Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets: A Restoration of the Runes
by Roy Neil Graves, Professor of English
The University of Tennessee at Martin

 The Edited Texts of the Runes
in the 1609 Quarto: Sets I-III
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2003, All Rights Reserved


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Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets

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Set I: Runes 1-14

—Notes on Set I—

          Though scholars have often stressed the thematic unity in Sonnets 1-17 or 1-18 (see Ramsey 6), Kenneth Muir, Hilton Landry, and C. Knox Pooler have all concluded—without knowing about Q’s 11 lost sets—that Sonnets 1-14 form a thematic group. Pooler has suggested that Sonnet 15 is the first to treat the theme of immortalizing the poet’s friend through art. Muir finds consistency in the first 17 sonnets but notes that “in the last three…there is a change” as the theme of immortality through “the permanence of great poetry” takes over and that of encouragement to marry fades (Muir 45; Landry 144, crediting Pooler’s Arden edition).
          Necessarily, the general content of the sonnets in a set determines that of the sibling runes—and vice versa. Set I deserves the title “Marriage and Increase” since, however varied, its runes and sonnets all encourage union and procreation. (I reserve the “set rubrics” for the section of this site where the paraphrases occur, since these titles—though often suggested by the Q text—are, like the paraphrases, blatantly unauthorized, urely editorial additions.
           Set I houses no blockbuster sonnets—not one that has gained a wide readership or frequent anthology status.
          The set establishes patterns that the others follow. Each visible text is “a number,” and each sonnet follows an English rhyme scheme (abab cdcd efef gg) that precludes any rhyme scheme in the runes. (If the runes rhymed using an English scheme, then the visible Sonnets 1 and 3 would have exactly parallel rhyme scheme—as would Sonnets 2 and 4; 5 and 7; 6 and 8; 9 and 11; 10 and 12; 13 and 14—and the supply of end-words would be sphinctered down hopelessly.)           Four sonnets of the 14 in Set I—1, 3, 4, and 10—use be/thee or me/thee couplet rhymes, generating incidental abaa rhymes in Runes 13 and 14 and “switched” rhymes in the couplets of Sonnets 3 and 4 that pun on “witty be / be witty” and “to be/not to be.”)
          Set I also illustrates Q’s underlying “warp-and-woof” structure, rationalizing the “knottiness” of both sets of texts. Eugene Gant’s reference in Look Homeward, Angel to the “woven density” of the Sonnets shows Thomas Wolfe’s apt prescience (278). (Gant finally gives up on the Sonnets because they are so hard.) Paul Ramsey’s “web” of connectedness is another metaphor with the same drift (6ff.). What Elizabethans liked in their knot-gardens, they also liked in their poetry: intricate, interlocked designs. The Q texts are a covert reductio absurdum of this interest.


          Looking at Set I and imagining the poems penned on a folio-sized leaf, about 22 x 17 inches, in the near-minuscule hand of the Thomas More remnant invites us to envision how the poet composed a given set. Writing the first sonnet of the set and the first lines of all 14 sonnets (generating Rune 1) would have imposed no unusual constraints, except that each line that Will composed had to start another poem. These two texts, Sonnet 1 and Rune 1, laid out the formal and thematic dimensions of the set. As the poet successively added lines, “down” or “across,” the texture of his set thickened and his choices grew more complex. Still, when he wrote any given line, his problem was to advance the sense and wit of two texts concurrently, not 28. Perhaps the poet roughed in all the lines for the set on a single folio leaf and then refined the texts on separate leaves, jot-and-tittle, so they could bear more punning freight. In any case, the process was exacting and tedious.
          Set I also shows how each of the 14 visible sonnets in a set parallels one line of a sonnet text, and how the 4-4-4-2 pattern of the leaf parallels three quatrains and a couplet. Q shows the sonnet couplets indented, and my restoration of the sets follows suit, generating the symmetry that the poet surely aimed at, a set arrangement that allows the two pages to mirror each other. Notably, the first mention of mirrors in Q—“Look in thy glass…” (Sonnet 3.1)—comes atop the righthand page just at the point where that page begins to “mirror” the other. All references in Q to mirrors are puns about the poet’s mirror-image set structure. (Sonnets and runes “mirror” each other, too.) In many other ways Q’s verses allude coyly to its architecture. If the poet meant all along to suppress the runes at the printing stage—or was resigned to their loss—then surely such references are clues, dropped to help us restore his lost magnum opus in the very way they have proven to do.
          All the figures in the Q lines about numbers and “counting” start to mean more when we know that a structure of numbers underpins the cycle. Many hidden puns are thus about “relevant” numbers. In Set I, the poet’s content points to his form in Sonnet 1.14—the start of Rune 14—by punning “Two-eight…,” the 28 texts on the spread that he is “starting” to complete. More cryptically, the set’s terminal pun “…deux meaned 8”—i.e., “2 stood as a ‘mean[s?]’ for 8”—reiterates the other one, the one that triggered our search for such obscure wit.
           Other game elements on the set spreads are starlike acrostic links of texts and of emphatic letters. While Will encoded AVON so that it appears only when Rune 1 gets recomposed, other alignments stand in file only on the visible spread. Reading “up” in Set I, e.g., reveals the emphatic first-line acrostics OFT and ALL. Reading down and left to right, a 14-element codestring teases us: FT I V[V]T FOLL AN V M VV (cf., e.g., “Fit [Stanza] eye, wit, follow new hymn. [signed] W.,” “Fit eye, witty fellow…,” “Of twat-folly, Anne, you mew [whine],” and “Half-taught fool Anne you mew [coop up].”
           The reverse codeline reads VVM V NA LLOFT [V]VIT F (cf., e.g., “Wm. you know, a lofty Wit, forte (F = S?)” and “Wm. you nail aloft—W., aye tough.” Other variant codelines inhere in each set—up-and-downs, side-to-sides, zig-zags.
          Finally, new strings of meaning emerge in the sets because two patterns of linearity are always at work in Q, and because whole texts can behave in the sets like lines—and, in the whole structure, like syllables. In each set, for example, the last two texts look (and may act) like a “couplet” to the whole unit (cf., e.g., Sets III, XI). Too, the content of any given poem, sonnet or rune, triggers 14 side-effect patterns. Thus the progression of ideas in any rune—often replete with octave-, sestet-, quatrain-, and couplet-like turns—roughly parallels the progression of the other runes in the set, with modulations, dramatic high points, and turns of thought acting like shared property. Imagine 14 cars driving on parallel roads in the same direction through 14 varied regions. The miracle, of course, is that each report of the trip, as any Q text records it, shows such a vividly particularized view of what’s out the window. The modulations of “sonnet logic” in the apparent texts do allow wide variations of substance in the runes. And a single striking image from any one sonnet can sometimes seem to give a rune its defining character, its main conceit.

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                         Rune 1
      (First lines, Set I: Sonnets 1-14)

     From fairest creatures we desire increase.
     When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
     Look in thy glass, and tell the face thou viewest,
 4  “Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend
     Those hours that with gentle work did frame?”
     Then let not winter’s ragged hand deface.
     Lo, in the orient, when the gracious light
 8  Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly?
     Is it for fear? To wet a widow’s eye?
     For shame deny that thou bear’st love to any!
     As fast as thou shalt wane, so fast thou grow’st
12 When I do count the clock that tells the time.
     O, that you were yourself! But love you are.
     Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck.
     Glosses: 1) increase = improvement, progeny; 3) glass = mirror, drinking glass; 4) spend = pass idly; 5) frame = pass constructively (ME); 7) Lo puns on “Low [in the east]”; orient = dayspring; light = alight (i.e., arise from [a high] bed); 9) Or, “...for fear to wet a widow’s eye [a pudendal pun]?”; 10) any puns on “Annie,” Will’s wife’s name.

                        Rune 2
     (Second lines, Set I: Sonnets 1-14)

     That thereby beauty’s rose might never die
     And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
     Now is the time that face should form another
 4  Upon thyself, thy beauty’s legacy
     The lovely gaze where every eye doth dwell.
     In thee thy summer, ere thou be distilled,
     Lifts up his burning head: Each under eye,
 8  Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy.
     That thou consum’st thyself in single life
     Who for thyself art so unprovident,
     In one of thine from that which thou depart’st
12 And see, the brave day sunk in hideous night,
     No longer yours, then you yourself here live,
     And yet: Methinks I have astronomy.
     Glosses: 1) rose puns on “rows [of text here]”; 2) thy beauty’s field = your face, your domain; 4) Upon thyself = Patterned after you; 9) That = Because, Given that (ME); also, “That thou consum’st—thyself—in...”; 11) one of thine = the poet, this (still-extant) poem; 11-12) that which.../...see = the visible world; 14) astronomy = cosmic control (implied by the context); pun: “Anne died, methinks. Eye half-assed rune. Oh, my!”

                         Rune 3
     (Third lines, Set I: Sonnets 1-14)

     But as the riper should by time decease,
     Thy youth’s proud livery—so gazed on now,
     Who’s fresh—repair if now thou not renewest.
 4  Nature’s bequest gives nothing, but doth lend,
     Will play the tyrants to the very same.
     Make sweet (some vial) treasure thou, some place
     Doth homage to his new-appearing sight.
  Why lov’st thou that which thou receiv’st not gladly?
     Ah, if thou issueless shalt hap to die!
     Grant, if thou wilt, thou art belov’d of many,
     And that fresh blood which youngly thou bestow’st.
12 When I behold the violet past prime,
     Against this coming end you should prepare—
     But not to tell of good or evil luck.
     Glosses: 2) livery = uniform, flaunted “badge” (with phallic overtones and a pun on “liver,” a body part); 3) repair (subjunctive) = may depart; 6) Make (sb.) = Mate, Companion (ME); 7) his = youth’s (see 2); 14) not to tell of (elliptical) = it’s unclear whether you will have...

                           Rune 4
       (Fourth lines, Set I: Sonnets 1-14)

      His tender heir might bear his memory,
     Will be a tottered weed of small worth held;
     Thou dost beguile the world. Unbless some mother
 4  And, being frank, she lends to those are free—
     And that unfair which fairly doth excel
     With beauty’s treasure, ere it be self-killed
     Serving with looks his sacred majesty—
 8  Or else, receiv’st with pleasure thine annoy.
     The world will wail thee like a makeless wife,
     But that thou none lov’st is most evident!
     Thou mayst call thine, when thou from youth convertest
12 And—sable curls or silvered o’er with white—
      And your sweet semblance to some other give
      Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality.
2) Will = the poet; tottered weed = shaky weed, ragged garment; 4) frank = open, generous; free = available; 5) with phallic overtones in the line; 9) makeless = matchless, mateless; 12) hinting at pubic hair covered with ejaculate.

                         Rune 5
     (Fifth lines, Set I: Sonnets 1-14)

     But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
     Then being asked where all thy beauty lies
     (For where is she so fair who’s uneared womb,
 4  Then beauteous?)—niggard, why dost thou abuse?
      For never-resting Time leads Summer on—
     That use is not forbidden usury,
     And having climbed the steep-up heavenly hill.
 8  If the true concord of well-tunèd sounds,
     The world will be thy widow, and still weep
     For thou art so possessed with murderous hate!
     Herein lives wisdom: Beauty and increase.
12 When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
     So should that beauty which you hold in leaf—
     Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell.
     Glosses: 1) contracted = shriveled, betrothed; 3) who’s uneared womb = who is unfruitful...; 4) niggard = miser; 6) use = maintenance for sexual purposes; usury = unlawful lending; 7) And = Nor is; Any more than...; 10) For = Because; 13) leaf (Q lease, with a “long s,” an eyepun on f); 14) Nor without Neither (arch.); minutes = time, records; tell (see “tally,” calculate).

                         Rune 6
       (Sixth lines, Set I: Sonnets 1-14)

     Feed’st thy light’s flame with self-substantial fuel
     Where all the treasure of thy lusty days
     Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry—
 4  The bounteous largess given thee to give
     To hideous winter—and confounds him there,
     Which happies those that pay the willing loan,
     Resembling strong youth in his middle age
 8  By unions married. Do offend thine ear
     That thou no form of thee hast left behind—
     That ’gainst thyself thou stick’st not to conspire.
     Without this, folly, age, and cold decay,
12 Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
     Find no determination; then you were
     Pointing to each his thunder, rain, and wind.
10) Thou stickest not:… = “you don’t show unwillingness…” (OED), smacking of wit about stickiness; 11) this = your replication in an offspring (see 9); 12) Erst = formerly; 13) then you were = “in that case (i.e., without an heir) you would be…”; 14) the triplet series shows formal parallelism with the one in 11.

                         Rune 7
     (Seventh lines, Set I: Sonnets 1-14)

     Making a famine where abundance lies
     To say within thine own deep-sunken eyes,
     O’er who is he so fond, Will be the tomb?
 4  Profítless usurer, why do oft thou use
      Sap, check’d with frost and lusty leaves quite gone,     
      That’s for thyself to breed another thee?
     Yet mortal looks adore his beauty still.
 8  They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds
     When every private widow well may keep,
     Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate.
     If all were minded so, the times should cease,
12 And summers green. All girded up in sheaves,
     You “selve” again, after your self’s decease—
     Or fay with princes, if it shall go well.
     Glosses: 2) say = express; 3) who = whom; fond = doting, foolish; Will = the poet; 4) do oft (also dost); 7) his points back to who...? in 3, but gone in 5 puns on “John,” suggesting Will’s son-in-law, Dr. John Hall; 8) They = The eyes of mortals (see 7), punning on “Th’ eye”; 9) well (adj., sb.) = fit, a pudendum, an inkwell; 10) a quiet allusion to Xanthippe, who once emptied a pisspot on Socrates’ head; 14) fay = fit snugly; thus, Or fay with = “or else fit snugly with”; alternately, “O’er, say, with princes, if....”

                          Rune 8
       (Eighth lines, Set I: Sonnets 1-14)

     Thy self thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel,
     Were an all-eating shame—and thriftless praise
     Of his self-love to stop posterity,
 4  So great a sum of sums. Yet canst not live
     Beauty o’ersnowed and bareness everywhere;
      O’er, ten times happier be it ten for one
     Attending on his golden pilgrimage.
 8  In singleness, the parts that thou shouldst bear:
     By children’s eyes, her husband’s shape in mind—
     Which to repair should be thy chief desire.
     And threescore year would make the world away,
12 Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
     When your sweet issue your sweet form should bear:
     By oft predict that I in heaven find.
3, 7) His refers to the listener’s “self” (see 1); 6) O’er (Q Or) suggests “[life] completed”; 9) Her implies “a widow’s”; 10) repair = fix, resort to; 13) bear puns on “bare,” i.e., “reveal”; 14) Oft predict may mean “frequent forecasting.”

                         Rune 9
     (Ninth lines, Set I: Sonnets 1-14)

     Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament,
     How much more praise deserved thy beauty’s use!
     Thou art thy mother’s glass, and she in thee;
 4  For having traffic with thyself alone,
     Then were not summer’s distillation left.
     Ten times thyself were happier than thou art.
     But when? From highmost pitch, with wary car,
 8  Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
     Look. What an unthrift in the world doth spend!
     O change thy thought, that I may change my mind!
     Let those whom nature hath not made for store!
12 Then of thy beauty do I question make:
     Who lets so fair a house fall to decay?
     But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive.
     Glosses: 2) use: i.e., for procreation; 7) wary plays also on “weary,”“wiry” (see string in 8); 11) Let = Leave; store = cautious frugality;

                        Rune 10

     (Tenth lines, Set I: Sonnets 1-14)

     And, only herald to the gaudy spring,
     If thou couldst answer, “This fair child of mine
     Calls back the lovely April of her prime,”
 4  Thou of thyself thy sweet self dost deceive—
     A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass
     If ten of thine ten times refigured thee!
     Like feeble age, he reeleth from the day,
 8  Strikes each in each by mutual ordering,
     Shifts but his place fore; still, the world enjoys it.
     Shall hate be fairer lodged, then gentle love—
     Harsh, featureless, and rude—barrenly perish
12 That thou among the wastes of time must go
     Which husbandry in honor might uphold
     And constant stars? (In them I read such art.)
     Gloss: 13) uphold = exalt, and (paradoxically) prevent; 14) Q such is always a bawdy eyepun on “f--k.”

                         Rune 11

       (Eleventh lines, Set I: Sonnets 1-14)

     Within thine own bud buriest thy content.
     Shall sum my count, and make my old excuse,
     So thou, through windows of thine age, shalt see
 4  Then how, when Nature calls thee to be gone,
     Beauty’s effect with beauty were bereft.
     Then, what could Death do if thou shouldst depart?
     The eyes ’fore duteous now converted are,
 8  Resembling sire and child and happy mother.
     But Beauty’s waste hath in the world an end.
     Be as thy presence is, gracious and kind.
     Look whom she best endowed, she gave thee more!
12 Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake,
     Against the stormy gusts of winter’s day—
     As Truth and Beauty shall—together thrive.
     Glosses: 1) content = satisfaction, substance; 2) suggesting, “My account will summarize my old explanation”; 5) Beauty’s effect may be Beauty’s offspring; bereft varies “bereaved”; 8) Resembling = looking like, reassembling (i.e., reuniting), as the Runes do lines; 11) she suggests Beauty (see 4, 9) or Nature (4); 14) Together implies “with someone else, not singly.”

                         Rune 12

       (Twelfth lines, Set I: Sonnets 1-14)

     And tender churl mak’st waste in niggarding,
     Proving his beauty by succession thine,
     Despite of wrinkles. This thy golden time,
 4  What ácceptable audit canst thou leave—
     Nor it nor no remembrance what it was
     Leaving thee, living in posterity?
     From his low tract, and look another way,
 8  Who, all in one, one pleasing note do sing,
      And, kept unused, the user so destroys it!
     Or, to thyself at least kind-hearted prove
     Which bounteous gift thou shouldst in bounty cherish,
12 And die as fast as they see others grow,
     And, barren, rage of death’s eternal cold!
     If from thyself to store thou wouldst convert!
1) tender churl = gentle miser, i.e., Beauty (see 2); 3) wrinkles = tricks or wiles, moral blemishes (OED); 7) his low tract = Beauty’s miserly teachings; 12) they (ambig.) points back to posterity (see 6) and wrinkles (see 3).

                          Rune 13

       (Thirteenth lines, Set I: Sonnets 1-14)

     Pity the world, or else this glutton be!
     This were to be new made when thou art old
     But if thou live. Remembered not to be,
 4  Thy unused beauty must be tombed with thee,
     But flowers distilled, though they with winter meet.
     Be not self-willed (for thou art much too fair),
     So thou—thyself outgoing in thy noon,
 8  Whose speechless song (being many, seeming one)
     No love toward others in that bosom sits—
     Make thee another self for love of me!
     She carved thee for her seal, and mint thereby,
12 And nothing ’gainst Time’s scythe can make defense.
     O none but unthrifts, dear my love, you know,
     Or else of thee this I prognosticate.
2) This (ambig.) = this choice, this dismembered poem cycle; 3, 5) But = Only, and is an automatic pun, e.g., on beauty, bawdy, body, butt, bud; 11) She (ambig.) points toward Time (see 12); 14) this (ambig.) = an optimistic future (see 10), your death (see 12), the company you keep (see 13), and/or the poem’s whole statement.

                          Rune 14

       (Fourteenth lines, Set I: Sonnets 1-14)

     To eat the world’s due, by the grave and thee,
     And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold,
     Die single—and thine image dies with thee
 4  Which usèd lives, th’ executor to be:
     Leese but their show; their substance still lives sweet.
     To be death’s conquest and make worms thine heir—
     Unlooked on, diced unless thou get a son—
 8  Sings this to thee: Thou single wilt prove none,
     That on himself such murd’rous shame commits!
     That beauty still may live in thine or thee,
     Thou shouldst print more, not let that copy die.
12 Save breed to brave him when he takes thee hence.
     You had a father. Let your son say so.
     Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date.
      Glosses: 1) eat = taste; due = recompense; To eat puns on 2-8—i.e., 28, the number of sonnets and runes now being wrapped up in Set I; 2) see...blood warm = feel anger; 5) Leese = Lose; their (ambig.) = death’s and your, the world’s (see 1); pun: “th’ heir”; 7) diced (Q diest) = punningly, cut up into little pieces; also, “[thou] diest!”; get = beget; 10) That = So that; 11) copy = pattern, text source; 12) to brave him = to face death (see 6), to ennoble your son (see 13).
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Set II: Runes 15-28

—Notes on Set II—

         Set II houses the first famous sonnet in the cycle, No. 18, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” Seeing its familiar lines sharing space with new siblings is unsettling and may even generate a sort of anger—as if a teenage daughter in some household down our street were uprooted from her home and forced against everybody’s will to take lodgings with some alien family.
          Critics have noted that the first several overt texts here segue into the theme of immortality through art and downplay the exhortation to marry, but I believe that no one has detected in Sonnets 15-28 any especial thematic consistency. I can’t say for certain that I do, either. Now that we understand how each line in Q carries a double weight of meaning, we can see that keeping topical unity or telling any progressive story would have been more than doubly hard in Q.
          Particularly the materials of personal lament in Sonnets 27-28—which function like a closed couplet to Set II—color all 14 runes with “how hard this is,” so that that complaint, finally, may be what each rune seems to add up to, whatever has come earlier—a mix of material representing the muse and discussing the poet’s struggle to memorialize that figure. Whether or not Will composed the 11 sets (as they appear in Q) in sequence, Set II seems, at an early stage in the cycle, to say, “What have I gotten myself into? What can I hope to get out of this hopeless undertaking?” The runes make that complaint continually clear from 15 onward, while Sonnets 15-28 do not do so.
          Whatever thematic consistency can be found in the set, the unique variations of implicit dramatic situations and conceits are what make the runes vital. Three runes that show how a strong conceit can make a text memorable are Rune 21, where the muse is a “man of hues” hanging in the poet’s “bosom shop”; Rune 26, where the auditor is a “babe in the dark” and the poet is his nurse; and Rune 28, where the poet is trapped like a pregnant animal in the “lair” of his art.
          Set II has much else that is memorable: e.g., The poet’s struggle for conceits in 15; the theatrical imagery (always suggesting The Globe) in 17; and Will as “best painter” in 18 and 19. The imagined situation closing 20—where the poet envisions himself meeting the “friend” at last and being effectively dismissed, after all his efforts, with a polite handshake—evokes genuine pathos, especially after we know about the excruciating, self-isolating work he has undertaken.
          Three runes in Set II seem heavily influenced by familiarly problematic lines—all from Sonnet 20, “A Woman’s face with nature’s own hand painted”—where the first-line pun on “Onan” is just as much at work in the Sonnet 20 as in Rune 15. Offshoots of this Sonnet are Runes 16, 21, and 27, where we hear anew the famous address to “the Master Mistress of my passion” (Rune 16.6); the problematic line A man in hew all Hews in his controwling (Q Rune 21.6); and the suggestively bawdy comment “…she [i.e., Time] prickt thee out for women’s pleasure” (Rune 27.6)
          As in Set I, Runes 15-28 often call into question the “reality” of the auditor by hinting that the “increase” the poet speaks of may be that of his own poetry—with the implication that the “fairest creature” he addresses may be his own cycle or Beauty itself. Set II keeps this conundrum active by variously making us think the poet is talking to Sue and/or John Hall, to Anne, to Southampton, to the texts themselves, to Beauty, to himself, or to his own “dark ms.”
          On the leaf (see the paste-up arrangement), Set II houses the first of several lines in Q that are long enough to require parenthetical “doubling back” to make them fit the margins of the small-format page in the 1609 book. The couplet at Sonnet 28.13-14, punning “…draw my furrows longer” (28.13) and “…make grief’s length seem stronger” (28.14) invites us to start looking for such “long-line wit.
          Except for contiguous “WS” strings (Sonnets 17/21, 17/18) and “WH” strings (Sonnets 27/28), acrostic alignments of the bold, oversized letters on the leaf do not particularly strike the eye. The vertical code WDA B A M VVS LH SML suggests “Witty be aye m’ W.S. lay [poem] small.” The reverse letterstring SVVMA BAD suggests “Swami Bad.”


          Though any generalization (except about rhyme) on the absolute difference between the Sonnets and the Runes is beset with problems, the poet does seem to give each sonnet a kind of topical unity that any given rune may lack. Still, the Runes typically cohere as texts in all kinds of ways—through figures, puns, echoic language, and even in many cases by the logic of octave, quatrain, sestet, and couplet; more so than the Sonnets, the Runes seem to me to progress by add-on association, meandering through a range of ideas and holding onto logic and sense somewhat more precariously and incrementally. The missing punch of rhyme is also a part of what they “don’t have.” As riddlic texts, the runes thrive on vague and prepositioned pronouns, a shifting point of view, and strained syntax. And Q’s punctuation, already unreliable in the Sonnets, becomes mostly irrelevant in the Runes—except on special occasions, where it works.

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                         Rune 15

       (First lines, Set II: Sonnets 15-28)

     When I consider everything that grows,
     But wherefore do not you a mightier way?
     Who will believe my verse in time to come?
 4  Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
     Devouring time, blunt thou the lion’s paws,
     A woman’s face with nature’s own hand painted?
     So is it not with me, as with that muse:
 8  My glass shall not persuade me I am old.
     As an unperfect actor on the stage,
     Mine eye hath played the painter and hath steeled.
     Let those who are in favor with their stars,
12 Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage,
     Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed.
     How can I then return in happy plight?
3) believe (Q beleeue) puns on “be-leaf,” i.e., put onto pages, publish; 7) that muse points back to you, thee, thou (2, 4, 5); 8-9) pun (reinforced by the meter): “I am old / as Anne, unperfect...”; 10) steeld = engraved, fixed, hardened; 11) Let = Leave (see the pun in 3); 10-11) namepuns: “m’ Annie Hath-th [= p, archaic thorn]-lay,”“Anne Hath...,” Let = “L’ et” = “l ’and” = Le Anne; 14) plight = condition, commitment (suggesting marriage), punning on “placket” = a slit in a woman’s garment, and thus a woman (OED).

                         Rune 16

       (Second lines, Set II: Sonnets 15-28)

     Holds in perfection but a little moment:
     Make war upon this bloody tyrant time!
     If it were filled with your most high deserts,
 4  Thou art more lovely, and more temperate,
     And make the earth devour her own. Sweet brood
     Haste thou, the master-mistress of my passion,
      Stirred by a painted beauty to his verse.
 8  So long as youth and thou are of one date,
     Who with his fear is put besides his part?
     Thy beauties’ form, in table of my heart,
      Of public honor and proud titles boast.
12 Thy merit hath my duty strongly knit—
     The dear repose for limbs with trávail tired
     That am debarred the benefit of rest.
      Glosses: 3) it (ambig.) = time (see 2), the earth (see 5); 6) Haste/Hast (Q Haste): the ambiguity triggers contradictory meanings; 7) his = my passion’s (see 6); 10) heart = art, my heart = merd (OED 1477, 1621), i.e., dung (both routine puns in Q); 11) boast (v.) = “may boast,” with Thy beauties’ form (10) its subject.

                          Rune 17

     (Third lines, Set II: Sonnets 15-28)

     That this huge stage presenteth, nought but shows
     And Fortify Yourself in Your Decay,
     Though yet, heav’n knows, it is but as a tomb:
 4  Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
     Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger's jaws,
     A woman’s gentle heart but not acquainted
     Who heav’n itself for ornament doth use;
 8  But when in thee time’s furrows I behold,
     Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage,
     My body is the frame wherein ’tis held,
     Whilst I—whom fortune of such triumph bars—
12 To thee I send this written ambassage.
     But then begins a journey in my head
     When day’s oppression is not eased by night.
     Glosses: 1) this huge stage = the world (suggesting The Globe); 2) Fortify...Decay suggests a morality play, contrasting with shows (1), a term implying frothy entertainment; 4) Rough winds puns on “Runes”; 6-7) i.e., “Only a beautiful, ingenuous woman not being familiar [with the harshness of life]”; 11) Whilst I = “Will Shakespeare [st = the routine family name cipher, a long s “shaking” a spear-like t], I/...eye”; such is an eyepun on “f--k” in Q; 12) pun: “...Toothy, eye Ass Anne t’ hiss; writ, a name be sage (...besiege/...beseech).”

                           Rune 18

       (Fourth lines, Set II: Sonnets 15-28)

     Whereon the stars in secret influence comment
     With means more blessed than my barren rhyme,
     Which hides your life, and shows not half your parts;
 4  And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
     And burn the long-lived phoenix in her blood
     With shifting change, as is false women’s fashion;
     And every fair with his fair doth rehearse;
 8  Then look I death my days should expiate
     Whose strength’s abundance weakens his own heart
     And pérspective. It is best painter’s art—
     Un-looked for, joy—in that I honor most
12 To witness duty, not to show my wit;
     To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired,
     But day by night and night by day oppressed.
     Glosses: 1) Whereon implies “On your life” (see 3) and “Whereas” and puns “We rune!”; 4) namepuns: Anne S., Hath; phallic pun: “Awl too short? Add 8 [inches]”; 5) burn = may burn, burns; 7) rehearse (ambig.) = repeat stale lines, entomb again (with sexual overtones, since “die” = have sex); 7) with his puns on “witties,” i.e., witticisms; 8) Then look I = Then I anticipate; 9) heart = art (a routine pun); 11) that = what, that which; 12) witness = see, certify.

                         Rune 19
     (Fifth lines, Set II: Sonnets 15-28)

     When I perceive that men, as plants, increase,
     Now stand you on the top of happy hours.
     If I could write the beauty of your eyes!
 4  Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines;
     Make glad and sorry, seasons—as thou fleetest,
     An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
     Making a couplement of proud compare
 8  For all that beauty that doth cover thee.
     So I, for fear of trust, forget to say
     Fore, “Through the painter must you see his skill.”
     Great princes’ favorites their fair leaves spread,
12 Duty so great. Which wit so poor as mine?
     For thin my thoughts, from far where I abide
     And—each though enemies—two ethers reign.
     Glosses: 2) happy hours suggests an illuminated Book of Hours (see 10-11); 5) Make...seasons: i.e., “Seasons bring both joy and sorrow”; 6) eye suggests the sun; An eye puns on “Annie,” linking with Make (i.e., Mate) in 5 and Making in 7; 7) couplement = linkage (of eyes, of texts [such as Sonnets/Runes], etc.), analogy; 8) For all puns on “Fore-all” (phallic) and “For Hall” (suggesting Will’s son-in-law); 9) So puns on Sue, alluding to Will’s daughter Susanna, Mrs. John Hall; “Judy” is the other daughter; thus, e.g., the pun “Sue is our fairest trust—fore Judy S. aye”; 12) so (twice) puns further on Sue; mine puns on “m’ Anne (...Annie)”; 13) I puns on “aye,” “eye” (see 6), suggesting the sun; 14) And puns on Anne; two ethers reign puns on “...rain,” suggesting, “two eyes weep.”

                         Rune 20

     (Sixth lines, Set II: Sonnets 15-28)

     Cheered and checked ev’n by the self-same sky,
     And many maiden gardens yet unset
     And in fresh, numbers number all your graces,
 4  And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
     And—do whate’er thou wilt, swift-footed time—
     Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth
     With sun and moon, with earth and sea’s rich gems,
 8  Is but the seemly raiment of my heart.
     The perfect ceremony of love’s wright,
     To find where your true image pictured lies,
     But (as the marigold at the sun’s eye)
12 May make seem bare, in wanting words to show it.
     Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee;
     Do, in consent, shake hands to torture me.
     Glosses: 1) checked puns on “chequered” (like an acrostic gameboard); 2) gardens suggests knot-gardens and thus (unwritten) poems; the line puns, e.g., “Anne, m’ Annie, made a neger dance (...may eat a neger dense). Why et [= and = Anne], And’s [= Anne S.] et...,” with complex plays on eat/et/et/and/Anne; 3) And in continues the Anne/Anne humor; in fresh = just planted; numbers = verses; 4) his = the sky’s (see 1), implying both “the sun” (see 7) and “your” (see 3); 5) time implies meter (see 3); 6) it = my heart (see 8), punning on “my art” and implying the sun; 7) sun puns on “son” (see 4, 11), i.e., Will’s dead son, Hamnet; 8) seemly puns on “seamly” (i.e., patched together, as Sonnets and Runes are), with heart punning on art; 9) wright (Q right): also, right (prerogative); 11) But = Merely; 13) Intend = Take note of; 14) consent puns on “cunt-scent.”

                          Rune 21

     (Seventh lines, Set II: Sonnets 15-28)

     Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease,
     With virtuous wish would bear your living flowers;
     The age to come would say, “This poet lies!”
 4  And, “Every fair from fair sometime declines!”
     To the wide world, and all her fading, sweet’s
     A man in hue, all hues in his controlling:
     With April’s first-born flowers and all things rare
 8  Which in thy breast doth live (as thine in me,
     And in mine own), love’s strength seem to decay
     Which in my bosom’s shop is hanging still;
     And in themselves their pride lies burièd
12 But that I hope some good conceit of thine
     And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
     The one by toil, the other to complain.
1) Vaunt (sb., archaic) = A brag or boast; 2) bear puns on “bare,” i.e., reveal; your living flowers (fig.) = these poems, lines that “flow”; 9) seem = may seem; 11) themselves (ambig.) points back to flowers and all things rare (see 2, 7) and/or to (5)—that is, humans; 12) But that I hope = “Unless I wish into being,” with hope a pun on “ope” (i.e., open up).

                          Rune 22

     (Eighth lines, Set II: Sonnets 15-28)

     And were their brave state out of memory,
     Much liker, then, your painted counterfeit;
     Such heavenly touches ne’er touched earthly faces,
 4  By chance or nature’s changing course untrimmed.
     But I forbid thee one most heinous crime,
     Which steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth
     That heaven’s air in this huge rondure hems:
 8  How can I then be elder than thou art,
     O’er-charged with burthen of mine own, love’s mite
     That hath his windows glazèd with thine eyes!
     For at a frown they in their glory die.
12 In thy soul’s thought, all naked. Will, bestow it!
     Looking on darkness which the blind do see,
     How far I toil, still farther off from thee.
      Glosses: 1) their (a riddlic prepositioned pronoun) points toward heavenly touches in 3 and implies any or all of the friend’s attractive facial features; 2) liker = more probable; counterfeit = likeness; 4) untrimmed = unadorned, unattractive, unshaven, stripped of decorations; 10) hath...glazèd = has his eyes dazzled, suggesting a cathedral window, maybe a “huge rondure” (see 7); 11) they = your eyes, especially as reflected in mine (see 10), with they a routinely automatic pun on “th’ eye”; 12) Will = a self-address (to “Will”) and a reduplicative order to the muse, “Bequeath [= Bestow] it!”

                         Rune 23

     (Ninth lines, Set II: Sonnets 15-28)

     Thin the conceit of this inconstant stay,
     So should the lines of life that leaf repair;
     So fold my papers, yellowed with their age,
 4  But thy Eternal Summer shall not fade!
     O, carve not with thy hours my love’s fair brow,
     And for a woman wert thou first created.
     O, let me, true in love, but truly write.
 8  O, therefore, love, be of thyself so wary,
     O, let my books be then the eloquence.
     Now see what good turns eyes for eyes have done
     The painful warrior famousèd for worth.
12 Till whatsoever star that guides my moving
     Save that, my soul’s imaginary sight ,
     I tell the day, “To please him thou art bright.”
1) stay = pedestal, support; 2) Q should (with a long s) is an eyepun on “fold,” relevant to leaf; repair = restore, reassemble; 4) not puns on “knot,” puzzle; 5) hours (Q howers) puns on “whores”; 14) him (ambig.) = my soul, my imagination (see 13). Opening the poem is the pun “Thin/Thick, onset of this [poem] inconstant is to eye.”

                         Rune 24

     (Tenth lines, Set II: Sonnets 15-28)

     Sets you, most rich in youth before, my sight,
     Which—this time’s pencil or my pupil pen
     Be scorned, like old men of less truth than tongue—
 4  Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st
     Nor draw no lines there with thine antic pen,
     Till nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting;
     And then, believe me, my love is as fair
 8  As I, not for myself but for thee, will;
     And, dumb preságers of my speaking breast,
     Mine eyes have drawn thy shape, and thine, for me—
     After a thousand victories once foiled—
12 Points on me graciously with fair aspéct,
     Presents their shadow to my sightless view,
     And dost him grace when clouds do blot the heaven.
      Glosses: 2) this time’s pencil = modern styles in drawing, my present effort at depicting you; 4-5) Nor.../Nor... = Neither…/Nor…; 5) antic (Q antique): an automatic pun in Q; 8) As I…will (8) encodes an automatic namepun on Will, the poet; 9) presagers = predictors; 10) thine = thy shape; 11) foiled ( suggesting a pointed weapon) = defeated; 14) him = the victorious “shadow” of the man being addressed, punning on “hymn”—i.e., a lyric, such as this text.

                         Rune 25

     (Eleventh lines, Set II: Sonnets 15-28)

     Where wasteful, time debated with decay—
     Neither in inward worth nor outward fair—
     And your true rights be termed a poet’s rage.
 4  Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade:
     Him, in thy course untainted, do allow,
     And, by addition, me, of thee defeated
     As any mother’s child, though not so bright,
 8  Bearing thy heart, which I will keep so chary.
     Who plead for love and look for recompense
     Are windows to my breast (wherethrough the sun
     Is from the book of honor razèd quite)
12 And puts apparel on my tottered loving,
     Which, like a jewel, hung in ghastly night.
     So flatter I the swart-complexioned night.
     Glosses: 1) time suggests meter, and thus poetry; 3) rights: also, rites; 5) Him = Death (see 4), with Him in t... a play on Hamnet (Will’s dead son), and course, on corse (i.e., corpse); 6) And plays on Anne, Hamnet’s mother (see mother’s child in 7); 8) I will puns, “I, Will...”; chary = frugally; 9) Who = Those who, Whoever may; 9) the sun plays on “son,” echoing Him in t... in 5—and on The Son, suggesting Christ (with book of honor implying the Bible); 13) hung: a past-tense verb.

                          Rune 26

     (Twelfth lines, Set II: Sonnets 15-28)

     To change your day of youth to sullied night
     Can make you live yourself in eyes of men
     And stretchèd meter of an antique song
 4  When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st
     For beauty’s pattern to succeeding men,
     By adding one thing—to my purpose nothing:
     As those gold candles fixed in heaven’s air,
 8  As tender nurse, her babe from faring ill—
     More than that, tongue that more hath more expressed
     Delights to peep. To gaze therein on thee
     (And all the rest forgot for which he toiled
12 To show me worthy of their sweet respect)
     Makes black night beauteous, and her old face new;
     When sparkling stars twire not, thou gild’st the even.
7) gold candles = stars; 11) he = tongue (9) and thus the poet; 12) their refers to all the rest (see 11) but suggests eyes; 14) twire = peep, blink (OED); gild’st (suggesting beguiles) = makes golden; the even puns on “th’ heaven.”

                          Rune 27

     (Thirteenth lines, Set II: Sonnets 15-28)

     And all in war with time for love of you,
     To give away yourself keeps your self still:
     But were some child of yours alive that time—
 4  So long as men can breathe—or eyes can see
     Yet, do thy worst, old time, despite thy wrong!
     But since she pricked thee out for women’s pleasure,
     Let them say more that like of hearsay well.
 8  Presume not on thy heart, when mine is slain!
     O learn to read what silent love hath writ;
     Yet eyes this cunning want to grace their art.
     Then happy I that love and am beloved.
12 Then may I dare to boast how I do love thee.
     Low thus by day my limbs, by night my mind;
     But day doth daily draw my sorrows longer.
      Glosses: 1) time puns on meter (and on Tommy, likely Will’s printing agent Thomas Thorpe); 5) despite (Q dispight) = set at nought (v.), a thing scorned (sb.); 6) she = time (1, 5); 8) heart = art (routine pun); 13) Q Loe = Low, Lo; Loe thus by day puns on “Ludus [L. game, joke] bitty”; 14) But day... puns on Beauty, Body, Bawdy; Q sorrowes (long s) is an eyepun on furrows, i.e., lines.

                          Rune 28

      (Fourteenth lines, Set II: Sonnets 15-28)

     As he takes from you, I engraft you new;
     And you must live drawn by your own sweet skill:
     You should live twice—in it, and in my rhyme
 4  So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
     My love shall in my verse ever live young:
     Mine be thy love, and thy love’s use; their treasure
     I will not praise that purpose not to sell.
 8  Thou gav’st me thine not to give back again.
     To hear with eyes belongs to love’s fine wit.
     They draw but what they see, know not the lair
     Where I may not remove, nor be removed
12 Till then, not show my head where thou may’st prove me
     For thee, and for myself no quiet find,
     And night doth nightly make grief’s length seem stronger.
3) it = your...skill, while he (in 1, ambig.) points forward to the same phrase; 8) thine may mean “thy love” and (implicitly) its treasure (see 6); 9) wit (Q wiht) puns on wight, i.e., creature (OED 1587); 10) lair: an ambig., garbled form in Q, visually suggesting liar, hart, heart, hare. The “engrafting” metaphor in 1 refers to the poet’s own method of grafting Runes onto Sonnets, making his unnamed muse “live twice” (see 3).
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Set III: Runes 29-42

—Notes on Set III—

         The lines of the two opening sonnets here—among the better known in Q—color all the runes in the set with melancholy contemplation; the affirmations of their couplets, by contrast, lend a relatively upbeat tone to Runes 41 and 42, as if to make those two a sort of “couplet close” to the runic string inherent on the leaf. Sonnet 33, with its butchered-looking confessional line mentioning “Heaven’s Sun [Son]” (Sonnet 33.14), provides a rare “Christian” detail—however “serious”—in a welter of Q verses sometimes verging on sacrilege. The acrostic NOT (Sonnets 35, 39, 42) catches the eye on the leaf, as does the familiar TT (41-42) and (less overtly) the long-line endpun “dusty f--ker” in the upper right (Sonnet 32.2).
The nascent figure of the Perverse Mistress, anticipated in Rune 26.13, finds various manifestations in Set III—e.g., as “Thy Amiss” (Rune 35), “Lascivious Grace” (Rune 41), and “Sweet Flattery” (Rune 42). Rune 32.9-10 here uses the concept of Rival Poet, first mentioned in Rune 19. These conceits—for the poet’s “perverse mysteries [cf. mss.]” and for himself in the “antagonistic” role of rune-writer—gain momentum as the cycle builds in later sets. On one level, at least, the “crime” of the auditor, portrayed as a “sweet thief” (Rune 42.7) etc., is his complicity in the runegame.
          As it emerges in the runes, the tenuous topical unity in Set III comes from a preoccupation with the bifurcated writing project itself, its paradoxes and ironies, the impossibility of its publication. The usual text in the set is a lament or complaint. If Set I urges “increase” and Set II deals with the poet’s role in securing the muse fame, Set III stresses the poet’s alienation from the very figure he “flatters” and—until the last covert text or so—seems to be saying, “What have I gotten myself into here?”
The editorial title I’ve imposed on Set III denotes not only Will’s personal isolation—as romantically suffering artist, necessarily isolated by the act of writing from the object(s) of his intense attention—but also these unprinted “discards,” the Runes, that we are not recompositing, as it were, from the “outcast” fragments of Q, as printed. Though OED shows “state” emerging late (1874) as a technical engraving term, the meaning “condition (of a ms.)” is already inherent in the ME meaning: “One of several forms or conditions in which an object…is found to exist.”
          Emerging Stratford-focused materials invite new readings of the Sonnets in the set, but the irreducible mysteries of biography seem to remain locked inside the poet’s crafty brain.


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                          Rune 29
     (First lines, Set III: Sonnets 29-42)

     When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
     When to the sessions of sweet silent thought,
     Thy bosom is endearèd with all hearts
 4  If thou survive my well-contented day.
     Full many a glorious morning have I seen;
     Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day?
     No more be grieved at that which thou hast done;
 8  Let me confess, that we two must be twain.
     As a decrepit father takes delight,
     How can my muse want subject to invent?
     Oh, how thy worth with manners may I sing?
12 Take all my loves, my love—yea, take them all,
     Those pretty wrongs that liberty commits!
     That thou hast her, it is not all my grief.
     Glosses: 2) sessions = court hearings, with sessions of sweet, silent thought a conceit for the Runes; 4) well-contented suggests “a full docket”; 6) promise puns on “swear yourself in (on)”; 8) that = so that; 11) manners = (courtly) decorum; 14) her = liberty (see 13), but suggesting some woman.

                         Rune 30

     (Second lines, Set III: Sonnets 29-42)

     I all alone beweep my outcast state;
     I summon up remembrance of things past
     Which I, by lacking, have supposèd dead
 4  When that churl death my bones with dust shall cover,
     Flatter the mountaintops with sovereign eye,
     And make me travel forth without my cloak.
     Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud,
 8  Although our undivided loves are one.
     To see his active child do deeds of youth
     While thou dost breathe—that pour’st into my verse.
     When thou art all the better part of me,
12 What hast thou then more than thou hadst before
     When I am sometime absent from thy heart?
     And yet it may be said I loved her dearly.
     Glosses: 1) outcast state suggests discarded texts in Q (the Runes), absence from the family in Stratford; 2) past puns on paste (i.e., imitations, things stuck together); 4) churl = boorish miser; 5) Flatter = Delude (and thus Dominate), punning on “Flatten”; 5-6) sovereign eye, / And make puns, “sovereign aye, Anne, make [= mate]”; 6) cloak suggests a (dusty) bodily covering (see 4); 9) his (ambig.) = death’s (see 4), my verse’s (see 10); 11) all suggests Hall, Will’s son-in-law, heir, and father of a granddaughter (see 9); 13) heart = art (a routine pun); 14) her = your heart/art (see 13), suggesting both Susanna Hall and the Halls’ daughter, Elizabeth.

                          Rune 31

     (Third lines, Set III: Sonnets 29-42)

     And, trouble-deaf heaven, with my bootless cries
     I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought
     (And there reigns love, and all love’s loving parts)
 4  And shalt by fortune once more resurvey,
     Kissing with golden face the meadows green
     To let base clouds o’ertake me in my way.
     Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun;
 8  So shall those blots that do with me remain.
     So I—made lame by fortunes, dearest—spite
     Thine own sweet argument, too excellent.
     What can mine own praise to mine own self bring?
12 No love, my love, that thou mayst true love call.
     Thy beauty, and thy years, full well befits;
     That she hath thee is of my wailing chief.
      Glosses: 1) bootless = unprofitable; cries puns on “series,” suggesting the Q cycle; 3) there = in heaven (see 1); 14) she ambiguously suggests heaven (see 1-3), love (see 12), beauty, a “full well” (see 13), and Anne Hathaway, whose name lurks as a pun in 14: “That ‘she,’ Hath-thee-aye, is of my way-ling chief.” Q’s cheefe (14) puns visually, e.g., on “cheese” and “...heavy.”

                         Rune 32

     (Fourth lines, Set III: Sonnets 29-42)

     And look upon myself and curse, my fate,
     And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste
     And all those friends which I thought burièd,
 4  These poor rude lines of thy deceasèd lover,
     Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy,
     Hiding thy bravery in their rotten smoke;
     And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud
 8  Without thy help, by me be borne alone.
     Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth
     For every vulgar paper to rehearse,
     And what is’t but mine own when I praise thee?
12 All mine was thine before thou hadst this more
     For still temptation; follows where thou art
     A loss in love that touches me more nearly.
     Glosses: 1) my fate, a direct address; 2) time’s suggests “meter’s,” “poetry’s”; 6) rotten puns on “wroten,” i.e., written; 10) rehearse = restate, punning on “re-inter”; 13) still = further, leisured, punning on “steel,” i.e., hard.

                         Rune 33

     (Fifth lines, Set III: Sonnets 29-42)

     Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
     Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow
     How many a holy and obsequious tear.
 4  Compare them with the bettering of the time;
     Anon, permit the basest clouds to ride.
     ’Tis not enough that through the cloud thou break;
     All men make faults—and even I in this.
 8  In our two loves there is but one respect.
     For whether beauty, birth, or wealth, or wit,
     Oh, give thyself the thanks if aught in me.
     Even for this, let us divided live.
12 Then if, for my love, thou my love receivest,
     Gentle thou art, and therefore to be won.
     Loving offenders, thus I will excuse ye.
     Glosses: 4) them = my tears (implied in 3); 5) Anon = Shortly; ride (paradoxically) = pass on by, dominate; 7) make faults = generate flaws, create fissures or divisions (as I do in these Sonnets/Runes); All men puns on “Awl men,” a phallic joke reinforced by make faults (i.e., dig crevices) and by I (a phallic pictograph); the line also plays on John Hall, Will’s daughter’s make (i.e., mate), while All men make faults puns, “All (Old...) m’ Anne, make (m’ ache), is old: S., Anne, Eve, 90 is” and “Hall, m’ Anne, make, assaults, undoing I (...aye) in this”; 10) if aught = if any one of these virtues exists...; 10-11) pun: “ me enough artist, let us divided live”; 11) the line, if addressed to Anne, is highly personal. A routine welter of puns on Anne includes And, in and (here) Anon (5), can (2), an eye (2), etc.;14) I will: also, I, Will.

                          Rune 34

     (Sixth lines, Set III: Sonnets 29-42)

     Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
     For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night
     Hath dear religious love stol’n from mine eye—
 4  And though they be outstripped by every pen
     With ugly rack on his celestial face
     To dry the rain on my storm-beaten face,
     Authórizing thy trespass with compare.
 8  Though in our lives a separable spite
     O’er any of these all, or all, or more,
     Worthy perusal stand against thy sight,
     And our dear love lose name of single one.
12 I cannot blame thee for my love thou usest:
     Beauteous thou art—therefore, to be assailed.
     Thou dost love her because thou know’st I love her.
     Glosses:1) him (twice) suggests “this or that man” but may mean death (see 2), friends (2), and/or love (3); 3) puns on Anne: Hath., m’Annie; 4) they = my eyes, punning “th’ eye” (see 3); 5) rack = cloud mass, instrument of torture; his = “every pen’s” (see 4) and thus “any writer’s”; 6) To puns on “Two” ( = my eyes); 12) for = because; 13) to puns again on “two” (eyes); 14) her may mean “our love” (see 3, 11, 12) or “this expression of it.” The righthand profile of the text (with an ugly rack protruding or indented in lines 4-5) looks like an authorized pictographic element, illustrating such clues as Featured (1), eye (3), face (5, 6). Line 10 seems to challenge a reader to puzzle out the profile. Puns on Anne and the phrase a separable spite suggest it may be an unflattering picture of the poet’s scowling wife. A separable spite is a conceit for the Q texts.

                          Rune 35

     (Seventh lines, Set III: Sonnets 29-42)

     Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope
     And weep, a fresh love’s long-since canceled woe,
     As interest of the dead. Which now appear,
 4  Reserve them for my love (not for their rhyme),
     And from the fórlorn world his visage hide;
     For no man well of such a salve can speak,
     Myself corrupting, salving thy amiss—
 8  Which, though, it alter not, love’s sole effect
     Entitled in. Their parts do crownèd sit:
     For who’s so dumb that cannot write to thee
     That, by this separation, I may give?
12 But yet be blamed if thou this self deceivest
     And—when a woman woes—what woman’s son.
     (Anne, “for my sake,” even Sue, doth she abuse me.)
      Glosses: 2) weep (sb.) = lamentation; Q loues = love’s, love is...; 3) Which = these poems which, punning on witch; 6) man well puns, “male pudendum”7) thy amiss puns on thymus (1693, from Gr.), “a warty excrescence”; 9) Entitled in = engraved, firmly grounded; Their (ambig.) = other (female?) writers, or the “men” of line l; 11) That = What; separation = estrangement, or this text, with its 14 line units disparate in Q; 13) what = whatever (some other, any); 14) Q And = Anne, Will’s wife; Q so = Sue, familiar for Susanna, Will’s older daughter, Mrs. John Hall. Body part puns include heart (1), hide (5), sole (8), crown (9), toothy (10), “hard” (1), and “well” (6).

                          Rune 36

     (Eighth lines, Set III: Sonnets 29-42)

    With what I most enjoy contented least,
     And moan th’ expense of many a vanished sight—
     But things removed that hidden in there lie;
 4  Exceeded by the height of happier men,
     Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace
     That heals the wound and cures not the disgrace,
     Excusing their sins more than their sins are;
 8  Yet doth it steal sweet hours from love’s delight:
     I make my love engrafted to this store
     When thou thyself dost give invention light—
     That due to thee, which thou deserv’st alone,
12 By willful taste of what thyself refusest;
     Will sourly leave her till he have prevailed,
     Suff’ring, “My friend, for my sake too, approve her.”
      Glosses: 1-2) With... / ...mone = with moan[ing] being...; 3) But = Merely; there = in th’ ear, in th’ air (i.e., song); 7) their (twice) points back to “these poems” (see 1, 3), things (3), and men (4); 8) it = my writing (see 1, 9); 11) due puns on deux, “two,” suggesting the double-layered, duplicitous Q texts; 12) By = By means of; 13) leave puns on “may (should..., will...) leaf” (i.e., “may inscribe on leaves”); her points back to delight (8) and to this store (9), denoting “this verse storehouse” while punning “th’ history” and “th’ hissed whore.”

                          Rune 37
     (Ninth lines, Set III: Sonnets 29-42)

     Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
     Then can I grieve at grievances foregone—
     Thou, art, the grave where buried love doth live.
 4  Oh, then vouchsafe me but this loving thought
     Ev’n so: My sun one early morn did shine!
     Nor can thy shame give physic to my grief,
     For to thy sensual fault I bring in sense:
 8  I may not evermore acknowledge thee
     So then I am not lame, poor, nor despised.
     Be thou the tenth muse, ten times more in worth,
     Oh, absence, what a torment wouldst thou prove!
12 I do forgive thy robbery, gentle thief.
     (Ay me, but yet thou might’st my seat forbear!)
     If I lose thee, my loss is my love’s gain.
      Glosses: 1) Yet = Still; these thoughts = what I’m thinking now as I write—i.e., these verses; 2) foregone = in the past; 4) Q voutsafe = vouchsafe, i.e., “agree to grant”; 8) the line may pun, “I may not ever, More, acknowledge thee,” alluding to Will’s part in the unpublished (probably censored) play about Sir Thomas More;10) self-consciously, tenth and ten occur in line 10, along with further (this time disparaging) wit about the More play; 13) seat = homeplace, soul, punning on “backside.” The line jokes, “You might at least leave my backside alone!” with my seat (like thy sensual fault in 7) a witty metaphor for the Runes, which are bottom-end texts, decorously covered.

                         Rune 38
     (Tenth lines, Set III: Sonnets 29-42)

     Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
     And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er,
     Hung with the trophies of “My lover’s gone!”
 4  Had my friend’s muse grown with this growing age!
     With all triumphant splendor on my brow,
     Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss.
     Thy adverse party is thy advocate;
 8  Least my bewailèd guilt should do thee shame.
     Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give
     Than those old nine which rhymers invocate,
     Were it not thy sour leisure gave sweet leave?
12 Although thou steal thee all my poverty,
     And chide thy beauty and thy straying youth
     And losing her, my friend hath found that loss.
      Glosses: 1) Q Haplye = Perchance; state = condition, estate, printed works; 4) ...muse = this poet, I; this...age = the Renaissance, my own aging; 8) Q Least = Least of all (eyepun: “leaft,” i.e., published); 10) Q Then = Than (a customary emendation in the Sonnets) = As, More than; old nine = the Muses, with a numeric gesture toward lines 1-9 in this text; 11) leave puns on “leaf,” page; 13) chide puns on “see hide,” i.e., “look at parchment” and “see hiding”; 14) her (ambig.) = beauty, youth (see 13), suggesting also the Dark Lady; my friend puns “ms., runed” (i.e., “runic text”) and on “...reigned,” “...ruined,” “misery end,” and “my ‘S.’ [ass] , wry end.”

                          Rune 39

     (Eleventh lines, Set III: Sonnets 29-42)

     Like to the lark at break of day arising,
     The sad account of fore-bemoanèd moan
     Who all their parts of me to thee did give.
 4  A dearer birth than this his love had brought,
     But out, alack, he was but one hour. Mine,
     Th’ offender’s sorrow lends but weak relief,
     And ’gainst myself a lawful plea commence;
 8  Nor thou with public kindness honor me
     That I in thy abundance am sufficed.
     And he that calls on thee, let him bring forth
     To entertain the time with thoughts of love.
12 And yet love knows—it is a greater grief—
     Who lead thee in their riot even there:
     Both find each other, and I lose both twain.
     Glosses: 2) The sad [sb.] account of [v.] = Those who mourn [i.e., specifically, these poems] enumerate, recount...; 3) parts = segments, musical voices; of me = by my authority; 6) offender’s = “moral stumbler’s” (OED); 7) commence = may begin, begins; 10) he that calls on thee = your present “singer”—possibly this poet (I, Will, especially as overt sonneteer), possibly a rival poet/suitor.

                          Rune 40
     (Twelfth lines, Set III: Sonnets 29-42)

     From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate
     Which I new pay as if not paid before:
      That due of many now is thine alone.
 4  (To march in ranks of better equipáge,
     The region cloud hath masked him from me now.)
     To him that bears the strong offense’s loss,
      Such civil war is in my love and hate,
 8  Unless thou take that honor! From thy name,
     And by a part of all thy glory, live,
     Eternal numbers to outlive, long date
     Which time (and thoughts so sweetly) dost deceive.
12 To bear love’s wrong, then hate’s known injury
      Where thou art forced to, break a twofold truth
     And both, for my sake, lay on me—this cross.
      Glosses: 1-2) Which is the subject of sings; 2) the line may mean “That which I offer anew (i.e., my praise, my voice)”; 5) him may mean the auditor of 3, punning on “Ham, Hamnet,” Will’s son; 6) him = the poet, with puns on tome, tomb, “to Hamnet” (code To him t...), etc.; 8) that honor = eternal life, the hymns of tribute here; 10) eternal numbers = poems, eons; 11) time puns on “meter,” echoing numbers (i.e., metrics) in 10.

                          Rune 41

     (Thirteenth lines, Set III: Sonnets 29-42)

     For thy sweet love, remembered, such wealth brings,
     But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
     Their images I loved I view in thee.
 4  But sense he died, and poets better prove;
     Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth.
     Ah, but those tears are pearl which thy love sheds,
     That I an áccessary needs must be
 8  But do not so, I love thee in such sort.
     Look what is best, that best I wish in thee.
     If my slight muse do please these curious days—
     And that thou teachest, how to make one twain,
12 Lascivious grace in whom all ill well shows,
     Hers by thy beauty tempting her to thee—
     But here’s the joy: My friend and I are one.
      Glosses: 1) For = Because; 2) if the while I = if only I happen to...; 3) Their puns on There, Th’ air (the poem), Th’ heir, Tear...; 4) But sense = Mere perception (with he a reduplication); 5) him = sense (see 4); 7) i.e., So that I should join in crying; 11) one twain puns on “...want wane,” while how to make one twain refers to the Sonnets/Runes, the twin halves of Q, concurrently composed; 12-13) pun: “...a li’l Will S. house / here is bitty beauty...”; 13) Hers = grace’s (see 12); 14) But = Only, Solely.

                          Rune 42

     (Fourteenth lines, Set III: Sonnets 29-42)

     That then I scorn: To change my state with kings.
     All losses are restored, and sorrows end,
     And thou (all they) hast all the all of me.
 4  Theirs for their style I’ll read, his for his love.
      Suns of the world may stain—we heaven’s Son stained—
      And they are rich and ransom all ill deeds.
     To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me,
 8  As thou being mine, mine is thy good report.
     This wish I have, then ten times happy me:
     The pain be mine, but thine shall be the praise
     By praising him here who doth hence remain.
12 Kill me with spites, yet we must not be foes.
     Thine by thy beauty being false to me,
     Sweet flattery, then, she loves but me alone.
      Glosses: 3) they points back to kings in 1; 4) Theirs = kings’ “states” (see 1); his in context (see 5) suggests “Christ’s”; 5) Q whé heauens sun stainteh seems intentionally error-ridden and is likely a conventional mea culpa line; 10) mine puns on “m’ Anne” (with Q wish an eyepun on wife); shall puns on S. Hall, Will’s daughter; 11) him suggests the auditor/friend, “hymn,” the poet, Christ, and/or Ham (i.e., Hamnet, the poet’s dead son); 13) Thine = Your spites (see 12).

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