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See also DAME GERTRUDE MORE'S DEFENSE OF FATHER AUGUSTINE'S WAY OF PRAYER, 'COLECTIUONS, MAZARINE 1202

 

DAME CATHERINE GASCOIGNE, O.S.B.

ON FATHER AUGUSTINE BAKER'S WAY OF PRAYER

FROM BIBLIOTHÈQUE MAZARINE, MS 1202, IV
 

Dame Catherine Gascoigne, Cambrai's  Abbess, in 1652
 

 century later than Father Augustine Baker 's July 1624 arrival at Cambrai to give spiritual direction to the English Benedictine nuns there, a manuscript was written out, July 1724, in the Paris daughter house by an anonymous English Benedictine nun, speaking of him as 'father Anonimus'. (This was how Father Baker styled himself in his Life of Gertrude More.) Cambrai's foundation of Our Lady of Comfort would become Stanbrook Abbey , Worcestershire, and Paris' foundation of Our Lady of Good Hope, Colwich Abbey , Staffordshire, both communities returning to England from which they had lived for centuries in exile, following the French Revolution. Dame Gertrude More was the most prominent of the young English Foundresses, 1623, of Our Lady of Comfort, dying in 1633, Dame Catherine Gascoigne was its Abbess from 1629-1676. This manuscript's centennial celebration of Father Augustine Baker's method of prayer, suppressed by an atheist revolution, lost to its religious communities, deserves today being shared and used, by Stanbrook, by Colwich, and by ourselves, by religious and lay, women and men.

Dame Gertrude More and Dame Catherine Gascoigne both wrote defenses of Father Augustine Baker's teaching on prayer, presenting these to the General Chapter of the English Benedictine Congregation in 1633, when all their contemplative manuscripts were called in and examined at Cambrai. During this process, Dame Gertrude was stricken with smallpox and died. So persuasive were their two texts that the English Benedictine Congregation's Chapter told the surviving Dame Catherine, 'Goe on couragiously, you have choosen the best way: we beseech Allmighty God to accomplish that union which your hart desireth'. Dame Catherine was to have to resist again, in 1655, as Dom Augustine Baker had foretold them would happen, against the calling in again of all their contemplative manuscripts. On her deathbed in 1675, Dame Catherine Gascoigne appealed to the then-President of the English Congregation, Dom Benedict Stapylton for 'a new and very ample confirmation' of these writings, 'as being the greatest treasure that belongs to this poor community'. One reason for this conflict was that Father Augustine Baker had revived the medieval form of contemplation through studying and sharing such fourteenth-century texts as Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love , Walter Hilton's Scale of Perfection, William Flete's Remedies Against Temptations, The Cloud of Unknowing, and the works of the Continental Friends of God , like John Tauler and Henry Suso . What had become fashionable instead were the Jesuit Spiritual Exercises, of imaging, though these in turn reflected far more ancient practices connected with Paula 's worship in Bethlehem and Calvary, oberved by Jerome, and copied by countless pilgrims to the Holy Places. Those contemplative writings were lost at the French Revolution, apart from two small manuscripts, one of these the Cloud Author's 'Epistle of Privat Counsell', that were preserved in the nuns' pockets during their imprisonment, 1793-1795, part of that time with the French Carmelite nuns, who were to be guillotined, in the Compiègne prison. These two manuscripts are now treasured at Stanbrook Abbey, along with the clothing of the executed Carmelites.

However, the Cambrai nuns had already founded a daughter house in Paris, in 1651, and had made sure that all their precious manuscripts, among them, Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love , were duplicated, many being written out by Dame Barbara Constable , O.S.B., who remained at Cambrai, and that these texts were taken with the nuns going to Paris, Dame Clementia Cary , their mother foundress, Dame Bridget More , their prioress. The Paris Our Lady of Good Hope carefully stated in their Constitution, in both the French (written by Dame Bridget More) and English (written by Dame Clementia Cary) versions, their desire to continue Dom Augustine's legacy of spiritual reading and writing, so doing deepening their call to the Benedictine religious life. Dom Serenus Cressy became the chaplain of the Paris nuns and saw to it that Dame Gertrude More's writings (1657,1658), including Gertrude More's defense of Augustine Baker's teachings (made at the same time as Catherine Gascoigne's), Augustine Baker's Sancta Sophia, Holy Wisdom (1657) and Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love (1670) were all printed and published. Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love's publication was under the patronage of  Abbot Placid Gascoigne of Lamspringe, Dame Catherine Gascoigne's brother and likewise a Benedictine, during her lifetime (A. Allanson, Biography of the English Benedictines, Ampleforth Abbey, 1999, on Placid or John Gascoigne, as Abbot, 1651-1681), Serenus Cressy noting in his preface, 'Whatsoever benefit thou mayst reap by this Book; thou art obliged for it to a More Venerable Abbot of our Nation, by whose order and liberality it is now published, and by Consequence sufficiently Approved', the marginal note identifying the benefactor as 'The V.R.F.Jo.Guscoyn.L.Abbot of Lamb-spring'. Indeed, it is likely that Catherine Gascoigne, or her sister Margaret, brought the Julian manuscript to Cambrai in the first place. The Gascoigne family claimed Sir Thomas Gascoigne, Chancellor of Oxford and devotee of St Birgitta's Syon Abbey, as relative. The Lowes , connected with Syon Abbey from the fifteenth through the nineteenth centuries, owned Julian's Showing. Dame Margaret Gascoigne wrote about Julian's Showing, and Dame Bridget More copied her text. The Mores and Gascoignes would logically have entered Syon Abbey, then in exile in Lisbon, but for a libel published by a pirate against Syon, causing these English families with the greatest Brigittine ties, to break them and found instead Benedictine Cambrai. Thus the precious legacy of Julian of Norwich Showing of Love manuscripts changed from Brigittine cloisters to Benedictine ones, the Westminster, Amherst and Paris texts being Brigittine, Paris representing the text prepared for Tudor/Elizabethan printing by the Brigittines, the Gascoigne, Upholland, Sloane, and Stowe being Benedictine, likewise the first successfully printed edition by Serenus Cressy.

The Paris English Benedictines, as were the Cambrai English Benedictines, were imprisoned during the French Revolution, but upon finally being freed were able to negotiate the return of most of their manuscripts and books to England, where they are now to be found at Colwich Abbey. However, this manuscript, written by one of their nuns, likely found in her cell at her death as was the custom with such contemplative collections, ended up in Paris' Bibliothèque Mazarine.

Opening of Bibliothèque Mazarine 1202

This particular manuscript, dated July 23, 1724, by its scribe, an anonymous English nun in exile, is sneered at in the Paris, Bibliothèque Mazarine, Catalogue as the production of some superstitious monk. The manuscript is indeed prefaced with an engraving of a Benedictine monk kneeling in prayer, rays of light falling upon him. The cataloguer failed to notice that the anthology of contemplative writings was written by a woman whose humility conceals from us her identity, almost even her gender. This 'Colections' includes writings from Father Augustine Baker, the Friend of God John Tauler, Blessed Angela of Foligno, the Conversio Morum, Bishop of Cambray Fénelon's Letters of Siritual Direction , Dame Gertrude More, including excerpts of her defense of Father Augustine Baker made to the General Chapter of the English Benedictine Congregation in 1633, and Dame Catherine Gascoigne, again this being her defense of Father Augustine Baker's teaching on prayer presented to Chapter in 1633, when all manuscripts were called in. In this same library is also to be found the Catalogue of all their Cambrai Augustine Baker texts, listing as well Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love as 'The Revelations of Sainte Julian', as a manuscript which they owned but which was not from Dom Augustine Baker's collecting, plus another, now lost, manuscript, 'Colections outt of Holy Mo: Juilan' [sic.]. Furthermore this particular surviving 'Colections' manuscript includes a section written by the anonymous nun herself which gives near-quotations from Julian's Showing. This evidence tells us that the Paris house a century later than the Cambrai foundation was continuing to preserve, to live and to celebrate its contemplative legacy.

It is my hope that this transcription will return this important copy of their original Mother Abbess's text to these Abbeys' cloistered nuns at Stanbrook and at Colwich. It is a portion of their treasured lost inheritance. And likewise to share it not only in the cloister, but also with the world. That had been a major purpose of their contemplative copying and writing when in exile, to exercise the 'apostolate of the scribe' as their contribution to the English Mission of the Benedictine monks to the laity of their then lost homeland.

____________________________________
 

Dame Catherine Gascoigne's Defense of Father Augustine Baker's Way of Prayer

382  Coll: Lad: Cath: G. Prayer

My prayer I know not how to
express, but it seems to me to be a
longing and vehement desire of
the soull thirsting after the presence
of God, seeking and intending only
and wholy his will and pleasure
with as much purity of intention as
my imperfection will permit. it is
only exercised in the will, some
times in one maner, & sometimes
in another; according to the pres
ent disposition of the soull. now
humbling itself a 1000 times in þe
presence of god, now praising, ble
sing and adoring him, at other times
confounded at my great ingratitude
not daring as it were to appear in


 

      D. Cath: Gas: Prayer        383

his presence, or to elevate myself
towards him by love, wm I have soe
much offended, sometimes I think it
is those we call acts or aspirations,
or rather an elevation of the will tow
ards god; proceeding from an interiour
motion, & enablement to continue þe
same, yet not always with like ferv
our, for many times I find a great &
strong desire to please, and praise god
and yet am not able in any sort to doe
it, and that is my greif. but thus I see
there is no way but patience & resig-
nation, till it pleases him w° only
can enable me, when he pleases G
to doe better, for methinks the more
I strive or force my self the further

384     D. Cath: Gas: Pr:

I am from it. for everything meth
-inks even thinking of good and holy
things doe rather breed images and
cause multiplicity in the soul, and
are distractions & impediments to
me in my prayer, and tendance to
wards god, so I must keep myself
in as much quietness as may be, wth
out using violence or stress, for I
find myself most drawn to that pray
er which tends to an unity, without
adhering to any perticular creature
or image; but seeking only for that
thing wch our lord said to be necesa
ry, and wch contains all things in it
self, according to that saying, Unum
sit mihi totum, id est Omnia in
Omnibus, hoc unum quaero, hoc
 
 

             D. Cath: G: Pr:             385

unum desidero, propter unum
omnia, hoc si habuero contentus
ero, et nisi potitus fuero. semper
fluctus, quia multa me implere
non posunt, Quid hoc unum nescio
dicere, desiderare. me sentio, quo
nihill melius, nec majus est, sed nec
cogitare, potest, non enim hoc un
um inter omnia, sed unum super
omnia est. Deus meus est, cui ad-
haerere, et inhaerere bonum mihi
est. This way of tending and aspiring
towards god, by love and affection doth
in no sort, hinder a soull, from
the due performance of her other
duties and Obligations, and externall
 
 

386       D. Cath: Gas: Pr:

Obediences, much less dos it cause
her to neglect, misprise, or disesteem
of her superiours, their ordinations
and exactions, (as has bine feared)
for it doth cause her to observe and
perform them with more purity of
intention and more readily and more
chearfully, regarding God in the doing
of them, rather then the works that
she doth. and a soull that is caryed
in this affectuous inclination towards
god carefully observing the divine
call and motions, and abstracting
herself from impertinencies and all
things wch doe not belong to her to
doe or undergoo. she will be able to
make use of all things, in there times
[Stanbrook: their due time]
 

          D. Cath: Gas: pray:       387

times, to her advancement in spir
it. for nothing is required of us in
our state of life, but if we know how
to make right use of it, it will further
us in our way, and especially the divine
office, and service of the Quire, as be-
ing an exercise more imediatly belon
ging to the praise and worship of god.
so doe I most comonly find it a great
help and incitement therto, except
when the body is too much wearied or
otherwise indisposed and þs exercise
of love seems to be the best means to
purchase all vertues; for the soull þt
doth faithfully persue it with perse
verance, and faithfully coresponds
in the divine Grace, dos in some sort
 
 

388          D. Cath: Gas: pr:

(according to her progress in this di
vine love) exercise all vertues in
these times, for it is the way of Hum-
ility, of abnegation, of sincere obedi
-ence, of perfect submision, & subjec
-tion to god, and to every creature
for his love, and according to his
good will and pleasure, it causeth
and encreaseth in the soull, a holly
and humble confidence in god, which
does enoble her to pass thro all occuring
difficulties wth chearfulness and ala
crity, not that she shall not meett wth
difficulties (for the way of love is
the way of the cross and full of bitter
mortifications) but because she de
sires so much to please her beloved
that all things wtsoever tho never
 
 

           D. Cath: Gas: Pr:           389

so greivous to nature, become easy
and tolerable to her, wch may draw
more near unto him, and wtsoever
she finds to be a lett or hinderance
in her way of tendance towards him,
as fears, scruples, etc: she doth
pass them over and transcend them by
love, seeking and endeavouring always
to unite herself to god, according to
her maner, and to adher perseverantly
unto him, and although it may per
haps be esteemed a great presumption
for a soull þt has made but litle prog
ress in a spirituall course, & is full
of deffects, and imperfections, to pret
end so high an exercise, as is that of
love and aspiring towards god; yet
 

390          D. Cath: Gas: Pr:

to me it seems to be the best way
to get true humility, nay I canot see
how tis posible for a soull by anny
other means to avoid that most detes
table sin of pride, wch so secretly -
creeps in, & intrudes itself into all
our best actions, & Holiest exercises.
but only by adhesion to god, which
excludes all pride, and all maner of
temptaion of what kind soever,
for the soull þt seeks and pretends
nothing but god, and tends towards
him in the best maner she can by sim
plicity, adhering to noe Image or
created thing, but only to god him
self there is no place for pride, &
therfore noe exercise or maner of
 
 

            D: Cath Gas: Pr:              391

prayer so secure for the soull, and þe
less subject to the Ilusions & deceits of
the †Divell, then this exercise of the will
which is both plain & easie for those soulls
that have an aptness and call unto it, is
faithfully prosecuting, wth the grace of
god concuring, it leads the soull through
all things wtsoever, it is the way of humi
lity, and confidence. for the soull having
continuall recourse to god by prayer is
therby enlightned to see her own nothing
and poverty, and how that she is not able
to effect any thing that is good, without
the divine assistance, butt that she must
wholly, & totally depend of God, and this
dependance, wch the soull sees herself con-
tinually to have of god; methinks it is
able to humble her even to dust, besides
 
 

392          D. Cath: Gas: Pr:

the sins and imperfections to which
she is subject and often falls into. and
indeed god has many secret ways to
humble a soull, and out of his care doth
soe provide that matter of humiliation
shall never be wanting to her, if she will
but accordingly endeavour to make use
therof. and the wonderfull vouchsafe
ment of God All: to is such to a soull þt
seeks and aymes at nothing else but to
be faithfull to him, þt it causes & increa
-ses a great confidence in his goodness, and
his continuall care and providence to
wards her; so that for her part she
seems to have nothing else in the world
to doe, but only to endeavour to comply
with his will, and pleasure. tending
and aspiring towards him by prayer
 

            D. Cath: Gasc: Pr:              393

as he shall enable her for it by his grace,
without taking care or solicitude for
any thing that may concern her keep lea
ving herself and all things wholly to his
sweet disposition, so that her only care
is to please him, and he will sufficiently
provide for her, and for all things that may
concern her good, to wm she hath totally
left herself and all other things, after this
maner to the Divine providence; she
doth not neglect that to wch she is obli-
-ged according to her dutty and charge
for god himself takes care of all, & guides
all, and nothing is lost, but much beter
performed by leaving all to him, as thau
lerus saith In deo nihill negligetur.
and the soull proceeding in this maner
with as much simplicity as she can, seeking
 

394    D. Cath: Gas: Pr:

after nothing but God, her confidence
dailly increases as holly scripture says,
Qui ambulat simpliciter, ambulat
confidenter. and she walks one secure
-ly & quietly under the divine protection,
all things cooperating to her good, for
wtsoever doth hapen to her by gods per
-mision; dos serve to breed†still in her
true and perfect resignation & conf
ormity to the Divine will, wherby she
comes to have & enjoy betwixt God and
her soull, true internall, and solid peace,
even amidst all crosses and opositions, &
variations, that we are subject unto, in
this changeable and miserable life of ours,
which peace, & security noe creature
can give unto a soull but only god himself
and therefore happy are those soulls þt

† & Cause vertically in margin; Stanbrook: more & more]
 
 

           D. Cath: Gas: Pr:              395

that faithfully & perseverently adher
to him, with an internall regard of his
will in all things, and this plain & simple
exercise of the will, taught us by father
Anonimus tends to noe other thing, (soe, far
|as I understand it) þn þs to bring the soull
to a total subjection to god, and to others
for god.
Indeed I am not able to express wt I doe
in part conceive of the excelency & worth-
iness, of this most happy exercise, of tend-
ing aspiring towards god by love, how
be it. I have here endeavoured as well
as I could briefly and sincerely to let
my superiours know by this, how I und-
erstand and desire to practis the same.
humbly submiting myself, & all my ways
and practises, in this or wt else soever to
 

396       D. Cath: Gas: Prayer

be corected by them, purposing & promi
-sing by Gods Grace always to stand to
their judgment and determination, in
all things. and if your Paternities
do think it good & please to aprove it,
I do then most humbly beseech your leave
and blesing, with the assistance of yr
holly prayers, that I may prosecute it
with new fervour & diligence, for noth-
-ing does so much trouble me as my slack
-ness & negligence in it hitherto.
                ~  ~  ~

Invidia omnis
spiritualis
et carnalis
Deo Odibilis
et Anima pestis
satis subtilis
cur non recedis
 

            Colections              397
 

A meo Corde
te detestante
et reluctante
contra motus tuos
valde pestiferos
et desiderante
in vera charitate
omnes Diligere. ~
   to St Arsenius my Dear Patron

God, sent his Angell down, to let þee know
his blesed will wch so by thee, was sought
praying to him to teach þee how to goe,
that way by wch to him thou mightst be brought.
The Angell bid thee fly & silent be,
and suffer nothing to disquiet thee.
Pray that I may fly to God, & hold my peace
and being from all noyse & tumults free
 

                 Colections

labour to make all Cogitations cease.
that I may here alone. in quiet be
and living thus on earth abstractedly
my mind may ever placed be one high.
and let my eyes to God be ever turn'd
regarding nothing, that is here below
aspiring daily to be wholly burn'd
with this inflamed love and nothing know
but him allone; whoom I desire to be
my portion, part & all in all to me ~
                   ~
often hath it repented me to have spo-
-ken, never to have bine silent. said
St Arsenius
                 ~  Finis
Laus Deo & Maria. Jully 23 1724
 
 
 

References

Dame Gertrude More, Thomas More's descendant and foundress of the English Benedictine Abbey of Our Lady of Comfort in Cambrai (today Stanbrook Abbey), the mother house to the Abbey of Our Lady of Good Hope in Paris (today St Mary's Abbey, Colwich), likewise wrote, 'I will now take thy advice given me to fly, be silent, and quiet, and I will hourly come to learn the song of love and praise of Thee', Dom Benedict Weld-Blundell, noting these words, in his edition of The Writings of Dame Gertrude More, 1910, p. 56, as 'words spoken from heaven to St Arsenius'.

Much of the above information from: The Benedictines of Stanbrook,  'Dame Catherine Gascoigne, 1600-1676', In a Great Tradition (London: John Murray, 1956), pp. 5-29.

Bibliography

Augustine Baker OSB. Alphabet and Order. Ed. John Clark. Institut für Anglistik und Amerkianistik, Universität Salzburg, 2001. James Hogg, Salzburg, 2006.

Fr Augustine Baker OSB. Holy Wisdom or Direction for the Prayer of Contemplation. Introduction Dom Gerard Sitwell OSB. Wheathampstead: Anthony Clarke Books, 1972.

Fr. Augustine Baker OSB. St Benedict's Rule. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.24, ed. James Hogg. Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universität Salzburg, 2005. 2 vols. James Hogg, Salzburg, 2006.

Fr. Augustine Baker OSB. Collections I-III and The Twelve Mortifications of Harphius. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.21, ed. James Hogg. Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universität Salzburg, 2004. James Hogg, Salzburg, 2006.

Fr. Augustine Baker OSB. Directions for Contemplation. Book D. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.11, ed. James Hogg. Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universität Salzburg, 1999. James Hogg, Salzburg, 2006.

Fr. Augustine Baker OSB. Directions for Contemplation. Book F. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.12, ed. James Hogg. Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universität Salzburg, 1999. James Hogg, Salzburg, 2006.

Fr. Augustine Baker OSB. Directions for Contemplation. Book G. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.13, ed. James Hogg. Salzburgu: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universität Salzburg, 2000. James Hogg, Salzburg, 2006.

Fr. Augustine Baker OSB. Directions for Contemplation. Book H. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.14, ed. James Hogg. Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universität Salzburg, 2000. James Hogg, Salzburg, 2006.

Fr. Augustine Baker OSB. Discretion. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.9, ed. James Hogg. Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universität Salzburg, 1999.

Fr. Augustine Baker OSB. Doubts and Calls. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.102, ed. James Hogg. Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universität Salzburg, 1998. James Hogg, Salzburg, 2006.

Fr. Augustine Baker OSB. A Secure Stay in all Temptations. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.8, ed. James Hogg. Salzburgu: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universität Salzburg, 1999. James Hogg, Salzburg, 2006.

Fr. Augustine Baker OSB. Secretum. Introduction and Notes, John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.20, ed. James Hogg. Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universität Salzburg, 2003. James Hogg, Salzburg, 2006.

Fr. Augustine Baker OSB. Secretum. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.7, ed. James Hogg. Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universität Salzburg, 1997. James Hogg, Salzburg, 2006.

Fr. Augustine Baker OSB. A Spiritual Treatise . . . Called A.B.C. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.17, ed. James Hogg. Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universität Salzburg, 2001. James Hogg, Salzburg, 2006.

Fr. Augustine Baker OSB. Vox Clamantis in Deserto Animae. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.22, ed. James Hogg. Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universität Salzburg, 2004. James Hogg, Salzburg, 2006.

That Mysterious Man: Essays on Augustine Baker OSB 1575-1641. Ed. Michael Woodward. Introduced Rowan Williams. Analecta Cartusiana 119.15, ed. James Hogg. Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universität Salzburg, 2001. James Hogg, Salzburg, 2006.


JULIAN OF NORWICH, SHOWING OF LOVE I, II, III

DAME MARGARET GASCOIGNE, DAME BRIDGET MORE

DAME BARBARA CONSTABLE, UPHOLLAND MANUSCRIPT

'COLECTIONS', MAZARINE 1202,  I AND III

SPIRITUAL LETTERS OF ARCHBISHOP FÉNELON TO MADAME GUYON, MAZARINE 1202, IIA

SPIRITUAL LETTERS OF ARCHBISHOP FÉNELON TO MADAME GUYON, MAZARINE 1202, IIB

DAME GERTRUDE MORE'S DEFENSE OF FATHER AUGUSTINE'S WAY OF PRAYER, 'COLECTIUONS, MAZARINE 1202

DAME CATHERINE GASCOIGNE'S DEFENSE OF FATHER AUGUSTINE BAKER'S WAY OF PRAYER, 'COLECTIONS', MAZARINE 1202, IV

AUGUSTINE BAKER WEBSITE Link §

 
 

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