Saturday, 28 February 2009

The Stone of Goronwy

Lud's Church (XII)

The Tribe of Goronwy Pebyr of Penllyn, who refused to stand instead of their lord to receive the poisoned dart from Llew Llaw Gyffes, by Llech Goronwy, at Blaen Cynvael, in Ardudwy. [1]

After being nursed back to full health, Lleu Llaw Gyffes wanted justice; so the story goes:

"........they mustered Gwynedd and made for Ardudwy. Gwydion went in front, and made for Mur Castell. Blodeuedd, when she heard that they were on their way, took her maidens with her and made for the mountain, across the River Cynfael, making for a court that was up the mountain. And so frightened were they, that they could not walk without facing backwards. Then, before they knew it, they fell into a lake and all drowned except Blodeuedd herself. And then Gwydion overtook her, and said:

'I will not kill you. What I am going to do is even worse,' he said 'that is, I will release you in the shape of a bird. Because of the shame that you have wrought upon Lleu Llaw Gyffes, you will not dare to show your face ever again in the light of day ever again, and that will be because of enmity between you and all birds. It will be in their nature to harass you and despise you wherever they find you. And you will not loose your name - that will always be "Bloddeuwedd". [2]

Goronwy fled, making for Penllyn, which is a commot on the borders of Llyn Tegid, or Bala Lake.
He sent out envoys to Lleu offering him terms, "either land or territory or gold or silver."

Lleu refused Gorowy's offer of terms and sent back the following message: "Here is the least I'll accept from him: going to the place where I was, when he cast the spear, with me in the place where he was. And let me cast a spear at him. That is the least I will accept from him."

Gorowy then asked his nobles and his warband if there was anyone one that would take this blow for him.
They refused and because of this refusal to endure the taking of a single blow on behalf of their lord, they are remembered in a Triad as one of the Three Disloyal Warbands:

"The Tribe of Goronwy Pebyr of Penllyn, who refused to stand instead of their lord to receive the poisoned dart from Llew Llaw Gyffes, by Llech Goronwy, at Blaen Cynvael, in Ardudwy. And the Tribe of Gwrgi and Peredur, who deserted their lords in Caer Greu, where there was an appointment for battle next morning against Eda Glinmawr,and they were both slain. And the third, the Tribe of Alan Vyrgan who returned back by stealth from their lord, leaving him and his servants going to Camlan, where he was slain."

....And with that they both went to the banks of Afon Cynfael. And once there Goronwy Pebyr stood where Lleu had been when he'd been struck and Lleu stood where the other had been. And then Goronwy said unto Lleu: 'Lord,' said he, 'since it was from the deceit of a woman that I did unto you as I did, I implore you, before god, to allow me to set that flat stone that I see on the riverbank between myself and the blow.'

Lleu did not refuse this and so Goronwy took the stone and placed between himself and the blow. Then Lleu cast his spear at Goronwy and it pierced the stone and went through, and it went through Goronwy as well and broke his back.

And there Goronwy Pebyr was slain, and there lies the stone upon the banks of Afon Cynfael in Ardudwy, with the hole still through it. Which is why, until this day, it is called Llech Goronwy.

A second time did Lleu Llaw Gyffes take possession of his land, and he governed it prosperously. And as the story-tellers relate he became, after this, the lord of Gwynedd. Thus ends this branch of the Mabinogi. [3]

Lleu’s retribution swiftly brings the tale of Math son of Mathonwy and indeed the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, in its current form, to an end.

If, as already suggested, the Mabinogi was originally Tales pertaining to the family of Mabon, ending with Pryderi’s death, then the story of Lleu may well have been a later appendage, the reference to the Triad The Three Disloyal Warbands at the end of this branch suggests an oral variant of the tale was in existence when the redactor wrote Math son of Mathonwy in its extant version. [4]

At first glance this would appear to be a straight forward onomastic tale to account for Llech Goronwy in Cwm Cynfael, just south from Ffestiniog and the sites of Llyn y Morwynion, (Lake of the Maidens) and Mur Y Castell, (Tomen-y-Mur ) in Ardudwy. Not far from here is also the claimed burial place of Pryderi at Maentwrog.

Tomen-y-Mur was used by the Romans as a marching camp on the Sarn Helen Roman road, probably named after Elen of the Hosts running for about 160 miles from Aberconwy in the north to Carmarthen in the south. Elen of the Hosts, also known as Elen of the Ways, She is Protectress of the Pathways; guardian of all who journey, patron of travellers. Elen is best known from Welsh legend as Elen Luyddogg in the Mabinogion in “The Dream of Macsen Wledig”; Elen is discovered by Mascen in a dream. Her beauty was compared with that of the Sun.

In Britain the was a Cult of St Helen predominantly in the North country, where many churches are dedicated to her, and more 'holy' wells were named for Helen than for any other non-biblical female saint. [5]

Tomen-y-Mur was Lleu’s castle and it is while he was away visiting Math in Arfon that lonely Blodeuedd had met Goronwy while he was out hunting. Blodeuedd was created by Gwydion and Math as a companion for Lleu as his mother Aranrhod had cursed him not to have a wife of this race. Blodeuedd was created for Lleu’s sexual satisfaction, (some have called her a sex beast) therefore it can be little surprise that she took a lover while on her own – it was her sole purpose in life.

Llyn y Morwynion (Lake of the Maidens), less than a mile from Tŷ Nant y Beddau, is where the serving maids of Blodeuedd fell while being pursued by Gwydion, the sorcerer. Blodeuedd flees with her maidens from the fort at Tomen-y-Mur but because they were constantly looking back at their pursuers, they all fall headlong into the lake and are drowned, all except Blodeuedd who is transformed into an owl by Gwydion and from then on known as Bloddeuwedd (Owl).

Llech Goronwy
It would appear unlikely that the tale of Goronwy has been added to the conclusion of the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi purely as a onomastic tale claiming to account for the name of the stone found in Cwm Cynfal, although the Mabinogi claimed the stone was still there on the banks of the Cynfal.

In 1934, Frank Ward discovered a stone in the bed of the river Cynfal, measuring some forty inches by thirty inches, with a hole straight through it, about an inch in diameter. The stone had apparently been washed downstream by this time from its earlier position in the Ceunant Coch, where a woman who had lived in a farmhouse called ‘Llech Ronw’ nearby, recalled having seen it. She added that a about 150 yards away was a fallen standing-stone which was believed to mark the site of the grave of Goronwy Pebyr (Bedd Goronwy). A later account confirmed the same story. [6]

A few years ago it was claimed the rock was found again, not on the banks of the river Cynfael but on one of its tributaries. The rock is unusual; a man sized flat stone with a hole at about what would be heart-height.

The farm, on whose land the stone is found, is called "Bryn Saeth" (the hill of the arrow), a farm nearby is called Llech Goronwy (Goronwy's Stone), and, making a triangle with those two a third farm is called "Bryn Gyfergyd" (the hill of the blow). [7]

The stone can still be seen today as shown in the pictures, however whether this is the original stone we will never know, apparently it was erected by the local Council a few years ago, and lies alongside the Afon Bryn Saeth, at SH714407, a tributary to the Afon Cynfal.

Goronwy
Goronwy Pebyr has been translated as “spearman, radiant”, the first element gwr (man) and *rhonwy (an archaic name for spear). The attached epithet, Pebyr is thought to derive from the Cymric word pefr (shining, radiant). A suggested etymology for Lleu has been the shining one or radiant one based on the presence of the component 'lleu' meaning ‘light’ in Cymric. This has led to the suggestion that they may well be one and the same deity and this event was an annual duel between light and dark, remembering of course that Lleu was one of a twin; divine twins being mythemic in Proto-Indo-European in mythologies. [8]

The required method to kill Lleu’s has the implication of a ritual as certain conditions must be met:

Lleu cannot be killed:

a. without a spear,
b. inside a house and he cannot be killed outside,
c. he cannot be killed on horseback and he cannot be killed on foot.

How he can be killed:

a. the spear must be worked on only during Sunday at the time of Mass,
b. a bath must be prepared, this must be by a riverside, there must be a well thatched roof [9] over the bath; so he is neither inside or outside,
c. a buck (male) goat must be placed by the bath, Lleu must place one foot on the goat’s back and the other on the edge of the bath; so he is neither on horseback or on foot.

This triad of conditions that is required to bring about Lleu’s death immediately brings to mind the threefold death motif suffered by an individual who dies simultaneously in three ways; an acknowledged Proto-Indo-European mythological theme.

As we saw previously in the medieval verse romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, set in the days of King Arthur at the New Year's feast, derived originally from the much earlier 8th Century Irish tale Bricriu’s Feast, the three attempted axe cuts are symbolic of the three strikes and clearly referring to the triple death.




Notes:
1. Rachel Bromwich, Three Disloyal Warbands of the Island of Britain, Trioedd Ynys Prydein (TYP): The Triads of the Island of Britain, University of Wales Press; 3rd Revised Edition, 2006.
2. "Blodeuwedd" still means "owl" in modern Welsh.
3. Will Parker, The Mabinogi of Math, 2003.
4. Bromwich, op.cit, p.65.
5. Dr G. R. Jones: The Cult of St Helen.
6. Bromwich, op.cit, p.67.
7. Michael Senior, Gods and Heroes in North Wales. Gwasg y Garreg Gwalch, Lanrwst, 1993.
8. In the study of mythology, a 'mytheme' is the essential kernel of a myth, an irreducible, unchanging element, and one that is always found shared with other, related mythemes and reassembled in various ways.
9. W J Gruffydd, Math van Mathonwy, University of Wales Press, 1928. Gruffydd suggests that what is meant here is a round, pointed thatched roof without sides.


Picture credits: These photographs, which I am assured are the Stone of Goronwy (Llech Goronwy) were emailed to me sometime ago but I have no idea of the original source.


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Sunday, 22 February 2009

The Fair One with a Skillful Hand

Lud's Church XI

Gwydyon ap Don, of toiling spirits,
Enchanted a woman from blossoms,
And brought pigs from the south.
Since he had no sheltering cots,
Rapid curves, and plaited chains.
He made the forms of horses
From the springing pants,
and illustrious saddles. [1]

Lleu Llaw Gyffes
If we accept Eric Hamp’s theory [2] that the Mabinogi originally was a cycle of tales pertaining to the family of Pryderi, an account of the birth, disappearance and restoration of Mabon, which being another name for the British god Maponus, the divine son, whose imprisonment and release is one of the tasks Culhwch must accomplish to win Olwen in Culhwch and Olwen, then the Fourth Branch, The Mabinogi of Math, probably terminated in the death of Pryderi at the hands of Gwydion’s magic which was recorded in the original “Battle of the Trees” (Discussed in Part X – The Enchantment of Gwynedd).

In the Fourth Branch Lleu Llaw Gyffes is not yet born at the time of the Battle over the stolen pigs between Gwydion and Pryderi and therefore does not feature in the poem “The Battle of the Trees” either. It would therefore appear that the tale of Lleu was a later appendage to the original tales of Mabon and family, probably because ultimately it portrays a cycle of birth, death and rebirth, as we shall see.

Lleu’s first appearance in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi is after the death of Pryderi in battle with Gwydion and his magic. The battle was constructed by Gwydion by stealing Pryderi’s magic, otherworld pigs, in an attempt to get Math’s foot-holder Goewin on her own so that Gwydion’s brother Gilfaethwy, who had fallen hopelessly in love with her, could get her on her own. The result of this was that Math had to find another maiden foot-holder. Gwydion and Gilfaethwy suggested their sister Aranrhod, daughter of Don, but she failed Math’s virginity test when stepping over his magic wand and dropped a curly yellow haired boy, Dylan, Prince of Wave, and then as she ran for the door dropped another small something, which Gwydion immediately took away and hid in a chest at the end of his bed. This grows fast as a fair haired boy. Gwydion took the four-year-old, often referred to as ‘his boy’ to Aranrhod, but she denied the boy was hers and places three curses on him over a period of time. Firstly she denies him a name unless she names him herself, which she does after he hits a wren with a needle, when disguised a shoemaker, the naming incident is clearly very significant. ‘God knows,' said she 'the fair one strikes it with a skillful hand’. Gwydion then said ‘he has obtained a name, and the name is good enough "Lleu Skillful Hand" he will be from now on.'

As we saw in Part VII - Songs from the Sons of Llyr there are two variants to this name in Welsh, Lleu/Llew: the later appearing in later versions of the tale and probably due to scribal error; the former is the original as revealed by the rhyme scheme in at least two poems; one in the Mabinogi of Math in the stanzas sung by Gwydion to Lleu while he is in the form of an eagle, the other from the Book of Taliesin.

In the Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch, The White Book of Rhydderch, he is known as both Lleu and Llew, although it is mostly written as Llew in the White Book texts and the spelling Llew is more common in Mabinogi texts probably having arisen from the ambiguities of early welsh spelling and manuscript errors. Although they may sound similar, Llew translates as ‘lion’ which is quite different and therefore is sometimes translated as the “Lion with the Steady Hand” which is quite incorrect as the naming of Lleu Llaw Gyffes is revealed in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi, as we have seen above as 'the fair one with a skilful hand’, as Lleu means “light” or “fair” as in colour. [3]

This is confirmed as the oldest fragment of the Mabinogi of Math mab Mathonwy, found in the Peniarth 16 Manuscript, gives “Lleu” ONLY as the name. The rhyme in the three ancient englynion contained in the tale of Math shows that the true form of the name is Lleu:

Dar a dyf yn ard uaes,
Nis gwlych glaw, mwy tawd nawes.
Ugein angerd a borthes.
Yn y blaen, Lleu Llaw Gyffes.

An oak grows on a high plain,
Rain wets it not, though doth corruption seep
A score of crafts does it uphold
And at its crown Lleu of the Skilful Hand [4]

There is still much discussion between scholars as to the interpretation of Lleu's name and suggestions have been forward as 'The Bright One/The Shining One' based on the presence of the component 'lleu' meaning ‘light’ in Cymric. This led many Victorian scholars to propose Lleu as a sun-god, [5] although modern opinion seems to have moved away from this as an out-dated notion.

Lleu is also related to the Cymric word goleu literally meaning 'banisher of darkness', stemming from the proto Indo-European root *leug- (blackness, darkness) word and it has also been suggested that Lleu may be related to the proto-Celtic root *lug- (oath) which is linked both to pledges and contracts. A significant retort exists between the name 'Lugus' and the Old Celtic stem lugi- meaning "to swear, oath" (appearing in Irish as luighe, in Welsh as llw, and in Breton as le). [6]

Lleu, coupled with the epithet Llaw Gyffes (Skillful Hand) shares many qualities and is undoubtedly cognate with the Irish deity Lúgh as represented in Irish mythological texts as hero and King of Tuath de Dannan. Lúgh is known by the epithets Lámhfhada ("long hand"), Ildanach ("skilled in many arts"), Samh-ildánach ("Equally skilled in many arts"), Lonnbeimnech ("fierce striker"). These epithets are far too deliberately similar for the connection of Lleu to Lugh to be purely coincidental as we will see later.

The Warrior's Graves
In addition to the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi, the name Lleu also appears in the Triads, the Book of Taliesin and in the Stanza of the Graves or Englynion y Beddau (also known as 'The Graves of the Warriors of the Island of Britain'), found in a number of Welsh manuscripts, the earliest and most important is in the Black Book of Carmarthen (Llyfr Du Caerfyrddin) collection containing seventy-three stanzas; although the Black Book manuscript dates to the 13th century Thomas Jones has dated the original text to the 9th- or 10th-century but they probably represent much older oral folklore traditions. [7] The Stanza of the Graves although not specifically giving the site of Lleu’s grave states it is under the sea near the grave of his kinsman, [8] this is generally presumed to be a reference to Dylan Eil Ton, who as we have seen, according to the text of the Fourth Branch, is Lleu's twin.

The traditional site of Dylan’s grave is at Maen Dylan, a large stone situated along the shoreline at Aberdesach, near Clynnog-fawr, within Caernarfon Bay. Less than two miles along the coast to the north of Maen Dylan, situated on the sea-shore, near to the village of Llandwrog, just off the A499, lies Dinas Dinlle(u) (grid ref: SH437563) on the seaward boundary of a large strip of land, called Morfa Dinlleu, running north up to The Bar, entrance to the Menai Strait. Local tradition claims that Lleu Llaw Gyffes lived at Dinas Dinlle and that Dinas Dinlleu was named after him, meaning literally "City of Lleu's Fortress".

The remains of this large circular hillfort, next to the sea, was originally defended by double banked ramparts some six metres high and deep ditches, with an entrance to the south-east. There are a number of depressions within the ramparts where huts once stood as well as a badly damaged mound which could be the remains of a round barrow. The western edge is steadily eroding into the sea. It is claimed the Roman road Watling Street originally ended here. The site has not been fully excavated, but sherds of Roman pottery have been discovered in the past, suggesting occupation or reoccupation in the 2nd or 3rd centuries AD

The grave of Lleu’s kinsman’s referred to in the Stanza of the Graves may not be Dylan after all, as there is the possibility that it is his Uncle and foster father, Gwydion who is also said to be buried at Morfa Dinlle [9]

After the naming episode in the Fourth Branch when he hits the wren and receives his name from Aranrhod as 'the fair one with a skilful hand’, Lleu and Gwydion return to Dinas Dinlle:

“The following morning in the young of the day, they walked along the beach up as far as Brynn Aryen; and at the top of Cefyn Cludno, they kitted-out [some] horses and went along to Caer Aranrhod”[10]

East off the shoreline at Dinas Dinlle there is a cluster of rocks, a reef known as Caer Aranrhod which is named after Lleu's mother. The City, or Caer, of Aranrod, is reported to have been engulfed by the sea; the ancient site occasionally comes to view at low tides, not far from Clynnog.

For the site of The Castle Of Aranrod, Charlotte Guest in her notes to the Mabinogion, quotes Rev. P. B. Williams, in his "Tourist's Guide through Caernarvonshire," speaking of Clynnog, he says: "There is a tradition that an ancient British town, situated near this place, called Caer Arianrhod, was swallowed up by the sea, the ruins of which, it is said, are still visible during neap tides, and in fine weather."

Although it is said that Caer Aranrhod refers to the submerged reef, however, we have seen previously that Aranrhod’s name is originally and consistently spelled Aranrot, meaning ‘big, round wheel’ having astrological connotations; this has been interpreted in some traditions as the Milky Way, but the Milky-way is named after Gwydion, termed Caer Gwydion, who gave his name to the constellation of Cassiopeia, in Welsh, Llys Don, (the Court of Don). We find the Welsh name for Lleu’s mother in the constellation of the Corona Borealis; Caer Arianrod.

The Stanza of the Graves confirms the association of this episode of the Fourth Branch with Clynnog:

“where the wave makes a noise,
the grave of Dylan is at Llanfueno” [11]

Llanfueno is the church (Llan = enclosure or church) dedicated to St Bueno which lies south along the coast from Dinas Dinlleu and Maen Dylan in the village of Clynnog Fawr. It has been argued recently that the redaction of the stories of the fourth branch of the Mabinogi (Math vab Mathonwy) took place in the monastic settlement (Welsh clas) at Clynnog. [12]

click for larger image

Saint Beuno, was perhaps the greatest of North Wales Celtic saints, legends linking him with miraculous healing powers. He founded the monastery at Clynnog Fawr in 616 AD and the Church founded around 630 AD. Clynnog Church, large for a small village settlement, became an assembly point for pilgrims bound for Bardsey Island. Saint Beuno founded a "clas" (a hybrid between a Monastery and a College) an institution peculiar to the Celtic Church, and it became the most important ecclesiastical centre for Western Caernarfonshire. The group of clergy who held it appear in the oldest manuscript of the Venedotian Code, under the name of ‘clas Beuno’.

The second curse that he shall not bear arms unless Aranrhod does herself, which she does after Gwydion creates the allusion of a fleet of ships attacking.

Not of mother and father
The third course she inflicts on Lleu is that she shall not have a mortal wife, which leads Gywdion and Math to construct Blodeuedd, as revealed in the Battle of the Trees:

Not of mother and father,
When I was made,
Did my Creator create me.
Of nine-formed faculties,
Of the fruit of fruits,
Of the fruit of the primordial God,
Of primroses and blossoms of time hill,
Of the flowers of trees and shrubs.
Of earth, of an earthly course,
When I was formed.
Of the flower of nettles,
Of the water of the ninth wave.
I was enchanted by Math,
Before I became immortal,
I was enchanted by Gwydyon [13]

Blodeuedd ('Flowers' 'Blossoms') took Goronwy, the lord of Penllyn as a lover and tricked Lleu into revealing how he could be killed:

‘It is not easy,' Lleu continued 'to kill me by a blow . It would be necessary to spend a year making the spear to strike me with - and without making any of it [at any other time] except when one was at mass on Sundays.'
'And is that certain?' she asked.
'It's certain, God knows,' he replied 'I cannot be killed inside a house, nor outside,' he continued 'I cannot be killed on horseback or on foot.'
'Aye,' said she '[so] in what way can you be killed?'
'I'll tell you,' he replied. 'By making a bath for me by the side of a river, making a curved, slatted roof over the tub, and thatching that well and without [leaving] any gaps. And bringing a buck,' he continued 'and putting it next to the tub, and me putting one of my feet on the buck's back, and the other one on the side of the tub. Whoever would strike me [while I am] like that would bring about my death.'

She gave the secret of how to kill Lleu to her lover Goronwy, who then spent a year and a day making the spear. She then gets Lleu to act out how he can be killed while Goronwy is hiding behind Brynn Cyfegyr (hill of combat) on the bank of the River Cynfael.

Lleu emerged from the bath in a gazebo-like bath house (having no walls but a roof), neither “indoors or out” with one foot on the back of a goat (a billy-goat in Welsh is bwch gafr 'buck goat') neither “on horseback or on foot” and the other on the edge of the bath, neither “on land nor on water”. Gronowy rose up from behind the hill and cast the poison spear and struck him on the side. Lleu being struck with the only weapon that could kill him: a spear that has been forged for a year and a day "while folk are at mass on Sunday" immediately turned into an eagle and took flight letting out a terrible scream. Goronwy then took control of Lleu’s lands and ruled over both Ardudwy and Penllyn.

Gwydion searches all over for Lleu, eventually he finds him by following a sow into a valley, Nant Lleu, which is now called Nantlle in western Snowdonia, just a few miles east of Dinas Dinlleu.

Lleu transformed as an Eagle - Alan Lee

Gwydion could see the sow was grazing on rotting flesh and maggots that fell from the eagle when he shook himself. He realised that the eagle was Lleu and sung to him to entice him down as we saw in Part IX – Math’s Tale. Lleu fell into Gwydion's lap who struck him with his magic wandand he changed back to his human form but was nothing but skin and bones. Gwydion took him back to Caer Dathyl, and with the best doctors in Gwynedd brought him back to good health before the end of the year.



Notes
1. The Chair Of Ceridwen. Book Of Taliessin XVI - From The Four Ancient Books of Wales by W F Skene.
2. Mabinogi and Archaism, Celtica 23 by Eric P Hamp
3. Celtic Culture, A Historical Encyclopedia By John T. Koch, 2006, pp 1164 – 1166
4. The Fourth Branch oh the Mabinogi: Math mab Mathonwy.
5. See for example John Rhys, The Hibbert Lectures, The Origins of Religion in Heathendom.
6. Lugus: The Many-Gifted Lord by Alexei Kondratiev. Originally published in An Tríbhís Mhór: The IMBAS Journal of Celtic Reconstructionism #1, Lúnasa 1997.
7. The Black Book of Carmarthen, The Stanzas of the Graves, Thomas Jones - John Rhys Memorial lectures, Proceedings of the British Academy 53 (1967).
8. Llyfr Du Caerfyrddin, edited by A O H Jarman, Caerdydd: Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru, 1982.
9. In her Notes to Math The Son Of Mathonwy in her Mabinogion collection Lady Charlotte Guest states that “The grave of Gwydion ab Don has not been left unrecorded; it was in Morva Dinllev, the scene of one of his adventures with Llew Llaw Gyffes.” However, she does not name her source.
10. The Fourth Branch oh the Mabinogi: Math mab Mathonwy.
11. Thomas Jones, 1967, op cit.
12. “Clas Beuno and the Four Branches of the Mabinogi” - P. Sims-Williams, in 150 Jahre “Mabinogion” B. Maier and S. Zimmer (eds.), 2001, pp111-127
13. The Book of Taliesin VIII - From The Four Ancient Books of Wales by W F Skene.

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