with Os, mock lamentations, these 14 lines
comprising Rune 23 open the sestets in the visible Sonnets 15-28 and thus
help achieve logical transition there.
settled on a reading of Rune 23 that takes several words in 1-3 as puns:
Then as Thin (1); the second life (2) as
leaf (or page); and should (Q3) as the
eyepun fold. Other reader/players can find gamy alternatives.
Though Sonnets editors, often skeptical about whether Qs published
form is Wills own, have routinely emended Qs details, Ive
felt honor bound as first editor of the Runes to take the texts as
is wherever I can. However, Q is all double entendre anyway,
and some of the best textual readings hinge on puns.
punning variants as primary doesnt negate my premise that
Qs details, jot-and-tittle, are indeed Wills ownalmost
certainly rendered into type minim-by-minim by his printing agent Thomas
The word conceit
in line 1 (see OED) ambiguously means ego, a trick, and/or a strained
poetic comparison of the sort that Will (in Q) and later the Metaphysical
Painful Warrior (11)—a pun on Pay-in-full
Worrier that echoes wary (8)—and Eternal
Summer are conceits for the poet, who assumes here the mock-heroic
voice of one who plays savior to his knight, ambiguously gendered
(see 6). Will is, punningly, a summeran adder,
a numbers man, a metricist who uses figures, an
accountant tallying things up. (In 1609, numbers
meant metrics. Each visible Q text is a number.)
same two phrases may also be names for the poets muse, theyre
inconstant conceits (see 1). Wills wish to ensure immortality
is also twofold, focusing both on his own poems and on the unnamed person
subjunctive or conditional verbs such as stay (1)
and Save (13)along with should, shall,
and let constructionsallow a sense of indefinite outcome
and possibility that looks ahead to the future day the Runes are repaired,
reassembled, perhaps by the listening muse, perhaps by someone else. The
point of view in the poem ranges among lst, 2nd, and 3rd persons.
editors routinely emend the painful warrior line
because it violates the rhyme scheme in Sonnet 25. (Editor Stephen Booth,
e.g., changes ...worth to ...fight!) In Rune 23,
unrhymed, the line works as is. The listening muse may be painful
for having a brow that is carved (5) by the lines of
life (2), worry lines perhaps triggered by failing looks. The poet
does the muses eyes a good turn (10) by keeping that
visage fresh; in the process, Will leaves evidence of my souls
imaginary sight (13)—not just of the muses image in
the poets heart, but also Wills own poetic imagination.
may be either Eve-like or Adam-like (6). (He or she is also like Oedipus
for having a carved face.) Plays on lines and
a Book of Hours (5) imply that the muse may be lining the
brow by trying to write. Let me do that, the poet says, with
my books. Line 2, advice to the muse and/or the recompositor,
is a summary of the poets missionto repair that life
(or leaf). Save that (13) reiterates the same directive.
about money, economics, and coinage—and the opening clue
Thin the conceit of this
the painful [pay-in-full] warrior is Henry VII, Elizabeth
Is grandfather, as depicted on the sovereign, a splendid gold
coin (Britannica) worth 20 shillings. Minted in 1489, the
coin bore the image of Henry, seated. Until 1546, well into Henry VIIIs
reign, the coin showed the elder Henry. Under the son its worth
declined. No doubt the old sovereign was treasured into Shakespeares
day as a famously worthy coin.
Henry VII was indeed
a painful warrior, depicted as tired and anxious looking,
with thin hair and bad teeth. As warrior he had ended the
War of the Roses and founded the Tudor line. His ruthless financial methods,
which put a hard squeeze on all creditors, made him, indeed, a Pay-in-full
Warrior. His worth also means the celebrated solvency
of his reign. Too, pain-full—i.e., full of
bread!—is a bilingual joke about Henry VIIIs girth.
the rune (like many) is a kind of riddle with several solutions.
also a military man named Henry, could have imagined himself relevant.
And then there’s Aeneas….
My unpublished studies of Will’s part of the More ms. suggest
that the runic subtext there similarly plays on coins—the Four Nobles—in
an elaborately covert allusion.
likely puns allude to Wills daughters, Susannah and Judith,
plausibly Sue and Judy. Sue puns include Sue, S. Hall...
(2, 3), S. Hall (4), and Sue... (13), encouraging
one to hear, e.g., Sue, S. Hall, did Helen softly see...,
followed by the run-on pun Paris (2-3). Other puns are Beauty,
eternal summer, S. Hall in ode sight (4) and Now Sue had God-turned
eyes, sorry eyes, haughty, wan (10). Meanwhile, guides
(12) puns on Judy S. and allows such puns as ...[the
fact] that Judy is my hymn avenges Ovid. Ha... and whatsoever
stared at Judys mime... (12-13).
guides my moving [...mooing](12) encodes Wills two-edged joke,
Hathaway makes me leave home and ...inspires these O-filled
The pun Thin/Thick, onset
of this [poem] inconstant is to eye opens the text.
Th’ hints wan see
Then the cunt-seat (seed) hostess joins, unfit Anne tough teases Hall,
diddling asses livid; cunt’s t’ end if diocese hold the lines
offal dead, hell eye; Sue, S. Hall, did he limn softly; fold; leaf [page];
leaf rip; repair fix up, recover, recombine
fetid lice rip Harry S.; East Atlas repairs; R.I.P., Harry S. (hairy ass)
the poet’s era; Sue, S. Hall dim
…may be peer silhouette [anachronistic]; witty her agile butt
S. Hall; knot [puzzle]; some marshal
m’ martial knot fades
crown ode with thy Hours; O, see our veined wit; my loo’s sour burrow;
Ochre (Ogre) you note, witty whores, milieu is sere B-row
S.; And Sue, Roman wert thou first (fairest); serrated (cf. carved
); Thomas-ire Shakespeare created 5-7)
fair, beruned Sue, Roman wordy, thou First-Created “O”
See, read idol, Tommy T., rune low but truly writ (read)
Ol’ Anne [= et] made her (mater) venal “O”—V,
a butt—true lyre (…rule your eye); O let meat ruin (mete rune),
low butt, “ruley” rite
Harry S.; Ought hairy ass—our low, beasty self—soar? Why?
Ol’ Anne [= et] may be hocus, beaten t’ Hell o’
unseen “O’s” you hate
10) you hate
God, Turnus, I suffer; In “O” [rune] see what good your rune
says, suffer aye, ass, halved one; feud
pay-in-full lawyer see, muffed forward
help Annie S., you’ll worry her, say m’ O’s defer war;
fame Ovid for worth t’ lewd Sue aver, fit art
12) Your Astarte
tugged, some Y (why?) moving; T’ eye, lewd sewer (fire) started;
mooing; Hat. guides my moving
Tommy sole see Magi, an airy sight; fight; f--ked; Southy t’ my
soul is imaginary sight
Airy (In Harry) F--k” titled he Dido Pleas; titled he Dido “play
hymned Howard bright (buried); to play, see Ham[n?]et hover, top right
[t’ be right].
downward acrostic codeline—TS S BOAOOON TT SI—may
encode, e.g., such readings as “T’ ass suborned, ’tis
I,” “’Tis Boa Auntie’s ‘I’ [phallic],”
“Tea sup, want t’ sigh,” “’Tis S. beau,
Auntie, ’tis I,” “T’ ass sapient tease I,”
“’Tis ‘sapient’ to say (’tis I),”
“Tess’s boon (bone), titties eye,” Tis bone to
tease aye [eye], Tis sapient,tis I, and
Tis his bone, T.T.s [phallic] I.
codeline— I STTN OOOA O BS ST—allows such readings
as these: “Eye Satan—OOOOO—Beast,” “Eye
Satan: Away, beast!” “Eye Satan, OO [pictographic eyes], why
be sad?” “…web’s saint,” “Is T.T.
nobis (knobby, no-B.S.)Saint?” “Is it to know why ‘O’
pissed (why opus)?” “Aye sit and wipe asses[ = code SS],
T., ”“Is T.T. Noah or beast?” and “Is T.T. in
Wyatt’s st[…anza]?” (code B=8).
letterstring ST intriguingly overlays a form of “saint”
on the Shakespeare family name cipher that I have deduced—an S seeming
to hold a dagger- or spear-shaked T as if by the handle and “shake”
it; the pictographic element is clearer in the digraph form of st
(with “long s”) common as a printform in Will’s
day. Conventionally, I think that ST would have come to mean “[Saint]
Shakespeare” in the poet’s always overlaid game, where one
meaning never rules out any other. In this acrostic occurs an interesting
juxtaposition of this form with TT (for Thomas Thorpe, Will’s printing
agent) and with letterstrings suggesting boon, bound, Satan,
and beast—along with pictographic oglers in the form of
OOOs. (Composers of eye-music played similar games with whole
“bone”—is a letterstring conceit for the skinny acrostic.
Since an O = a round = a rune, line 10 in the text itself can pun, In
this rune, see what good turns eyes, four eyes, have done. Such
witty topical interplays between the textual lines and the acrostic codeline
occur commonly in the Runes.
beast also interlink here in a way that suggests authorial
manipulation of the codestring.