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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 35
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Rune 34
Sixth lines, Set III (Sonnets 29-42)

                          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.

      34. A Separable Spite

     Looking like death, like death preoccupied with companionship,
     for precious friends hidden in death’s eternal darkness
     I have wept, sweet devotional love stealing from my eye—
  4 even though my weeping eyes seem to be attacked and outdone by every writer
     whose affectedly pious face clouds into tears,
     a fact that tends to dry up the rain on my storm-beaten face
     but may encourage your own crying, perhaps also helping to generate some poetic conceit for your lapse.
  8 Though there are divisive antagonisms in our lives
     triggered by any or all of these verses or based on other transgressions I’ve suggested,
     let careful scrutiny assert itself in front of your eyes, noticing what a first glance might miss,
     and, my love, you’ll find—though this cycle is bifurcated and no love poem here has a name you’ll remember—that our love has gained through these diverse descriptions of it that link the two of us.
12 I can’t blame you for abusing my love or for employing it to your purposes.
     You’re beautiful and therefore are made to be assailed by admirers—and to assail all eyes.
     You love our love, and this expression of it, because you know that I do.


          Laced with what the comic context tells us must be pseudo piety and mock melancholy, this lament voices with other sonnets and runes in Set III the poet’s frustration, real or feigned.

          Rune 34 focuses especially on facial features and quibbles about the “one eye [see 3] or two” question. Most modern readers find such puns tedious, but Renaissance writers cultivated them openly and routinely. Since “eye/‘I’” may pun on “testicle/penis,” it also makes bawdy sense to ask, “Do we have one or two?” Further, they (4) refers to “eyes” but itself is a pun on “th’ eye.” Will’s phrase “featured like him” (1) may mean, jokingly, “We both have ‘eyes’,” while “Four precious friends hid…” (2) may translate “our eyes were blind.”

          One reading here is that Will’s eyes are sightless (2) and that that’s why he’s crying (3) and also why the muse might join in (7). Line 4 jokes about eyes ripped out by clumsy “pens,” and “Two dry…” (6) means “my eyes stop crying.” “Awl” jokes (see, e.g., 9) link with “‘I’ wit.” “Losing name of single one” (11) describes the Q project because it is not one but two concurrent cycles.

          Another textual reading might stress how Will imagines his single tear (3) mingling with the friend’s (7) to effect a marriage (11) after he, as tempter, has staged “worthy perusals” to trigger weepiness. “Thou, nosed” (14) and even “peer usal” (10) underscore the “eye” conceit (since eyes can “peer”). “Separable spigot” (8) puns on two crying eyes.

          Funny plays about hair include “tress-piece” and “pare” (7) as “cut.” “Puffest fore” (1-2) hints at bouffant hair or puffy eyes (see Rune 29), with phallic overtones. The “ugly rack on his…face” (5) may be bangs but also may mean the controversial mustache that the Earl of Southampton, Will’s young and handsome patron, wore in the 1590s. The pun “tawdry” (6)—as “cheap lace” (1612)—hints at a figurative network of facial wrinkles.

          Will’s interest in singleness and plurality helps partly to unlock the riddle of “her” (14)—maybe his “single eye” or the one tear it yields. “She” is also one sketchy version of the Dark Lady, a conceit for the buried lyrics that the friend will love because the poet does (14). She “assails” the friend’s vision (13)—as she does ours—and, losing her “single” status, becomes by strained logic Will’s a “rival.” The friend “trespasses” (7) by responding, but the poet forgives and rationalizes the lapse (12-14).

          The suggestion of “rival poets” (see 4-5), as always in Q, points to Will’s own tear-inducing texts Runes. Will as Rune-poet is his own rival: The Runes compete with the Sonnets for our attention while overburdening his lines. Of course, real poets might also have been “rivals” to Will for the affections of his unnamed friend/muse/auditor.

          Many images and puns imply religion, crime and punishment, and military action. Nautical plays include “Sea turtle” (1, F = S), “a-sailed” (13), “storm-beaten” (6), “a sea-pair able spied” (8), “no still oar” (14), and meteorological figures (e.g., 5-6). An “‘O’ rainy...” (9) is “a tearful round or rune.” Diction about “rain” (6) finds an echo in the linepun “Thou dost lour [i.e., look dark and threatening], because thou knowst I lour” (14). The double pun on “lower” generates funny sexual scenarios.

          “Mine eye” (3) puns on “My Annie,” in a line that opens with “Hath....” One disparaging linepun is “Anne dirty, our love, loving aye Me of England, / I cannot blame thee....” (11-12). The downward acrostic code ...HAWTATOWAI... encodes a skewed version of “Hathaway,” while the upward string WOTAT WAHFF suggests “wedded wife.” The play “Hath-aye-to-weigh” is one of hundreds of puns in Q hinting that Anne—the mother of twins—was fat. (Here “Whore Annie, oft heavy...” [9] is another.) The full downward acrostic may be a joke on this order: “Double forte [=FF], Hat-ate-away, bit...[...a whey-bite; ...a wabbit].” (See below under Acrostic Wit.)

          The pun “ is our ‘To be’ assailed” (13) may allude to Hamlet’s set-speech, which ca. 1600-09 must have been much discussed as a piece of popular rhetoric. “Outstripped” (4) may mean “overly made up with eyeliner.” Puns in line 1 suggest both “Hamlet” (as “Hamlic”) and “Hamnet” (Q’s w = N), Will’s dead son. (Because w also suggests N, Q’s letterstring ...himwit...can suggest “Hamnet,” the poet’s dead son.) Line 1 (where the textual F looks like P) also suggests puns on “Peter’d.” One comic line decoding is, “Peter’d like Hamlic [sic], him with his runes (...with his ruin is) possessed.” The last word of the line allows a pudendal joke.        

          Line 13 generates puns, likely topical, on “Howard,” “Hereford obese,” and “Toby.”

          The repetition of the endwords eye and face and the focus of the runic text on features, on beauty and ugliness, and on crying all lead me to think that the righthand “profile” of this paste-up text might be intended to imitate a grotesque face, with a recessed indention just where the eye might come—and with a cronelike chin below and “ugly rack” above. Such manipulation of the lengths of lines for pictographic purposes would have been possible at the draft stage, but only approximately. (One remembers that the lines did not occur in a visually perceptible sequence unless Will wrote them out that way.)

          It’s even more of an open question for me whether the “Hugh-John” whose name sometimes seems to crop up in Q is consciously alluded to or just a happenstance of the language code; a “lost Huchown” (variously spelled) was once much discussed as the great missing poet of Chaucer’s era. My own theories link this “Huchown (i.e.,Hugh-John) of the Royal Hall” with the “Mr. Massey” whose name also occurs in the writings of Hoccleve, one of Chaucer’s students. Hoccleve seems to praise Massey for his arcane practices. (See lines 7-8, below.)

Sample Puns

          1) See a turd, lick ’im, lick ’im; Petered like him (Q eyepun—with “F” a filed “P”?); sea-turtle, aye, camel, I came; hymn; Hamlick, Hamwit; mute, serene Dis; this rune dispose of
          1-2) “puffed” Shakespeare [= st] fore, peer, see “I” “O” uses wry; précise; Pauper shows serene Dis hidden—death’s dateless night; Persius’s runed shit; indeed a sedate lesson I jet; death’s date, last night
          3) Hath.—dear, religious—lows; Hath. dear early Jews love; old form, m’ Annie; old knave Roman eye; old Nice, Rome eye, knight (innate); vestal niece Roman eye; nief [i.e., fist] Roman
          4) Anne, t’ you jetty aye (eye) be out, Shakespeare [st] ripped by a wry pen; pen (phallic); eye bawdy, fitter ape t’ buy           4-5) peeing wight ugly reckon, high is celestial sauce
          5) hiss; witty, huge lyric honest see; leased I (least, eye) Alsace; I see cunt’s cells shy “awl” face (sauce)
          6) Tawdry the rune; T’ [St.] Audrey there (th’ air) Anne-enema store; enemy; mister may be eating sauce; Mister Maybe           
          6-7) T’ [St.] Audrey, t’ Hieronymus [St. Jerome], Thor may be eaten, effaced; …maybe Eden effaced; …maybe Eden is a-satirizing thy trespass; face author, I sing (zing!) that air; f--k author aye, singe that rough pass with come, peer; Shakespeare [st] o’er, my beaten face authorizing that rest, peace
           7) air oft persuades umpire (homme, pere; peer; empire)
           7-8) Pa’s wit (width) compare, th’ “O” join (thou, John); Wit’s homme (home) appeared—Hugh-John early uses a parable of pity
           8) Hugh-John, Earl, I vest as a peer able
           8-9) …uses a parable of Peter, and ye have these; Thou join whore loose
           9) “O” rune ye oft have, Hall, o’er all                      
           9-11) awl, Moor; a knife, heavy awl, oral or more warty peruse, awl’s tanned, aging, fit, his “I” jetting dour Daryl
         10) peruse, Hall, “Shakespeare [st] t’ Anne” again; “Age, Anne Shakespeare, this I jet”; Worthy Peru falls, tan Dagon (deacon) sits aye; tanned dick eye in fit [stanza]
         11) Anne, our dear love, lose name of single one; wand; Endure; Enter Daryl, our loving ami
         11-13) Nicean knot belimits our mellowed (male ode) office t’ be odious
         12) I say Anne ought be lay meaty; ode; Icy Anne o[r] Tybalt emits our milieu; I cannot blame thee, formal Ovid, who usest bawdy; formula; Joseph
         12-13) mellowed, officed bawdy
         13) heart; hard; oust Howard; Howard, th’ arse, our “To be’s” assailed; Hereford; “To be”—a sigh I lay’d
         12-14) Thou wife Shakespeare [st], beauteous thou art, hairy fore, too. Baffled, thou dost lour (lower)
         14) Thou dost love herbs oft; Thou do Shakespeare [st] lower beck aye; you see, thou know Shakespeare “I” lower; Thou do fiddle our rebeck, aye you see th’ oaken “O”; Thou do fiddle our Rebecca, you fit hook in “O,” whiff till [pudendal] over

Acrostic Wit

          An experienced reader/player senses here that the downward codeline embeds a strained but insistent form of “Hathaway”—essentially spelled out as HAWT...O WAI, but with an intervening T that gives the codestring the character of a close anagram; the name is also encoded as AT O WAI. Concurrently, a player hears “wife” in the upward letterstring WAHFF. This combination—coupled with the knowledge that Q makes recurrent jokes about Anne’s obesity and that B = 8 (and thus phonic “eight”)—allows a player to find both “fat” (code FFHAWT) and “weighty” (code WAI8-T) lurking in the letterstrings. Even “wedded wife” (code WOTAT WAHFF) emerges. This wifely humor links with similarly focused wit in the linear text.

          The downward acrostic codeline—FF HAWT AT O WAI BT—“Double forte, Hat-ate-away bit (a whey-bite, a wabbit),” “Fetid ‘O’ I bit,” “Vaunted, O, eye Bede,” “Food ate, away be tea,” “Food ate (Fetid), O, weigh Betty [Anne?].” With F=P, cf. “Pooted ‘O’ I bit,” “Puta toe I bit.” With B=8, cf. “Fetid ‘O’ weighty.”

          The upward reverse—TB IAWOT A T WAHFF—suggests such readings, e.g., as “‘To be’ jawed I t’ waif (wife),” “T’ Betty, t’ wife,” “T’ bed, aye, t’ wife,” “T’ bedded wife," ”“T’ Bede 8 wave,” “T’ Betty, 8 [phallic], wave,” “Tup jotted wife,” “Tubby a wedded wife,” “T’ be aye wood [crazy], hate wife,”and “Tip I owed aye t’ wife.” With F=S, one reading is “To be Jewed 8 ways.”

          One numeric reading of the down/up hairpin codeline is “Forty-two, eighty-eight, one-aught-eight,10 [= VV] I have (...have).” Such wild-goose chases after numbers are excursions that the codestrings invite.                    

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