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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 IV, Runes 43-56: Texts and Comments 
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2003, All Rights Reserved        

Proceed to Rune 53
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Rune 52
Tenth lines, Set IV (Sonnets 43-56)

                         Rune 52

     (Tenth lines, Set IV: Sonnets 43-56)

     By looking on thee in the living day
     Two leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone:
     By those swift messengers returned from thee
 4  A ’quest of thoughts, all tenants to the heart.
     Thyself, away, are present still with me,
     Save where thou art not, though I feel thou art:
     Within the knowledge of mine own desert.
 8  That sometimes-anger thrusts into his hide,
     Therefore, desire of perfects, love being made—
     Or, as the wardrobe which the robe doth hide,
     The one doth (shadow of your beauty) show
12 They live unwooed, and unrespected, fade;
     Shall you pace forth, your praise shall still find room
     Which part’s the shore where two contracted new.
     Glosses: 2) Two: i.e., Two eyes, We both (You and I); 3) returned is a past-tense verb, with ’quest (in 4) its subject; 4) A ’quest = An inquest, investigative group; 7) desert: the Q form desart creates rhymes in 4, 6, and 7; see also the rhymes in 1, 3, and 5; 8 and 10 (exact); and 9 and 12; 8) his hide = the heart’s flesh (pun: hiding place); 9-10) pun: e.g., “T’ Harry S. [i.e., Southampton, punning ‘hairy ass’], our desirous peer: F--k slow. By inch made whore, eye Southy, warty, row bitch there abed...”;11) one (ambig.) points to thought (see 4) or “poem,” to “one” as “1” (and thus “I”), i.e., half a pair; 12) They = perfects (see 9); 13) room puns on rheum (i.e., tears); pun: S[ue] Hall... (twice), with, e.g., “...ass till, send her home”; 14) two (ambig.) = you and I, two eyes, sonnet and rune; contracted = made a compact (with puns about a married couple and about two eyes squinting).

     52. A Geography of the Heart

     For having seen you in real life,
     two eyes can leap long distances when you are not here, so that we are joined anyway:
     those fast messengers having brought back from you
  4 an inquiring body of thoughts, all heart-dwellers,
     you are still with me, even though absent,
     except where you aren’t (though I feel your presence there)—
     in the desert of my rational self-evaluation.
  8 That sometimes-angry recognition pierces the hide of my hidden heart,
     then, with a dagger-like desire for perfection, wholeness, and affection;
     or, to put it differently, like clothing hiding a natural “wardrobe,”
     the one that I am, a poor indicator of the hidden beauty you are, shows
12 that your perfections exist untouched and languish unadmired in darkness.
     If you step forth, praise for you will still find a place in the world,
     of which one part is a virgin beach for couples newly joined, dazzling enough to cause paired eyes to squint.


         This rune about isolation compiles geographic imagery to make a convincing poem with a sun-drenched final conceit. Amid figures about distance and travel (or staying put), three locales can be pinpointed: where the listening friend is; where the poet/speaker is (“mine own desart”); and where the two might be joined (14). By means of paradoxes, all three “places” can be the poems themselves. While “tenants” and “room” are congruent terms, “desert” (7) and “shore” (14) are contrastive.

         Tangential clusters of “legal” and “wardrobe” figures—linked by the word “robe” (10)—add figurative texture. The implied term “inquest” galvanizes legal meanings, e.g., in “messengers” (3), “knowledge” (7), “prefects” (pun 9), and “contracted” (14). “Clothes” and “nakedness” are analogies for the poet and friend, and also for the Runes that “unrespected, fade” (12) under cover of the Sonnets. The word “hide” (as “skin”) triggers a preoccupation with nakedness (8-14) in such diction as “love being made,” “the wardrobe which the robe doth ‘hide’,” and “pace forth” (apparently disrobed). This language cluster in turn makes “in the living day” (1) imply sun-drenched nakedness, vaguely Edenic.

          Typically in Set IV, the start and close of the poem are about seeing. The two “swift messengers” (2-3)—which are also sonnets/runes—seem comically like zoom lenses that can jump out of Will’s head. In the sestet (i.e., 9-14), the motif of vision remains central in such terms as “hide,” “show,” and “unrespected, fade.”

          As usual, puns work against lyricism and seriousness. “Eyes” and “I’s” are always bawdy in Q, and the “rheum” that finally “parts the shore” in this “cunt-wracked” terrain implies some kind of groinal seepage (see 13-14). (Overt “country” wit was, of course, commonplace in Will’s day.) The “two contracted new” (14) may be paired bodies or body parts, eyes or testicles. “Contracted” puns on “squeezed” and “squinted.”

          The pun “S. Hall, you pace forth” (13) suggests that Will envisions a family audience, with Stratford, the home of the Halls (Will’s daughter and son-in-law, Susanna and John), being in literal terms “where thou art”—and with London the locale “where thou art not” (6). “Pacing forth” suggests the public reappearance of the mother, an important staged event in Will’s day after the sequestration of childbirth. One extended pun perhaps depicts the massive Anne leading the way down the aisle of the church where the couple once married: “S. Hall, you pace forth. Europe rises. Hall still is in the room. / ‘Witch’ [i.e., Anne?] parts the shore where two contracted new”

          “Family” wit in the acrostic bolsters suspicions that the Halls in Stratford are on the poet’s mind here. (See below.) The downward codeline suggests some kind of play on “bitty Betty” (i.e., Elizabeth Hall, Will’s granddaughter, christened 21 February 1608) and her mother, “Sue,” Susanna Hall. “Bitty Betty, sweet tot t’ Sue” is one decoding. The upward reverse may be read, “Wise tot, to step, to eat [code = B = 8],” “W.S. taught John’s type [i.e., John Hall’s offspring; code WS = INS = Jn.’s, with I/J interchangeable] to be,” and “Wise tot, to stab ‘To be’.” (The last reading jokes about the youngster Betty taking a stab at Hamlet’s soliloquy, a familiar saw.) The full down/up acrostic encodes, e.g., “Bitty Betty’s witty tot t’ Sue; wise tot to Shakespeare aye Betty be.”(The codestring WST encodes “W. Shakespeare” because ST—especially as the pictographic digraph st—shows an S, in effect, “shaking” a spear-like T.)

          Line 2 encodes more Sue/John puns, e.g., “Sue’s m’ lass, Jn. [= w = IN] H., and thou art John.” Line 6 encodes the pun, e.g., “Sue, Jn. H. err: thou art naughty household, thou art.” John and Sue Hall, I suggest, are in fact primary candidates for the much debated real-life “master/mistress of my passions” (see Sonnet 20.2) whom Will addresses in his Q cycle. During his final rewriting (ca. 1605-09), Will may have cultivated such puns as those rampant here (and everywhere in the Q lines) thinking that in time his son-in-law, as a primary reader/player of the Q texts during the years of Will’s own retirement in Stratford, might find and enjoy them, perhaps collaborating with Will in the deciphering process.

          The poem opens with a pun
that also seems to be at Hall’s expense: “By loo kin John, th’ end he’ll eye....” (Though OED does not show “loo” as “outhouse” in Will’s day, the word suggests the euphemism lieu, French for “place,” and might have been current.) And a bawdy, derogatory pun about Hall closes the poem: “Jn. H., I see; he parts this whore: Jn. H. hard woke, interacted anew” (14).

          Line 1 plays twice on “Auntie” (code ...on thee in the...), which, I deduce, may be a joking term for Anne Shakespeare. The common letterstring ...ghts (here, e.g., 4, see 2) always embodies a potential nameplay on “Judy S.”—on Will’s daughter Judith. The more overt string ...g day (ending 1) yields the pun, e.g., “By looking, Auntie Anne, t’ hell, eye vain Judy” or “By looking, Anne, the Auntie, [wi]ll eye vain Judy.”

          The poem manages quite a bit of strategic rhyme—as does its rhymemate in the set, Rune 54. Here, Q’s desart (7) rhymes with heart (4) and art (6). Day, thee, and me (1, 3, 5) also rhyme, as do hide (twice) and fade (8, 10, 12). Assonance links some of these clusters.

Sample Puns

          1) Bile; By loo, King John (kin, John thin); gone (John), th’ entailing died
          1-2) By, looking on the jaunty Livy, Anne, Judy, too, leap…miles 2 label (able) our jelly in Judy’s “O,” female ass windy; To lea, pillage lengthy Swiss miles; Two leap large lengths of m’ lass when thou art gone (John); windy Howard gone; Milos windy, ward gone; oaf Milesian t’ Howard gone; the soft miles [i.e., soldier], W.H.; Aswan; female swan
          2-3) Swan t’ you art gone by tosses
          3) Bitty “O’s” few esteem; Betty, who’s ass-wife, Tommy’s avenger is, red urned form thick, used oft, huge; ass whiffed, Miss finger, ass red, urned
          3-4) ms. fingers red you earned from the agues tough; fair homme, the ague is tough, thou jet salt in Anne, ’tis doughty, hard
          4) thou jet salt, Onan, ’tis toothy art; Aye queue Shakespeare’s thoughts; awl, ten [i.e., 10 inches], Anne teased, ’tis oathy art; you jet salty in Anne’s ass
          4-5) tenants to th’ hearty fief
          5)Thy fey sewer-present; sieve; Thyself a warp resent; see ease, aware, peer, of end; This Half-away, our present Shakespeare ill; this, half-aware, present Shakespeare—ill, witty ms.
          5-6) pair-events t’ elude, my saw, W.H.
          6) a viewer thou art not (knot); Sue; huge “I,” feel th’ “O” (th’ overt wit); house; how’s Eli (Ely) t’ Howard; sword; Seward; Rat Howard naughty owes Ely
          6-7) thou art witty, knotty, knowledge of mine own desert
          7) know Willy-ditch of mine own, Ed, fart; Simon; Simeon; deaf art; differed, deferred
          7-8) Within thick Anne-O will edge o’ Simon—neat sword t’ Hat.—foam; M’ Annie, O, windy (Annie o’ Wind) farted sometimes, injured her waist scent, O, I shit (washed)
          8) Indias hid
          8-10) in dose hit Anne [et], her forehead afire, cough perfect, low, being maid harassed
          9) T’ Hereford Fergus; see O’s peer-sect sloppy; lobby; T’ Harry, farty Circe owes perfect ass-love         
          9-10) sloppy inch made harassed ewe hurt her “O” bewitched
        10) Harassed Howard Row B; Row B doth hide; Ed[itor?] oath hid
        10-11) there Obadiah th’ hide thinned
        11) Theo, Ned (Nate), O this hid hose your beauty avowed alive, unwoo’d, undone
        11-12) bawdy, shoddy Hell eye you
        12) T’ Hindu this Hades your beauty showed; Anne, you in respect defied S. Hall; They’ll eye vein—wooden, dun her ass-piece
        12-13) T’ Ed’s aid, S. Hall, you pace forth
        13) your Percival Shakespeare’ll send; Shy ellipses, earthier praise, S. Hall’s “till” find (sinned; send)
        13-14) Vessel fit, ill find, Rome-witch; Tower brave assails till ass and dear homme W.H.’s “barred”; S. Hall’s “till” find, Roomy (rheumy) Witch part, Southy’s whore, W., Harry Two-Cunt, wracked Ed in ewe
        14) W. Hairy to cunt reacted; cunt harassed anew; we, reticent, wracked Ed anew; W.H., “edge” Bard S., this whore weird, weakened our ass, t’ Eden you; hard Wiccan tract Ed knew [cf. Witch, initial in 14]

Acrostic Wit

          The acrostic codeline seems to house family wit about Will’s granddaughter, “bitty Betty”, a “wise tot” whom “W.S. taught.” Other potentialities inher in the down, up, and hairpin versions of the code.

           The downward code—BT BAT SWT TOT T SW—suggests, e.g., “Bitty Betty, sweet tot t’ Sue,” “Bitty bed sweaty odes W. (o’ T.T., Sue),” “Betty-body, sweaty ‘O’, T.T. saw,” “Bede bade Sue t’ Titus [chapter] 10,” “88 Swede taught Sue,” and “Betty bade Swede, ‘O, T.T., [pur]sue!” Typically, T.T. suggests Thomas Thorpe, Will’s printing agent.

          The upward (reverse) code—WS TT OTTW ST ABT B—features both the the poet’s initials and the family name ciphere, ST. Readings include these: “Was t’ Titus taped a bee?” “Wise T.T. ought W.S. tup, to be (tight),” “W. Shakespeare [ST] taught to stop ‘To be’,” “Wise tot, to stab at a bee (to stop ‘To be’),” and “Wasted, to sty (...toast aye) Betty ate.”

          The full down/up codeline encodes, e.g., “Bitty Betty’s witty tot t’ Sue, wise tot to Shakespeare aye Betty be,” “Bitty Betsy taught Sue; ‘Wise tot’-to-‘Saint’ aye Betty be,” and “Bit Betsy titty, O, t’ tease you, wasted W.S. t’ Betty be.”

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