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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 II, Runes 15-28: Texts and Comments 
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2003, All Rights Reserved        

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Rune 28
Fourteenth lines, Set II (Sonnets 15-28)

                          Rune 28

      (Fourteenth lines, Set II: Sonnets 15-28)

     As he takes from you, I engraft you new;
     And you must live drawn by your own sweet skill:
     You should live twice—in it, and in my rhyme
 4  So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
     My love shall in my verse ever live young:
     Mine be thy love, and thy love’s use; their treasure
     I will not praise that purpose not to sell.
 8  Thou gav’st me thine not to give back again.
     To hear with eyes belongs to love’s fine wit.
     They draw but what they see, know not the lair
     Where I may not remove, nor be removed
12 Till then, not show my head where thou may’st prove me
     For thee, and for myself no quiet find,
     And night doth nightly make grief’s length seem stronger.
3) it = your...skill, while he (in 1, ambig.) points forward to the same phrase; 8) thine may mean “thy love” and (implicitly) its treasure (see 6); 9) wit (Q wiht) puns on wight, i.e., creature (OED 1587); 10) lair: an ambig., garbled form in Q, visually suggesting liar, hart, heart, hare. The “engrafting” metaphor in 1 refers to the poet’s own method of grafting Runes onto Sonnets, making his unnamed muse “live twice” (see 3).

     28. This Lair, My Art

     While another person might diminish you (and while even the exercise of “your own sweet skill” would expend some of your own energy), I keep you vital here by adding on new “limbs,”
     even while your life will automatically be represented by (and will gain momentum from) your own charming attributes.
     Thus it would seem that you will live twice—under your own power and also in my verse
  4 as long as this text lives and keeps you alive.
     Here in these poems, my love shall stay perpetually young;
     your love and the use of it are both mine, and shall be. The treasure
     of those who hoard is not something I will praise in my verses.
You gave me the treasure of your love to keep and use.
     What love’s keen discrimination should always keep is a sensitivity to nuances.
      But the truth is that love’s eyes tend to sketch only the obvious and to be unable to perceive this heart, this lair
     where I have to stay, not to be rescued
12 until your eyes, in effect, can hear, a place where I cannot show my face for you to know I
     am on your side, and where I find no rest for myself, no quiet time for the two of us (separated just the way the comma in this line keeps “myself” and “thee” apart)
     and where night returns nightly to intensify my extended grief (which, in this extra-long line, also finds a visual analogue in the typography of these verses).


        A collection of the last lines in Set II, Rune 28 still shows the logic of quatrain, octave, sestet, and couplet. Figures about grafting (cf. engraving), drawing, hoarding, and being “laired” accumulate. The poet’s role as artist, the dominant topic of Set II, merges with coy insinuations about publication (see, e.g., 7, and “proof” in 12).

          Despite all the distracting wit that one’s “eyes hear,” these “engrafted” verses link to form a touching comment about the poet’s isolated ordeal. Early in this arduous project, he would have been totally uncertain that anyone would ever “have eyes” to see it.

          Tedious textual details in this rune suggest author/printer collaboration—including, I think, the strategic filing of typebits—to achieve functional ambiguities on the jot-and-tittle level. Given all the submerged wit in Q about “Tommy” and “T.T.,” I deduce that the conspiratorial printer was Thomas Thorpe, the historically recognized printing agent whom Q’s title page credits as “T.T.”

          One example of such minuscule ambiguity is Q’s odd typographic form of “...hart” (10), visually allowing puns on hart / heart / hare / hair / Harry / liar / lair. Other functionally eccentric forms and spellings include vse (6), encoding “use/vice/verse/wife”; wiht (9), denoting “wit” or “wight” (i.e., “creature”); and wit eies (9), meaning “with eyes” but suggesting “witties.” Reader/players trying to puzzle out Will’s Runegame must routinely mix-and-match such ambiguous forms.
Another functional pun is “As he.../A ‘she’...” (Q1). (“A ‘she’ takes from you...” implies, e.g., that a man loses energy during sex, while “engraft” suggesting renewed potency.)

          Various textual elements suggest that the ambiguous-looking “...hart” in Sonnet 14.14 (where it rhymes with “art”) is indeed a consciously authorized game feature in Q. In Rune 28.10, the reading “lair” is figuratively more interesting than “heart” because it “draws” the poet as a trapped animal in a dark hole, scared and unable to “show his head” (12) but safe from being “drawn” (2, 10), disemboweled. “This gives life toothy” (4) hints at newborn cubs baring their teeth—a fit conceit for these “laired” texts. The pun “My love shall in my verse aver live young” (5) adds implicit meaning to the term “lair,” suggesting that the life-giving speaker is like a “she” animal (see 1) hidden away to undergo childbirth: Will, in effect, is hatching a litter in the dark.          

          The beast motif—embedding animal names—that’s conventional in the runes from the Anglo-Saxon riddles onward finds further development in such strained wit as “you ruin sweet ass” (2); my verse, ever lion g[a]/my né be” (5-6); “witty deer awe”(9-10); “Nor bear moved” (11); and “Thou mayst [not] burrow me” (12).

          Hart (10) also looks like “hare,” punning on “hair”—a body part one might either “draw” in a portrait or leave off—to “show the head” (see 12). “Draw” (10) even puns on taking a number, as in a lottery, and alludes to “drawing” and to “heart” in cards (10).           

          An interlinked kind of jot-and-tittle letterwit is the pun “W., Harry, ‘i’ may not remove...” (11). To “Remove the ‘i’” in liare (10) would make it “lare” and thus “lair.” Both “W., Harry,” and the eyepun on “Harry” in Q’s form hart point to Will’s patron Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton, as one likely auditor of Q’s wit. “So long live Southy, sent t’ hiss Jews’ lies...” (4) is another inherent “Southampton” play.

          Will’s (and Thorpe’s) odd spellings and the pun “Two here you eyed…” in line 9 look like clues inviting a player to try to decode the line’s reverse letterstring: thiwen if seuolo ts gn ole b seiet i weraehoT[.] One possible “message” here is this: “Tune is solo,’tis gin [device] old, B Set I wrote [wrought].” “...Signal beside you erred” and “...beset, you erred” are other decodings. This reverse code—in the 28th rune of the set—starts with “thiweni,” (cf. “20”) and ends with “aehot” (cf. “8”).

          Family-focused wit includes, e.g., “Anne denied [her marriage] oath nightly, my ache grave is, length seems to wrong her [...length famous t’ wrong her]” (14). Other instances include the reference to “engrafting” (1), which would have appealed to Will’s son-in-law Dr. John Hall, a surgeon. The ambiguous “he” (1) may joke about Hall as one who “amputates.” Other family puns are these: “...I, John [= in], graft you new,” (1); “You, S. Hall [i.e., Susanna Hall, John’s wife], delude wise Johnny, tainting my rhyme” (3), with “...deluded wife John eyed...” a variant; “I knit Anne [Will’s wife] in my rhyme” (3); and “Sue/John [= lon] glues this and this...” (4).

         Puns about runic activity include “...the end of Hermes’ hell see now,” with puns on “quiet sign” and “quiet sin” (13). (“Hermes” alludes to the hermetic tradition, with all its secret lore.) The “engrafting” metaphor (1) refers to the poet’s own method of grafting the Runes onto the Sonnets, making his unnamed muse “live twice” (see 3).

          The opening pun “As(s) headaches form…” seems literal enough, but the pun on “Graves” in 14 (Q greefes) is probably not a conscious one.

Sample Puns

          1) As headaches form; A shit aches; A shit, a kiss from you; Ass, he; he suggests Dr. John Hall, a surgeon [cf. engraft]; injure ass too; a she [i.e., a female]; you knew; a guess; Aye shitty, I kiss Fr. Immune, crafty, you knew; Rome you eye
          1-2) I, John, graft you new, Anne; you must live, drawn…; muffed [pudendal]; you, Shakespeare [st], lived raw; livid Rune B [in the B-row]; Doom; you rowne
          3) You, S. Hall, deluded wife, John eyed; I knit “Anne” in my rhyme; livid wife Annette, ending my rhyme; in mirror eye me; …eye m’ Sue; Annie, tending my rhyme
          3-4) miry ms., my wry missal
          4) Sue/ John glues this; Anne; leaf; So long; loo Southy sent; sinned
          4-5) sandy hiss, Jew saliva to the mellow S. Hall; mellow Ass Hall
          5) Mellow falling mercy you relive; My love, S. Hall, in my verse ever live young; if Hall-enemy were fever
          5-6) Gemini
          6) M’ Annie Betty, hello; …love; Anne; loose wife, vice, love’s verse; th’ heir (air); trace (cf. drawn [2]); Bede hail; oven-death, hell office use
          6-7) High/low, you Sue fathered, our azure jewel
          7) knot-precise; I, Will, knot praised; I, willing oat, praised Hat. pure, puffing; see knot awful; I, willing aught, pray fatted porpoise not to sail; knot awful (offal)
          8) Thou ghost, meet Annie, not a Jew, back again; back, cagey Annie; Aegean
          9) T’ Harry W. aye tease belongs—to love’s fine wight; low is sigh, new-eyed; witty “s” be “long s”; too loose is “I” nude          
          9-10) T.Th. eyed raw, bawdy (boudoir) Odyssey
        10) Th’ eyed Row B; butt; twat; th’ eye seek an O-knot t’ heal ire; fecund “O”; the last word in the line(liar? hart? lair) looks to be intentionally marred
        11) W., Harry, I may not remove; W[ill?] eerie man ought remove an orb; W.H., a ruminator, a moaner, bare my ode; an orb; mood
        11-12) modeled thin
        12) knot’s home, yet where thou mayst prove me; foamy head, where thou mayst prow me [phallic]
        12-13) Pyramus [F = s]; W., Harry, thou mayst prow me Fore (Forty-and-four)
        13) Farty Anne defer, missal see, Noah quiet find (sinned); Farty Ann’s Hermes’ elf; myself an oak, you eye, dissent; no quietus, end
        13-14) Farty end of Hermes’ll see Noah quiet as Indian knight…; acute sin dean denied; Missal see, Noah quits India, Anne denied oath; Forty-and-four [the poet’s age in 1608, the year before the publication of Q], myself no quiet find: Anne denied oath nightly
        14) m’ ache, greasy his length, seems t’ wrong her; make…mate greasy; see m’ Shakespeare [= st]-rune, jeer (err, cheer)

Acrostic Wit

          The emphatic downward acrostic codeline—A A Y SMMITTT WT FA—suggests such readings as “Eye Semite wit fey [i.e., cursed],” “I eye ye Semite, wit fey,” “Ah, yes, m’ mighty T.T., wit fey,” “Eye summit w/ faith,” “I smit twat fey,” “Ah, yes, 2000 eyed T.T.…,” “Ice summit, wet of eye,” “Ah, yes, 2082 tough eye,” “Aye, some eye T. T., tout fait,” and “Eye sum: 1000 + 80…[etc.].” Encoded are forms of 8 (ITTT) and 2 (WT, reversed), here in rune 28.

          Semitic puns occur readily in Q, where the routine printed form giues (e.g., 4) may encode “Jews”; in line 4 of the text, e.g., the pun “...I sent [sinned, Ascend] this Jew’s life [alive] to thee” occurs.

          The upward
codeline—AF TW TT TIM MS YAA—may be read, e.g., as “Half (Have) two, T.T., t’ eye, m’ ms. ye eye aye,” “Half-taught Thomas ye eye aye,” “Afterword: T., Thomas, ye eye aye,” and “Half-twat, titty, Thomas ye eye aye.” The T.T. and Thomas jokes aim at Will’s known printing agent, Thomas Thorpe, a collaborator in the Q project.

                         End of Set II
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