Shakespeares Rune 1, as his Runes go,
is a fairly easy example of the 154 hidden sonnet-length poems that Shakespeare
composed concurrently with the Sonnets—using exactly the same lines
that the visible Sonnets do, but linking these lines sequentially in different,
poem comprises the first lines in the first fourteen sonnets,
arranged in serial order from Sonnet 1 to Sonnet 14.
is a paste-up arrangement of that sequence of fourteen lines, reproduced
exactly from the 1609 Quarto text of the Sonnets.
visible at the lower left is the vertical acrostic AVON.
edited text, shown below with a few glosses, may help clarify
some of the meaning and wit in this authorized composition.
only two or three details in the poem are stumbling blocks to a modern
reader who’s encountering the text for the first time: First, frame
(line 5) can mean “pass constructively” (ME), contrasting
with spend (i.e., “pass idly,” waste) in line 4. Second,
orient (line 7) can mean “dayspring” or dawn, and the
clause when the gracious light can mean “when genteel people
alight from (a high) bed.” Thus line 7 in context means, “Lo,
when gentlepeople get up at dawn....”
Like a number
of the early Sonnets, this hidden text seems to urge some fair, unnamed
friend to stop moping, make love, reproduce, and remember that Will loves
Runes embed much wit, aimed at some contemporary coterie of readers—and
now at us as modern reader/players.
line, for example, suggests that the poet’s poems, his own “fairest
creatures,” need to multiply—as indeed they’re still
doing here in the newly found Runes. The endword of the second
line, “brow,” puns on “B-row” (i.e., Row 2 or
line 2). Hours in line 5 looks like “whores” but
finds an echo in clock (12). Line 9 puns, “Are you afraid
to ‘wet a “widow’s eye”’?”—using
a Renaissance term for the pudendum. Thus the line inquires of the fair
auditor, “Are you afraid of intercourse?” Line 10 encodes
Will’s backhanded criticism of some unnamed male listener: “For
shame deny that thou bearest love to Annie!” (That is, “How
dare you say you don’t love my wife!”)
line 11 opens with the pun “A sophist ass, thou faulty one....”
And line 14 puns, “Knot [i.e., riddle] from the stars do eye (...from
these tars doughy...), my judgment pluck,” starting the “N-row”
with N and even effecting an altered typebit, an m
that looks like an n. (Thomas Thorpe,
the much-noted “T.T.” of the title page and dedication, surely
helped Will effect such minimal typographic wit.)
“Not from...” (14) playfully echoes “From...”
in line 1.
other gamy material lurks in this long-hidden string of lines, enticing
us to “pluck the poet’s judgment”—trying to pick
his brain, and doomed never quite to succeed.
beginning reader’s first pleasant job, however, is to confirm
for himself or herself that Rune 1 is an authorized poem. The paraphrase
that you see here (at right below ) moves the text a bit closer to a modern
vernacular but is really redundant for any literate, attentive reader.
Will Shakespeare’s Rune 1
(First lines, Set I: Sonnets 1-14)
as a Paste-up Text