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No. V. (Cont.) – On the Celtic Kingdom of Strath-Cluyd, called the Regnum Cambrense, in SCOTLAND, 1st August, 1816, pp.577-583.

[Scottish Antiquities Contents]

“Antiquam exquirite matrem.”

[“Seek out your ancient mother.”]

   Respectfully inscribed to Gen. ALEXANDER DIROM, of Mount Annan.

   SUCH were the outlines of this Cambrian kingdom, during the period of its recent existence: but these boundaries were shortly after contracted by the irruption of the eastern Angles, who, after a series of conflicts, took possession of the extremities of Northumberland and the Merse, as far as that grand artificial boundary denominated the Catrail, in Roxburghshire. Catrail, in the ancient British language, distinctly indicates its origin and use, viz. a partition, a frontier barrier, an outwork. This vast work is called by the country people, the Peychts’ wark, or the Peychts’ ditch. It consists of a fosse, and double rampart, thrown up on each side from the excavation, to the height of ten or twelve feet, though the greater part of it is now obliterated by recent improvements. The whole extent of this border fortification was not less than fifty miles, from its termination at Galashiels in Selkirkshire, to its opposite extremity, on the Peel-fell mountains in Northumberland.1 

   The earliest accounts that we have of this ancient kingdom is in Adomnan’s “Vita Columbæ,” written in the year 697, wherein is mentioned “a prophecy of the holy man, concerning Roderc the son of Totail, king of Cumbria, who reigned at Petra-Cloithe,” or the rock of Clyde;2 and which is as follows:- “Roderc being a friend of the holy man, (Columba,) sent a secret message to him, by Lugbeus Mocumin, to enquire whether should be slain in battle or not. Lugbeus being questioned by the saint concerning the king, answered, he shall not be slain by his enemies, shall die in his bed upon his own pillow; which prophecy was duly fulfilled, for the king died a natural death, and in his own house.” The next of these kings of whom any mention is made, was Cawnus, or, as others call him, Navus, and which, according to the Welsh triads, is only a different designation for Aneurin chief of bards, who was invested with regal authority prior to the fatal day of Cattreath.3 Whoever he was, whether Aneurin or Navus, he was succeeded by his son, another poetical regent, “Prince Hoel, of immortal name.”4 Hoel ascended the throne of his ancestors at the memorable epoch of Prince Arthur’s inauguration into the mysteries of chivalry; but, unable to cope with such an intrepid warrior, he fled before him in into the regions of Mona, and was cruelly sacrificed, amid the tears and lamentations of his followers and relations.5 Arthur having established himself in the supremacy of Cumbria, was resolved to outshine the regal splendour of the former kings of Strath-Cluyd. For this purpose, he assembled the renowned warriors of the land, invested them with the orders of knighthood, and established the most celebrated court of chivalry at that era in Christendom, under the name of the Round Table. One of these important establishments took place at Carleile, in the south, and another at Alcluyd, denominated Castrum Arthuri, in the north-west corner of his kingdom.6 The holding of a round table was the popular appellation for the proclaiming of a great tournament, and on that account was not altogether peculiar to the reign of King Arthur, but common to every age chivalry in Christendom.7 Arthur with his valiant associates, pursued beyond Lochlomond the Picts who had dared to invade his newly-acquired possessions. He governed his people with great zeal and affection, till he was mortally wounded in the fatal battle of Camlan, A.D. 542, after he had reigned on the throne of Cumbria for the space of thirty-four years.8 Arthur was succeeded by Mearken, the enemy of Mungo, the venerable (now sainted) bishop and founder of the Episcopal See of Glasgow. He had the sacrilegious effrontery to raise his foot against the meek and unoffending father, for which he died a premature and grievous death, at the royal Palace of Thorp-Morken.9 After the death of Mearken a contest for the supremacy of the government took place among the Cumbrian chieftains, which left Rydderech the Generous in the possession of the kingdom. One of the principal acts of this munificent sovereign was the recall and final settlement of St Kentigern in his infant See. Of this king Rederic, or Roderc, we have an authentic account in St Adamnan’s life of Columba, who relates, that he was the son of Tothail, and a particular friend of that eminent patriarch, and that he reigned in the sixth century at Dunbretton, apud Petram Cloythe.10 Such were the principal events which occupied this momentous period, from the death of Arthur, in 542, till the battle of Arderyth, in 577 – a space of thirty-five years. The British triads reprobate the idea of this skirmish being the decisive battle of the Strath-Cluyd supremacy.11 Certain it is, however, that a battle was fought at this place, but from what cause is quite uncertain. Rydderech, the king of Strath-Cluyd, defeated Aidan of Kintire on the heights of Arderyth, who is stigmatised by Merlin, the Caledonian bard, as Acddyn Frawdag, the perfidious Aidan. Merlin was one of the champions at this conflict; and though his was the envied honour of wearing the golden torques in that decisive day, yet he had the misfortune, though undesignedly, of slaughtering his own sister’s son, and of witnessing the fall of Gwenddoleu, his lord and patron,12 on that bloody field, the sepulchre of thousands.” Merlin, tho’ a retainer of the perfidious Gwenddoleu, was highly favoured by the generous Rederch, whom he has celebrated in his “Avallenau,” under the distinguishing title of “Rhydderch Hael Rhwyviadur ffydd” – “Rhydderch the Liberal, the champion of the Christian faith.”13 

   The disturbances on the borders have frequently arisen from the most trifling circumstances; yet these disturbances, once begun, were fostered and nourished with increasing animosity, till both nations were frequently involved in the general calamity. 

   “In a Welsh chronicle, of an old date, mention is made of a battle fought at Arderydd, probably Arthuret, upon the borders of Scotland, between Aidan Uradwg, or the Treacherous, and Guendelous, British princes in the north of England, on the one side; and Reiderck Hoel, Prince of Cumbria, on the other, upon no more important a quarrel than a lark’s nest and two dogs. Gwendelous fell in the bloody conflict, and Aidan was obliged to fly to the isle of Man.” 

Guthrie’s Hist. of England, &c.    

   This celebrated battle was fought in the year 593, at Arthuret, on the confines of Scotland, and was fatal to the grand mystic fabric of Druidism and bardic lore. Merlin of Caledonia commanded the right wing of the enemy in this memorable conflict. He had the honour of wearing the golden insignia, the sacred torques, on this occasion, and appears to have been a brave and magnanimous hero. 

Vide Davies’s Celtic Res. Druids, &c. Welsh Archæology, II. 

Saxon Chron. and Cambrian Register, v. II. p. 813. 

   “That there was a celebrated northern prince in the sixth century, known by the name of Gwenddoleu, and literally opposed to Rhydderch, prince of Strath-Cluyd, in the battle Arderydd, I will not take upon me to deny.” 

Brit. Druids, 464.    

   This Gwenddoleu, the wearer of the golden yoke, according to the triads, resided on the northern confines of the Strath-Cluyd Britons, in the country of Cunningham and Kyle. Aidan the Perfidious, whom he joined in this battle, was a prince of Deira and Bernicia – the Saxons of Northumberland and Yorkshire. 

   Merddyn, or Merlin, of Caledonia, styled by the traids “supreme judge of the north,” that is, of the regions beyond the little kingdom of Strath-Cluyd, and the lyw or diviner of every region; and, in virtue of his high office, he was styled “Ierddglud Clyd Lliant,” chief bard on the waters of Clyde; and a personage of the first eminence and respectability, both as a prophet and a warrior. He resided at Lanerch, his romantic retreat, till the period of his madness, when he roamed unconsciously through the forests of Caledonia, talking perpetually of the beauty of his Avallenaus, (apple-trees,) and making the desarts re-echo with his song. His grave is still pointed out at Drum-ezlar pia, or Drumelyer, the ridge of birches, on the banks of the Tweed, a place of great note in the ancient kingdom of Strath-Cluyd. 

Vide Cyvoisei, I. II. and IV. 

   Merlin must have been one of the princes of the people, as it was only permitted them to wear gold chains; for the kings and princes of the Cumrii were distinguished from the sovereigns of all other nations in their wearing golden circles round their brows, formed of chains or bands, in place of coronets or crowns. 

Giraldus Cambrensis, II. p. 261.    

   The battle of Arderydd – from the Avallenaus of Merlin:- 

   “We rushed to the battle of Ardeyrdd, armed with long swords and spears – I wore the gold torque (or collar) in the awful conflict – Many fell by my hand – but alas! my beloved Gwenddoleu is no more! – My sweet Avallenaus, surrounded by my native Caledonian woods – in vain shall your fruit be sought on the banks of the dark rolling stream, till the chiefs of the Britons shall rush forth, opposing the tumult of the Saxons. Then the Cumrii shall prevail, – her cause shall arise – Britons shall rejoice, – and peace and serenity descend on the dwellings of Commerce!” 

Davies’ Bret. Druids, p. 350.    

   Meantime Aidan, king of the Scoto-Irish tribes, confederated with Malgon, the Cuinbrian prince, against the Saxons, and defeated them with a great slaughter at Ferth, or Fethanlea, on the summits of Stanemore, then in possession of the Britons.14 They were again defeated, by the same consummate generals, in the battle of Leithredh, in which many thousands of the Saxons were left a prey to the “wolves of the mountains.”15 Fortune, for a while, seems to have declared in favour of the allied princes; but as the fate of war is ever varying and uncertain, so it happened with regard to Aidan and Malgon. They were defeated at the conflict of Kirkinner,16 A.D. 598, and totally overthrown by the Northumbrians, on the fatal field of Dawstane in Cumberland, A.D. 603.17 

   Rydderech the Magnificent dying without issue, an ardent struggle commenced amongst the principal captains and chiefs of the provinces, with regard to the right of succession, which continued for upwards of half a century, with all the animosity and savage valour incident to those violent and bloody times. Owen, or Hoen, at length assumed the dangerous supremacy – the fated deliverer of his country from the merciless swords of the warriors of Innis-huna. The king of Cantyre closed his restless career at the battle of Strath-Cairmae, under the command of the gallant leader of the Cumraig chivalry, in A.D. 642.18 Numerous were the conflicts they had to engage in with the foe during this dark and destructive period. The Dalraidac, the Deira, and the Bernician reguli, united against them;19 still they maintained their existence as a nation, till they were finally swallowed up in that overwhelming torrent of colonization, which deluged the once-boasted kingdom of ancient Cambria, in a period vastly remote from their Romanized origin. 

   The whole of Cumberland was, as we have seen, inhabited by British tribes, at the period of Agricola’s invasion. The Aboriginal settlers having been subdued and civilized by their refined and cultivated invaders, were by them initiated into the various arts and sciences then in use, which gave them the superiority over most of their neighbouring, though unconquered states. After the Roman abdication they maintained a long, but hazardous struggle with the warriors of Deira and Bernicia, the Picts and Northumbrian Saxons, who appear to have overrun a great part of the ancient dominions of Cumbria, previous to the demise of their gallant and intrepid leader Oswy, in A.D. 685. Egfrid, the tyrant of bloody memory, having meditated a formidable descent into the regions of Peochtland, invested St Cuthbert with the sacred authority of the city of Carlisle, beaming in all its Romanized and pristine glory, with the beautiful and highly-cultivated territory around it.20 

   The irruption of innumerable hordes of barbarians from the shores of sea-girt Lochlin [Scandinavia], carried death and desolation along the romantic straths of this once-peaceable and happy kingdom, defacing their monuments, and laying their temples in ashes. Under the powerful sway of Edward I. of England, this country seems to have groaned for a considerable period; his arm was extended to its remotest regions, and the sovereigns of Cumbria bowed the knee in submission at his throne.21 During these important periods, the Cumrii frequently endeavoured to shake off the galling yoke and resume their wonted independence, the glorious bequest of their magnanimous forefathers. The motive was noble, though ineffectual; provoked by their resistance, the warlike Edmund invaded Cumbria with fire and sword, resolved on its final extirpation as a state. Dunmail, with his followers, made a gallant stand on the banks of the Reisbeck water, for the liberty and independence of their country. They were overpowered, and the tyrant, to vent his wrath on a brave people struggling for their rights, mutilated the remains of Dunmail and his two sons, the last of the blood royal of Cumbria. An immense pile of stones was reared over the regal corpse, as a testimony of affection for the virtues of a beloved sovereign and his princes.22 Malcolm, the Scottish king, obtained a grant of the kingdom of Cumbria, on condition of doing homage to Edmund, and guarding his frontiers against the incursions of the Picts.23 These transactions took place in A.D. 945. Duff, the son of Malcolm, was appointed hereditary prince of Cumberland, by Indulf24 King of Scotland, in 953. From hence it would appear, that it the office of Tanish, or presumptive heir to the Scottish throne, to sway the sceptre of Cumbria as his native right, in a similar manner as the succeeding prince of the British dominions is sovereign lord of the principality of Wales. 

   The kindred inhabitants of Strath-Cluyd were exposed, during the Saxon heptarchy, to the same dangers and difficulties as their southern brethren in Cumberland. They had the liberties and laws of their country to defend; and the swords of the Deira and the Bernicia were frequently unsheathed against them. Still they remained a distinct people for nearly four centuries, after their natural enemies, the Picts, had ceased to exist as a nation, and were distinguished under the appropriate appellation Walensæ, amid the influx of the Franci, the Anglici, and the Gælwensi, who rushed into their territories and finally settled amongst them.25 After death of Alpin, King of Scotland, in 836, the Britons were involved, on their western extremities, in various conflicts with the Picts, which, being taken advantage of by Kenneth, son of Alpin, enabled him vigorously to oppose, and finally subdue that hitherto unconquered and formidable people. During the periods of these hostile invasions, the Cluyd Britons penetrated into the recesses of the Dalraiadic kingdom, wasted the country, and burnt Dunblane. Ku, the Caw of the triads, seems to have been the reigning king of Britain at this juncture, and who was shortly after connected with Kenneth, king of Scotland, by the marriage of his sister. From the era of this reconcilement, the Dalraid and the Britons began to act in unity; and Eocha, the son of Ku, was advanced to a share in the supremacy of the kingdom.26 Ku was assassinated by the envious and ambitious Ardgaw, whose fall was revenged by his brother-in-law, Constantine II. by the slaughter of Ardgaw, in A.D. 871.27 

   In 870, the Vikings, from the Irish shores, made a formidable descent on the Western confines of Strath-Cluyd; besieged their capital, sacked it, laid waste the surrounding country, and returned the subsequent year to Dublin, with immense spoil, and many captives.28 In this age the Britons had frequently to undergo the fatal scourge of Healfodane, the modern Attila of that devoted kingdom; and in 875, the Irish, sallying from the East, wasted Strath-Cluyd and Galloway. The Avallenaus of Lanerck, under whose shades and in whose romantic falls they had delighted to sing, had now no longer any attractions for the oppressed Britons: the thistle shook its grey head on the walls of Alcluith, and the night-owl hooted in the abodes of princes, with strains of sorrow. Many of the Britons departed, under the conduct of the noble Constantine, for another and more congenial country, where the harpies had never waked the echoes of their rocks, nor the eagles of Deira flapped their pinions on the cloud-capt summits of the mighty Snowdon. Constantine was attacked by the Saxons at Clochmaben, and cruelly slaughtered;29 but his intrepid emigrants avenged his death, forced a passage for themselves across the Sulwath, and finally regained the wished-for country, where they form a distinct people, even at this day. – After a series of unimportant successions and conflicts, the fate of this once-powerful kingdom was decided on the bloody plains of Vacornar, where the noblest of the British warriors fell contending against the united armies of the Scots and Picts, under their successful leader, Kenneth III. of renowned memory. In 975, Dunwallan, the last of the Cumraig princes, and the gallant defender of his country, retired to Rome after this decisive conflict, and sought for that happiness in the exercise of a spiritual, which is seldom to be found in a temporal warfare. Thus fell that great, though hitherto little noticed monarchy, the Regnum Cambrense, which had existed as a nation for the space of five hundred years, surrounded on every hand with a powerful and warlike enemy, and exposed to the incursions of foreign depredation. Thus pass the mighty monuments of human greatness, and thus states and empires have their rise, their periods, and decline. 

1  Vide Gordon’s Itin. Septent. p. 105. – Roy’s Military Antiq. Stat. Acc. of Selkirk; and Chalmers’s Caledonia, I. p. 141. 

2  De Rege Roderco filio Totail, que regnavit Petra-Cloithe regnum Cambrense – beati viri prophecia – Alio idem in tempore, &c. – MSS Bibl. Reg. 8 D. ix. Bede, who wrote his Ecclesiastical History in A.D. 731, says, that Alcluith, or Petra Cloith, was inhabited by the Britons in his time, and that it stood upon a beautiful river, the Cluyd, from whence it took its name – (Curitas Britonum munitissima usque hodie quæ vocatur Alcluith, quod lingua eorum significat Petram Cluith; est enim juxta fluvium nominis illius. – Hist. Eccles. IV. p. 26.) – which description admirably depicts the situation of Dunbarton, the great western fortress, in the estuary of the of the Clyde. 

3  Vita S. Gildæ; from a MS. in the lib. of Fleury Abbey. 

4  Vide Usserii Antiq. Eccles. Brit. fol. 

5  Vide Usserii Ant. Ecc. Brit. 677 and 1103. Langhorne’s Chron. p. 29. and Vel. Epist. 4to. p. 150. 

   St Ælred, Abbot of Rewal, in his life of St Ninian, written about A.D. 1150, says, that it was certain these western countries, viz. Galloway, Straduyd, and Stradclyd, were governed by a proper king of their own, till the end of the Saxon or English period, that is, till the Norman invasion. – Vita S. Niniani. MSS. Bibl. Cott. Lib. D. 111. 

6  Carleile, so frequently mentioned in the history of King Arthur, has by many been supposed to be a corruption of Caerleon, an ancient British city on the river Usk, in Monmouthshire, which was one of the places of King Arthur’s chief residence: but this is a complete mistake, being no other than Carlisle, the capital of the county of Cumberland. Not far from this is still to be seen a large circle surrounding a mound of earth called “Arthur’s round table.” – Burn’s Cumberland. Percie’s Reliques; &c

7  Dugdale informs us, that “the great baron Roger de Mortimer, having procured the honour of knighthood to be conferred on his three sons by King Edward I. he, at his own costs caused a tournament to be held at his own castle of Kennilworth, where sumptuously entertained an hundred knights, and as many ladies, for three days, the like whereof was never in England before; there began the Round Table, (so called, by reason that the place where they practised those feats was environed with a strong wall, made in a round form.) Upon the fourth day the golden lion, in sign of triumph, being yielded to him, he carried it, with all the company, to Warwick.” – Dugdale’s Warwickshire

8  The old Welsh or Cumraig bards have a tradition, “that King Arthur was not killed at the fight of Camlan, but conveyed away by the fairies into some pleasant place, whence he should return to take vengeance on the Sasson, and reign over Cumbria with an increase of glory.” – Hollinshed, b. 5, ch. 14. An. Chron. Ant. 1493. B.I. Selden’s Notes on the Polyolbion, chant. III, &c

9  Joceline’s Vita S. Kentigerni, cap. xxii, p. 31. Llhwyd’s Comment. Langhorne’s Chron. Reg. Angl. &c. 

10  Adamnan Vita S. Columbæ Abbatis, lib. I. cap. 15. 

11  Welsh Archæology, where the cause is said to have been on account of a bird’s nest, found by one of the dogs in hunting, and mutually claimed by the contending chieftains. Vol. I. p. 151. 

12  Of the consequences of the battle of Arderyth, we have some account in the “Avallenau,” or “Apple-Trees,” a Poem, which Mr Turner has proved to be the genuine production of Merlin, and which contains the expiring groans of the northern Druids. – Davie’s Brit. Druids, p. 480. 

13  Rhydderch the Liberal, the son of Tudwal of Tud-Clyd, or the district of Clyde, was king of the Strath-Cluyd Britons, about the close of the sixth century, and his residence was at Alcluyd, or Dunbarton. – Welsh Archæol. Vol. II p. 11. Davies, &c

14  Saxon Chron. p. 22. Usher’s Primordia, p. 570. Florence of Wor. and the Saxon Annalists. 

15  Adomnan Vita S. Columbæ, lib. I. cap. ix. The Ann. of Ulster, 1037. Ogygia, (O’Flaherty,) p. 475. Myrvian Archæology, &c. 

16  Kirkinner, where this bloody battle was fought, is undoubtedly Kirkandres, on the confines of Cumberland, near to Langtown. Vide Saxon Chron. p. 23, &c. 

17  Sax. Chron. p. 24. Beda Hist. Eccles, lib. I. cap. 34. 

18  Adomnan’s Vit. Col. lib. III. cap. V. Colgan’s Triads, p. 583. Sax. Ch. Usserii Ant. Brit. p. 700. Annals of Ulster, and the Ogygia. 

19  The Saxon Chron. the Scoto-Chron. the Irish Annals, &c. mention innumerable conflicts of the Britons with their respective neighbours. In A.D. 671 was fought the battle of Cathlou, between the king of the Cumbrian Britons, and Anfrith, the Dalraidic leader. The following year witnessed the strife of lndris; and in 710 was fought battle of Lough-Clœth, between the Scoto-Irish and the Cumraig of Strath-Cluyd, in which the latter were defeated. In 716 happened another conflict, at the rock of Moinure, between the same combatants, when the Britons were again worsted; and in 779, Alcluyd, the capital of this warlike kingdom, was burnt and taken. 

20  Beda Vita S. Cuthberti, c. 27. et Beda Hist. Eccles. 385. 

21  Flor. Wor. p. 336. Hoveden’s Annals, 421-22. 

22  Math. West. p. 336. R. Hoveden, p. 423. Flor. Wor. 

   “On the mountainous pass between Cumberland and Westmoreland, near the road which leads from Keswick to Ambleside, there is a large cairne of stones, called Dunmail Wrays, which tradition states to have been erected to commemorate the defeat of Dunmail, King of the Britons, by Edmund, in 945. – Pennant’s Tour, III. p. 37. Burn’s and Nichol’s Cumb. I. 39. 

23  Chron. Sax. p. 115. Scoto-Chron. lib. iv. c. xxvi. &c. 

24  Scoto-Chronicon, lib. iv. c. xxvii. 

25  These direful transactions are thus narrated in a valuable M.S. entitled “Excerpta ex veteri Chronico de regibus Scottorum, a Kenethe, Mac. Alpin ad Mac. Malcolm, &c.” from whence the above notices have been chiefly taken. 

Innes’s Appen. No. III. 782.    

   “Kinadius igitur filius Alpin primus Scottorum rexit feliciter estam annis xvi Pectaviam. Pictavia autem a Pictis est nominata, quos, ut didiximus Kinadius, delevit. Deus enim eos pro merito suæ malítiæ alienos ac otiosos hæreditæ dignatus est facere: quia illi non solum Deum, missam ac præceptum spreverunt, sed et in jure æquitatis aliis æqui pariter noluerunt. Iste vero biennio antequam veniret Pictaviam Dabrietæ regnum suscepit. Septimo anno regni reliquias S. Columbæ transportavit ad ecclesiam quam construxit: et invasit sexies Saxoniam, et concremavit Dunbarre atque Mailros usurpata. Britanni autem concremaverunt Dulblaan, atque Danari vastaverunt Pictaviam ad Duanan et Dancalden. Mortuus est tandem tumore ani. Id. Febr. feria vitia in Palacio Forthuir tabaicht.” – Ex. MSS. Bibl. Colb. V. (supra) p. 603. Et in Codice MSS. Bibl. Cott. Vit. A. 24. Saxon Chron. et Ran. Hegd. Polychron. p. 210, &c

26  Eochodius autem filius Ku, regis Britannorum, nepos Kenadi, ac fil. regn. an. xi. Licet Giricium vel Grigum, fil. alii dicunt hic regnasse eo quod alumnus, ordinatorque Eochodio, fiebat. Cujus secundo anno, Æd fil. Niel moritur, ac in nono anno ipso die circi eclipses solis fasta est. Eochodius alumno suo expulsus est nunc de regno. Ibid Supra

27  Constantinus fil. Kinadi regnavit xvi annis. Primo ejus anno Mael Sechnael rex Hybernensium obiit, et Æd. fil. Niel tenuit renum: et post duos annos vastavit Amlaib (id est Anlaphus Danas) cum gentibus suís Pictaviam et habitantes eam a Kal. Januar. usque ad festum S. Patricii. Tertio iterum anno Amlaib trahens cetum (exercitum) a Constantino occisus est paulo, post ab eo bello in xiv. ejus facto in Dolair inter Danarios et Scottos: occisi Scotto in Coach Cochlum. Normani annum integrum degerunt in Pictavia. Ibid

28  Vide Brompton’s Annals – Fordun’s Scoto-Chron. 

29  Chron. of the Welsh princes. Myrvian Archæol. II. p. 481. Lhuyd’s Comment, p. 41. Sax. Chron. p. 110.

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