Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets

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 40
Return to the Index of Set III

Rune 39
Eleventh lines, Set III (Sonnets 29-42)

                          Rune 39

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

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

   39. A Sad Account

     Like the lark rising to sing in the darkness of first light,
     those who are sad—these poems—recount previously lamented bereavements,
     creatures dedicated part and whole to you, as I have authorized, singing in harmony.
  4 The lark’s expression would have created something sweeter,
     but, lamentably enough, he popped out for just an hour. These laments of mine—
     stumbling along on unsteady “feet”—offer little consolation
     and may even justify charging me with something like disturbing the peace or carelessness.
  8 Further, my friend, you do not acknowledge me with public regard
     to let your bounty compensate for my shortcomings.
     So instead you let your present suitor, whatever lark sings to you now, produce
     timely entertainment, sentiments of love;
12 even now my affection senses (this is a grief worse than my own failings)
     who may be there leading you to join in their revelry.
     My love and grief link up here, but in setting them down in these unpublished works I lose them both. (You and some fellow may have each other, while I at present have neither.)


          The lark’s song in the early darkness is analogous to Will’s mournful “singing” in these hidden runic texts. Lines 10-11 identify either the poet or someone closer to the friend as the “caller.” Many elements—including the pun “th’ air” in their (3) and there (13)—develop singing as a motif that parallels Will’s own lyrics. The pun “Whole th’ air parts” (3) describes harmonious polyphony, while Will’s two conflicting “voices” (see 5-7) show tension.

          The “lark’s music” also contrasts with Will’s “song”—and these two kinds of music differ from yet a third kind, the imagined “riot” where the friend exists (13) .

          Diction and puns also deal with numbers, accounting, and enumeration—with routine puns on “one” (e.g., mone [2], one [5]); on “two” (e.g., to [1, 3], Both, twaine [14); and on “four” (e.g., fore [2], forrow [6], forth [10]). References to all (3) and abundance (9) and the opening pun on “total” (Q letterstring the L...) reinforce this cluster of tedious numeric wit.
          Legal and naval jargon and language about giving birth all add texture. Naval wit might have appealed to Southampton, while the business about birthing might engage the physician Dr. John Hall, Will’s son-in-law.

          The poet is an “offender”—with the buried etymological term “stumbler” implying “clumsy ‘feet’.” He bears “illegitimate” offspring that he loses after “an hour” and that he is hauled into court for having misbegotten (5-7). The phrase “dearer birth” (4)—one “brought forth” (10) by love—energizes innuendoes in “break” (1), “moan” (2), and “giving parts” (3). “Arising" (1) almost magically puns “air I sing” and “arise, inch,” adding potential wit about an unstable morning erection that yields “weak relief ” (1-6). (“Weak [Low] relief” is also a sculptural term for something molded with unemphatic contours.)
The early morning “cry” (1) from some “birth” also paints a scenario in which a sleepy new parent’s response is a “moan” (2).

          Since young Elizabeth, the Halls’ daughter and Will’s granddaughter, born February 1608, may be in Will’s mind, the “riot” that Will laments missing may be routine family business back in Stratford. The final lament, “I lose both twain,” may allude to the death of Will’s son, Hamnet, twin to Judith, as part of the poet’s morbid musings on “th’ heir rotten” (pun 13). “Butt out, alack, he was but one hour mine” (5) may joke about a breech birth. The play also echoes “Out, out…” (in Macbeth) and may lament the brevity of the son’s life. Such puns as “a Miss you f--ked (seized) and heated (hated), see, Hall, son…” (9-10) imply lewder “family” wit possibly aimed at Dr. Hall. The linepun “Anne, gainst myself a lawful plea commence” (7) suggests that the wife might initiate a divorce—or at least level legitimate charges of desertion.

          I’ve probably missed other instances, but Rune 39 is the first text in the cycle in which I see “whole there (their, they’re) parts of me” (3): Will and Anne, estranged; their children Sue (Susanna) and the twins, Ham (Hamnet) and Judy (Judith)—the son now dead but still the father’s “greater grief” (12); and Dr. John and baby Elizabeth Hall, completing the family circle and suggesting a date of composition or final editing ca. 1608-09.

          Here are further instances of family namepuns: Line 3 opens with a play on “John Hall, th’ heir...” (W = IN = JN = John). Line 10 conflates puns on “Anne Hatha.,” “son,” “hee,let” (elliptically, “Ha[m]let”), and “Ham.” The pun “Hee[m]let Ham bearing forth...” suggests what others surely must have deduced—a likely connection in Will’s head between Hamnet (the son) and Hamlet (the character). “Alack, he was but one hour Hamnet; heaven dearest sorrow’ll end, subito [unexpectedly]...” (5-6) is a variant pun about the dead son. “One whore, my Annie, / the offender is...” (5-6) is a typical throwaway joke about the wife.

          Except by accumulation, such plays always seem “strained” and conjectural. Luckily, they are not at all strategic for making the case that the lines in the 154 Runes cohere in a witty 14-line poem to convey consciously crafted meanings.

          Along another line of conjecture, the puns “Cell eye, cat, too...” (1, with “(” = “C”) and “My cell’s a lawful place immense” (7) may point to Southampton’s (“Southy’s”) stay in The Tower and link with another pun on “cat” in line 1: One portrait of Southampton depicts Will’s only known patron incarcerated with a feline companion. Here the “cat” puns link with a play on “tabby” in the acrostic letterstring (as TAW B). Feline humor continues in Rune 40 (see, e.g., the pun in 40.8). The “cell” pun also links with lurking nautical puns (e.g., “berth,” “sea omen see,” “boatswain”) and with Will’s sarcasm about the “public kindness” (8) and “sufficient abundance” (9) that some auditor—perhaps Southy—seems not to be providing the poet at the moment.

Sample Puns

          1) toothy lark; licked “O”; Like tot, Hall…arising; toad; cat; oft air I sing; arse-inch; Kate bare kissed “I” arising
          1-2) “Collect, Tottel or Kyd, bare aches (...bricks),” dare I sing this odd account?
Thief odd, I count; This adds cunt afore; beam on it, moan; sore be m’ hone; the fey dick-cunt; “Count Two-for” (Tougher, Defer) be Money Demon
          2-3) new hole there parts, “O” seamy, toothy
          3) WH, O Hall (W=IN); John Hall, th’ heir, parts of me to thee did give; awled Harry parts soft, meaty “O”; taut, he died, Jew; meat; a ditch
          3-4) mete oath, adage I weighed, eerier be earth
          4) A.D., eerier be earth then; A dew rare be earth; Adieu; loved be Rood; his hell Ovid borrowed
          5) A lark [eyepun]; Butt out, eye Jack, he was, butt wan, whore mine; m’ Annie
          5-6) alack, he was but one hour, Hamnet; he was beauty wan, our Hamnet [Q e mine,T, bracketed by “h’s”]; Butt owe you t’ Jack H.; use butt, honor m’ Annie
          6) Thief endears, Sorrow lends but weak relief [cf. The Crucifixion]; we a cur leave; curly Eve; Th’ offenders four will in Dis be; sin dear is for all
          7) Anne, gay Anne Shakespeare [st], myself—a lawful plea commence (come and see); fool, please, homme-end see; missal; missile feel, eye woeful place, omen see
          7-8) mincing [cutting up] “ortho-wit”
          8) North; pub-like kin, an ass fon
          8-9) our meat hating; Enter th’ “O” with pubic kindness—hone our meat haughty in thigh
          9) Dan see, aye m’ Sue f--ked; a beau “indents” a ms. (Miss)
          9-10) dance amiss, you f--ked Anne dead
         10) Anne Hath-at-sea (Q he that ca); Hall, son, the lead “him” (lead hymn) bring forth; Anne [et] Ham. bearing forth; see Allison; “K. Eleison” t’ heal (tell, toll)
          9-11) Eye undated seal, sundial theme bring forth to entertain the time
          10-11) bring forth 20 written that I mewed—thoughts of love
          11) Tune; Twin-turd-Annie, that I mewed; Two entered Annie; I’m witty, huge; To enter Annie that “I” may—wedded (wetted), huge—dissolve
          12) Anne died—low noise it is (I tease), a greater grief (aye greater, greasy); End yet Jove knows
          12-13) greasy Hall ate thee, entire, rotten, teary
          13) W. [= IN] H., O, Lady John, th’ heir, ride (rot, read, red) you in there (enter, inter); Herod
          14) Be oath’s end—each “oather” and I lose, body wane; I love (lose) both twain; Both sinned, each hot—her end, eye loose—both, twain; ass in ditch ought Harry end

Acrostic Wit

          The downward acrostic code—( TW A BT AN TAT A WB[L?]—opens with a play “See L...,” with a lefthand parenthesis mark punning visually on “C” and thus on “see.” Both the up- and down-versions of the acrostic letterstring code suggest variants of “Anne” (e.g., AN, N) and “ate” (A8 [=AB]; AT [4 times]; AW8 [= AWB]; AWT; and so on) as well as “tub” or “tubby.” Versions of the recurring joke about Anne’s obesity seem to be encoded. One joke in line 14 of the main text, “...Anne I love [lose]—both, two, Anne,” seems to be a part of this wit—suggesting (here as elsewhere) that Anne was big enough to be counted as two. Whether to add the L on at the front or the end of the downward codeline is a conundrum; both variants are possible, amplifying permutations here.

          Readings of the downward codeline include, e.g., “See two abut Anne, tidy eye a wobble,” “Seat wiped, Anne tidy eye wobble,” “Seed wiped, ‘I’ untidy I whip,” “City way be ta’en. Ta-ta! W. be…,” and “Seed wabbit, Anne t’ tup.”  The reading “See tabby? ‘Tain’t a tabby” (code C TWA B TANT A TAW B) is also possible. (“Cat wit” in Q always suggests Southampton’s stay in The Tower, where his companion was a feline that’s prominent in one portrait.) Concurrently the joke “See ‘To be...’? ‘Tain’t a ‘To be...’” may allude to the set-piece soliloquy in Hamlet.

          The upward reverse code —[L?]B WAT A TN AT BAWT( —is also amplified by the ambiguities of its first and (maybe) last symbols. Readings include, e.g., “Libby weighed a ton—8 bodies!” “Be Wyatt eaten, 8 [in.] bawdy see,” “Be wight at Nate (Knight)…,” “Bawdy, a tenet bawdy see,” “Be white? Aye. Tonight be odd,” and “Beweighted Anne, a tub, a weight.” Codeforms suggest, variously, pound (as LB); weight / White / weighty / Wyatt / weighted; tenet / tenant; Nat / Nate / innate / knight / night; Tybalt; and bodice /bawdy / body / bode / bawd.


Proceed to Rune 40
Return to the Index of Set III
Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets