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Quotations about Unicorns

Welcome to my page of quotations about unicorns — the only thing I've ever collected other than quotes and books. In grade school, I had a minor obsession with the beautiful creatures and would save up my chore allowance to get a poster or knick-knack when I could.  —ღ Terri

The Unicorn — the wild, white, fierce, chaste Moon, whose two horns, unlike those of mortal creatures, are indissolubly twisted into one, whose brilliant horn drives away the darkness and evil of the night. ~Robert Brown, The Unicorn: A Mythological Investigation, 1881  [a little altered –tg]

The unicorn is one of the most beautiful of the "shapes that haunt thought's wildernesses", but he did not attain his beauty all at once... Only in recent years has the legend of the unicorn been turned over to avowed and professional dreamers... ~Odell Shepard, "Shaping Fantasies," The Lore of the Unicorn, 1930  [Quoted portion is the Fourth Spirit in Percy Bysshe Shelley's Prometheus Unbound:
      "On a poet's lips I slept,
      Dreaming like a love-adept
      In the sound his breathing kept.
      Nor seeks nor finds he mortal blisses,
      But feeds on the aërial kisses
      Of shapes that haunt thought's wildernesses." –tg]

Let none be offended or surprised at this piping and dancing. Eccentricity belongs to genius; the most ardent soul requires relaxation from severe studies; and our author has a mind both mighty and playful, skipping like the unicorn. ~Review of Mr. William Huntington's Literary and Religious Curiosity, c. 1802

A living drollery: now I will believe
That there are unicorns...
~William Shakespeare, Tempest, c. 1611  [III, 3, Sebastian]

We may never know precisely when or where or how the legend of the unicorn began. It pervades recorded time and may be dimly visible even in the clouds that hover just above history's sunrise. The mystery of its origin... is one of the legend's most evident charms... We can best take up the tale of the unicorn at the point where it first emerges into the literature of the western world, early in the fourth century before Christ. ~Odell Shepard, "The Gorgeous East," The Lore of the Unicorn, 1930

It’s not a unicorn — it’s a horse with a sword on its head that protects my hopes and dreams. ~Scrubs, “My Unicorn,” 2004, written by Tad Quill & Gabrielle Allan  [S4, E11, Dr. Dorian]

Our Unicorn sings ravishing melodies for those who possess the inner ear of mystics and poets. ~James Huneker, Unicorns, 1906–1917  [The book is a collection of essays about musicians, writers, artists, literature, &c. –tg]

...the unicorn is noble,
He knows his gentle birth,
He knows that God has chosen him
Above all beasts of earth.
~Volkslied (German folk song)

When the unicorn arrived, things were different from what had been expected. He was such a noble animal, to begin with, that he carried a beauty with him:  it held all spellbound who were within sight. The unicorn was white, with hoofs of silver and graceful horn of pearl. He stepped daintily over the heather, scarcely seeming to press it with his airy trot, and the wind made waves in his long mane, which had been freshly combed. The glorious thing about him was his eyes. There was a faint bluish furrow down each side of his nose, and this led up to the eye-sockets, and surrounded them in a pensive shade. The eyes, circled by this sad and beautiful darkness, were so sorrowful, lonely, gentle and nobly tragic, that they killed all other emotion except love. ~T. H. White (1906–1964), "The Unicorn," 1939

The music beat on among youthful leaves, into the darkness, beneath the gold and mute cacophony of stars... Stars were golden unicorns neighing unheard through blue meadows spurning them with hooves sharp and scintillant as ice. ~William Faulkner, Soldiers' Pay, 1926

I can only eat glitter and rainbows. Darn my sensitive stomach! ~Bob Shea, Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great, 2013

      Alice could not help her lips curling up into a smile as she began:  “Do you know, I always thought Unicorns were fabulous monsters, too! I never saw one alive before!”
      “Well, now that we have seen each other," said the Unicorn, “if you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you. Is that a bargain?”
      ~Lewis Carroll (1832–1898), “The Lion and the Unicorn,” Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, 1871

When it rained, the patter on the barn roof took on a soporific rhythm, and often the unicorns would doze and dream. Their dreams were always about running over great green swards, the wind through their white manes. Always. ~Jane Yolen, "The Lady's Garden," Here There Be Unicorns, 1994  [a little altered —tg]

The Unicorn with the long white horn
      Is beautiful and wild.
He gallops across the forest green
So quickly that he's seldom seen
Where Peacocks their blue feathers preen
      And strawberries grow wild.
He flees the hunter and the hounds,
Upon black earth his white hoof pounds...
~William Jay Smith, "Unicorn," 1957

      The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of sea foam, but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night. But her eyes were still clear and unwearied, and she still moved like a shadow on the sea.
      She did not look anything like a horned horse, as unicorns are often pictured, being smaller and cloven-hoofed, and possessing that oldest, wildest grace that horses have never had, that deer have only in a shy, thin imitation and goats in dancing mockery. Her neck was long and slender, making her head seem smaller than it was, and the mane that fell almost to the middle of her back was as soft as dandelion fluff and as fine as cirrus. She had pointed ears and thin legs, with feathers of white hair at the ankles, and the long horn above her eyes shone and shivered with its own seashell light even in the deepest midnight. ~Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn, 1968

Only in recent years has the legend of the unicorn been turned over to avowed and professional dreamers; throughout the greater part of its history it has been shaped chiefly by practical men — hunters, physicians, explorers, and merchant-adventurers — who regarded mere poetry with the healthy contempt shown by Shakespeare's Theseus. Yet the literary allusions to the animal are of course very numerous. ~Odell Shepard, "Shaping Fantasies," The Lore of the Unicorn, 1930

There was something essentially aristocratic about him. His kinship to the horse,... the headlong enthusiasm of his devotion to beautiful women. He was fierce and proud and dangerous to his foes, as a knight should be, and he was also gentle; he had the dignity of solitude; he was beautiful and strong; most significant of all, he was a protector and champion of other beasts against the wiles of their enemies. In all the range of animal lore there is no other story conceived so completely in the aristocratic spirit as that of the unicorn stepping down to the poisoned water while the other beasts wait patiently for his coming, and making it safe for them by dipping his magic horn. Here was a perfect emblem of the ideal that... exceptional power and privilege were balanced and justified by exceptional responsibility. ~Odell Shepard, "Shaping Fantasies," The Lore of the Unicorn, 1930

I for one have always believed in the unicorn... The unicorn has managed to weave itself a very haunting reputation. ~Jean Richardson

He had lost his body... It was as though vision were a bodiless Eye suspended in dark-blue space, an Eye without Thought, regarding without surprise an antic world where wanton stars galloped neighing like unicorns in blue meadows. ~William Faulkner, Soldiers' Pay, 1926

Never pretend
to be a unicorn
by sticking a plunger on your head
~Martín Espada, “Advice to Young Poets,” The Republic of Poetry, 2006

The people who see them share some of the unicorn’s traits. They’re lonely, with virtuous hearts. ~Ally McBeal, “Making Spirits Bright,” 1998, written by David E. Kelley  [S2, E10, Maxwell]

The unicorn, she said, was a marvelous beast, shining with honor, wisdom and strength. Just to see him strengthened the soul. ~Megan Lindholm, "The Unicorn in the Maze," 1987, in Bruce Coville, The Unicorn Treasury: Stories, Poems, and Unicorn Lore, 1988

      “That doesn’t mean I pretend to be someone else. I don’t know how to be something I’m not, okay? I don’t know what you learned in that fantasy world of yours growing up, but I was told to just be myself.”
      “Unless you can be a unicorn,” Dee says. “In that case, you should always be a unicorn.” ~Elle Lothlorien, Alice in Wonderland, 2012  [Conversation of Alice Faye Dahl and her sister. –tg]

The best use for a unicorn's horn is to adorn a unicorn. ~Femeref adage, Benevolent Unicorn card, Magic: The Gathering, Richard Garfield, Wizards of the Coast

The legs, so delicately shaped, balanced a
body wrought of finest ivory. And as
he moved, his coat shone like reflected moonlight.
High on his forehead rose the magic horn, the sign
of his uniqueness: a tower held upright
by his alert, yet gentle, timid gait.
~Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926), "The Unicorn," translated from German by Albert Ernest Flemming, 1983

See! the gay Unicorn the Wood adorn,
Fair sign of Plenty with his Iv'ry Horn!
~John Whaley (1710–1745), "A Journey to Houghton. A Poem."

According to some folk tales, the unicorn of the Middle Ages symbolized the season of spring, and was thought to possess the ability to renew life, heal sickness, and guard against evil. ~Christy Shaffer, Unicorns Coloring Book, 2000, Dover Publications

      Despite its worldwide fame, there are those who believe there are no more unicorns. One reason people give for their disappearance is that when Noah built the Ark, the unicorns didn't make it on board, either because they were too large, or too silly — playing games and frisking about until Noah couldn’t wait any longer.
      Others think they were simply hunted into extinction.
      Still others believe that the unicorns left when the world became less sympathetic to the old magic, fleeing to someplace better suited to their strange beauty.
      Saddest of all are those who believe there never were any unicorns to begin with...
      But here’s what I believe: wherever else they may have come from, unicorns live inside the true believer’s heart.
      Which means that as long as we can dream, there will be unicorns.
      ~Bruce Coville, “The Lore of the Unicorn," 1987, in The Unicorn Treasury: Stories, Poems, and Unicorn Lore, 1988

Think of the Unicorn, that curious symbol of retirement from the world... ~Edward Carpenter, "Tradition, Convention, and the Gods," c. 1898

Found in the evening sky between Orion and Hydra, Monoceros is the constellation named in honor of the unicorn. Its first appearance was on a Dutch theologian's celestial globe in the early seventeenth century, and several years later came into general use on a German mathematician's star charts with the name "Unicornu." Monoceros boasts two blue-giant stars that are fifty-five times the size of the sun. These are the two most massive stars yet discovered, and together are known as Plaskett's Star. ~Christy Shaffer, Unicorns Coloring Book, 2000, Dover Publications

I just saw Twilight.
      It’s labeled a vampire film,
      but I don’t know why.
Those were not vampires.
      If sunlight makes you sparkle,
      you’re a unicorn.
~Ryan Mecum, Vampire Haiku, 2009, @MecumHaiku

I was bathing in a lake when I saw the unicorn. The water was cool and clear... It was a quiet day — as quiet as it ever gets, only the wind and the rustling of leaves, the accompanying insects... I had seen unicorns before, fleetingly. They were shy, cautious creatures that usually bolted when they sensed me, like quick flashes of sunlight on metal... As I looked upon this creature I knew I had seen nothing to compare to it for sheer beauty... It is an injustice to say merely that its coat was white... Sometimes the sun hit it just right and bright rainbow crescents fanned out like light through a fine spray of water. The hooves were mirror-bright — platinum or silver, I couldn't tell. A distant lighthouse beacon on a lonely night, the spiral horn rose from the noble head: milky white, warm and welcoming. ~Steven R. Boyett, Ariel, 1983

Unicorn, in all your glory...
You come so cautiously,
Treading softly.
Gentle as a petal,
Strong as an ox...
Born from starlight,
Love you bring...
~Jackie Hardcastle, "Unicorn," Visions In Poetry: A Spiritual Awakening Journey, 2014

Don’t you love it that Prince doesn’t use Twitter? Don’t you think he’s somewhere on a unicorn? ~Bruno Mars, quoted by Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times, 2012

I think he kept a unicorn
in his garden, or even himself was
partly a unicorn and reverted to the form at certain
seasons, or under the influence of the moon or
the scent of unidentified herbs,
or the echo of hoofbeats among the constellations
inaudible to most ears.
~Peggy Pond Church, "Elegy," c. 1957

Of all the legendary animals of art, folklore, and literature, the unicorn is the one with the greatest hold on our imaginations. Other fabulous beasts — the griffin, the chimera, the centaur, the sphinx — are clearly inventions, existing only in a mythical landscape of our own collective creation. Based though they may be on some distortion of actual experience or some need of the human psyche, these other creatures immediately seem impossible, as incredible as dreams. But the unicorn strikes us as more than imaginary. It seems possible, even probable — a creature so likely that it ought to exist. ~Nancy Hathaway, The Unicorn, 1980

She who calls for unicorns
      A fitting bride shall be
      For one who guides a soaring ship
      Upon a cloud-tossed sea.
For no one but a poet true
      Would ever dream to choose
      A unicorn so fleet and small
      With brightly polished shoes...
And when the day is sort o' brown
      And bird-men climb the skies,
      O, may she ride about the town
      A poem in disguise.
~Alfaretta Lansing, "Reply for Anne Spencer Morrow," in American Poetry Magazine, 1929

Unicorns are immortal. It is their nature to live alone, usually in a forest... They mate very rarely, and no place is more enchanted than one where a unicorn has been born. ~Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn, 1968  [a little altered —tg]

The brilliance of the stars increased. Charles Wallace continued to gaze upward. He focused on one star which throbbed with peculiar intensity. A beam of light as strong as a ladder but clear as water flowed between the star and Charles Wallace, and it was impossible to tell whether the light came from the piercing silver-blue of the star or the light blue eyes of the boy. The beam became stronger and firmer and then all the light resolved itself in a flash of radiance beside the boy. Slowly the radiance took on form, until it had enfleshed itself into the body of a great white beast with flowing mane and tail. From its forehead sprang a silver horn which contained the residue of the light. It was a creature of utter and absolute perfection. ~Madeleine L'Engle, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, 1978

The eldest of the three unicorns in the Lady's garden, Wishart, had skin that was almost translucent, a kind of pearly white, like the inside of shells. When he walked — and he never ran — he moved with an ancient grace. His breath smelled musty, like a bowl of crushed flower petals. The second oldest, Tartary, had skin like vellum. The third oldest — Infanta —still had a bit of spirit to her walk and a bit of flint in her amber eyes. Even her horn was still the gold of new-minted coins, while the others had horns more like the color of the full moon. ~Jane Yolen, "The Lady's Garden," Here There Be Unicorns, 1994  [a little altered —tg]

That unicorns may be betray'd with trees,
And bears with glasses, elephants with holes,
Lions with toils, and men with flatterers:
But, when I tell him, he hates flatterers,
He says, he does; being then most flatter'd.
~William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, c. 1599  [II, 1, Decius Brutus]

She saw that his color was changing as he grew. His coat was turning to the creamy whiteness of May blossoms, and his mane and tail glimmered as pale as starlight. ~Margaret Greaves, "A Net to Catch the Wind," 1979

Unicorns are the wariest of all wild things, but they sleep soundly when they sleep. ~Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn, 1968

And with the sun slanting on the unicorns from beyond the trees, they were like rainbows, all colors and no colors at all. ~Jane Yolen, "The Boy Who Drew Unicorns," 1987

Unicorns have always occupied a peculiar position in the opinion of the people as animals of good omen. There is an old legend, that a unicorn made its appearance at the birth of Confucius. The unicorn has been seen as a symbol of love for mankind. Unicorns have from a very early age been entrusted with the guardianship of tombs from unseen evil influences and the neutralisation of misfortune. ~J. J. M. de Groot, The Religious System of China, 1894  [a little altered  –tg]

In the midnight forest the dark oak trees are still under the stars. The pale wildflowers in the clearing have furled their petals for the night. Suddenly he appears, a milk-white creature with the proud form of a horse. You may not notice his cloven hoofs or curling beard, but you see the curved neck, the silver mane, the graceful tail. Then he moves his head, and the moonlight runs like sea water along the pearly spiral of his horn. There is no sound, but at the next heart-beat the clearing is once again empty of all but the night. ~Georgess McHargue (1941–2011), The Beasts of Never: A History Natural & Un-natural of Monsters Mythical & Magical, 1968

The Unicorn's a first-rate sort.
He helps the Lion to support
The royal arms of England's King
And keep the Throne from tottering...
~Oliver Herford, "The Unicorn," The Mythological Zoo, 1912

      The unicorn is commonly, though not always, thought of as white in body; it is an emblem of chastity; it is very swift; according to the best authorities it cannot be taken alive. The animal is most readily associated with the new or crescent moon, which might indeed seem to dwellers by the sea to be leading the stars down to the water and to dip its own horn therein before they descend...
      According to astrological belief and also that of magic and early medicine, the moon's phases exercise controlling influence upon all "humors", including not only the waters of the earth but the juices of plants and the blood of animals and of man... Alkazuwin asserts that the vigor of all animals grows with the waxing moon, that the milk of kine and the horns of beasts and even the whites of eggs increase with it... ~Odell Shepard, "Conjectures," The Lore of the Unicorn, 1930

Everything today has been
      Heavy and brown.
      Bring me a Unicorn
      To ride about town.
Bring me a unicorn
      As little and white
      As the new moon
      On its first night...
And I will kneel each morning
      To polish his bright hoofs
      That they may gleam each moonlight
      We ride over roofs.
~Anne Spencer Morrow, "Unicorn," 1927

I believe that the Unicorn may come to represent... the realm of art... Bereft of a complete fable, the Unicorn has earned a place in our imagination as an arcanum, an emblem of what we do not know. ~Roger Shattuck (1923–2005), "The Sphinx and the Unicorn," Forbidden Knowledge: From Prometheus to Pornography, 1986

She had pointed ears and thin legs, with feathers of white hair at the ankles; and the long horn above her eyes shone and shivered with its own seashell light even in the deepest midnight. She had killed dragons with it, and healed a king whose poisoned wound would not close, and knocked down ripe chestnuts for bear cubs. ~Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn, 1968

The unicorn could hear the sounds of the Earth growing:  grass and leaves and timothy in the fields. She could distinguish between oak and ash on the rise, though the sound of rowan growing made her tremble all over. ~Jane Yolen, "The Lady's Garden," Here There Be Unicorns, 1994  [a little altered —tg]

Run, Starhorn
Carry fire leaping from your starhorn
      Pierce worlds
      Cleft suns
      Tangle clouds
      Shatter time
            With your flaming starhorn...
~Shirley Rousseau Murphy, "Starhorn," 1987

According to some folk tales, the unicorn of the Middle Ages symbolized the season of spring, and was thought to possess the ability to renew life, heal sickness, and guard against evil. ~Christy Shaffer, Unicorns Coloring Book, 2000, Dover Publications

Monoceros constellation lies in the northern sky, on the celestial equator. Its name means “the unicorn” in Latin. It is a relatively faint constellation, containing only a few fourth magnitude stars, but it is nevertheless home to several notable stars:  the famous variables S Monocerotis, R Monocerotis, and V838 Monocerotis, Plaskett’s Star, which is one of the most massive binary stars known, and the triple star Beta Monocerotis. Monoceros also contains several interesting deep sky objects:  the open cluster Messier 50 (NGC 2323), the Rosette Nebula, the Christmas Tree Cluster, the Cone Nebula, and Hubble’s Variable Nebula, among others., 2013

The unicorn and I are one:
He also pauses in amaze
Before some maiden's magic gaze,
And, while he wonders, is undone.
On some dear breast he slumbers deep,
And Treason slays him in that sleep.
Just so have ended my life's days;
So Love and my Lady lay me low.
My heart will not survive this blow.
~Thibaut IV, Count of Champagne (1201–1253)

If the horne have this situation, and be so forwardly affixed, as is described, it will not be easily conceived, how it can feed from the ground... ~Thomas Browne (1605–1682)

Unicorns are immortal. It is their nature to live alone in one place: usually a forest where there is a pool clear enough for them to see themselves — for they are a little vain, knowing themselves to be the most beautiful creatures in all the world, and magic besides. ~Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn, 1968

Two lovely dames, whose air and habit show'd
That not to lineage mean their birth they ow'd;
Nor seem'd brought up in humble cottage state,
But bred in rich apartments of the great;
Each on a beauteous unicorn was plac'd,
Whose snowy hue the ermin's white defac'd.
~Ludovico Ariosto (1474–1533), Orlando Furioso, translated from Italian by John Hoole, 1783

As it is, I am so well off that everybody pretends I am much more respectable than I really am. The truth is there is no such thing as a great man or a great woman. People believe in them just as they used to believe in unicorns and dragons. The greatest man or woman is 99 per cent just like yourself; I may be insulting you by saying so because the so-called great people have often been, except for that 1 per cent, as to that 99 per cent of common humanity, downright bad lots. Even the best of them are apt to be a bit spoilt if that odd 1 per cent is made too much of during their lifetime. ~Bernard Shaw, radio address, 1932

The Orongo was an animal sacred to the Mongols and Tangutans. There were reported to have been whole herds of these antelope, but the singular Orongo or "one horn" was a rare occurrence — about 1 in 2,000. According to legend, its single ringed horn could foretell future events, and its blood had medicinal properties. ~Christy Shaffer, Unicorns Coloring Book, 2000, Dover Publications

A credulous medieval Europe embraced the idea of the unicorn, and codified the qualities that have remained the most familiar to us in modern times. It was at this juncture in its history that the animal became a sacred and wondrous creature: a pure white steed with a flowing mane, an ox tail, and a single spiralling horn, associated with such positive attributes as nobility, strength, purity, innocence, freedom, beauty, and magic. ~Christy Shaffer, Unicorns Coloring Book, 2000, Dover Publications

The unicorn stands alone, still as frost. It keeps watch down the corridors of time. The past and the future meet in the presence of the unicorn: the darkness and light become one. Patient as a candle flame, inviolate, here is our guardian, keeper of the silent unknown. ~Josephine Bradley, In Pursuit of the Unicorn, 1980

Every poem is a coat of arms. It must be deciphered. How much blood, how many tears in exchange for these axes, these muzzles, these unicorns, these torches, these towers, these martlets, these seedlings of stars and these fields of blue! ~Jean Cocteau (1889–1963)

I've heard when John was younger
      He was taken with a hunger
      To see the white-horned wonder
      They call the unicorn.
But when that star-horned, moon-maned dancer
      Finally called, John could not answer;
      Fear held him like a prisoner,
      And he watched it walk away...
Oh, when I watch old Ragged John
      Go staggering by and wandering on,
      I know there's nothing sadder
      Than a heart that feared its dreams.
If a unicorn should call to you
      Some moon-mad night all washed in dew,
      Then here's the prayer to whisper:
      Grant me the heart to follow.
~Beatrice Farrington (Bruce Coville), "Ragged John," 1987, in Coville's The Unicorn Treasury: Stories, Poems, and Unicorn Lore, 1988

...but then, she had no idea of months and years and centuries, or even of seasons. It was always spring in her forest, because she lived there, and she wandered all day among the great beech trees, keeping watch over the animals that lived in the ground and under bushes, in nests and caves, earths and treetops. Generation after generation, wolves and rabbits alike, they hunted and loved and had children and died, and as the unicorn did none of these things, she never grew tired of watching them. ~Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn, 1968

She didn’t know what a goji berry was, but it sounded like something Amazonian tribesmen might eat when they wanted to talk to their ancestors and embark on an inner voyage into some sort of unicorn-infested netherworld. ~Lola Salt, The Extraordinary Life of Lara Craft (Not Croft), 2013  [pseudonym of Sarah Alderson & Becky Wicks —tg]

From a proud unicorn stallion vomiting rainbows as he soars across the sky to toy unicorns pooping rainbows as colored jellybeans, modern culture puts its own twist on potty humor by making it light and fluffy. Don't get stuck asking yourself why unicorns fart rainbows — it's the juxtaposition of a magical creature and a disgusting everyday act that creates the joke., 2016

Never play leapfrog with a unicorn. ~Sage advice

No one can vouch for the origins of the medieval proverb, "No true virgin plays leapfrog with a unicorn in the forest on a spring night." ~Muriel Segal, Virgins Reluctant, Dubious & Avowed, 1977

In this volume of poetry for animals you will find... study guides or questions... Do not be alarmed! Unlike most study guides, these are not meant to terrify and confuse, until the young reader starts slavering like a mad dog and gnawing bits out of Teacher's leg. (You know what I mean — surely you've had the experience of coming to the end of a poem about, say, a girl and her unicorn, only to be asked the question, "How did the author use the unicorn as a metaphor?" when all the time you thought the unicorn was used as a form of transportation.) No, the study guides included in this volume are meant both to spare Teacher's leg, and also to provide ever greater opportunities for pleasure and happiness. ~I. H. Smythe, Poetry for Animals, 2011

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published 2000 Mar 22
revised 2004, 2015, 2017
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