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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        

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Rune 54
Twelfth lines, Set IV (Sonnets 43-56)

                         Rune 54

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

     Through, heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay.
     I must attend times’ leisure with my moan
     Of their fair health, recounting it to me,
 4  The clear eyes’ moiety, and the dear hearts’ part;
     And I am still with them, and they with thee,
     From whence at pleasure thou mayst come and part
     To guard the lawful reasons on thy part,
 8  More sharp to me than spurring. To his side,
     But love, for love, thus shall excuse my jade
     By new unfolding his imprison’d pride,
     And you in every blessèd shape we know.
12 Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odors made
     That wear this world out to the ending doom,
     Return of love, more blest may be the view.
     Glosses: 1) Through, heavy sleep = “Life over, death...” and/or “Awake, fatigue...”; 2) times’ leisure = the pastimes of present and future ages, with a likely pun on “Tommy’s ‘leafure’...,” the pages Will has contracted to produce, agonizingly, for his printing agent, Thomas Thorpe; moan puns on “money” (see recounting in 3); 3) their = future ages’, i.e., times’; me = myself; pun: e.g., “Oft her fair, healthier cunt inched to me (...‘inchèd’ /...enjoyed Tommy)”; 4) moiety = half, share; 6) thou = you, my friend, and/or the reader; 6-7) thou mayst come and part / To guard... puns, “Thomas T. command part took...,” suggesting playfully that Will has lost control of the Q project; part / part / part (in 4, 6, 7) are exact rhymes; 9) jade (ambig.) = poor horse, fatigue, joke (jade [v.] = befool [OED 1679]); 10) a phallically suggestive line (see the pun in 3, above).

     54. Excuse My Jade: A New Unfolding

     Life over, death keeps sightless eyes closed. Even awake, I stay fatigued, but
     I have to keep working to entertain the ages with groanings
     about their thriving condition, ticking them off here in meter to myself,
  4 something for eyes, something for hearts.
     Thus I am still with my readers of all times, and they with me,
     in a company that you, my friend, can join or leave at will
     to attend to valid concerns of your own,
  8 matters that hurt me to think about more than spurs in my side would. Having declared myself his ally,
     only love, then, for love’s sake, will justify my weary pace and side excursions
     by new revelations of his own hidden splendor, of pride in my work,
     and of you, my friend—in every blessed shape known to man.
12 The sweetest lingering essence comes from the fine deaths of those
     who exhaust every possibility in the world until the very end,
     when Love returns, toward the end of making the scene a happier one.


          A dominant conceit is the analogy between the “second coming” of Love—implicitly, the discovery of these “entomed” lyrics—and of Christ. With the details “ending doom,” “Return of love,” “blest,” and “view” (suggesting a painted Second Coming), the couplet clinches the association. One scrolls back to the top of the poem, then, to find “biblical” images that are almost neutral until the end colors and focuses them: e.g., a dead body that is “Through”—perhaps with agony—hints at The Passion (1); “moan,” suggests suffering (2); the pun “reckoning it tomb” (3) describes our deductive process; “recounting,” “moiety,” “part” (3-4), and “money” (2, pun) allude to dicing; “I am still with them” (5) suggests Christ’s promise; and “spurring to his side” (8), “excuse by love” (9), “new unfolding” (10), and “blessèd shape” (11) gain figurative relevance.

           As elsewhere in Set IV, the rune starts with “eyes.” The core conceit “jade” (9) keeps alive the image of a “mounted” poet—here on a broken-down nag, the mode of Christ’s Triumphal Entry. Figures of “spurring to his side” (8) and of fresh bursts of energy (10, 13) elaborate the conceit, while “jade” as “fatigue” echoes the motif of tiredness, stillness, and moaning. Surely, too, “jade” implies “befool” (OED l679) and—linked to the pun ludus felix (9)—means tomfoolery. (Maybe a “jade” of a horse would fool around rather than head for some goal.) Phallic wit about a donkey “unfolding his imprisoned pride” (10) turns “sightless eyes/‘I’s’” (1) into testicles or hidden penises and whips up broad innuendo in other details—e.g., “moan” (2), “at pleasure,” “come” (6), “know” (11), “deaths,” “odors” (12), “wear out,” and “ending” (13). Finally the irreverancies “you in every blessèd shape we know” (11) and the “more blessed” view (14) denote sexual display, and Will’s thoughts about a friend tending to business “on his part” are like those of a sarcastic jealous lover. Peripheral details also imply betting and horseracing.

           Taken straight, the rune involves us in a remarkable action the poet anticipates: Future “times” will have leisure (2); need reassurance (3); seek something in verse for both eye and heart (4); and “come and go” in daily obligations (6) and contortions (11). “Recounting it to me” (3) poignantly shows a poet with nobody to talk to.

           “Wearing this world out” (13) means exhausting us, too.

Sample Puns

           1) Thorough, heavy Philippians 1, get laughs; Th’ Row H (G/H); Livy eye, sad o’ this day; Thorough Jew, asleep; peon f--ked lassie ass doughty; th’ arrow; error; eros; E-rows; Eve
           1-2) Thomas tight, in debt aye, missed leisure
           2) I must state, “In debt, I miss leisure, with my money”; dead-eye, Miss lay; Hymn you stat ended; “I” muffed at end; time’s leafure witty, my money; m’ hone
           2-3) few rued Mammon, oft here, feral; you rued my moans t’ Harry virile, t’ Harry, Count, inch it to me!
           3) Oft Harry W., Earl’d Harry, Count, injured homme; Host… hairy cunt injured; reckon, John, jet tome; healthy her cunt ; harass Ariel there
           3-4) healed Harry cunt injured, too meaty (to me thick); Tommy T.
           4) Lear aye is mighty eying death, dirtiest part
           4-5) Thick leer, y’ Semite, endure; Anne did heady air hear,’tis parting day, a misty lute, heady main; the dear heart-spur, tandem, still, witty Hamnet you eyed; hard is part, and Thomas till with him
           5-6) the eyes leap, thy picture, John Massey, jetting; handy, eye a miss, dull-witted Hymen, death you eyed hit heifer, homme
           6-7) W., Hen, see at pleasure Thomistic (domestic) o’ men, depart, ogre; if you’re Thomas T., comment, peer T.T., ogre, diddle “O’s”; Pharaoh mewn see at pleasure; Fey Rome…thou may aye see
           7) Toga ready, Heloise, you’ll rave on, sound thy part
           7-8) lawful, race on, son, thy part more sharp to maiden spurting
           8-9) tombed hen is purring “Jehoshaphat” [“misspelled”], but low
           9) Butt-lover ludus shall excuse; th’ huss Alexis my aide; livid hue shellacs you (us); sir, ludus felix see, use—my jade
           9-10) Beauty allow furlough, Ed, use phallic Sue’s midget bone; for love, th’ huss S. Hall excuse, midget, beknown faulty; low, sorrel Ovid—hues of Hall excuse—midget be; hex; I eyed bane, windfall, dying
         10) Bin you unfold in jest
         10-11) By nun, soiled inches imprisoned peer eyed, undoing ewe
         11) fed ass, I puke now; Peer, I’d endow injury; laugh, Ed, shape Wiccan “O”
         11-12) John, you’re aye blessed if I puke nasty or sweet ditty, a sour/sweet Shakespeare ode; you in Eve-rib lay; ribald as to shape, weak, an “O”; ape…whiffed Harry; if a puke nastier Swede did, he sours wittiest ode
         12) oft Harry’s witty eye Thesaurus weighed
         12-13) Oft Harry S. (hairy ass) witty eats sweetest “O,” dour as mated Hat’way
         13) Thos., Thor[t]’s whirled out…; Thos. T., wordy his world, doubted hint, inched home, return slow; warty ass
         13-14) the end eye, and God, Homme, return; ...and t’ God, home, return
         14) Red urn, “O,” is low, m’ whore placed my “I”; Red your nice, low femur be, laugh Tommy, Betty view; Return “O” flow, Moor, blast maybe; More be less t’ me; m’ Beth view [the dot suggests tininess]; Tommy, bed heavy ewe; slime Arab left, maybe; low, m’ [Mt.] Horeb less, Tommy be

Acrostic Wit

          The downward acrostic codeline—TIOT AFT MB BAOT R—suggests, e.g., “Tide aft, may be BAOT [error]…,” “Tight-assed may be Bede air (better),” “Titus [F=S] tome (tomb) be bittier,” “Tight ass’d Tom, baby eater,” “Tight assed, my baby 8 [inches], err,” “T’ jot a fit hymn, baby eye, oder (odor),” “Tidy, a fit hymn be bayed…,” “T’ Judas tomb be, aye odor,” “T’ 8, a fit: My B’s 8 are,” “Tight-ass Tom be bother,”and “Tee! 10 taste m’ 8—bite ‘er!”

          The upward codeline—R TOAB B MT F A TOIT—suggests these possibilities: “Our tub (tup) be empty of (if) a twat,” “Art of Abbey empty faded,” “Arty ‘O’ aye be B.M. tough, a toy eyed [a twat],” “Her tup—B.M.’d fey twat,” and “Hard-up item t’ fade white [B=8].”

           One down/up reading is “Tied aft may be boat, or our tub be empty if aided.” Amid nautical wit, the “towed boat” is a kenning for the Runes, afloat “behind” H.M.S. Sonnets.

Proceed to Rune 55
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