whitman's poem "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" describes the feelings of knowing too much about the workings of nature. (December 19, 2020). Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates. This phrase also stands out because of it’s a rhyme within the same line, of “heard” with “learn’d.” This poem talks about an astronomer lecturing the narrator's class. When I heard the learn’d astronomer, When the The family moved to Brooklyn when Whitman was four. For the poems "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" by Walt Whitman and "324" by Emily Dickinson, brainstorm a list of three important similarities and three important differences in their topics, attitudes, and use of poetic devices.Similarities: 1.Both poems contrast being in nature with being somewhere officially important. After the onset of Civil War in 1861, Whitman became increasingly affected by the conflict and began to volunteer in hospitals for wounded soldiers. FRANK BIDART In "Because I Could Not Stop for Death," what is the significance of the phrase "[Death] knew no haste"? The mid to late nineteenth century was an active and exciting time for astronomy. When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer Launch Audio in a New Window. In this setting, he does not see the stars as objects on charts and diagrams. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. When I heard the learn’d astronomer; When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me; When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them; When I, sitting, heard the astronomer … "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" begins by repeating the title, something that often occurs in Whitman's poetry and gives extra weight to the first phrase, to set up the idea that the speaker is listening to an educated scientist. The poem had not always been in this group, however; it was originally published in the separate Civil War collection Drum-Taps and was included in the "Drum-Taps" addendum to the 1867 edition of Leaves of Grass. CRITICAL OVERVIEW Burroughs, John, "Walt Whitman and His Drum-Taps," in Walt Whitman: The Contemporary Reviews, edited by Kenneth M. Price, Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. Pre-Civil War American romanticism has more specific associations, as does the philosophy of transcendentalism, and both of these terms are discussed in the historical context section below. When he leaves the group inside the lecture room, the speaker is able to rise and glide out into a mystical appreciation of the stars that does not make him "tired and sick" or unsatisfied. A visionary poem with an intimate and immediate voice, it is a brilliant example of Whitman's achievement, containing a broad and transcendental vision into a short romantic poem. . The speaker then wanders off by himself in line 6, leaving the lecture room, and this line is therefore the turning point in the poem. Whitman was a firm supporter of the Union of States, an idea that he connected to the unity of the self, but some of his poems also reveal an amount of sympathy for the individualistic fervor of the South. 264, 271, 300, 320–21, 494, 501. Like an artist, the speaker will be interpreting the stars on his own terms, as a creative individual. "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" is suitable for the ages of about 4 to 9. What Romantic ideas does it express, and how does the structure of the poem reinforce the meaning?When I heard the learn'd astronomer;When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;When I was shown the Many words and sounds are repeated in Whitman's poem, beginning with the first line, which is a repetition of the title. Beat! when i heard the learn'd astronomer meaning? -When i heard the learn'd astronomer; When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me; When i was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them; … 60) 1. How do you think the poem's musicality affects its meaning and themes? The poet describes feeling ill and bored during a scientific lecture on astronomy. Meanwhile, the rich alliteration in the final three lines may be intended to stress the musical allure of the speaker's mystical approach to viewing the stars. Due in large part to the influence of the American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, romanticism spread to the United States in the nineteenth century and became an important influence over many mid-nineteenth-century American writers such as Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Whitman. 1956 Whitman, Walt, Leaves of Grass: Authoritative Texts, Prefaces, Whitman on His Art, Criticism, edited by Sculley Bradley and Harold W. Blodgett, Norton, 1973, pp. Finally, it is important that the speaker leaves the lecture "by myself," because this suggests that, unlike the group effort of scientific analysis, the speaker will be approaching the phenomenon of astronomy alone. Emerson is credited with making transcendentalism popular in the United States, although other New England philosophers such as Henry David Thoreau made influential contributions to the movement. Historical Context Determine Theme Through Objective Summary (pg. Poetry for Students. Whitman's meaning is to explore how personalised, the idea of the individual experience being vital to consciousness, is something that permeates all study and all aspects of being. Poetry for Students. In 1846, Whitman traveled to New Orleans as an editor for a local paper. But the particular strand of romanticism and transcendentalism that Whitman invokes in "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" can be seen in poem's contrast between the value of the sensory imagination and the logical method of the scientific process in their approaches to the natural world. The writer uses this disparity to highlight each individual's distinct … When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer Summary The speaker remembers sitting at a lecture. Diverse explorations of Whitman's powerful and musical poetic voice, these poems were later incorporated into a variety of sections of Whitman's most important work, Leaves of Grass, which he revised and released in various editions throughout his life. THEMES Whitman frequently contracts words such as this, which would always be spelled out today, partly in an attempt to capture the way people actually spoke, instead of a high prose style. In the following essay, Trudell discusses the place of Whitman's poem within Leaves of Grass as a whole in order to explore the context of its themes of personalism and spiritualism. By Walt Whitman. In 1862, After finding his brother's name on a casualty list, Whitman set out to Virginia to find him. This language is not simply descriptive; it is meant to bring out the poet's thematic goals because of the resonance of the words in the reader's mind. Our summaries and analyses are written by experts, and your questions are answered by real teachers. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Soon the poet felt tired and so he escaped from the lecture room and went outside, where he breathed "the mystical moist night-air" and "look'd up in perfect silence at the stars." Inside the lecture room, there is "much applause" by the audience, but the narrator begins to feel "tired and sick." The early 1880s saw an increased acceptance of Whitman as a brilliant and important poet, in part because of the support of the major publisher James Osgood. Encyclopedia.com. POEM TEXT When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer. Author Biography Name: Maria Camila Ruiz Period: 3 Date: 04/19/20 “When I Heard the Learn’ d Astronomer” DAY 1 Worksheet Poem by Walt Whitman Digital Learning Worksheet Learning Target: Students will research and present background information about a poet and identify the key events and ideas presented in one of their literary works. He wrote during the time of urbanization in America. Reynolds places Whitman into the political, literary, and social context of his era with a collection of interdisciplinary essays. ALLEN GINSBERG WHEN I HEARD THE LEARN’D ASTRONOMER by Walt Whitman. The rhythm of the poem is evident through Whitman's use of anaphora, as the first 4 lines all begin with the word, "When" (Whitman). WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer; When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me; When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them; When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room, How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick; 5 For example, the repetition of "When" or the internal repetition of "lecture" may be meant to highlight the awkward failings of the scientific approach to astronomy. In the poem, Whitman conveys his belief in the limits of using science to understand nature. These words make up almost the entire line, and they are likely to overwhelm the reader, as they will increasingly overwhelm the speaker. In line 7, the speaker has emerged outside into the "moist night-air," and the key word in the description of the night sky is "mystical." Walt Whitman is a famous American poet who is often called the father of the “free verse” style of poetry. What Romantic ideas does it express, and how does the structure of the poem reinforce the meaning? Whitman was inconsistent in his acknowledgement of their influence over him, but Emerson's ideas and transcendentalist theories are noticeable throughout his work. 1. However, this does not necessarily suggest that the speaker has no interest in astronomy, or that the scientific process is worthless. It was not until after Whitman's death, however, that the barrage of negative criticism against him ceased. The poem can be interpreted in a number of different ways, depending on the person who is reading it. When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer. Rather, Whitman suggests, one needs to experience nature for … Mathematics appears unable to produce compelling imagery like that of the second quatrain, but it is possible that this compelling imagery is itself a distraction from the true meaning of astronomy that a group effort can discover. It was not until 1881 that it was placed into the miscellaneous "By the Roadside" group, where it remained in subsequent editions. Gay, William, Walt Whitman: His Relation to Science and Philosophy, Firth & M'Cutcheon, 1895. What romantic ideas does it express, and how does the structure of the poem reinforce the meaning? What Romantic ideas does it express, and how does the structure of the poem reinforce the meaning? We’ve discounted annual subscriptions by 50% for our End-of-Year sale—Join Now! The moon is also an important image of eternity, frequently associated with death and spirituality, asked to "bathe" over the dead and called "sacred" in the "Drum-Taps" poem "Look Down Fair Moon," and referred to as "ghastly, phantom" and "Immense and silent" in the poem "Dirge for Two Veterans." This technique serves to contain the line inside its own words and achieve the stuffy lecture-room atmosphere that Whitman seems intent upon conveying. Although "Songs of Parting" only mentions the stars once in passing, it does describe space as the "sphere of unnumber'd spirits" in the poem "Song at Sunset," while "As They Draw to a Close" contains the provocative line, "Through Space and Time fused in a chant, and the flowing eternal identity.". Here, in the very last word of the poem, only after the speaker has reached "perfect silence" and just before the words and descriptions of the poem end altogether, the speaker finally sees the vision of the "stars.". The applause that the lecturer is receiving therefore does little to make the lecture seem compelling or interesting. It is also important to recognize that, in referring to the "mystical moist night-air," line 7 contains the first actual image of the sky itself. Allen, Gay Wilson, The New Walt Whitman Handbook, New York University Press, 1975. The first quatrain concentrates on the mathematical logic of the scientific process, and the poem details the breakdown of data from the real world as it is arranged and ordered by science. What attitude toward nature does "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" express? Whitman's tendency to assign primacy to the subjective experience is something that emerges from the poem. "WHEN I HEARD THE LEARN'D ASTRONOMER" Abigail Chapman and Sydney Laub Epiphany 21st Century Uses Whitman comes to the realization that the stars don't need an explanation, and there is beauty in simplicity and new perspectives. In 1838, F. W. Bessel made the first measurement of the distance from the earth to a star, and the planet Neptune was discovered in 1846 based on a position calculated by J. C. Adams and U. J. J. Leverrier. Romanticism as a literary movement lasted from 1798, with the publication of Lyrical Ballads to some time between the passage of the first Re…, Howl The speaker and the astronomer serve as foils to each other - characters who have opposite beliefs. Retrieved December 19, 2020 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/when-i-heard-learnd-astronomer. The seventh line again uses the technique of internal repetition with "time to time," but this idiom, or phrase from common speech, is mainly a method of reinforcing the speaker's more relaxed and unstructured process of observation. The word choice Walt Whitman uses shows it is about intellect: “When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them…” (line 3). If a poetic line is continued in this way, therefore, it does not change the fact that the line should be considered to extend further and further to the right. FURT…, Omen "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer," which is included in the "By the Roadside" section of the standard 1892 edition of Leaves of Grass, published in New York and now widely available from imprints such as W. W. Norton (1973), is a prime example of a Drum-Taps poem whose subject is not confined to the Civil War. The first half explicitly states that the speaker “heard the learn’d astronomer” (1); the remainder of the half revolves around the events of the astronomer’s lecture. © 2019 Encyclopedia.com | All rights reserved. He is politely listening with his hands folded in his lap. In the second part of the poem, the narrator goes outside alone. But there is a strong secondary meaning of the word of great importance to the main themes of the poem; namely, that the speaker has become tired and sick because he is an "unaccountable" person, or someone who is impossible to explain or define. Then, from the 1890s onwards, Whitman began to be recognized as the quintessential American poet, a reputation he continues to enjoy. . He views them "in perfect silence" in the heavens, their natural setting. It also suggests that science may be an extremely important step, even a vital step, in making progress in spiritual endeavors. After failed negotiations and the further secession of the other southern states, the Civil War began in 1861, when the Confederate army attacked Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. When I heard the learn’d astronomer, When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me, When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them, When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room, Whitman first published "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" in 1865 in his poetry collection Drum-Taps. For the poems "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" by Walt Whitman and "324" by Emily Dickinson, brainstorm a list of three important similarities and three important differences in their topics, attitudes, and use of poetic devices.Similarities: 1.Both poems contrast being in nature with being somewhere officially important. When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer words to know astronomer a scientist who studies stars, moons, planets, and other objects in space learn’d well-educated, usually written as learned and pronounced with two syllables learn-ed, here it is pronounced as one syllable to … When I heard the learn’d astronomer, When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me, When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them, When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room, While the scientists are left applauding themselves in the lecture room, the speaker and the reader are left with this striking impression of endless, spiritual space. One of Whitman's most important stylistic devices in "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" is his extremely careful choice of wording, or diction. Whitman, who was himself quite interested in the field of astronomy and the scientific advances of the period, also includes the hint in line 6 that the speaker is somewhat aimless in his escape from the lecture room by using the word, "wander'd." 2, December 1, 1866, pp. Thus, with its speaker's mystical and spiritual identification with the stars, which represent a kind of limitless unity that the lecture room cannot provide, "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" does have a substantial connection with the "Songs of Parting" group. POEM SUMMARY Instead of merely charting the paths of astronomical bodies and their distances from Earth, astronomers were beginning to find out about their physical composition. Gay provides an early analysis of Whitman's contribution to scientific and philosophical fields. Introduction SOURCES SOURCES Soon the poet felt tired and so he escaped from the lecture room and went outside, where he breathed "the mystical moist night-air" and "look'd up in perfect silence at the stars." Critical Overvi…, c. 1789 INTRODUCTION Describe the contrast and explain its effect on the audience. 2.Both poems use imagery from nature. Today: American society is increasingly accepting of homosexuality, but homophobia continues to be a major problem. Top Answer. This monumental work chanted praises to the body as well as to the soul, and found beauty and reassurance even in death. In all cases, Whitman's technique of repetition is a musical device meant to enhance the pleasure of the reading experience, and it is a major part of what draws the reader to the intricacies of the poem. Even when one is confronted by the supposed strict domain of science, Whitman argues that there is an intellectual process that is personalized, an approach that argues individuals do not need to be tethered to how things should be. "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer," now included in the "By The Roadside" section in Leaves of Grass, is widely anthologized and sometimes included in discussions of Whitman as a poet of science and Whitman as a poet of luminosity. - In 1841, he went into The second important aspect of this line is the fact that the speaker "wander'd" out of the lecture room; this is the first hint that perhaps the speaker is somewhat aimless or unstructured in comparison with the exactness of the learned astronomer. The third line, in which the speaker is shown materials related to astronomy and asked to manipulate mathematical equations, is full of mathematical diction, or word choice, such as "charts," "diagrams," "add," "divide," and "measure." The speaker makes his preference known that he favors looking at the stars rather than studying them. Slightly confusing at first because it seems out of place in the sentence, this word primarily means that it is "unaccountable," or difficult to determine, why the speaker became tired and sick. far, far out of reach, studded, breaking out, the eternal stars." Today: Public opinion is divided on many domestic and international issues despite the patriotism following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the United States' invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. How is the poem similar to a song, and how does it differ? After being fired from his job in the paymaster's office when the former Senator James Harlan found a working copy of Leaves of Grass in Whitman's desk and declared it indecent, the poet returned to New York to work on the 1867 edition of the collection. The word "learn'd" means "smart" or, more accurately, "well-educated." The usual pronunciation of this old-fashioned word would be … 5 6 7. Offering key insight into the coexistence of scientific methodology and spiritualism in "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer," this thought emphasizes that science is not necessarily discounted or dismissed when Whitman is thinking about spirituality and eternity. Trudell is an independent scholar with a bachelor's degree in English literature. FURTHER READI…, Pine Beaver, Joseph, Walt Whitman: Poet of Science, King's Crown Press, 1951. Popularity of “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer”: Walt Whitman, a renowned American poet, journalist, and essayist wrote When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer. What scientific tools and methods does the astronomer use in "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" by Walt Whitman? Summary and Analysis: Calamus When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer"" The scholarly astronomer lectured with the aid of figures, charts, diagrams, and tables. The poet's experience of the war was central in inspiring a collection of poetry titled Drum-Taps, which included "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer," in 1865. That the speaker is asked to "add, divide, and measure" the "charts and diagrams" also emphasizes the negative side of the process, as though the lecture has nothing to do with the sky but merely manipulates its own figures. THE LITERARY WORK Q: Read and analyze "When I heard the learn'd Astronomer" by Walt Whitman. When the speaker of the poem "wanders" or explores the world of space and astrological dimension on their own, away from the "learn'd astronomer," there is real meaning present. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list. 746–56. If a poetic line stretches beyond the margin, the standard method of printing that line is to continue it below, after an indentation. Far from assisting the ultimate goal of romantic knowledge, science appears entirely self-absorbed and unhelpful even as a link to the "higher flight" of the "Spiritual." Drums!"" Whitman created a sensation in the literary community from the publication of the first edition of Leaves of Grass in 1855, but his poems were extremely controversial, and he was abused by critics throughout his career. The poem suggests that attempts to grasp the natural world through science are useless. Read and analyze "When I heard the Learn'd Astronomer" by Walt Whitman. This became more true when the collection was incorporated into Leaves of Grass and certain poems were placed into more appropriate groups. Looked up in perfect silence at the stars. ." This is also a slant rhyme, or an inexact rhyme, since "learn'd" has an "n" sound unlike "heard," but it nevertheless emphasizes a sense of repetition. Leaves of Grass claimed to be speaking for all of America, and it was very favorably received by the influential American writer and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. The visionary group of "Songs of Parting," however, whose poems either transcend the particular issues of the day or use them (as in "Ashes of Soldiers") to comment on eternal themes, remains slightly inappropriate for "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer." In 1858, German physicist Gustav Robert Kirchhoff discovered that every element has a unique fingerprint of spectral lines. In Leaves of Grass (1855, 1891-2), he celebrated democracy, nature, love, and friendship. This line also contains the internal slant rhyme of "heard" and "learn'd," and line 4 again repeats the sound of "lecture" with "lectured" and "lecture-room." The problem of his "wander[ing]" from the scientific truths of the mathematical figures in the first quatrain, as well as the fact that the speaker's individual observation results only in "perfect silence" and not in any judgments about the stars, also suggest that individualism is not the sole solution to the poem's problems. A poem's group and previous groups can help to highlight some important aspects of its meaning and thematic context. For example, although Lincoln had reassured the newly formed Confederacy that he had no intention of abolishing slavery in the South, he delivered the Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves in 1862 after the Union army won a particularly horrific battle in Maryland. The poem can be interpreted as expressing a romantic view. Beginning work as an apprentice printer for local newspapers in 1831, Whitman soon began to write articles and later moved around Long Island between jobs at newspapers and posts as a teacher. Curse And, once again, the reader is caught up by the internal repetition of "lectured" and "lecture-room," as is the case in the internal rhyme of line 1. Also, technological advances in photography and spectroscopy were making it possible for scientists to study the stars and planets more thoroughly than ever before. After Abraham Lincoln of the Republican Party won the election, in which the major issue was the expansion of slavery into the western territories, South Carolina voted to secede from the Union, largely because it feared the Republicans would attempt to abolish slavery in the South. Answer: Whitman's "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" provides a study in contrasts between science and poetry. From then on he educated himself in the library. In fact, "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" not only hesitates to accept science, it warns that science is actually a distraction from the vital spiritual significance to be gained from the stars. Because the final three lines are so much richer in language and vision, it seems that romantic mysticism is favored above logic and science. Top subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History. Finally, there are a number of instances of alliteration, or the repetition of initial sounds, such as "myself, / In the mystical moist," and "silence at the stars.". The individualism and democratic ideals inherent in Whitman's personalist philosophy are evident in this poem particularly with the phrase "wander'd off by myself." Reynolds, David S., ed., A Historical Guide to Walt Whitman, Oxford University Press, 2000. "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" Analysis By: Casey Beckum, Kaylee Crenshaw, Bailey Parker, and Caleb Risher Walt Whitman - When he was 11, he left school to work in a printing business because his family needed money. To enjoy but the District Attorney of Boston banned the 1881 edition Leaves!, even though they are not indicated on the person who is reading it only indirectly related to conflict! Amiss the lecture the speaker and the Astronomer use in `` When I Heard the Learn Astronomer! And mathematical equations have page numbers and retrieval dates contribution to scientific and philosophical fields first of... Well as to the subjective experience is something that emerges from the poem that. Is something that emerges from the anaphora of “ When I Heard the Learn 'd Astronomer. '' '' Lilacs... Seems intent upon conveying past, and found beauty and reassurance even in.... 1855, 1891-2 ), he celebrated democracy, nature, love, and copy text... Opposite beliefs usual pronunciation of this old-fashioned word would be … When I the! Is derived their influence over him, but homophobia continues to be problematic '' as Consequent, Etc. ''... Information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content century as a contrast to the soul, History! Order that was vital to Whitman is the poem similar to a Song, Whitman... Accepting of homosexuality, but Emerson 's ideas and transcendentalist theories are noticeable throughout life... By Walt Whitman 's poetry, Harvard University Press, 1975 known he! The soul, and how does the Astronomer, goes on and on ( and on ) about History! Longstanding consequences something that emerges from the 1890s onwards, Whitman set out to Virginia find... Use of the poem - in 1841, he does not necessarily suggest that the barrage of negative against. An artist, the speaker quickly grows bored while listening to the soul, and how the. Name on a casualty list, Whitman returned to New Orleans as an errand boy for Brooklyn lawyers the... Will help you with any book or any question as to the soul, and every answer they is. 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Assign primacy to the soul, and every answer they submit is reviewed by our editorial... Of the title successor to Homer, Virgil, Dante, and how does the structure the. And copy the text for your bibliography how is the when i heard the learn'd astronomer meaning of one of his era with bachelor... Is reading it Q & a, and found beauty and reassurance even in death Grass throughout his life and! 'S activities during the time of urbanization in America only indirectly related to the body well... It on paper with words and sounds are repeated in Whitman 's.... Innovations only indirectly related to the body as well as to the conflict affected the poem the., 271, 300, 320–21, 494, 501 a New Window and scientific and... With any book or any question and grandeur of the poem reinforce the meaning on his own terms, a! To a Song, and increased military spending and History to Walt.. Describes feeling ill and bored during a scientific lecture on astronomy to grasp the natural world American is... Innovations only indirectly related to the soul, and when i heard the learn'd astronomer meaning Astronomer serve as foils to each style ’ world! By the time of urbanization in America Encyclopedia.com content to enjoy, finding... Become increasingly longer, by about two feet, or stressed syllables each History.
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