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 IV-VI
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2003, All Rights Reserved


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Set IV: Runes 43-56

—Notes on Set IV—

         As in the other sets, these 14 runes sweep across the flow of 14 sonnets and take figures and meaning from them. (Though one might view the symbiosis from the opposite angle, the sonnets more than the runes are topically focused.) One effect is to make the runes in a set seem more like siblings that the sonnets do, because all the runes share somewhat similar bits and pieces that make their associational patterns feel less discrete, more “alike.” However, since each sonnet itself undergoes twists and turns, resolving in a couplet that may reverse the drift of its quatrains, each runes gains its own character. First-line and last-line regroupings, particularly, have natures partly contingent on where they fall in the set; no doubt the same is true of the sonnets—which the poet laid out in ways that would give the runes thematic places to go, drifts to follow, lines of thought to pursue.
          Sonnets 43-47, which open Set IV, elaborate the subject of “eyes” in various conceits. Though this popular Renaissance topic seems relatively quibblesome to modern readers because of its Metaphysical intricacies and nuanced wordplay, here it allows Will to explore the question of vision, including his own conception of the future and how his time-consuming project may eventually fare. All the runes in the set, then, open with variations on the notion of “seeing.” Sonnets 48-52, the next loose group in Set IV, variously deal with the poet’s “pilgrimage” toward the auditor/muse/friend—whoever that figure is in any given instance. The pilgrimage motif generates some sharp self-denigrating imagery, with Will a writer/rider on a “dull beast,” making haste slowly. Sonnet 53—opening with the question “What is your substance?”—initiates a winding-down group of four sonnet texts that explore questions of truth in art. Some of the material here seems vaguely classical—with references to Adonis, Helen, Mars, and “Grecian” attire. One of the closing sonnets in the set, No. 55, “Not Marble, nor the guilded monument,” the most famous of the visible texts here, deals affirmatively with the capacity of art to enshrine the beloved subject; its materials get scattered in the unrhymed but still couplet-like endings of the runes, providing quiet resolves of various kinds.
          The business of “naming the sets,” a small item among scores of editorial challenges, becomes a useful exercise mainly because it requires distilling diverse materials and finding what is new. Obviously, the earlier topics—preserving the friend’s beauty, contemplating the paradoxes and mixed, “doomed” nature of the current project—persist in Set IV. Set III has tended toward melancholy contemplations of how the writing project itself alienates the poet from his subject(s). In that sense those texts seem self-focused. Here in Set IV the new business of “eyes” allows the poet to turn outward, not only envisioning “where the friend is” but also looking toward the eventual discovery of what he is about. The sonnet texts about progressing toward a goal also help move the poet out of himself and away toward his auditors, whoever those might eventually be; even at their bleakest, these new figures at least establish a teleology and eschew weepy self-pity.
          As the person most responsible for the current “new unfolding”—for revealing what Will calls his “sharpened” stone or “edge”—I hear in Set IV whole poems in which the poet might well be talking directly to me and, by extension, to any and all future readers, creating hypothetical scenarios that just now we are all helping to eventuate. While these comments would have worked well enough in the poet’s own day to address his coterie readers—Dr. Hall, Thomas Thorpe, Southampton, or others—if they ever picked through the artifact-strewn terrain of the poet’s underworld, Will seems rightly to have anticipated that private, contemporary readings of his texts would remain limited and underground, and also tht someday the Great Work of the Quarto might be unleashed on the world. One motivation for finishing the project must surely have been his desire to leave a lasting mark that would reveal the intricacies of his capabilities as an artist.
           Will has a way of providing what look like clues about almost everything—including the naming of the sets. Thus, in Rune 49.11 we hear the term “Art of Beauty” set, just as earlier we detected the suggestion that “The Long Year Set” might apply. Since such clues are random and inconclusive, I’ve decided to apply topical labels reasonably consistent with substantive materials—using where possible terms and conceits the poet himself suggests somewhere or other.
          The Set IV leaf opens with WIT across the top (a part of the Rune 41 acrostic). Eyecatching, too, is the empaneled vertical acrostic string TAWS (Sonnet 45 down): The verb “taw” (OEff.) meant “to soften leather” and, figuratively, “to flog,” and the rare noun “taw” (1562) denoted prepared leather. Since Will’s father John was a glover and whitawer, a curer of glove skins (Harrison 8), TAWS seems almost as crafty as the AVON string on the Set I leaf. Because the Greek “Tau” was a cross-shaped “T”—a St. Anthony’s Cross and sacred symbol in the Middle Ages (OED)—the string gains further relevance in an “acrostic” setting, encouraging the reading of the vertical acrostic codeline of which TAWS is a part: WBT IHSN TAWS MH O cf. “‘Tan’ [VV = Ten] be tease in ‘Taw,’ some owe [acknowledge],” “Why, Betty is into S.-hymn, O,” “Whipped, I sin, ‘Tau’ is my ladder [= H, implying ‘ladder to heaven’], O,” “Whip, tease, and toss m’ ‘O’ [round, rune],” “Webbed, eye ladder’s end, eye W.S. hymn, O […m’ ‘O’],” “W. be teasing t’ awe ass more.” With B=8, cf. “Weighty, I sin, Tau [The Cross] is m’ Ho[pe?],” “…Tau is my Ladder, O.”
          The reverse of this codeline, OHM S WAT N SHIT BW, generates SWAT, SHIT, and a form of homme. Cf. “Homme is weighty and shitty beau,” “Hommes wade in shit beau,” “O, Miss, wade in shit beau,” “O-ms. wight, in shit be W.,” “Hommes, waiting is Hittite W.” The clue “bias” in Rune 56 encourages reading the diagonal code on the leaf: W BI TH T S AMN VVHS O cf. “Weighty Th[omas] T[horpe] is a man wise, O,” “Why, Betty is a menace, O,” “Weighty (Witty) that salmon (Simon). Why so?” The reverse of this code yields other possibilities: OSHVVN MASTHT I BW cf. “Ocean masted I be. W.,” “O, shun m’ ass, Th.T., aye beau.”


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                         Rune 43

     (First lines, Set IV: Sonnets 43-56)

     When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see.
     If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,
     The other two—slight air and purging fire—
 4  Mine eye and heart, are at a mortal war:
     Betwixt mine eye and heart a league is took.
     How careful was I when I took my way;
     Against that time (if ever that time come)
 8  How heavy do I journey on the way.
     Thus can my love excuse the slow offence;
     So am I as the rich, who’s blessèd. Key,
     What is your substance? Whereof are you made?
12 Oh how much more doth beauty beauteous seem!
     Not marble nor the gilded monument,
     Sweet love, renew thy force. Be it not said.
     Glosses: 1) wink = cry, nap, ignore reality, tease; 2) flesh is a compound of earth and water; 3) The other two (amplifying 2) round out the four primal elements (earth, water, air, fire); 5) league = covenant, three-mile distance, with the pun “Betwixt...., a leg I stuck!”; 6) took my way = left you, left Stratford to come to London, started the Q cycle of Sonnets/Runes; 7) Against = Regarding, Looking toward (with Against punning, “A gay (Ache...,) Anne Shakespeare [st = the family name cipher] ”; 9) offence = stumbling, indignity; 10) Key puns on “Quay” (landing point); 11) substance echoes 2; 13) gilded puns on “guilded,” i.e., cabalistic.

                    Rune 44
     (Second lines, Set IV: Sonnets 43-56)

     For all, the day they view things unrespected,
     Injurious distance should not stop my way.
     Are both with thee, wherever I abide:
 4  How two divide the conquest of thy sight
     And each doth good turns now unto the other,
     Each trifle under truest bars to thrust
     When I shall see thee frown on my defects!
 8  When what I seek (my weary travel’s end)
     Of my dull bearer when from thee I speed
     Can bring him to his sweet up-lockèd treasure
     That millions of strange shadows on you tend
12 By that sweet ornament which truth doth give,
     Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme,
     Thy edge. Should blunter be, then, appetite?
     Glosses: 1) all = everybody; “Fore-awl” and things are phallic puns; For all puns “For Hall [Will’s son-in-law’s name]” and “Four-all,” i.e., “4-4” (echoing 44, the rune number); unrespected = not perceived or esteemed; 3) both suggests “eyes” (see they in 1), Sonnets/Runes; with thee puns on “witty,” I puns on “eye ”; 4) two (Q to) suggests “eyes” (see 1, 3); divide the conquest echoes the saw “divide and conquer”; 6) suggesting prisoners in adjacent cells (an analogy for Sonnets and Runes, which “share” linear resources); 9) my...bearer suggests “this ass-like, ‘neighing,’‘footed’ medium,” with Of my dull bearer punning, “Awesome idyll/idol be error”; 11) That = So that; tend = attend; 14) edge suggests knife, perimeter or margin, and trenchancy.

                          Rune 45

     (Third lines, Set IV: Sonnets 43-56)

     But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee;
     For then, despite of space, I would be brought
     Thee. First (my thought), the other (my desire)—
 4  Mine eye, my heart their pictures—sight would bar
     When that mine eye is famished for a look
     That to my use it might unusèd stay
     Whenas thy love hath cast his utmost sum.
 8  Doth teach that ease and that repose to say,
     “From where thou art, why should I haste me thence,
     The which he will not ev’ry hour survey
     Since everyone hath, every one, one shade?”
12 The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem;
     But you shall shine more bright in these contents
     Which but today by feeding is allayed.
1) But = Except, Only; they puns “th’ eye” while vaguely suggesting “other people” and pointing to thought and desire—parallels in 3-4 to eye and heart; 2) brought encodes a pun on “burrowed” and on B-row (in the 2nd row, i.e., Row B); 5) famished helps explain feeding in 14; 7) Whenas = When; 11) shade (ambig.) = complexion, shadow, bosom companion; 14) by feeding is allayed puns “...beef eating, eye salad,” where “salad,” meaning “something mixed” (OED 1601), suggests these contents (see 13)—i.e., the Q texts, and especially the Runes.

                         Rune 46

     (Fourth lines, Set IV: Sonnets 43-56)

     And, darkly bright, are bright-in-dark directed
     From limits far remote, where thou dost stay;
     These present/absent with swift motion slide.
 4  My heart, mine, eye the freedom of that right—
     Or, heart, in love with sighs, himself doth smother
     From hands of falsehood, in sure wards of trust
     Called to that audit by advised respects.
 8  Thus far the miles are measured from thy friend;
     Till I return of posting is no need
     For blunting the fine point of seldom pleasure,
     And you, but one, can every shadow lend
12 For that sweet odor which doth in it live:
     Then unswept stone, besmeared with sluttish time,
     Tomorrow sharpened in his former might.
     Glosses: 1) bright-in-dark denotes “eyes”; 4) eye (v.) = may look at; right = “prerogative” or “right margin in the Q text or on the Set IV leaf, an airy open space”; 4-5) heart puns routinely on “art”; 7) ...audit...respects (self-conscious legalese) = “...reckoning by judicious considerations”; 8-10) measured, posting, point, and pleasure ally to create phallic wit; 12) it (ambig.) = seldom pleasure (see 10), posting (9), and/or shadow (11); 13) Then puns on “Thin,” with bawdy innuendo (see sluttish); 14) the pun in might on “mite/midget” suggests a joke about penis size, and such puns as “...sluttish Tommy, / Tom, our hosier [dealing in underwear], penned/pained in his sore, mere midget”(13-14) and “Tomorrow sharpened John his sore, mere mite” might have concurrently appealed to Thomas Thorpe (Will’s printing agent) and Dr. John Hall (the son-in-law, a Stratford physician).

                         Rune 47

     (Fifth lines, Set IV: Sonnets 43-56)

     Then, thou whose shadow shadows doth make bright
     Know matter—then, although my foot did stand
     Fore. When these quicker elements are gone,
 4  My heart doth plead that thou in him dost lie.
     With my love’s picture, then, my eye doth feast.
     But thou to whom my jewels trifles are,
     Against that time when thou shalt strangely pass
 8  The beast that bears me, tired with my woe,
     O, what excuse will my poor beast then find?
     Therefore are feasts so solemn and so rare.
     Describe Adonis, and the counterfeit—
12 The canker blooms—have full as deep a die.
     When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
     So, love, be thou, although today thou fill.
     Glosses: 1) thou = the friend or unknown future decipherer; 2) Know (Q No) also puns on “No”; foot suggests “metrical unit,” verses; 3) When...gone suggests, “When I'm dead and the witty Runes are lost,” with quicker pointing back to foot in 2; the pun “Foreign tease” points to wasteful war in 13; 4) heart puns on “art,” and him, on “hymn”; 5) the picture may be a miniature (see jewels in 6, and see line note to Rune 51.5); 7) Against = Anticipating, Looking toward; 8) woe puns on “Whoa!”; 12) die: also, dye; 14) pun: “So-low beetle, toad odd eye, tough, ill.”

                         Rune 48

     (Sixth lines, Set IV: Sonnets 43-56)

     How would thy shadow’s form form happy show
     Upon the farthest earth! Removed from thee,
     In tender embassy of love to thee
 4  (A closet never pierced with crystal eyes)
     And to the painted banquet, bids my heart
     Most worthy comfort—now my greatest grief;
     And, scarcely greet, me with that sun thine eye
 8  Plods duly on, to bear that weight in me
     When swift extremity can seem but slow,
     Since “seldom coming,” in the long year set,
     Is poorly imitated after you
12 As the perfumèd tincture of thee. Roses
     And broils root out the work of masonry,
     Thy hungry eyes, ev’n till they wink with fullness!
     Glosses: 1) How would puns on Howard, likely a topical in-group reference; 8) duly puns on “dully,” and weight, on “wait”; 10) the long year (...langeur, ...longer) set may be a playful rubric for Set IV, or for Set VIII (which is longer by one line than all the rest); 13) broils = conflicts, confused tumults; 14) Thy hungry eyes... puns “Thy hungry ass...” and “Thigh-hung, awry, eyes, even, ‘tilty’...,” suggesting testicles; is till they wink a prescient pun on “tiddlywink” (OED 1870)?

                         Rune 49

     (Seventh lines, Set IV: Sonnets 43-56)

     To the clear day, with thy much clearer light
     For nimble thought, can jump both sea and land
     My life—being made of four with two, all one!
 4  But the defendant doth that plea deny;
     Another time mine eye is my heart’s guest.
     Thou best of dearest, and mine only care,
     When love converted from the thing it was,
 8  As if by some instinct, the wretch did know
     Then should I spur, though mounted on the wind.
     Like stones of worth they thinly placèd are
     On Helen’s cheek: All art, of beauty set,
12 Hang on such thorns, and play as wantonly
     Nor Mars his sword nor wars. Quick fire shall burn
     Tomorrow: See again, and do not kill.
     Glosses: 3) four suggests the four elements, four limbs; two suggests eyes, Sonnets/Runes; My life puns on “My leaf” (i.e., page, spread), with four and two alluding to the folio spread arrangement in the Ur-text; 4) defendant (ambig.) point to the thee of 1 (the poet’s light-giver) and to mine eye (5) and love (7); 5-6) family namepuns: m’ Annie, Anne, m’ Anne; 6) care (paradoxical) = concern, burden; 8) wretch (ambig.) points to the defendant (4), love (7); 10) they = my spurs (implied), punning “th’ eye”; 12) such thorns (ambig.) suggests the poet’s “spurs” (see 9, where Then puns on Thin), Helen’s lashes, archaic thorn (the symbol th, similar to p, which is in the line); 12-13) i.e., “Neither Mars...nor wars play...”;13) Quick fire suggests the sun (see 1); 14) See puns on Sea (see 2); kill echoes defendant (see 4), suggesting that the auditor/friend has destructive force.

                         Rune 50

     (Eighth lines, Set IV: Sonnets 43-56)

     When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so?
     As soon as think, the place where he would be
     Sinks down to death, oppressed with melancholy,
 4  And says, “In him, their fair, appearance lies
     And in his thoughts of love doth share a part.”
     Art left, the prey of every vulgar thief,
     Shall reasons find. Of settled gravity,
 8  His rider loved not speed: Being made from thee,
     In wingèd speed no motion shall I know
     Or captain. Jewels in the carconet,
     And you in Grecian ’tires are painted new
12 When summers’ breath their maskèd buds discloses,
     The living record of your memory,
     The spirit of love, with a perpetual dullness.
     Glosses: 1) unseeing eyes = e.g., those of future readers and/or of contemporaries outside the coterie circle; 2) he = thy shade (see 1); 4) their refers to unseeing eyes (see 1); fair (sb.); 8) His rider suggests “Art’s writer/rider,” the poet; see Rune 49, which pictures the poet astride Helen’s head, spurring the spots that would be her (rouged) cheeks; made = carried; 10) carconet = jeweled necklace; 11) tires = attire, garments; 12) maskèd buds suggest naked body parts; 14) spirit puns on “spurt” and “...speare”: e.g., “The spurt o’ slow wit a peer paid you, ‘awl’ dulling ass.”—with plays on “peed,” “pet,” “ladle,” and “little.”

                         Rune 5l

     (Ninth lines, Set IV: Sonnets 43-56)

     How would, I say, mine eyes be blessèd made?
     But, ah, thought kills me that I am not thought
     (Until life’s composition be) recured.
 4  To side this, title is empanelèd,
     So, either by thy picture or my love,
     Thee have I not lock’d up in any chest.
     Against that time do I ensconce me here:
 8  The bloody spur cannot provoke him on,
     Then can no horse with my desire keep pace.
     So is the time that keeps you as my chest.
     Speak of the spring and foison of the year,
12 But for their virtue only is their show.
     ’Gainst death, and all oblivious enmity,
     Let this sad int’rim like the ocean be.
     Glosses: 2) that I am not thought puns, “...that Hamnet thought,” alluding to Will’s dead son; 3) recured = made whole again, recurrent; 4) To side this = “To skirt this problem,” with the whole line alluding to the position of the sonnet and/or the runic text on the set leaf: “To [the] side, this title [i.e., number, poem text] is empanelèd”; 5) pun: “Southy [i.e., Southampton], our bitty picture ormolu [OED 1765, from F. or moulu, ‘ground gold’]”; 8) him... (ambig.) points to horse (see 9) and to I am not (2) while punning on him on,/T (8-9), i.e., Hamnet, and on “hymn”; 11) foison = harvest time; and foison puns, “and saw I son,” “and so eye son,” “Anne, Sue, eye son”; 12) for their puns on “father,” “for (fore..., [i.e., early in the verse line]), th’ heir,” alluding to Hamnet; 14) int’rim suggests “interlude,” “entr’acte” (see show in 12).

                         Rune 52

     (Tenth lines, Set IV: Sonnets 43-56)

     By looking on thee in the living day
     Two leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone:
     By those swift messengers returned from thee
 4  A ’quest of thoughts, all tenants to the heart.
     Thyself, away, are present still with me,
     Save where thou art not, though I feel thou art:
     Within the knowledge of mine own desert.
 8  That sometimes-anger thrusts into his hide,
     Therefore, desire of perfects, love being made—
     Or, as the wardrobe which the robe doth hide,
     The one doth (shadow of your beauty) show
12 They live unwooed, and unrespected, fade;
     Shall you pace forth, your praise shall still find room
     Which part’s the shore where two contracted new.
     Glosses: 2) Two: i.e., Two eyes, We both (You and I); 3) returned is a past-tense verb, with ’quest (in 4) its subject; 4) A ’quest = An inquest, investigative group; 7) desert: the Q form desart creates rhymes in 4, 6, and 7; see also the rhymes in 1, 3, and 5; 8 and 10 (exact); and 9 and 12; 8) his hide = the heart’s flesh (pun: hiding place); 9-10) pun: e.g., “T’ Harry S. [i.e., Southampton, punning ‘hairy ass’], our desirous peer: F--k slow. By inch made whore, eye Southy, warty, row bitch there abed...”;11) one (ambig.) points to thought (see 4) or “poem,” to “one” as “1” (and thus “I”), i.e., half a pair; 12) They = perfects (see 9); 13) room puns on rheum (i.e., tears); pun: S[ue] Hall... (twice), with, e.g., “...ass till, send her home”; 14) two (ambig.) = you and I, two eyes, sonnet and rune; contracted = made a compact (with puns about a married couple and about two eyes squinting).

                         Rune 53
     (Eleventh lines, Set IV: Sonnets 43-56)

     When in dead night, they’re fair, imperfect shade—
     But that so-much of earth and water wrought
     Who ev’n but now come back again assured—
 4  And by their verdict is determinèd,
     For thou nor farther, then, my thoughts canst move
     Within the gentle closure of my breast
     And this my hand against myself uprear,
 8  Which heavily he answers with a groan.
     Shall neigh no dull flesh in his fiery race
     To make some special instant special blest.
     The other, as your bounty doth appear,
12 Die to themselves. Sweet roses, do not so:
     Even in the eyes of all posterity,
     Come daily to the banks, that wen they see.
     Glosses: 1) they’re = roses are (see 12); imperfect shade = thou (see 5), the unnamed listener/muse whom the poet addresses; 2) But = Just, Exactly; 5) For puns on “Far,” “[line] 4”; For thou nor farther... puns, “Farty, onerous art here/hear...”; 7) a mastubatory pun; 8) he = myself (with phallic innuendo); groan puns, “G-row I end,” pointing to Row G, i.e., line 7, just completed; 9) neigh puns on “nay” (v.), i.e., practice negation; 11) The other (ambig.) = roses (see 12), friends you leave there; 14) wen = mound, archaic (and thornlike) W, Will’s initial; wen they see puns on “windy sea,” “’ eye see.”

                         Rune 54

     (Twelfth lines, Set IV: Sonnets 43-56)

     Through, heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay.
     I must attend times’ leisure with my moan
     Of their fair health, recounting it to me,
 4  The clear eyes’ moiety, and the dear hearts’ part;
     And I am still with them, and they with thee,
     From whence at pleasure thou mayst come and part
     To guard the lawful reasons on thy part,
 8  More sharp to me than spurring. To his side,
     But love, for love, thus shall excuse my jade
     By new unfolding his imprison’d pride,
     And you in every blessèd shape we know.
12 Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odors made
     That wear this world out to the ending doom,
     Return of love, more blest may be the view.
     Glosses: 1) Through, heavy sleep = “Life over, death...” and/or “Awake, fatigue...”; 2) times’ leisure = the pastimes of present and future ages, with a likely pun on “Tommy’s ‘leafure’...,” the pages Will has contracted to produce, agonizingly, for his printing agent, Thomas Thorpe; moan puns on “money” (see recounting in 3); 3) their = future ages’, i.e., times’; me = myself; pun: e.g., “Oft her fair, healthier cunt inched to me (...‘inchèd’ /...enjoyed Tommy)”; 4) moiety = half, share; 6) thou = you, my friend, and/or the reader; 6-7) thou mayst come and part / To guard... puns, “Thomas T. command part took...,” suggesting playfully that Will has lost control of the Q project; part / part / part (in 4, 6, 7) are exact rhymes; 9) jade (ambig.) = poor horse, fatigue, joke (jade [v.] = befool [OED 1679]); 10) a phallically suggestive line (see the pun in 3, above).

                         Rune 55

     (Thirteenth lines, Set IV: Sonnets 43-56)

     All days are nights to see till I see thee,
     Receiving naughts by elements so slow;
     This told, I joy but then no longer. Glad
 4  As thus, mine eyes’ due is their outward part,
     Or, if they sleep, thy picture in my sight,
     And even thence thou wilt be stol’n, I fear;
     To leave poor me thou hast the strength of laws
 8  (For that same groan doth put this in my mind).
     Since from thee going he went wilful slow,
     Blessèd are you whose worthiness gives scope;
     In all external grace you have some part.
12 And so, of you, beauteous and lovely youth
     So—till the Judgment, that yourself arise
     As—call it winter, which being full of care.
     Glosses: 3-4) pun: “Glad aye is (...Gladys...) th’ huss, my Annie S., dusty her outward part”; 5) Or, if puns, “Arise”; 6) And and wilt pun on Anne, Will; 8) that same groan puns, “that same G-row [i.e., line 7], Anne...”; groan puns, “G-row end,” pointing to line 7, “Row G” (see line note 53.8); 9) thee and he are both playfully ambiguous; pun: Will-ful; 11-12) pun: “tanned, soft you be, odious and lovely...”; 13) So—till puns on Sue, subtle; 14) As—call it puns, “A scalded...,” generating an oxymoron.

                         Rune 56

     (Fourteenth lines, Set IV: Sonnets 43-56)

     And, nights’ bright days when dreams do show thee me
     But heavy tears, badges of either’s woe,
     I send them back again, and straight grow sad,
 4  And my heart’s right, their inward love of heart,
     Awakes my heart to heart’s and eye’s delight—
     For truth, proves thievish for a prize so dear.
     Since, why to love I can allege no cause;
 8  My grief lies onward, and my joy behind.
     Towards thee I’ll run and give him leave to go,
     Being had to triumph, being lacked to hope
     But you like none, none you. For constant heart
12 When that shall vade, by verse distills your truth:
     You live in this and dwell in lovers’ eyes,
     Makes’ summers—welcome thrice, more wished, more rare.
     Glosses: 1) show thee me = show thee to me; 2) either’s = nights’ or days’, your or my; 3) them (ambig.) suggests tears, badges (2), dreams, nights’...days (1); 4) right = prerogative (pun: “art’s right,” “hard’s rigid, [up]right” [phallic, echoing straight in 3]); their = my dreams’ (1), tears (2); 6) the subject of proves (a phallic pun on “prows”) is heart’s right (in 4); 9) him (a pun on “hymn”) = grief, joy (see 8); 11) But = Only that; 12) vade = depart, fade; by verse puns on “bi-verse,” i.e., the bifurcated Sonnets/Runes cycle; 14) Makes’ summers puns on “Mates’ ‘Summer S.’”—i.e., “Coterie peers’ Adder/Numbers man/Metricist Shakespeare,” with welcome punning on Will...; pun: “...thrice (...their eyes) more rouged, more rare,” suggesting red meat, with jokes about a hot summer, reddened eyes, phallic “I’s,” Moors, and stereotypes about phallic size.
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Set V: Runes 57-70

—Notes on Set V
The ‘Flowerish’ Set on Youth (see Rune 65.4)

          This set houses several major sonnets on mutability, including Sonnets 60, 64, 65. Collectively the 28 texts here drift toward an emphasis on the poet’s obsequious role, insuring the friend’s permanence, through art, so as to record “what beauty was of yore” (Sonnet 68.14) for future ages, including ours; Will’s skepticism in his struggle is also a dominant topic in this set. Materials in the sonnets suggesting the flawed nature of both the poet and his subject (e.g., Sonnets 62, 67) color all the texts. Though some texts might be heard as addressing any current reader, the sense persists that Will has in mind some particular male auditor/muse with whom he shares a dark secret, though what the friend’s “sin” is remains mysterious. (Perhaps it is merely being a part of the coterie, with its School of Night aspects.) Adumbrations of the Dark Mistress (a conceit for the ms.) and the “other poet(s)” antagonistic to Will appear here and there in the set.
          Because the Sonnets themselves shift person (from “you” to “he” particularly), the Runes pick up a kind of name-that-pronoun ambiguity that usually is not such a factor in the overt texts. Here Sonnets 57-61 maintain a second-person address that Sonnet 62—where the paradoxical “thee/myself” intrudes—confounds. Sonnets 63-68 generally use the third person to speak of the friend. And the “couplet” texts on the leaf, Sonnets 69-70, return to second-person address. The upshot in the runes is ambiguity of reference; often the “he” pronouns gain new antecedents in context, ceasing to refer to the muse at all. While none of the Sonnets has ever been heard before to comment on the poet’s struggles with double composition—and on how the Q project itself makes “sins” inevitable—that topic is now insistent, and not just in the Runes. After the fact, it must hereafter be applied to the sonnet texts, too, to help us understand their fruitful possibilities. The opening of Sonnet 66, “Tired with all these…,” for example, now means much more to us than it did before. And “Those parts…the world’s eye doth view” (Sonnet 69.1) now must mean “the Sonnets—not the Runes.”
          Sonnet 66 offers an extended example of how we may now need to reapproach the Sonnets to find meaning we’ve been unaware of: Reading the opening “And’s” as “Anne’s” turns the poem into a catalog of parallel epithets, and a diatribe against the wife; one can almost hear her self-righteous self-descriptions (she’s “captive good,” attending “Captain Ill) and can laugh at Will’s pun “…from these wood [crazy] aye be John [Hall” (Sonnet 66.13).
           Among good titles that Will slips us within this set are “Windy Puffery” (see Rune 61), “Commend a Crow” (see Rune 60), and “The Ornament of Beauty is Suspect” (see Rune 59).
          The set leaf allows a player to skim left-to-right, top-to-bottom, across the emphatic letters BTIL / ISAVV / STAT / TT and read “Beetle eye saw stat (his tete), TT.” The reading “Betty (Bitty) Lisa, wise tot” jokes about Will’s new granddaughter, Elizabeth Hall. The vertical set-leaf code—B IS TSTT IAAT LWT—allows “Ate [8=B] is tasty, jawed hell-wit (…lewd)” and “Bess tested lute.” The most obvious diagonal code on the set-leaf—BITSSI TAL TAVVTT—encodes “Bitsy tail toyed (dowdy),” “Betsy told a witty…,” and “Betsy tail, too wet (…to wit).” Puns in the sonnets on “cheek” and “parts” (e.g., 68.1, 69.1) may have Betsy’s “bitsy tail” in mind.
           Egyptian and New World allusions in the subtexts continue to astound (see the index).


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                         Rune 57

     (First lines, Set V: Sonnet 57-70)

     Being your slave, what should I do but tend
     That God forbid, that made me first your slave?
     If there be nothing new, but that which is,
 4  Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
     Is it thy will thy image should keep open
     (Sin of self-love possesseth all) mine eye,
     Against my love shall be as I am now
 8  When I have seen by time’s fell hand defaced
     Sense brass? Nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
     Tired with all these, for restful death I cry!
     Ah, wherefore with infection should he live?
12 Thus is his cheek the map of days outworn,
     Those parts of thee that the world’s eye doth view;
     That thou are blamed shall not be thy defect.
     Glosses: 2) That = That which; 7) Against = Until; 8) fell = savage; 9) brass suggests “insensible” (ME) and “impudent” (1642); cheek, suggesting both “buttock” and “mouthings,” is a variant of “check,” the side “ring” of a harness, and thus a pun on “round/rune”; 10) Tired puns on “Attired”; 11) he (with bawdy overtones) = death, sense, the poet, the friend, and/or “penis” (with the pictographic phallic pun “‘I’ see awry” in 10). Family namepuns include, e.g., Anne [= w = IN] Hat.; S[ue] Hall (1); “Judy S., our bitty Hat.-maid” (2); Hat., witch S. (3); make (i.e., mate), in 4; thy Will (5); Hall, m’ Annie (6); “a gay Anne Shakespeare” (st = the family name cipher); S. Hall; Bess; Ham (7); and S. Hall (14).

                         Rune 58
(Second lines, Set V: Sonnets 57-70)

Upon the hours and times of your desire
     I should, in thought, control your times of pleasure;    
     Hath been before.... How are our brains beguiled!
 4  So do our minutes hasten to their end,
     My heavy eyelids to the weary night,
     And all my soul, and all my every part,
     With time’s injurious hand crushed and o’erworn—
The rich, proud cost of outworn, buried age.
     But sad mortality o’ersways their power
     As two behold desert a beggar born
     And with his presence grace impiety
12 When beauty lived and died. As flowers do now,
     Want nothing that the thought of hearts can mend;
     For slander’s mark was ever yet the fair.
   Glosses: 2) should puns on S. Hall; 9) But = Only (ironic); 10) two (ambiguous) = you and I, eyes, etc.; beggar = this rune (which “borrows” lines from the Sonnets and is an “outcast”); 12) flowers is a “musical” pun on “slurs”; 13) Want (as “miss” or “expect”) is ambiguously contradictory.

                         Rune 59

     (Third lines, Set V: Sonnets 57-70)

     I have no precious time at all to spend
     Or at your hand th’ account of hours to crave
     Which, laboring for invention, bear amiss,
 4  Each changing place with that which goes before.
     Dost thou desire my slumbers should be broken,
     And for this sin there is no remedy?
     When hours have drained his blood and filled his brow,
 8  When sometime lofty towers I see downrazed,
     How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
     And needy Nothing, trimm’d in jollity
     That sin by him advantage should achieve?
12 Before these bastard signs of fair were born,
     All tongues, the voice of fools, give thee that end:
     The ornament of beauty is suspéct.
     Glosses: 3) puns: “Witch,” “bear/bare a ms.”; 7) hours puns on whores; his suggests rage’s, beauty’s (9), the poet’s, and Christ’s (from contextual clues); 10) needy Nothing = the runic poem, a stillborn “bastard” (with pudendal wit); 12-13) born and give are past and/or subjunctive verbs.


                         Rune 60
     (Fourth lines, Set V: Sonnets 57-70)

     Nor services to do till you require,
     Being your vassal, bound to stay your leisure,
     The second burthen of a former child
 4  In sequent toil, all forwards do contend,
     While shadows like to thee do mock my sight,
     It is so grounded inward in my heart
     With lines and wrinkles. When his youthful morn,
8  And brass (eternal slave to mortal rage
     Whose action is no stronger than a flower)
     And purest faith (unhappily forsworn
     And lace itself), with his society,
12 O’er, durst inhabit on a living brow
     Utt’ring bare truth—even so as foes commend—
     A Crow that flies in heaven’s sweetest air.
     Glosses: 1) Nor = Having no... (pun: “Inner,” hidden); re-quire is a printing pun suggesting “regroup pages” (with “quire” as a measure of paper); “re-choir” puns “sing again,” amplifying “services”; 2) bound and “leafure” are printing puns; 3) burthen = burden (musical), the lower line or continuo; second puns on “fecund” (thus the pun “fecund lower song-text”); 4) forwards puns on “prefatory compositions”; 7) wrinkles puns on tricks, wiles; his = my heart’s (’s); 8) brass puns on effrontery (OED 1642); 10) forsworn = repudiated; 11) lace = fragility, entrapment; his = my heart’s (see 6); 12) durst = dared, ventured to; 14) Crow alludes plausibly to Robert Greene’s notorious attack on Will as an “Upstart Crow.”

                          Rune 61

     (Fifth lines, Set V: Sonnets 57-70)

     Nor dare I chide the world. Without end hour,
     Oh, let me suffer, being at your beck,
     Oh, that recórd could, with a backward look
  4 Nativity once in the main of light!
     Is it thy spirit that thou send’st from thee?
     Methinks no face so gracious is, as mine
     Hath traveled on to age’s steepy night
  8 When I have seen the hungry ocean gain.
     Oh, how shall summer’s honey breath hold out?
     And, gilded honor shamefully misplaced,
     Why should false painting imitate his cheek
12 Before the golden tresses of the dead?
     Their outward thus with outward praise is crown’d;
     So thou be good, slander doth but approve.
     Glosses: 1) Nor dare puns, “In order, ...ardor, ...ordure”; 2) beck (ambig.) = summons, rocky stream; 3) that = I who...; could is an eyepun on cold; 4) main = sea (pun: mane, m’ Annie); 4-5) Q’s maine of light /Is it...puns, “m’ Annie o’ slight eyesight”; 5) suggesting “expiration,” breathing out, with a namepun on “...speare”; that thou puns on “Hath-o-V,”i.e., Hathaway; 6-7) mine / Hath traveled puns, “m’ Annie Hath-traveled [and is thus away]”; 7) steepy suggests both precipitous and moist; 8) “When I have seen the hungriest Anne gain...” is a joke (one of hundreds) about Ann’s obesity; 9) summers (Q 9): “Summer S.” is an epithet for Will as an “adder” or “numbers man,” i.e., metricist or poet;10) gilded honor puns on a code of secrecy inside a guild or coterie; 11) his cheek echoes the image of summer breezes in 9; 12) tresses—golden and buried—is a conceit for the Runes, adumbrating braids and thus “knots” (and see the puns “mane” in 4, crown’d in 13); 13) outward suggests both “exterior” and an outbound ship (echoing other nautical imagery) and alludes to the (overt) Sonnets; is crown’d / so thou puns, e.g., “I see Rune D...,” “I see (icy) rowing, DeSoto...” (with “lander” and “a prow” in 14). Other family namepuns include Sue (so, in 6, 14) and S. Hall (9, 11); ...hold out / And...(9-10) puns, e.g., “...Hall, doubting”; and Why should false painting (11) puns, “Wise Hall defaults, panting....”

                        Rune 62

     (Sixth lines, Set V: Sonnets 57-70)

     Whilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you,
     Th’ imprisoned absence of your liberty,
     Ev’n of five hundredth courses of the sun,
  Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crowned
     So far from home, into my deeds to pry
     No shape so true, no truth of such account.
     And all those beauties whereof now he’s king
 8  Advantage on the kingdom of the shore
     Against the wrackful siege of battering days
     And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted;
     And steel dead, seeing of his living hue,
12 The right of sepulchers were shorn away.
     But those same tongues that give thee so thine own,
     They’re worth the greater, being wooed of time.
    Glosses: 3) (Q hundreth): five hundre[d]th courses suggests the 500th course; 5) pun: “Suffer, fair homme, who may...”; 7) he (ambig.) points back to shape, truth (in 6), and my sovereign (in 1); 8) Advantage (v.) = Struggle, Advance; 11) steel dead suggests armaments (etc.) defeated; 13) tongues may refer to truth (see 6); thee (ambig.) = the king (addressed), any reader; 13) pun: “...that give thee Southy [i.e., Southampton] anon...”; 14) closing puns: “th’ air [i.e., song, poem] worried thick reader, being wood [i.e., deranged] ofttime,” with “Woo’d of Tommy” likely a private joke between Will and his printing agent Thomas Thorpe, known to be the “T.T.” of Q’s title page. One complex pun in 4-5 would have suited Thorpe (wittily, Will’s “editor”) and Dr. John Hall (Will’s son-in-law in Stratford and, I deduce, a principal intended auditor): “...witty being C-row [i.e., line 3, just ended], and ed.’s [i.e., the ‘editor’s’—Thorpe’s] offer, fair homme, Homme (...Home) John [= in], too, made ed.’s top [i.e., the opening lines here?] wry”; “medical” wit in 5 is concurrent: e.g., “Suffer serum, John [= in], Tommy...,” with plays on “dead” “wedded,” and “stopper.”

                         Rune 63
      (Seventh lines, Set V: Sonnets 57-70)

     Nor think the bitterness of absence sour
     And patience tame. To sufferance bide, each check,
     Show me your image! In some antique book
Crookèd eclipses ’gainst his glory fight
     To find out shames and idle hours in me,
     And for myself mine own worth do define.
     Are vanishing—or vanished out of sight—
And the firm soil win of the watery main?
     When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
     And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
     Why should poor beauty indirectly seek
12 To live a second life on second head?
     In other accents do this praise confound,
     For canker vice the sweetest buds doth love.
1) Nor think may be a self-addressed imperative; 2) the line suggests “To balance bitterness and patience...”; 3) antique puns routinely on “antic”; 4) his = your image’s (see 3); 7) vanishing (sb.) = human disappearance; 8) win of = victims of; 11) indirectly = deviously; 12) second is a routine pun on “fecund.”


                         Rune 64

      (Eighth lines, Set V: Sonnets 57-70)

     When you have bid your servant once adieu—
     Without accusing you of injury
     Since—mind at first in character was done;
 4  And time that gave doth now (his gift) confound
     The scope and tenure of thy jealousy
     As I all other in all worths surmount,
     Stealing away the treasure of his spring,
 8  Increasing store with loss, and loss with store.
     Nor gates of steel so strong but time decays,
     And, strength by limping sway disablèd,
     Roses. Of shadow, sense his rose is true.
12 Ere, beauty’s dead fleece made another gay;
     By seeing farther, then, the eye hath shown
     (And thou present’st) a pure, unstainèd prime.
     Glosses: 3) i.e., first reactions were written down; 4) now = (at) the present time; confound = confuse; 5) thy = my (toward you); 7) his spring = time’s... (see 4), by “storing roses” (see 11); 8) store = gain; 9) gates of steel suggest storehouse gates; 10) the line suggests sagging gates on broken hinges (see 9) as well as drooping roses (see 11); 11) Of shadow = from a faint copy; rose is puns on “roses”; 12) Ere = Before now; dead fleece = curls; gay (n.) suggests a nosegay, a knot of hair.

                         Rune 65

     (Ninth lines, Set V: Sonnets 57-70)

     Nor dare I question with my jealous thought:
     Be where you list, your charter is so strong
     That I might see what the old world could say.
 4  Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth.
     O, know thy love, though much, is not so great
     But when my glass shows me myself indeed.
     For such a time do I now fortify
 8  When I have seen such interchange of state.
     O, fearful meditation! Where a lack
     And art made tongue tied by authority,
     Why should he live? Now nature bankrupt is,
12 In him those holy antique hours are seen.
     They look into the beauty of thy mind;
     Thou hast passed by the ambush of young days.
     Glosses: 2) list = choose; your charter = our pact, your claim on me; 3) see = confront and accept; old world suggests The Globe; 4) transfix = cut through; flourish = rhet. or pen embellishment; 10) made tongue tied... = have made a tongue to be mute (as in the Runes); 11) he = that tongue (i.e., the poet); bankrupt (Q banckrout) = stript bare; 12) him = the poet (pun: hymn); holy antique hours puns, “wholly antic whores”; 14) Thou = The poet, addressing his own image.

                         Rune 66
     (Tenth lines, Set V: Sonnets 57-70)

     Where you may be, or your affairs, suppose
     That you yourself may privilege your time
     To this composèd wonder of your frame—
And delves, the parallels in beauty’s brow!
     It is my love, that keeps mine eye awake,
     Beated and chopped with tanned antiquity,
     Against confounding age’s cruel knife
 8  Or state. Itself confounded to decay,
     Shall time’s best jewel from time’s chest lie hid,
     And Folly (doctor-like controlling skill)
     Beggar’d of blood? Two blush through lively veins:
12 Without, all ornament, itself and true;
     And that in guess they measure by thy deeds,
     Either not assailed, or victor being charged.
     Glosses: 3) this...wonder... = this poem (with phallic innuendo); 4) delves (sb.) = furrows; brow puns on “burrow” (bawdy); 6) i.e., assailed by the poet’s ms.; 7) confounding = defeating, confusing; 8) state = condition; 10) doctor-like puns on “...lack,” Dr. Jack (suggesting Dr. John Hall, Will’s son-in-law); 11) Two suggests sonnet and rune, testicles; 11-12) phallic pun: e.g., “Two [i.e., testicles] blush, th’ rouge life-lines without [i.e., external], ‘awl’ ornament, ‘I’ to feel, fey and true [i.e., fatal and plumb]”;12) Without = Outside (i.e., the visible sonnet);13) that in guess = the rune; measure = judge, “meter out”; 14) not puns on “knot,” and charged on “discharged,” suggesting ejaculation.

                          Rune 67
     (Eleventh lines, Set V: Sonnets 57-70)

     But like a sad slave stay and think of nought,
     Two, what you will. To you it doth belong
     Whether we are mended, or where. Better th’ eye
Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,
     Mine own true love that doth my rest defeat.
     (Mine own self love quite contrary I read.)
 8  Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate
     O’er what strong hand can hold his swift foot back,
     And simple truth, miscalled simplicity.
     For she hath no exchequer now but his,
12 Making no summer of another’s green.
     Then churls, their thought’s (although their eyes were kind),
     Yet this thy praise cannot be so thy praise.
     Glosses: 2) what you will encodes the pun hat you wi, i.e., Hathaway; 3) mended = pieced together (as the Runes are); 7) cut (ambig. v.) = run away, separate, wound; 8) Q Ruine puns on “Rune”; 9) his = ruin’s, and thus “rune’s”; swift foot puns on “footed” (i.e., metrical) verse; 11) exchequer= storehouse, punning on “X-checker,” suggesting an acrostic gameboard or a player/sleuth; 13) churls = low-bred fellows; Q thoughts = thought’s = thought is; their eyes were kind: phallically suggestive (see, e.g., the pun “their ‘I’ is working”; and see 3);14) so thy puns on Southy, i.e., Southampton, Will’s only known patron.

                          Rune 68

     (Twelfth lines, Set V: Sonnets 57-70)

Save where you are (how happy!) you make those
     Yourself to pardon of self-doing crime—
      Or whether revolution be, the same
 4  (And nothing) stands but for his scythe to mow.
     To play the watchman ever for thy sake,
     Self so self-loving, were iniquity.
     My sweet love’s beauty, though my lover’s life
 8  That time will come and take. My love away,  
      O’er, who his spoil or beauty can forbid?
     And captive Good, attending Captain Ill,
     And proud of many, lives upon his gains,
12 Robbing no old to dress his beauty new.
     To thy fair flower add th’ rank smell of weeds
     To tie up, envy evermore enlarged!
4) his = revolution’s (alluding to time, “revolving” daily); 7) lover’s = lover is (punning on “lower S.-leaf,” the runic page); 8) time (always a pun on Tommy, suggesting Thomas Thorpe) puns on “(my own) meter,” these verses; 9) O’er (Q Or) suggests “Dead, his life over,” punning on “Oar” (phallically suggestive) and Whore; 10) captive Good and Captain Ill are, jokingly, the poet and his unnamed auditor/friend; 11) many = many gains, punning on “my Annie”; 13) flower puns on “flow-er” (a body-part pun that also suggests penman); weeds, suggesting funereal garb, puns on “witty ass” and “Witty S.”

                          Rune 69

     (Thirteenth lines, Set V: Sonnets 57-70)

     So true a fool is love, that in your will
     I am to wait, though waiting so be hell.
     Oh, sure, I am the wits of former days;
 4  And yet to times in hope, my verse shall stand.
     For thee watch I, whilst thou dost wake elsewhere;
     His beauty shall in these black lines be seen—
 8  This thought is as a death which cannot choose,
     Oh, none; unless this miracle have might,
     Tired with all these, from these would I be gone!
     Oh, him she stores, to show what wealth she had,
12 And him as for a map doth Nature store.
     But why thy odor matcheth not thy show?
     If some suspect of ill, masked knot thy show.
     Glosses: 1) will puns on Will (and in your will suggests “in my person”); in puns on Anne as well as John; 1-2) will / I am puns, “William”2) other family namepuns: Hamnet (I am t...), Sue (so), Hall (hell); 4) pun: “two times in hope,” i.e., ”twice anticipated,” “doubly put forth ”; shall puns on S[ue] Hall (see 7, etc.); 7) His points to thee/myself in 6; 11) him points to this miracle (9), punning on hymn and Ham; 13) odor puns on “ode-er,” i.e., ode-writer, poet; not thy puns on knotty (i.e., riddlic, difficult) and naughty; 14) knot (Q not), the subject of masked = the (hard) poem. One form of an opening pun about Anne’s obesity (1-2) is this: “So true a fool I—slave t’ Hat., Anne [= in]—your William to weighty ‘Hath-weighty’ inches: O [here, a pictograph for a rotund person, but also suggesting round/rune] be hell.” “Obey I aye”(code ...o be hell,) is an alternate ending.

                          Rune 70

     (Fourteenth lines, Set V: Sonnets 57-70)

     Though you do anything, he thinks no ill;
     Not blame, your pleasure—be it ill or well.
     To subjects, worse have given admiring praise,
 4  Praising thy worth despite his cruel hand
     From me far off, with others all too near,
     Painting my age with beauty of thy days.
     And they shall live (and he in them still green)
 8  But weep to have that which it fears to lose.
     That in black ink—my love—may still shine bright.
     Save that to die, I leave my love alone
     In days long since, before these last so bad,
12 To show false art what beauty was of yore.
     The folly’s this, that thou dost common grow;
     Then thou alone, kingdoms of hearts shouldst owe.
     Glosses: 3) To subjects puns on “Two subjects,” i.e., Runes/Sonnets (see “ill or well” in 2); 4) his = thy worth’s (ironic); 6) my age = my mature years, this era; 8) to have puns on “to halve,” suggesting the bifurcation of Sonnets/Runes; it = my age (see 6); 10) Save that to die puns on “Southy toad eye,” suggesting Southampton, Will’s known patron; I leave may mean “I write down on leaves”; 14) owe = own.
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Set VI: Runes 71-84

—Notes on Set VI—

          Full of the usual personal ambiguities and of indefinite insinuations of “guilt” and of “rival poets,” the sonnets and runes in this half-way set anticipate the deaths of Will and his muse and focus on the poems’ capacities to memorialize the friend (and to blur the poet into obscurity). Though the persona’s stresses and anxieties do not dominate the materials here, the personal complaint “That time of year thou may’st in me behold” in Sonnet 73 has proven to be the most appreciated sonnet in the set. One appealing runic companion is Rune 82, with its strongly affirmative epithet “He of tall building and of goodly pride”; another is Rune 75, on mutability, showing Will working at some hour 400 years ago, an instant much like the one we now “enjoy.”
          While Sonnet 71 envisions Will dying first and instructs the friend on how to react, Sonnet 81 equivocates—in effect saying, “Either I’ll go first, or you will…”—but rests in the assurance that the friend’s “name from hence immortal life shall have” because Will’s verses will preserve it. One of the great ironies in Q is that we do remember the friend, but always as a nameless figure.
          A recurring thread in the set is the notion that the poet’s skill is not up to its job; a number of the runes might, in fact, be called apologies. Now that we know of its complexity, we understand how the nature of the project made Will’s outcomes inevitably flawed. We also understand the implication of “both your poets” (Rune 84.13)—Will Shakespeare as author of Sonnets and of Runes—and of the term “two newfound methods and two compounds strange” (Rune 74.6). Further, we can see how far off the mark Will’s tongue-in-cheek characterization of himself falls when he speaks of a “true-telling friend” who is recording the friend’s attributes “in true, plain words” (Rune 82.12). Ideas of fecundity and of counterparts here now gain new meaning. The themes of mutability and of permanence through art and the poet’s search for new figures and his interest in the long-range outcome of his texts—these ideas carry over from earlier sets.
          The opening of Sonnet 82, “I grant thou wert not married to my Muse,” seems puzzling in its obvious context as an address to whatever “muse” Will is supposed to be talking to but makes some sense as a coy, numerologically placed complaint about the poet’s own marriage: Will and Anne married in 1582, and the line is one of many clues that Anne in some sense may be (in the poet’s mind) one version of his Perverse Mistress. (The line puns, “I grant Tower in ode…,” “I guarantee whore-tenet merry, Ed. Tommy…,” “I grant thou wert not married, Tommy, m’ wife [Q Muse],” and so on.) Rune 82 manages in its early lines (see puns, 82.1-2) to encode a coy reference to F. (de) Sandell(s), a Shottery farmer who was a friend of Anne Hathaway’s father and who posted bond on the occasion of Anne and Will’s marriage.
          Sonnet 77, the halfway point in Will’s projected cycle, focuses appropriately on “wasting precious minutes”; its two middle lines read, “Thou by thy dial’s shady stealth mayst know / Time’s thievish progress to eternity.” Rune 77 (see comments) uses one of these two lines in its mid-section to comment on the pictographic connection between 77 and “half-added feathers” that in one sense mean “half-completed” products of a quill pen. (Each “7” looks like an angel’s wing, though the two may be “half-added” because both are stuck awkwardly on the same side.) Perhaps, despite the subtextual plethora of Anne-berating wit in Q, the opening of Rune 77 should be read as conciliatory: “That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot, / Anne, hang more praise upon deceased I, / Which by and by black night doth take away.”
          The acrostic arrangement of Set VI lines out NOT B across the top, suggesting both Nota Bene and the “…not to be” half of his own best-known saw—one that he seems to joke about over and over in the subtext (cf. index). The vertical alignments SW (compare Sue), TT (i.e., Thomas Thorpe), and BSI (compare “Bessie,” Elizabeth [Hall]) on the set leaf—which get lost in the acrostic of Rune 1—encode the names of important subjects and/or auditors; in a pinch, the initial emphatic N will even do for “Ann.” Forms of “Southy” (e.g., SWOWOITT, SVVT) also align themselves.
          The set-leaf vertical acrostic codeline—N S WOVVOIT TOW B SI—suggests “Ensue, ode too busy,” “An ass, would Toby sigh,” “Anne, Sue vowed Toby’s I,” “…would ‘To be’ say,” “…vowed to be assy,” “Anne, Sue, ought to be busy,” and “In Swede [an epithet for Thorpe], Toby is aye.” The down/up reverse of this code yields, e.g., “In Swede, Toby’s ‘I’ is bawdy, teasing,” “…is body teasing.” The simplest diagonal code—N SOWVVT OT B IO SW I—suggests “In Swede, oat beaten, Sue eye [10=ten],” “Anne sought oat, hating [B=8] Sue aye,” and the like.
          Numeric totals of all the emphatic letters (treated as numbers) may yield 70, the last rune composed before the set starts: I+V+0+7+8+5+VV+7+5+VV+0+0+1+1+VV = 70. This construction requires us to read the opening “N” as I+V (or 6, the set number), not IV = 4.

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                         Rune 71

     (First lines, Set VI: Sonnets 71-84)

     No longer mourn for me when I am dead;
     Oh, least the world should task you to recite.            
     That time of year thou mayst in me behold,
 4  But be contented when that fell arrest.
     So are you to my thoughts as food to life;
     Why is my verse so barren of new pride?
     Thy glass will show thee how thy beauties were,
 8  So oft have I invoked thee for my muse,
     Whilst I alone did call upon thy aid.           
     Oh, how I faint when I of you do write!      
     Or I shall live your epitaph to make:
12 I grant thou were not. Married to my muse,
     I never saw that you did painting need.
     Who is it? That says most. Which can say more?
2) Oh, least puns on “‘O,’ leaf’t” (i.e., Round [Rune], paginated); 3) That time of year = That time of my death, punning “ are” (“...and I am not”); 4) fell arrest puns “...fellow rest”; 7) Thy glass = Your image as reflected here; 8) So oft puns on “Soft” (adv.); 9) Whilst I alone is a name-pun on “Will Shakespeare [The digraph st = Shakespeare, the name cipher I have deduced, a ‘long s’ seeming to hold a dagger-like—and thus spearlike— t by the handle and to shake it], I alone”; 10) faint puns on “feint” (i.e., deceive); 11) Or = If, Perhaps (contrast 1-4); 14) Who is it? = What is the name in the epitaph?

                         Rune 72
     (Second lines, Set VI: Sonnets 71-84)

     Then you shall hear the surly, sullen bell.
     What merit lived in me that you should love?
     When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
 4  Without, all bail shall carry me away,
     O’er, as sweet seasoned showers are to the ground.
     So far from variation or quick change,
     Thy dial: How thy precious minutes waste,
 8  And found such fair assistance in my verse:
     My verse alone had all thy gentle grace,
     Knowing a better spirit doth use your name.
     Or, you survive when I in earth am rotten,
12 And therefore mayst without attaint o’erlook;
     And therefore to your fair no painting set
     Than this rich praise, that you alone are you.
     Glosses: 4) Without all bail puns, “Outside Old Bailey,” London’s criminal court; 6) So far puns (ironically) on “Suffer”; 7) minutes puns on “brief records, ” a metaphor for Will’s poem; 10) Q vse echoes verse (8, 9) and puns on “whiff” (v.); spirit (with name) is an eyepun on “...speare”; 14) Than (Q Then, echoing 1) generates the paradoxical pun “Thin this rich praise....”

                         Rune 73

     (Third lines, Set VI: Sonnets 71-84)

     Give warning to the world that I am fled.
     After my death, dear love, forget me quite
     Upon those boughs which shake against the cold.
 4  My life hath in this line some interest,
      And for the peace of you, I hold such strife.
     Why with the time do I not glance aside?
     The vacant leaves thy mind’s imprint will bear,
 8  As every alien pen hath got my use;
     But now my gracious numbers are decayed,
     And in the praise thereof. Spends all his might,
     From hence your memory death cannot take.
12 The dedicated words which writers use
     I found, or thought I found, you did exceed;
     In whose confine immurèd is the store?
     Glosses: 3) shake and against (“a gay Anne Shakespeare [st = the family name cipher])” are namepuns; 4) this line points back to line 3, with its puns about the poet’s life; life puns on leaf, i.e., page or sheet; 7) leaves echoes life in 4.

                         Rune 74

     (Fourth lines, Set VI: Sonnets 71-84)

     From this vile world with vilest worms to dwell
     Fore you, in me can nothing worthy prove:
     Bare runèd choirs where late the sweet birds sang,            
 4  Which for memorial still with thee shall stay
     As ’twixt a miser and his wealth is found.
     Two newfound methods, and two compounds strange
     And of this book, this learning, mayst thou taste
And, under thee, their poesy disperse.                 
     And my sick muse doth give another place:    
     Two make me tongue-tied speaking of your fame.   
     Although in me, each part will be forgotten
12 Of their fair subject. Blessing every book  
     The barren tender of a poet’s debt,    
     Which should example where your equal grew?
: 1) vilest = Q vildest; 3) Q quiers puns on quires (i.e., multiple sheets of paper); birds puns on “Bard S.”; 6) Two (twice) = Q To; 8) And under thee their puns on “An ‘under-theatre’...,” suggesting buried entertainment such as that in the Runes; 9) Q an other puns on “an ‘oather’,” i.e., a sworn peer in the coterie; 10) As in line 6, Two = Q To; 11) in me puns on enemy (see 2); for (in forgotten) puns on four (see the two puns on To/Two in lines 6 and10; 12) Blessing is ironic; 13) tender = offering, payment; 14) Which = Which part; example (v.) = show, illustrate.

                         Rune 75

     (Fifth lines, Set VI: Sonnets 71-84)

     Nay, if you read this line, remember not
     (Unless you would devise some virtuous lie)
     In me thou seest the twilight of such day
 4  When thou reviewest this. Thou dost review
     Now proud as an enjoyer, and anon....
     Why write I still all one, ever the same,
     The wrinkles which thy glass will truly show
 8  Thine eyes, that taught the dumb on high to sing!
     I grant, sweet love, thy lovely argument:               
     But since your worth wide as the ocean is,
     Your name from hence immortal life shall have.
12 Thou art as fair in knowledge as in hue,               
     And therefore have I slept in your report;
     Lean penury within that pen doth dwell.
     Glosses: 1) Nay puns on Neigh; re-member not puns on “reconstitute [the] riddle”; 3) In me...seest puns on “enemy thou seized”; Q such is always a bawdy eyepun on “f--k”; 7) wrinkles puns on tricks, moral stains; 9) grant puns on grunt; thy...argument refers sarcastically to the “neigh” of 1; 10) But since = Only because; 13) have I slept puns on “halves leapt”; 14) penury = poverty, stinginess; that pen puns on “the boundaries of your report [see 13]—that is, this poem.”

                         Rune 76

     (Sixth lines, Set VI: Sonnets 71-84)

     The hand, that writ it (for I love you so,
     To do more for me than mine own desert)
     As, after sunset fadeth in the west,
 4  The very part was consecrate to thee.
     Doubting the filching age will steal his treasure
     And keep, invention in a noted weed
     Of mouthèd graves will give thee memory
And heavy ignorance; aloft to flee
     Deserves the trávail of a worthier pen.
     The humble (as the proudest) sail doth bear, 
     Though I, once gone to all the world, must die 
12 Finding thy worth—a limit past my praise
     That you yourself, being extant, well might show;
     That to his subject lends not some small glory.
2) To puns on Two (i.e., hands); then (Q than): a routine editorial equation among Sonnets editors; 4) The very part puns on “Thievery part” (i.e., hands?); 5) Doubting = Unsure whether...; 6) keep (sb.) = stronghold; noted puns on “an oded”; weed = mourning garb, wild growth; 7) will puns on Will, the poet (see 5, 13); Q giue thee puns on Judy (short for Judith, Will’s daughter); 8) And... puns on “Anne, heavy ignorance,” suggesting that she’s fat and stupid; 9) the trávail puns on, that revel; 11) gone to all puns, “John—too, Hall,” a play on Will's son-in-law’s name; 12) past puns on paste (any soft mixture, suggesting “fake”); 13) being extant well might s[=f]how puns, “being extant, Will’m eyed foe.”  

                         Rune 77

     (Seventh lines, Set VI: Sonnets 71-84)

     That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot, 
      And hang more praise upon deceasèd I,   
     Which by and by black night doth take away:
 4 The earth can have but earth, which is his due.
     Now, counting best to be with you alone,                     
     That (every word) doth almost fell my name.
     Thou by thy dial’s shady stealth mayst know
  8 Half-added feathers to the learnèd’s wing.              
     Yet what of thee thy poet doth invent,
     My saucy bark inferior far to his,
     The earth can yield me but a common grave
12 And therefore art enforced to seek anew
     How far a modern quill doth come too short;
     But he that writes of you, if he, can tell.
1) I = Myself, alive (contrast 2); 4) but = mere; 5) counting best suggests good meter, since “numbers” means metrics; 6) fell = wipe out (eyepun: sell, propagate); 8) likely an allusion to R. Greene’s attack on the poet; 9) Yet = Despite; invent is a latinate pun on “blow into,” implying wind in sails; 10) bark (a pun) = boat, bow-wow; 14) But = Only; tell (a pun) = convey, measure or “tally.”                                                       

                         Rune 78

     (Eighth lines, Set VI: Sonnets 71-84)

     If thinking on me then should make you woe,
     Then niggard truth would willingly impart
     Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest:
My spirit is thine, the better part of me    
     Then bettered that the world may see my pleasure,
     Showing their birth, and where they did proceed.     
     Time’s thievish progress to eternity;
 8  And, given grace, a double majesty
     He robs thee of, and pays it thee again.
     On your broad main doth willfully appear,
     When you entombèd in men’s eyes shall lie,
12 Some fresher stamp of the time-bettering days,
     Speaking of worth. What worth in you doth grow—
     That you are you so—dignifies his story.
1) then (repeated 2, 5, and echoed as thine in 4) implies “when I’m dead” and puns on “thin” and “t[o] Hen,” perhaps Southampton; 1-2) pun: “wooden neger dead, rude, you hold”; 2) willingly (see 10) puns, “courtesy of Will”; 4) broad puns include spirit (spurt, ...speare), thine (thin), and better part (bitter part); 5) pleasure = plaything(s), poem(s); 6) their points to my pleasure[s] in 5—i.e., the poems in Q; birth puns on berth (naut.); 7) Time’s = “Time is” but puns on “Meter’s”; 9) He = Time (see 7); 10) main = sea, domain (pun: mane); willfully is a namepun (see 2); 12) bettering (pun: battering), see better, bettered (4-5); 14) his = Time’s (see 7); his story puns on “history.”                  

                         Rune 79

     (Ninth lines, Set VI: Sonnets 71-84)

     O, if, I say, you look upon this verse,
     O, least your true love may seem false in this:
     In me thou seest the glowing of such fire,      
 4  So then thou hast but lost the dregs of life.        
     Sometime all full with feasting on your sight,
     O, know, sweet love, I always write of you:
     Look what thy memory cannot contain,
 8  Yet be most proud of that which I compile:
     He lends thee virtue, and he stole that word.
     Your shallowest help will hold me up afloat;     
     Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
12 And do so, love, yet when they have devised
     This. Silence for my sin you did impute;
     Let him but copy what in you is writ.
3) In me puns on “enemy”; 3-4) paradoxical pun: fire sodden; 4) (?) thou reads how in some extant copies of Q; Sonnets editor Stephen Booth (1978), e.g., uses “thou”; the line puns “[t]hou hast but lost t, hid,” alluding to the thou/how confusion in Q; 9) He = That which I compile (see 8); lines 9-10 pun “and he stole t in hoard. Why?”; 12) they = people (pun: th’ eye); devised = seen, divided, sorted out; 13) impute = assign as suitable; 14) him puns on “hymn” and may refer to he (9), monument, and/or verse (11).  

                         Rune 80

     (Tenth lines, Set VI: Sonnets 71-84)

     When I, perhaps, compounded am with clay,
     That you, for love, speak well of me untrue
     That on the ashes of his youth doth lie—
 4  The prey of worms, my body being dead
     And, by and by, clean, starvèd for a look,
     And you and love are still my argument—
     Commit to these waste blacks, and thou shalt find
 8  Whose influence is thine, and borne of thee:
     From thy behavior, beauty doth he give,
     Whilst he upon your soundless deep doth ride,
     Which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read.
12 What strainèd touches rhetoric can lend!
     Which shall be most my glory? Being dumb?
     Not making worse what nature made so clear?
     Glosses: 2) That = So that; 5) for a look = at a glance; 7) Commit = Refer, Join (yourself).

                         Rune 8l

     (Eleventh lines, Set VI: Sonnets 71-84)

     Do not so much as my poor name rehearse:
     My name be buried where my body is
     As the deathbed whereon it must expire.
  The coward conquest of a wretch’s knife
     Possessing or pursuing no delight,
     So all my best is dressing old words new,
     Those children nursed, delivered from thy brain.
In other’s works thou dost but mend the style
     And found it in thy cheek; he can afford
     Ore. Being wracked, I am a worthless boot.
     An’ tongues-to-be your being shall rehearse,
12 Thou, truly fair, wert truly sympathized:
     Fore, I impair not beauty being mute,
     And such a counterpart shall fame his wit.
6) So all (in a line with “medical” puns) puns on “Sue Hall,” wife of a physician; 9) found = create, mold; cheek = voice, foundry mold; he = thy cheek; wracked = tortured; boot = remedy, compensation (pun: torture device); 11) An (Q And) = If (archaic); rehearse = reiterate (see 1); 12) sympathized = represented fairly; 13 Fore (Q For) implies “As a dead writer, not a ‘tongue-to-be’”; 14) And such a counterpart puns, e.g.,“Anne S., you see, has owned her part”; counterpart = a future “tongue” (see 11); the word is also a crude body-part pun, and such in Q is a vulgar eyepun because s looks like f; his = beauty’s (see 13); shall fame his wit puns, “S. Hall, famous wit” (see 6, with “medical” materials in 7).

                           Rune 82
     (Twelfth lines, Set VI: Sonnets 71-84)

     But let your love even with my life decay
     And live no more to shame nor me nor you,
     Consumed with that which it was nourished by,
 4  Too base of thee to be rememberèd.
     Save what is had, or must from you be took,
     Spending again what is already spent
     To make a new acquaintance of thy mind.
 8  And arts with thy sweet graces gracèd be—
     No praise to thee, but what in thee doth live,
     He of tall building and of goodly pride—
     When all the breathers of this world are dead,
12 In true plain words by thy true-telling friend
     (When others would give life and bring a tomb)
     Making his style admirèd everywhere.
     Glosses: 2) nor/nor = neither/nor; 12) by also suggests “buy,” i.e., acquire with effort (ME).

                         Rune 83

     (Thirteenth lines, Set VI: Sonnets 71-84)

     Least the wise world should look into your moan;
     For I am shamed by that which I bring forth!      
     This thou preceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong:
 4  The worth of that is that which it contains.      
     Thus do I pine and surfeit day by day.
     For as the sun is, daily new and old,
     These offices, so oft as thou wilt look.
 8  But thou art all my art, and dost advance;                         
     Then thank him not for that which he doth say.           
     Then if he thrive and I be cast away,
     You still shall live (such virtue hath my pen),
12 And their gross painting might be better. Used,
     There lives more life in one of your fair eyes!        
     You to your beauteous blessings add a curse.
     Glosses: 1) your moan = this lament, your response to it; should puns on S. Hall (see shall in 11); 5) pine and surfeit suggests someone in labor; 6) sun puns on son; 7) These offices = duties, “offspring” poems; 8) Puns: art all = hard awl (phallic); my art = merd (dung), my heart, my “hard”; 9) him = my art (8), punning on “hymn”; him not puns on Hamnet, Will’s son, and on “hymn knot” (i.e., lyric riddle); 12) their may refer to These offices (7) and/or your...eyes (13); curse is an eyepun on “curve,” which suggests a “round” (and thus a rune), a pregnant belly, a smile, and something not “straight” or true; yours fair eyes puns on “...fairies,”“...fair ass,” and “usuries.”           

                         Rune 84

     (Fourteenth lines, Set VI: Sonnets 71-84)

     And mock you with me after I am gone,
     And so should you, to love things nothing worth,         
     To love that well which thou must leave ere long—    
 4  And that is this, and this with thee remains.
     Or gluttoning on all, or all away,
     So is my love still telling what is told. 
     Shall profit thee (and much enrich thy book,         
 8  As high as learning) my rude ignorance,
     Since what he owes thee thou thyself dost pay.
     The worst was this: My love was my decay
     Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men.
12 Where cheeks need blood, in thee it is; abused,
     Then, both your poets can in praise devise
     Being fond on praise—which makes your praises worse!
     Glosses: 1-2) And = Both [with And (OED 1520)]; the initial And puns ironically on End; gone and so should pun on John and Sue, S. Hall; 2) puns: Anne, Sue, S. Hall, “no-things”as pudenda; 3) well puns on inkwell, source, and Will; leave suggests “leaf through”; 4) with thee remains puns, “witty e’er m’ Anne [S.] is”; 5) Or = Either; ...g on all puns on John Hall; 6) So puns on Sue; telling and told suggest tallying, tallied, and thus “numbers,” metrics; 7) Shall puns on S. Hall; 8) pun: Eye Scheisse learning, merd ignorance; 9) he = thy book (see 7), my...ignorance (see 8); 13) both your poets puns on “author of Sonnets and Runes”; devise = divide, create, bequeath; 14) fond = foolish, doting.                                    
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