Imagens das páginas

Our object is not a musical critique, nor indeed a criticism of any kind at all, but simply an analysis and exposition of the thoughts pervading the whole composition. We shall not, of course, attempt to vindicate such performances from the objections advanced by some serious persons, but take for granted their accordance with ancient christian custom,' and their uses when properly conducted.

The first part of the " Elijah" opens in a somewhat remarkable manner by a prophetic recitative, in which occurs the prediction of the three years' famine by the prophet. The solemn brevity of the announcement came with a peculiar emphasis to the assembled thousands, who had so recently joined in a fast and supplication against a threatened famine in the year 1847. All seemed to connect the eventful epoch in the land of Israel, more than two thousand five hundred years ago, with something in the condition of Europe now No prediction from the mouth of a prophet has foretold calamity for tw; but the wisest of England's sons were very recently engaged in reading the si^'iis of the past and coming harvest with many forebodings. To such the chorus,—" The harvest now is over, the summer days are gone," came as a remembrancer of the emotions with which sage heads lately looked on Ireland and other parts of the British isles. These thoughts were doubtless also suggested to the Queen and Prince by the mournful opening of the Oratorio, and must have reminded them of the late national fast, in which monarch, nobles, burghers, and peasants had joined.

At this point the Oratorio has but opened the subject; the prediction of the famine has startled the land of Judah, and a nation is presented deprecating the threatened infliction. But the calamity begius to work: and a huudred bright rills which guihed down Judea's mouutaius, rippled by the gnarled roots of ancient cedars on the slopes of Lebanon.and shed their soft beautyover valleys consecrated by memorials of a holy past,—are all dried up, and desolation is placing her sombre mark on once happy villages. This condition of the land is brought before the audience by recitative chorus, beginning with "Tho deeps afford no water, and the rivers are exhausted." The composition now advances into the narrative, and hints with solemn words and suggestive music, another element in the condition of suffering Israel. Our attention is called from physical to spiritual evils: from the melancholy and woe-stricken cities, in the streets of which the laughing music of childhood's voice is heard no more, to the gloomy groves where stand in ominous splendour the altars of Baal, and the priests of the host of heaven. The planets shed their soft light from their far-off paths on those dark waving trees, and the moonlwams gild, with a pale splendour, the horns of those foliage-veiled altars: but thence rises the plague which now overshadows the land. The sin of idolatry has degraded the people, and called down upon the tribes remedial punishments. This fact is suggested by Mendelssohn in the recitative opening with " Ye people rend your hearts, forsake your idols." The composer has not, however, left the audience to suppose that a tcholc people have lost their ancient faith, and forgotten the marvels of their early history: and, therefore, the voice of gentle hope is heard breathing sweetly in the soft beauty of the air, '• If with all your hearts ye truly seek me." Liko a voice from the watching angels does the promise float aloug over those polluted groves of Baal, the incense of which seems to rise like a pestilential smoke towards heaven. Hut t heso gleams of hope on the horizon, like summer light in the west when night is deepening, are not sufficient to dispel the horrors which rest on Israel's prince and people; the sin is not yet passed away, and, therefore, the calamity spreads. We accordingly next hear the melancholy forebodings of those Jews who saw both the depth of the national degradation, and the necessity

* I ■ The (Miblie •<it\ibitloa of sacred narrative* can be tracvd for a fcritx! of ueaxtv aa«ra huudrvU vcan in (he Christian Church.

of a strange catastrophe to rouse the slumbering element of goodness in the subjects of Ahab. The night '.'. suffering is only beginning; and these emotions & expressed in the chorus—" Yet doth the Lord set v. not." The nice perception of that mingled good ud evil which so constantly complicates the working f society, has been exhibited by Mendelssohn in theonssa of gloomy anticipations with hopes of distant good, with which this chorus closes in the words,—" His mercies on thousands fall."

Thus great painters ever portray men; making thus, not all demon, nor all angel, but a strange admixture cf the two, so that the terrible and the beautiful axe often ia I immediate contact; as in a thunder-storm the lightning i flashes over soft and peaceful valleys, whence the pcr■ fumes of a thousand wild flowers rise. The oratorio id leads the audience first to view Elijah, in his soutai ; by the brook Cherith, where, within sight of trool>!iC Jerusalem, he gazed in deep thoughtfulness on :u slow ripple of the waters as they descended to ik Jordan. But soon the river sinks in its channel, ui the brook becomes a parclied-up hollow. The pror-be: then departs to Zarephath; where, far from the metrcpolis, he may meditate on the glories of the pa*:, ii. transmit to an unknown widow of Asher's tribe, Tosdrous gifts from God. From the silent Jordan to ~melancholy sounding sea the graves are opened; but 2 one lone house of Zarephath the powers of the invi£wt I world are revealed in miracles, like those of olden din. t Such startling contrasts between the vastnex* ofnatiou woe, and tiie happiness of one favoured circle of beiafv no music will ever fully exhibit; but all that a spiri;'^. and high toned art could effect was done by Mendel» ii. in this portiou of his composition, to develop the supernatural grandeur of the subject. The performance now begins to concentrate its> I on the great event which once struck a whole pe :■'.< , with awe, and through long ages displayed the brift:: ncss of the avenger to the startled eyes of idolau^ Elijah is brought before us uttering that sublime challenge to the priests of Baal, which is note, even to the' imagination of the purely intellectual man, a develn;ment of such moral grandeur as beams upon the ari only at intervals of a thousand years. We are a> customed to discourse on the power of truth, aac chaunt forth our " Magna est veritas,ct prevalabit," b-S with all this we are strangers to great contests, iii know little of the granite-like endurance required h accumulating dangers. Elijah calmly summons tbr priests of Baal to a trial of their mission before ti»v own altars. The bold confidence of the prophet wLci gazing upon the woods and mountains of Carmel he utters in the musical harmonies of the oratorio—- -:voke your forest gods and mountain deities."—prtpj.Tr us for the strains of alternate grandeur and beiir which speak alike to ears and hearts. Then follows 1^ magnificent chorus in which the priests of Baal are represented invoking the object of their wide-^nxi superstition. The words " Hear, mighty God; Baa!,»i answer us !" are given with a power which attest* the cosposer's perfect conception of the fierce spirit of fau t icism in those doomed hierophants of an imaginary &<■ The sacred irony, with which Elijah attempted to recall the maddened idolaters to a feeling that all tier trusted in was false, is nobly developed in the radtatire. '" Call him louder, for he is a God." We see the exciter! priests, who had risked their power in one darici; >'•tempt to confront Elijah, whirling in fanatic din.around the aitar, cutting their bodies, and garirj i: intervals into the tranquil sky for the appearance «f lie fire: we hear their wild outcries to the God of the power of the air, as with diminishing hope they sat-' the mountains echo with "Hear and answer, BuJ Mark how the soorner derideth us." But the bf "i of the idolaters is over, and the hush of deer rxpKtation now suspends the breath of ihe host grosped nxz< the steeps of Carmel, as the heaven-comraissionttl fr*

>het, with tho calmness of celestial power, approaches ho altar. The quiet grandeur of such a spectacle is mpressively suggested by the recitative, in which the inserter of eternal tmth to a fallen people is supposed o summon the congregated tribes of his nation to witless the fall of the avenging fire, now about to annilihtc the haughty insolence of a pagan priesthood, 'lie power of the scene is increased at this moment iy the quartett representing the gentle voices of angels, he soft musical whispers of the seraphim floating trough the still air, and suggesting- lofty thoughts of hat sympathy which tho invisible spirits take in the listory of earth.

The subject now changes, and a bold strain of choral nusic brings before us the descending fires, the triumph if the prophet, and of all who had stood in such Krilous times near the storm-beaten banner of the nth. A series of recitatives, airs, and choruses proen? the grandeur of the decisive victory just obtaiued jver the powers of paganism, the arrogant priests of rhieh perish by the indignation of a people whose unlcrstandings and imaginations had been long fast bound in the miseries of darkness and superstition.

We must not be drawn from the narrative of the iratorio by speculations or reasonings on the destruction of Baal's prophets, whose total ruin might be proved absolutely necessary for the highest interests, not only of Israel but of the world. We cannot however refrain from once more surveying these marvellous events as developed in the music of Mendelssohn.

We have here no space for criticism on the technical excellencies of the composition, our object being rather to develop the idea of the oratorio, than exemplify its artistic merits. All must have been impressed by the rare felicity with which the composer illustrated the {Treat and diverse events which on that memorable day struck with terror or amazement the heart of a nation. The despairing agony of the false priests; the sublime confidence of Elijah ; and the sympathy of the glorious v>ho tabernacle round the world, are all displayed to the imagination of the hearer, who is for a time endowed by such music with a species of supernatural vision, by which he pierces the mists of ages, and beholds the distant Israelitish people of a thousand ages past.

The first part closes with the miraculous fall of rain »hich descends on the parched dales, where no lilies of the valley have of late appeared, and sounds most musical amid the myriad leaves of Camel's groves. The gatherin? of the clouds, the heaving of the sea, and the com"lotion of the heavens, rush upon the ear in the nicely adapted music; whilst tho five hundred chorus singers 'usuiin the imagination of each hearer in the "Thanks to to God! he heareth the thirsty land! The waters Sithcr,"' &c. This scene ends in a grand strain of magnificent beauty, disclosing the fallen altars and disgraced temples of Baal, whilst the true and the faithful sons of Israel stand exalted amongst tho repenting crowd.

The second part opens with gloomy forebodings, and remonstrances with the powers of evil, which still rule •lie palaces of Israel. The mighty signs from heaven tave not bowed the heart of Ahab, and already the desire of revenge has fired the vindictive monarch, who mourns over the absent rites of Moloch, and the ruined Worship of Baal. A recitative and chorus, in which the ^retched Jezebel and her flatterers join in execrating i-'ijah, illustrate the perils of tho prophet. This part will recall to the classical scholar the structure of the ancient Greek chorus, in which some speaker utters his thoughts TM a chorus as the representatives of tho nation, and these again in responsive strains re-echo the dark sayings °f the speaker. Thus the chorus in the Elijah sympathize with the pagan queen, and utter, in the words "" oe to him, he shall perish," the full concentration °f the malice with which the demons regard the spirit* of 'lie blessed. Elijah retires from the fury of his

enemies, and almost despairing of the triumph of truth, utters his mournful soliloquy in tho desert. The idea now suggested by the oratorio is this, "Elijah is left to the solitude of the wilderness, man has deserted the prophet, and Israel is even yet willing to restore the prostrate altars of liaal." But the apostle of truth is not alone, the air around utters sounds of life, and reveals unnumbered spiritual intelligences; the souls of ancient prophets and of patriarchs unite with that other host of unknown beings, called angels in human speech, to support the prophet. The beautiful trio, " Lift thine eyes to the mountains whence cometh help," shed a soft influence over the audience, and enriched the imagination with a gently flowing stream of celestial images. This part is well placed in the oratorio, for it precedes the journey of forty days to Mount Horeb, and thus shows the source whence Elijah derived his supernatural strength. To realize this portion of the composition, it is essential to carry our minds far back, through all the tumults and changes of many ages, to a period when supernaluralimn existed visibly before men, and miracles were constantly revealing the mighty powers now resting behind tho machinery of general laws. This mysterious condition of the ancient earth, at least in Judea, is repeatedly forced upon the attention in the "Elijah," where tho spirits of a higher abode are supposed to be brought into constant communication with man. Upheld by such influences the prophet passes to Horeb, the grand supematuralism of which is suggested by the chorus, " Behold, (iod the Lord passed by, and a mighty wind rent the mountains round—and the earth was shaken; but yet tho Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there came a fire, and yet the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire there came a still small voice; and in that still small voice onward came the Lord." The elemental commotion, and the sublime quietude succeeding, whilst the mysterious voice speaks, present a contrast of solemn grandeur and heart-subduing stillness. The majesty of the oratorio rises to the lull height of the sublime, as we remember that such events did really happen at a certain hour of a certain day in Mount Horeb; when, after the Arabian wilds had heard the roar of the rushing tempest, that voice broke on tho ears of a man resting in the entrance of a small cave, with covered face and prostrate form. The quartett, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord," appropriately follows such a manifestation of supermundane power; after which lofty recitatives, airs, and choruses, proclaim tho triumph of the heavens, and the joy of earth.

Mendelssohn then images the final event in Elijah's earthly history, his translation from earth, which the words of a powerful chorus assist our imagination to contemplate as the ascending prophet disappears veiled in brightness. As this closed Elijah's ministry, so does the illustrative chorus terminate the true action of the oratorio. The concluding airs, recitatives, and choruses, do but form a graceful close to the sacred epie, and serve to prolong, in gentle reechoes, the impression already produced.

One decided merit in the composition is its harmony with the spirit and meaning of Elijah's actual history; whilst much that must be imagined to have accompanied such events is suggested with that lofty ideality appropriate to such a theme. To say that all the grandeur surrounding the ministry of Elijah is brought out by Mendelssohn, would be too high praise for human skill to merit; for, on every side of such great facts, numberless images of the Bublime float, which chide all the efforts of tho intellect to give them a distinct and picture-like form. But it may be safely affirmed that the composer has aimed high, and generally succeeded in attaining his object; and higher praise cannot be given to Handel or Haydn, with whom Mendelssohn may justly hope to stand, in the temple which shall be raised by coming ages to the memory of genius. W. D.

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{Author of " Desultory Hours."*)

How brigh is summer oft portrayed iu life's first op'ning

spring, When hope paints prospects lovely, and when, trembling on the

wing, The soul pursues her mystic flight, through manv a dreary maze; Or led, as by a meteor false—a bright, delusive Ida/.e! Keenly the heart will feel the wound, by cherished hopes

undoue!— How quickly clouds will gather o'er the glory of the sun!

Thus 'twas with thee ;—thou didst not look on hopes as passing

shades;—■ Anticipation often culls the flower that soonest fades! When duating on futurity, so beautiful and fair, Thou did^t not think thyself a prey—thy foe was in his lair! — When future bliss enwrapt thy soul, how little didst thou deem Thy happiness a phantom, and thy bliss a passing dream!

How calm the ocean, hushed the wind! when o'er the crisped

wave Thy little barque skimmed gallantly—to bear thee to thy grave! At length, at length, the angry blast of hurricane swept o'er. And here thou an, a wreck, compared to what thouwert before! How distant from thy heart the thought, that so serene a form Should ere be roughened by the wind, or maddened by the storm!

He digs in vain for happiness, who digs in earth's gross mines, Who grasps at tinselled gaudes, forgets " All is not gold that

Mysterious dream! it is not here bliss is allowed to dwell,
Its shadow proves its utmost charm—deception's in the spell!
Sorrow may e:i:-t an angel's shade, we grasp, but grasp in vain,
For unsubstantial joys precede substantial grief and pain!

Yes, such is life; but cease to .weep, although thy heart must feel
The rankling of the barbed shaft, the lancing of the steel.
Fair flowers of bliss which deck our path, how soon they cease

to bloom!
And summer bright is quickly chased by winter's dreary gloom;
And oft, alas! one hour will blast the hopes of many years,
Though buds may promise blooming joys, they often blossom


As children at the mountain's b:ise will often gaze on high,
And fondly deem the skies thus pierced, hide Heaven from the eye,
And climb its steep in hopes to find upon its hidden height
That blissful place, but find it still as distant from their sight,
Thus didst thou innocently gaze, and climb life's giddy steep;—
Thy bliss was all delusion !—thou art left alone to weep!

The garland's withered on thy brow, and from thy cheek is flown
The roseate beautv of thy youth ;—unknowing and unknown!—
The lightning flash from blackest clouds has struck thy beauteous

form, And thy horizon, once so bright, is darkened with a storm! Tim Leanty of the spring is gone, thv summer, too, has fled, Thy winter comes,—he brings thy shroud,—he comes to mourn

thee dead!

The wild caprice of traitor man oft blasts the bloom of youth,—
Oft momentary smiles repay fond woman's love and truth:
Coiled in the honied bower lies hid the viper,—'neath a smile
May lurk the foul design of man—the garb of many a wile!
Though thou didst drink ambrosial drink, yet in the self-same cup
The poisonous aconite was mixed, and thou didst drink it up!

Oh, were I but an angel, and from Heaven could bring thee bliss,
Or bear thee on my wings awav from such a world as this!
If supplication could prevail, thy beauty should return,
And thou shouhlst be that happy bride— the bridal gift's an urn!
For blighted hopes of future bliss are stamped upon thy brow,
And spectres of false joys deride and mock thy bitter woe!

Oh, could I stand upon yon rock, the monarch of liie'i ocean. And throw a calmness o'er its breast, thus still its wild fx&w

tion! And withmv breath disperse the clouds, and bid tlte tempest cent,

And hold the hurricane that sweeps, and change thy stom lo

peace! But, no, alas! it cannot be; time's curtain now most fall, Death comes to end this chequered scene,and spread thy fans*


No. II.—The Patriarch.


Ninety years have passed and gone,

Ninety years have fled,
Since the halmy sun flret shone

On that aged head.
Still he lingers near the spot

Where his kinsmen lie,
As lie would not be forgot

In their company.

"One, two, three," he counts each grave

As he totters hy,
Seeming he would like to crave

Something ere he die.
"One, two,three,—aye, there, beneath

Where those blossoms fall, Let me be alone with death,

Sweet flowers over all."

As a withered oak doth stand

When its glories fade,
Waiting for the woodman's hand,

In Fume forest glade;
All around His branches sere,

Howling in wild glee.
Wanton winds come trooping near,

Yet unmoved is he:

So the busy urchins come

With their merry words; Some to call the old man home,

Some like mocking birds;
In a mimic state they go

Slowly on his path:
Much they marvel he should allow

Neither fear nor wrath.

But lie heeds them not, his heart

Dwells upon the past;
He hath memories apart

That he hopes will last
Till the grave hath closed o'er,

With its shadows dim,
And he hears the sound no more

Of the Sabbath h\ inn.

Sinks the sun in golden state
Slowly in the west,

And the linnet seeks her male
In their leafy nest.

The bell in solemn tone is rung-
Pot h the old man hearP'

Knows he not that warning tongue
Hath a meaning drear?

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In wandering through the "highways and bycways" of history, how curious it is to seek out the springs which sot the world in motion, and to read how the most trivial circumstances have occasioned the subversion of empires, and erected new ones in their stead; in a word, how the most important events frequently came to pass from very inconsiderable causes. A few instances, "'though at random strung," may be interesting.

The story of Semiramis shall be our first instance. How this beautiful heroine, by her charms and her valour, won the heart and crown of Ninus, King of Assyria, history doth tell. Enamoured of his bride, one unlucky morning, he resolved on the pleasure of seeing all Asia subject to the will of one who had possession of his heart: he, therefore, gave her absolute authority for the space of one day, and ordered all his subjects to execute the commands of Semiramis. A wise and prudeut woman would, doubtless, have made use of this frolic to tell Ninus of his faults; not so, however, Semiramis; she consulted her ambition and her cruelty, for as soon as Ninus had placed this power in her hands, she employed it in causing him to be assassinated. The traitors whom she employed for this vile purpose, reported that the king had given up tho reins of the empire to his wife, because he found his end approaching; this the people believed, and readily acknowledged Semiramis as their sovereign. How she used her newly-acquired power by building the city of Babylon, employing two millions of men; how she extended the Assyrian empire by levelling mountains, I turning the course of rivers, and building vast cities; and how she failed in her attempted conquest of India, and was, in consequence, privately put to death by her son Ninias, history doth narrate; we have told enough to prove how a little cause produced a great effect.

Agesilaus, when in the flush of conquest, was one day suddenly seized with the cramp in his left leg, which caused him great pain. "Men thinking that it bad been but blood which filled the vein, a physician being there, opened a vein under the ancle of his foot, but there came such abundance of blood that they could not staunch it, so that he swooned often, and was in danger of present death. In fine, a way was found to stop it, and they carried him to Lacediemon; where he lay sick a long time, so that he was past going to the wars any more, and thus Lacediemon lost her hero.

"In most naval fights," says Sir Thomas Browne, "some notable advantage, error, or unexpected occurrence hath determined the victory. The great fleet of Xerxes was overthrown by the disadvantage of a narrow plain for battle. In the encounter of Uiulius, the Roman, with the Carthaginian fleet, a new invention of the iron corvi, (beaks to the ships,) made a decision of the battle on the Roman side. The unexpected falling off of the galleys of Cleopatra lost the battle of Actium. Even in the battle of Lcpanto, if Caracoza had given the Turks orders not to narrow on account of the number of the Christian galleys, they had in all probability, declined the adventure of a battle; and even when they came to fight the unknown force, an advantage of the eight Venetian galliasses gave the main stroke unto the victory."

Archimedes, we know, set fire to the ships of Marccllus at a considerable distance, by burning-glasses; and this philosopher, who had offered to move the world with a lever, was taken off in a very unseemly manner; for he was killed by a soldier who knew him not, while intent upon some geometrical figures, which he had drawn upon (he sand.

Rome, in its foundation by the twin-brothers, Romulus and Remus, saved from the torrent of the Tiber; and the preservation of the capitol by the cackling of gee30, are examples of great effects from little causes,

too familiar to need quotation in detail. The found ing of Carthage by Dido, is a kindred event; for the canning colonist, to escape the cruelty of ller brother Pygmalion, put her goods and chattels on board ship, and sailed in quest of a new settlement; having landed , on the African coast. Dido is said to hive bought from the natives as much ground as she could encomjawith a bull's skin. In this transaction she evinwl both ingenuity and mathematical skill, for she not Oil'; cut the skin into very small thongs, but, afLer joinias them, laid them in the form of a circle, a figure whu-i encloses the largest space by the smallest bounding line. On that ground she built Carthage, one of tk most celebrated cities of antiquity. The latter pan f this account has been disputed, but it has often bees quoted as authentic history.

The fall of Lucretia was the cause of the expulsi>a of the kings from Rome, and the change of Uk monarchy into a republic; and the licentious pass of one of the Decemviri, (Appius Claudius.) led to ths abolition of the Decemvirate, as is told in the touchia; story of Virginius and his daughter.

The conspiracy of Catiline was defeated through :b disgust of Fulvia with her lover,Curtius, when he oca!! no longer heap presents upon her. Curtius, who wis one of the conspirators, had "in moments of eoaidence," told the plot to Fulvia, who spread it abroad; it soon reached the ears of Cicero, who discovered it the Senate: Catiline fled from Rome, and took i: arms; he was pursued; overtaken; a battle ensued, i which he was killed, and thus Rome was saved bf ti> betrayal of a woman's secret, from one of the mopowerful combinations ever formed for the overtaro of the Roman state. The ugliness of another Fuiva was the cause of a civil war between Anthony it-! Octaviu*; for Octavius rejecting the suit of Fulvia, at! declaring that her ugliness terrified him more that death, the indignant woman led the Roman soldieragainst him, and set the two Triumviri fighting.

Titus Antoninus was raised to the throne of tit Ctesars through his affection for his father. The eiperor Adrian one day saw Titus leading the infirm a!■! man to the Senate; he instantly adopted him. and »fe the death of Adrian, Titus ascended the imperial tbroc

Commodus, another emperor, of a very drffsrti: stamp, was killed through a child playing with a pa?-.: which he had found in the emperor's chamber; tfe little boy had been reared in the palace, had fr.Uovr-i Commodus into his apartment, and staying there if!-: his departure, took up the paper, and went out of d«:-playing with it as he walked through the street; tk child was met by a woman, who, takin? the doouiL-i: out of his hand, found it to be the sentence for herns death, as well as some other persons; they togfii-: saved their own lives by first poisoning, and tfes strangling the imperial tyrant.

Bclisarius, one of the greatest captains in historr after having conquered the Persians, and ubd'x<: Africa and Italy, was deprived of all his honour*i£-i dignities for having very properly reproached !-■ worthless wife. She being a confidant* of the empre* persuaded the latter to get up a charge of revolt igs!iBelisarins, and then instigated Justinian to conftsctt the soldier's estate and goods, and degrade him. "Befet Belwarius's disgrace," says the account, somewij: naively, "every person thought it an honour to he ii his company; but, after his misfortune, none dared' speak to him, compassionate him, or even mention Iu name. True friends are rarely met with among lie great."

Placidia, the mother of Valentinian III., Emperor >. the West, brought up her daughter, Honori*. so severely, that the young princess, who was a fomre vixen, to get rid of the maternal restraint, wrx>'.e i letter to Attila, King of the Huns, offering him be hand, and as a pledge of her faith, sent him half » nncAttila, who only wanted a pretext for ravaging ti*

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