eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise (Sonnet
Theres no credible-sounding way to announce
what this website documents:
1609 Quarto text of William Shakespeares Sonnets (Q), a cycle
of 154 visible poems, embeds another, hidden cycle of 154
sonnet-length texts—the Lost Sonnets, or, alternately, the
purpose of this website is to publish these restored texts, lost
some 400 years.
of these newfound poems shows sense and wit. Each is riddlic, gamy,
and consciously crafted. Each can be paraphrased. Each is Shakespeare’s
composition, not mine.
calling Will’s buried cycle the Runes, I adapt an ancient
generic term for arcane writings: A rune is a cryptic poem or riddlic
communication. The term recurs as a coy pun in the Q versesas,
for example, in the odd-looking Q line Bare runèd quires
[i.e., ‘stacks of paper’] where late the ‘Sweet
Bard S.’ sang (see Q’s letterstring Bare rn’wd
quiers.. .in Sonnet 73.4), and also in “Roughwindes
do shake...” (Sonnet 18.3), where the term links
with a namepun. As RVON..., it’s also a second-column
acrostic pun in Rune 1. (Will, of course, lived in an era that allowed
erratic spellings, and he relished puns.) Even though I’m
sure personally that the term carries Will’s authority as
a coterie generic label, it shouldn’t become a stumbling block
to anyone who questions it.
found the Runes in 1979, and this site continues the on-going
process of making them known to (rightly incredulous) modern readers.
in this universal medium, these long-lost poems are now free to
anyone who wants to read, study, enjoy, and validate them.
A public writer
who didn’t see himself as precious, Will, I think, would approve
of this global venue as a modern stage for mounting his work, with
while writing the Sonnets, Willas he likes to call
himself in his versescomposed and hid these poems, systematically
recycling the same 2,157 lines that make up the visible
Sonnets so as to generate and simultaneously embed an astounding
succession of playful poems that until now have lain hidden and
endlessly debated cycle of Sonnets in Q is, in effect, an elaborate
double entendre, an extended overall pun in which each line of verse
does double dutyonce in the Sonnets and once in the Runes.
Each line in Q takes on a different complex of meanings in the Runes
from those it has always had in the visible Sonnets. (Those public
meanings are, of course, complex.) The fluidity of meaning in the
Q lines is one element that makes the Runes possible.
poems, the Runes are similar to the Sonnets but are unrhymed, more
cryptic, more gamelike, and more associative in their organization
the themes and conceits of the Sonnets and the Runes overlap.
hide the Runes, Will used an organization scheme that relies
on sequence, parallelism, and the number system of the sonnet
form itself. Anyone who understands this scheme can restore
the lost texts to their original form.
in all, the poets hidden plan is a brilliant lost example
of suppressed design (or sprezzatura) that is wholly compatible
with Renaissance aesthetic principles and practices. The published
format in Q obliterates almost all overt indicators of the existence
of the Runes. Working in reverse, Ive reconstructed how the
Q texts might have looked in the oversized, hand-scripted format
that I believe Will originally used. (Link: How
Will Wrote the Runes)
text published here is a unique recovered artifact, an
addition to the Shakespearean canon that carries in itself its own
stamps of authenticity because it shows meaning and wit beyond what
happenstance could ever have generated. The marvelous intricacies
of the texts allow new, up-close glimpses into the workings of our
greatest literary mind.
much remains mysterious, many of the long-debated mysteries about
the 1609 Quarto begin to clarify themselves as we start to think
openly of Q as a Game intended to pull the leg of posterity. (The
“rival poet,” for example, is surely Will as runewriter.)
finding the Runes forces revaluation of every aspect
of the Sonnets and calls into question many of our received opinions,
including all the cherished ones.
links at left allow ready access to the Lost Sonnets in
their unedited, edited, and paraphrased forms. Some links also offer
backgrounds and interpretations that may help readers make sense
of the Runes. The judgment of history about these poems will be
an evolving process that any literate person can now take part in.
own theories and speculations should never detract from
the texts themselves. In particular, academic quarrels with my inevitable
errors and misconstructions shouldn’t obscure the hard evidence
here—the incontrovertible body of primary artifacts that this
finder, first editor, andfor the short span of a lifetimemodern
custodian of the Runes, I invite your interactions and comments.
Dr. Johnson as he brought forth his Dictionary, I take pride
in what Ive been able to do in this undertaking but must beg
readers to be indulgent toward its shortcomings.
adapting the textual components of this site from a 600+pp. book
ms. that I drafted in the late 1990s, I know that the complex process
of reformatting materials into this non-linear medium will trigger
oversights, inconsistencies, and gaps.
readers here will seek out a clear view of the forest amid the distractions
of all the trees. There’s simply no easy way to lay out such
a complex and mind-boggling discovery.
general, these lost poems also aren’t easy. (Neither,
of course, are the visible Sonnets.) Since Rune 1 makes sense as
readily as many of the Sonnets do, it’s a good place to start.
(Link: An Easy Sample Text)
RNG. Last site revision 16 November 2005.