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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 IX, Runes 113-126: Texts and Comments 
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2003, All Rights Reserved        

Proceed to Rune 115
Return to the Index of Set IX

Rune 114
Second lines, Set IX (Sonnets 113-126)

                           Rune 114

     (Second lines, Set IX: Sonnets 113-126)

     And that which governs me to go about
     Drink up—the monarch’s plague, this flattery!
     Even those that said I could not love you dearer
 4  Admit impediments: Love is not love
     Wherein I should your great deserts repay.
     With eager compounds we our palate urge,
     Distilled from limbecks foul as hell within,
 8  And for that, sorrow which I then did feel.
     When not to be receives reproach of being,
     Full-charactered with lasting memory
     Thy pyramid’s built up with newer might.
It might, for fortune’s bastard, be unfathered.
     With my extern the outward honoring
     Dost hold time’s fickle glass, his sickle hour.
     Glosses: 2) this flattery = this flattering poem; 3) those = poems that flatter the friend; 5) deserts = virtues, punning paradoxically on “desertions” and “sandy wastes” (see pyramids in 11); 6) compounds alludes to the interlocked Sonnets/Runes; 7) limbecks = alembics (i.e., distillation devices); 11) newer might puns on “newborn mite/midget” (see bastard in 12); 12) for = as, in order to be or become; 13) extern and outward (ambig.) suggest the visible Sonnets, the absent friend, and/or a trip to him; 13-14) pun: “...honoring, / dusty holed, Tommy’s sickly lass, his sickly whore”; 14) hold = hold back, contain; time’s suggests “meter’s”; hour suggests “hourglass” and “‘mirror-image’ texts.”

     114. Thy Pyramid Full-Charactered

     The very thing that keeps me going in life, this project,
     is what I’m offering for your consumption—this flattering praise, the plague of monarchs.
     Even those prior flatteries that said I could not love you more
  4 admit to stammerings, blocked paths, problems, and excess baggage: Love isn’t an affection
     that can or should compensate either your great virtues or any empty spaces in your character.
     We whip our taste into frenzies with strong potions
     distilled from laboratory apparatuses as foul as hell inside,
  8 and, after doing so, we’ve typically felt sorrow of a sort that brings back earlier pain.
     When present existence prevails to drive away my thoughts about non-being, then,
     fully inscribed and decorated to house permanently what’s unforgettable about you,
     your memorial, like a pyramid for a pharaoh, gets built up with renewed strength.
12 It’s true that that monument, as fortune’s bastard, may go unattributed to its sire or maker.
     For my Sonnets, the half of this tribute that’s exposed to view, to honor your physical beauty
     is enough to occupy time’s capricious passage, to hold off his hour of reaping.


        In Rune 114—the buried text in Set IX that comprises in sequence the second lines of visible Sonnets 113-126—Will acknowledges allegiance to his sovereign friend (13) and “flatters” him (2) with a “full-charactered pyramid” (10-11) while admitting that the auditor can never be honored enough (5) and that the monument may go “fatherless” for being unacknowledged by its author and by its intended “occupant” (12). (The arcane, triangulated mystery of the “charactered” pyramid persists, as in the Masonic symbology of the Great Seal of the United States on the back of the dollar bill.) Such activity on the poet’s part wards off any thoughts of suicide (9) and controls mutability while mirroring the caprices of an Age (14).

         Will’s monument, he says, is compensation for his earlier sorrow in the relationship with the friend (8), whose perceived rejection seems only to have strengthened the poet’s resolve to honor and immortalize him, despite problems inherent in flattery (1-2) and the fact that unpleasant alchemical sorcery plays a part in the project (6-7).

         As in Rune 85, “Lymbecks” are part of Will’s figurative gadgetry here. Sonnets editor Stephen Booth notes that an engraving printed by Henrie Denham in The Newe Jewell of Health (1576) depicts Alchymya (i.e., Alchemy) holding an alembic—a “still” for transmuting things. The association here of alembics, Alchemy, and a “fickle whore” (as the final eyepun here in 14 reads)—this combination gives us a nascent view of Will’s Dark Lady or “perverse mistress,” who is (I propose) at least partly a poetic construct for the poet’s own “mistress/mysteries,” the Q project, medially positioned between the poet himself and his handsome, unnamed muse. Magically, like Alchemy, Will’s project—whose “I’s are nothing like the sun” because printed I’s are straight and black while the O-like sun is round and bright—“transmutes” lower-order things into higher, Runes into Sonnets, and vice versa.

         Alchemy and medicine overlapped in Will’s day, as Booth also notes. I deduce, then, that the coy alchemical allusion may be aimed partly at Dr. John Hall, the poet’s literate son-in-law, a physician.

         We now can see that the full-charactered pyramid is concurrently an apt conceit for the Q project, an elaborately “compounded” (6) memorial that is richly decorated both “outside” (in the Sonnets) and inside (in the Runes). We know now that it is “foul as hell within” (7) and that its “full” character, as “fortune’s bastard,” has until now remained unacknowledged (12). Will’s preoccupying project (see 1, 14) ca. 1609—the Q writing project—still “admits impediments” in the form of obstructions, stutterings, and various kinds of excess baggage.

         Images in the poem cluster around topics of building, monarchs, travel, and consumption of food or drink (see the codeline FWAD). Puns about building, e.g., include “pediments” (4), “ark” (2), and “palette” (cf. L. pala, shovel), a building tool (6), while “loo” (e.g., 4) as “outhouse” jokes about an enclosure “foul as hell within” (7). “Pyramid” links “deserts” (5) with terms about rulers and travel. A motif about money includes “plack” (2), a coin. While “Adam et impediments” is allusive, “Admit impediments…” may pun about bowel blockage. Line 6 suggests purgation, and 12 puns on “base turd.” In fact, Will’s “pyramid” may be a dunghill, or an outhouse “full-charactered” with graffiti. The pictographic “furrow” in Q8—a studied typographical effect executed at the printing stage—divides a play on breaking wind (“Anne farted furrow [...Pharaoh]…,” Q for that) from the pun “…wicked hen did feel windy, too” (8-9).

         In the last line, sickle hour is an eyepun on “fickle whore,” anticipating the Dark Lady conceit, prominent in the last two sets of Q.

Sample Puns

          1) Anne, dead Hat.-witch, governs me; Jew, earnest meat; Indebted (Undated) W.H., eye chigoe [chigger (OED 1691)], earnest meat o’ Job out
           2) keep theme, O, an ark supply, Jew-Too-High slaughter. Why? Keep the money, harks plack [coin]; monarch, splay a Jew; Dry in cup, the money arcs; on ark is plague; monarchs play Jehoshaphat awry; Daring, kept hymn; aye, Judy’s flatter. Why? I Judas flatter
           2-3) a dizzy lady runed, hosted fights old in ode louder
           3) eye deckled note low; eye dick old
           3-4) I could not laud a rear Adam eyed; Ovid eerie redeemed hymn
           4) aye dim, eye tempi dementis, loose in ode low; slough eye, snot low; I snot love; a dim item peed I
           4-5) Slav, eye synod louring; Lorraine is older, gray desert
           5) W.H., Erin eye; W.H., rain eisell, your gray deserts reap I; reign evil, dour; We rune, S. Hall dirge reads; I S. Hall dear greeted; We rune, I fooled you; greet desert Sherpa
           5-6) read deferred, syrupy wit; W., Harry, eye knife old, your great deserts repay Whitaker [W.H.’s tutor? cf. Akrigg 28]; [pur]sue our pale dirge
           6) I jerk, come, pound, swear, pale; our Pilate urge; pale at verge; witty, azure compounds warp a ladder
           6-7) O, you ripple eye turgid; turgid, I’ve tilled fair homme
           7) If Rome’ll ye hymn, bass key is foul; Dis tilled form limy, base quays, foul as hell; Sue Hall is hell with John
           7-8) see kiss, solace, hell witty, Nantes
           8) Pharaoh wicked ended seal (silly); Anne farted furrow [with a space “furrow”] which I thin did seal; I shit in didie feel
           8-9) W.H. I chide, ended silly W.H.; I then did see loo in naughty O, bare sieve’s hairy porch
           9) bare, see Eve’s rib rouge
           9-10) W., Hen, ought to bare Caiaphas or approach us, being fool
         10) witty lass, tinge m’ hemorrhoid, happier amid ass-built-up wit; Fool see, harass; see her actor; see Harry, see turd with lasting memory; Fool, seer, actor; see here actor duet, laugh, tinge hymn
         10-11) …if you ill chorister do eye, till ass, tinge hymn moor, yet help your ami Dis build, tup with newer might; hymn orate high, peer, a ms. built up with newer [rune, reversed] might
         11) thy pi-remedy is bull-tup witty in your maid; eye th’ worm I jet; witty norm I jet
         11-12) in your mite-y Tommy jet sore fart; Newer, mighty Tommy, jet-forcer too nice, bastard be unfathered; be ass-turd, be in Southy red; aged midget is whore
         12) force our Tunis base t’ err; a turd-bean’s Ethelred
         12-13) tunes be, after debuting Saturday, “hymn-y” [i.e., on Sunday]
         13) Witty mix turned he outward
         13-14) war t’ honor eye in jet; honoring deux Shakespeare times [meters]; hued were donor in jet
         14) Dust, Hall did eye ms., fickle glass’s fickle whore; dust halted eye; tie miss, f--k legally, f---his fickle whore; his fig lower; high, sick; low, we err; legal asses seek lore; Does Hall Didymus seek—legless, physical whore?

Acrostic Wit

          The downward emphatic codeline—ADEAW WDAW F TIWD—conveys meanings represented by these samples: “Adieu, widow of toad[y],” “A dew, we dove to wed,” “A dewy dove, too wet,”“A.D. Eve doffed, I wed,” “Eye doo-doo fetid,” “A doody whiffed I wad,” “Idea, (A dewy...) day wasted [F=S],” “A deaf widow fit Jude,” “Odd ewe widow stewed [F = S],” “Odd Eve daft I wed,” “Idea would awe: Fit [i.e., stanza] eye witty,” “A dear widow-wife died,” and “Odd ode I wived, aye wood [crazy],” with eye/aye variants.

          The upward (reverse) codeline—DW I TF WAD WWAEDA—suggests, e.g., “Deux eye, tough wad weighty,” “Dieu eyed few, adieu, we die,” “Dieu eyed few, Odd, Weighty,” “Duet, feud weighty eye,” “Dewitt, …,” “…duty of weight weighty,” “…widow of wight witty,” “due to food, weighty,” “…A.D., we die,” “Duet of W., odd, weighty,” “Th’ wit of wight witty,” and “Deux, one, t’ few […10] add 10, 10, 80.”

          The down/up hairpin codeline suggests “Idea wasted due t’ feud weighty,” “A dear widow-wife died due t’ feud weighty,” and/or “Odd ewe widow fed you, deux eat food witty.” The codestring AD triggers the quest for a date-rune, and TIW (2) and AEDA (80) encourage Roman numeral searches.

           The notion of duality (suggesting by Sonnets and Runes, etc.) lurks in the strings DEAW, DAW, TIW, DW, DWW.

Proceed to Rune 115
Return to the Index of Set IX
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