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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        

             

Click on a link below to see the text in paste-up, edited, and paraphrased forms, with sample puns and acrostic wit.
Rune 43
Rune 44
Rune 45
Rune 46
Rune 47
Rune 48
Rune 49
Rune 50
Rune 51
Rune 52
Rune 53
Rune 54
Rune 55
Rune 56


          Available here are Runes 43-56, each synoptically arranged in paste-up, edited, and paraphrased forms,
with my editorial comments and with editorial samples of puns in the lines and of gamy potential meanings that lie hidden in the emphatic acrostic codelines.

           Rune 43 emerges when you read “across” the set spread shown below so that you link up the sequence of 14 first lines. The other runes in the set emerge similarly: For example, Rune 44 is the sequence of second lines in the 14 visible sonnets shown below, Rune 45 is the sequence of third lines, and so on through Rune 56.

           Clicking on a rune number in one of the boxes above (Runes 43-56) will allow you to read and study an individual text carefully, comparing its edited form to the actual details of the Quarto lines and to my editorial paraphrase. All editorial materials represent carefully considered but necessarily incomplete approaches to the riddlic, gamelike texts hidden in Q.


Notes on Set IV: I See I Have Returned

         As in the other sets, these 14 runes sweep across the flow of 14 sonnets and take figures and meaning from them. (Though one might view the symbiosis from the opposite angle, the sonnets more than the runes are topically focused.) One effect is to make the runes in a set seem more like siblings that the sonnets do, because all the runes share somewhat similar bits and pieces that make their associational patterns feel less discrete, more “alike.” However, since each sonnet itself undergoes twists and turns, resolving in a couplet that may reverse the drift of its quatrains, each rune gains its own character. First-line and last-line regroupings, particularly, have natures partly contingent on where they fall in the set; no doubt the same is true of the sonnets—which the poet laid out in ways that would give the runes thematic places to go, drifts to follow, lines of thought to pursue.

          Sonnets 43-47, which open Set IV, elaborate the subject of “eyes” in various conceits. Though this popular Renaissance topic seems relatively quibblesome to modern readers because of its Metaphysical intricacies and nuanced wordplay, here it allows Will to explore the question of vision, including his own conception of the future and how his time-consuming project may eventually fare. All the runes in the set, then, open with variations on the notion of “seeing.” Sonnets 48-52, the next loose group in Set IV, variously deal with the poet’s “pilgrimage” toward the auditor/muse/friend—whoever that figure is in any given instance. The pilgrimage motif generates some sharp self-denigrating imagery, with Will a writer/rider on a “dull beast,” making haste slowly. Sonnet 53—opening with the question “What is your substance?”—initiates a winding-down group of four sonnet texts that explore questions of truth in art. Some of the material here seems vaguely classical—with references to Adonis, Helen, Mars, and “Grecian” attire. One of the closing sonnets in the set, No. 55, “Not Marble, nor the guilded monument,” the most famous of the visible texts here, deals affirmatively with the capacity of art to enshrine the beloved subject; its materials get scattered in the unrhymed but still couplet-like endings of the runes, providing quiet resolves of various kinds.

           The business of “naming the sets,” a small item among scores of editorial challenges, becomes a useful exercise mainly because it requires distilling diverse materials and finding what is new. Obviously, the earlier topics—preserving the friend’s beauty, contemplating the paradoxes and mixed, “doomed” nature of the current project—persist in Set IV. Set III has tended toward melancholy contemplations of how the writing project itself alienates the poet from his subject(s). In that sense those texts seem self-focused. Here in Set IV the new business of “eyes” allows the poet to turn outward, not only envisioning “where the friend is” but also looking toward the eventual discovery of what he is about. The sonnet texts about progressing toward a goal also help move the poet out of himself and away toward his auditors, whoever those might eventually be; even at their bleakest, these new figures at least establish a teleology and eschew weepy self-pity.

           As the person most responsible for the current “new unfolding”—for revealing what Will calls his “sharpened” stone or “edge”—I hear in Set IV whole poems in which the poet might well be talking directly to me and, by extension, to any and all future readers, creating hypothetical scenarios that just now we are all helping to eventuate. While these comments would have worked well enough in the poet’s own day to address his coterie readers—Dr. Hall, Thomas Thorpe, Southampton, or others—if they ever picked through the artifact-strewn terrain of the poet’s underworld, Will seems rightly to have anticipated that private, contemporary readings of his texts would remain limited and underground, and also tht someday the Great Work of the Quarto might be unleashed on the world. One motivation for finishing the project must surely have been his desire to leave a lasting mark that would reveal the intricacies of his capabilities as an artist.

           Will has a way of providing what look like clues about almost everything—including the naming of the sets. Thus, in Rune 49.11 we hear the term “Art of Beauty” set, just as earlier we detected the suggestion that “The Long Year Set” might apply. Since such clues are random and inconclusive, I’ve decided to apply topical labels reasonably consistent with substantive materials—using where possible terms and conceits the poet himself suggests somewhere or other.

           The Set IV leaf opens with WIT across the top (a part of the Rune 41 acrostic). Eyecatching, too, is the empaneled vertical acrostic string TAWS (Sonnet 45 down): The verb “taw” (OEff.) meant “to soften leather” and, figuratively, “to flog,” and the rare noun “taw” (1562) denoted prepared leather. Since Will’s father John was a glover and whitawer, a curer of glove skins (Harrison 8), TAWS seems almost as crafty as the AVON string on the Set I leaf.

           Because the Greek “Tau” was a cross-shaped “T”—a St. Anthony’s Cross and sacred symbol in the Middle Ages (OED)—the string gains further relevance in an “acrostic” setting, encouraging the reading of the vertical acrostic codeline of which TAWS is a part: WBT IHSN TAWS MH O suggests, e.g., “‘Tan’ [VV = Ten] be tease in ‘Taw,’ some owe [acknowledge],” “Why, Betty is into S.-hymn, O,” “Whipped, I sin, ‘Tau’ is my ladder [= H, implying ‘ladder to heaven’], O,” “Whip, tease, and toss m’ ‘O’ [round, rune],” “Webbed, eye ladder’s end, eye W.S. hymn, O […m’ ‘O’],” “W. be teasing t’ awe ass more.” With B=8, cf. “Weighty, I sin, Tau [The Cross] is m’ Ho[pe?],” “…Tau is my Ladder, O.”

           The reverse of this codeline—OHM S WAT N SHIT BW— generates SWAT, SHIT, and a form of homme. Possibilities include, e.g., “Homme is weighty and shitty beau,” “Hommes wade in shit beau,” “O, Miss, wade in shit beau,” “O-ms. wight, in shit be W.,” and “Hommes, waiting is Hittite W.”

           The clue “bias” in Rune 56 encourages reading the diagonal code on the leaf: W BI TH T S AMN VVHS O suggests, e.g., “Weighty Th[omas] T[horpe] is a man wise, O,” “Why, Betty is a menace, O,” and “Weighty (Witty) that salmon (Simon). Why so?” The reverse of this code yields other possibilities: OSHVVN MASTHT I BW suggests, e.g., “Ocean masted I be. W.” and “O, shun m’ ass, Th.T., aye beau.”


             

Click on a link below to see the text in paste-up, edited, and paraphrased forms, with sample puns and acrostic wit.
Rune 43
Rune 44
Rune 45
Rune 46
Rune 47
Rune 48
Rune 49
Rune 50
Rune 51
Rune 52
Rune 53
Rune 54
Rune 55
Rune 56
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