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

Set III, Runes 29-42: Texts and Comments 
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2003, All Rights Reserved        

Proceed to Rune 33
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Rune 32
Fourth lines, Set III (Sonnets 29-42)

                  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.

     32. No Vulgar Paper

     My fated self, look at me and curse,
     and in a familiar complaint once again lament the waste of my precious time and verses,
     and cry anew over all those verse companions that I thought were buried for good,
  4 these poor, crude lines of your dead lover
     that decorate and illuminate white pages, dim trains of thought touched with unearthly magic,
     hiding your fine qualities in their cursed obscurity;
     further, in the sweetest little rose here lives a loathsome cancer,
  8 something you had no part in, something I must accept full and solitary responsibility for.
     Even if all my assurances of your virtue be taken up
     by every common medium, be echoed (and thus buried) by every hack,
     aren’t such praises mere derivations of what I've already said? (Are my praises really any better than theirs?)
12 Everything of mine was already yours before you had this added poem,
      another quiet challenge that goes on flattering your pride. Anywhere you are, there follows
      a sense of lost love that touches me here, too, very close to home.


          A bit like “Caedmon’s Hymn” for embedding an inventive series of epithets that vary one subject, this “new wail” (2, 12-13) ingeniously finds names for the runic verse itself: “Old woes’ new wail” and “my dear time’s [meter's] waste” (2); “friends I [eye, aye] thought buried” (3); “poor rude lines” and “pale streams gilded with heavenly alchemy” (4-5); “rotten [‘wroten’] smoke” (6); a rosebud harboring disease (7); “my comfort [like a “woven’ coverlet] of thy worth and truth [cf. warp and woof]” (9); a “vulgar paper” that “re-buries” (10); “mine own [Minoan]…praise” (11) and “All mine” (12), suggesting underground treasure; “this more” (12), punning on Moor (cf. “buried, inky”) and mower (“scythe”); “still temptation” (cf. something quiet and attractive)—with the pun “steel" suggesting pens, engraving, and mirrors—and “thou-art” (13); and “a loss in [low-sin, low sign] love” (14). These kennings add texture and wit while threatening to obliterate any flow of thought in a reader/player’s head.

          “Thy deceasèd lover” (4) means the poet; the lines implying “rival poets” (10-11) partly to “mine own” feeble praises; and the poet’s “loss in love” (14) means the “palest reams” (5) Will is hiding. Many other terms and puns suggest the processes of composing, rune-making, and scribal illumination. “Guilding” (Q5) and “wroten smoke” (6) are puns about the coterie.

           Though at first the apostrophe seems inwardly focused (1), “my fate” is consistent with an address to the unnamed muse who controls Will’s life and is addressed as “thou” throughout. If the poem is read as a perverse apostrophe to Ann, elements such as “still temptation” (13) and a personal “loss in love” that is “touching” (14) gain meaning, and bawdy jokes such as “‘Awl’ mine was thine” (12) emerge. As a bad joke about defecation, the rune combines such puns as “my dirty mess-waste” (2), “Loo-er” (4), “rotten smoke” (6), “vulgar paper to rear see” (10), and “A loss (Aloft) in loo” (14). “Gilding palest reams” (5) suggests using toilet paper and allows an unflattering analogy for Will’s own pages and what’s smeared on them. (Loo is a term for “outhouse” not confirmed by OED but plausible as a French-based euphemism suggesting “place.”)

           The closing linepun “A lass (loss) in love—that touches m’ Moor nearly” (14) alludes to Desdemona and Othello. The overlaid pun “…touches m’ morn early” shows Will working into the wee hours or unable to sleep. “Touches” in line 14 alludes to fencing (cf. “…heart” [13]).

           Closing lines also suggest an address to (and contemplation of) Susanna triggered by “ me be born alone”:

                      Take Hall, my comfort oft, thy worth and truth
                      For every vulgar paper to rehearse,
                      And what is’t but mine own when I praise thee?
                      All mine was thine before thou hadst this more.

           Whether the “still or (forced-ill) temptation” that “follows” where the daughter lives alludes to Dr. Hall’s wittily imagined temptations while he examines other women or even possibly to the poet’s own erotic feelings for his son-in-law is a question for readers taken by this “Sue reference” to ponder.

           Thinking of the poem as an address to Anne also makes some sense.

Sample Puns

          1) Anne (look, a pun!)—cf. other addresses to Anne in 2, 3, 4, 7, 11; Anne, see your seamy seat; my cell-fiend; missal; dick, you arise (erase)
          1-2) Satan
          2) Old Woe is a New Willy; my dirty eye-ms, waste; Dwight; sinew
          2-3) Limey dirty, I miss wasting, dull; miss (ms.) was t’ end Hall; Tyndale
          3) Sue H. I see hid; And Hall thou see serene; Hall, thou suffer; witch; be you wry, Ed[itor?]
          3-4) I shit huge hid, buried the vapor rude, lying ass oft hid huge tub, you read 4 lie in ass o’ Southy, diseased all over
          4-5) see a fiddle [fuss] over guilding; our guild eye in chapel fit
          5) Guilding cf. coterie activity; pale Shakespeare [= st] reams—witty aye—you, in jail, see, homme; witty Hugh
          6) hid inch th’ eye, B-row wry, in there; th’ air; th’ heir; in jet Hebrew runed; Hiding cf. “putting on parchment”
          6-7) wroten is my oaken load; oaken, loathsome, see Anne
          7) curly, you ease in sweetest bud; canker lives in ass we eat, Shakespeare [st] butt; foe, Miss Anne, cur, (Ma Sainte Coeur) lives; sin (seen) is wittiest bawd
          8) hell baby may be born; pee; beam be boring (baby horn), “awl” wan
          9) Tackle my sea-homme [Southy?] affords
        10) Every vulgar Pope read our heresy
        10-11) Foe rear, evil, jar paper, tore her fiend twat; For your “Y” [i.e., pictographic crotch] vulgar, paper to rear vent
        11) Anne-twat I sight, butt, m’ Annie owing W.H. Annie praise (peer, ass)
        12) Awl, Moor; “Awl” my noosed hiney before thou hate (ate, “8”) Shakespeare; awl, m’ Annie wasting, be sore
        13) Forced ill; aye shun solo way; we swear; W.H. erred; imp, t’ hate John, is hollow ass; W.H., earthy, O, you art; John allows W.H. heard “Howard”
        14) Awl-oven; A low scene; A low fiend’ll Ovid hate, too; lewd Hat., O you see, his memory near lie (ne’er lie, in early, eerily); touch ass, my Moor, in eerily; some mourn eerily; ma’am-horn; Aye love I anal Ovid; th’ titty, O, you see is “mammary” nearly (narrowly); touches m’ mariner “eel-y” (Eli, Ely); touchés

Acrostic Wit

        The downward acrostic codeline—AAAT GHAWT FAAFA—may be gamily decoded in such ways as these: “‘Hate God’ five eye,” “Hate God, fay [faith] fey (of aye),” “I aye eyed God, fay fey (Ave),” “Hate Jew tough, eye Ave,” and “I aye ate, jawed five aye (…jaw tough I have aye).”

        The upward codeline—A FA AF TW AHGT AAA—suggests, e.g., “Eye 5-2 (52), age t’ eye aye (aged I aye, aaai!),” “A fey halved wage t’ eye aye, aaai,” “A fiefed witch t’ eye aye,” “Aye five twitched…,” “A forfeit waged I,” and “I’ve a half-twitch aye.” Suggestions of these terms lie in the code: “agate,” “egg,” “edge(d),” “wedge(d),” “wage(d),” and “witch.” With F=S, the codeline suggests “Eight goats assay,” “A saved wag…,” and “A safety way….”

        The letterstring TWAHGT, which insistently suggests “twat,” recycles GHAWT, suggesting “God.” Such a parodic letterstring reversal is reminiscent of the God/Dog reversal, one sacrilege attributed to the School of Night, a contemporaneous London coterie that scholars often mention in background notes to Love’s Labor’s Lost.

Proceed to Rune 33
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