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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 116
Return to the Index of Set IX

Rune 115
Third lines, Set IX (Sonnets 113-126)

                         Rune 115

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

     Doth part his function, and is partly blind:
     Or, whether shall I say mine eye saith true?
     Yet then my judgment knew no reason why
 4  Which alters when it alteration finds
     Forgot upon your dearest love to call
     As to prevent our maladies unseen.
     Applying fears to hopes, and hopes to fears,
 8  Needs must I under my transgression bow—
     And the “just pleasure” lost (which is so deemed)
     Which shall above that idle rank remain.
     To me are nothing novel, nothing strange,
12 As subject to time’s love or to time’s hate
     O’erlaid. Great bases for eternity
     Who hast by waning grown, and therein show’st?
     Glosses: 1) part suggests partly (adv.), body part (n.), depart (v.); his anticipates mine eye in 2; 3) Yet then = Even then, Yet still; 4) Which = That which, suggesting mine eye; 5-6) pun: “To see [Dr. John] Hall, aye, is to prevent...maladies...”; 9) just = suitable, mere; 9-10)..lost .which is so deemed /... puns, “lost, witchy Sodom eyed,” “witch is sodomied,” “...witch is so deemed, / witch...”; 10) idle rank = mere pleasure; rank remain puns,“ranker [our anchor] m’ Anne”; 11) To me puns, “two me,” clarifying are; to me are nothing puns, “tome, airy (...a wry) nothing”; 12) to time’s puns, “two times,” suggesting the “double metrics” of Sonnets/Runes.

  115. Nothing Novel, Nothing Strange

     My eye partly sees and partly doesn’t:
     Put another way, how can I say that my eye tells the truth?
     Yet still my mind has not found any reason why
  4 that ocular faculty that changes in response to the changes it discovers
     forgot to pay your dearest love a visit
     as a means of heading off unseen ailments between us.
     Adjusting hope with fear and medicating fear with hope,
I’m obliged to bow under the weight of this negligent oversight—
     and the mere pleasure of seeing you is lost, pleasure called “just pleasure” but     
     really something that shall always be ranked superior to idle self-indulgence.
     Nothing seems original or exotic to me,
12 a man subject to the caprices of fortune, favored or ravaged by time
     successively. What substantial bases for eternity
     have been built up by diminution? Who reveals himself in monumental foundations erected in idleness?


          This mea culpa links ostensible self-denigration and self-pity as Will chastises himself for not “keeping an eye” on the friend and comments on the price he pays for his “transgression.” Roughly, the octave develops an ocular conceit—a poetic figure about eyes and vision—while the rest addresses the poet’s accidie (i.e., spiritual torpor) and asks rhetorically what great, permanent thing can come from such indifference.

          In fact, a focus on “idleness” governs throughout: Will’s eyes fail to see, his thoughts verge toward “mere pleasure” that he must rationalize (9-10), and he perceives himself as sated (11), passive before fate (12-13), and maybe a “waning,” unproductive architect (13-14). The trope of 13-14 implies a pyramid, so the “eye” image may be meant to suggest the same high-perched cabalistic icon that one sees today on the back of the American dollar bill.

          “To grow by waning” (14) is a nice paradoxical figure for the way a pyramid-in-progress tapers to its tip.
Renaissance poets, of course, loved plays on eyes and did them to death. The joke here, I think, is partly about Will’s own baggy eyes—an incidental physical trait that I myself have shared with the Bard since infancy.

          In any case, the “eye” trope here in 1-8 clusters such diction as “blind” (1), “unseen” (6), and the puns “two [eyes] see all” (5) and, elsewhere, “eye” (e.g., 8), while line 4 represents the eye as a responsive part. “Transgression” may mean the eye’s “movement” (or failure to move) and may also allude to baggy eyes (as in the familiar Droeshout engraving of Will)—with the pun “eye (under, my transgression-bow [suggesting ‘sinful circle’])” implying carousing or “mere pleasure” (see 9) as the cause of the “bows.” Line 1 may sketch an eye too puffy to see. (See also Rune 114.1-4 , about eyes that also “admit baggage.”) Will’s eye-bags may even be the “great bosses [i.e., big protuberances], forehead earned,” that have “grown by waning” (13-14). A run-on pun in 1-2 is this “[The eye] doth part his function and is partly blinder.”

          Foiling the idea of “growth” in the poem are words about “waning” faculties: e.g., blind / knew no reason / alteration / forgot / maladies / fears / lost / idle / nothing / hate / waning. The acrostic WAN (10-8) echoes wayning.

        The terminal pun “The Rhine Faust” suggests a very different global reading for the whole poem that jokingly allies Will with black magic: A seeker after truth (2) who is arrogantly rational (3-4) denies God (5) and is punished (8) and loses his life (9) but is still a superior “witch” (10), having seen into all mysteries (11). The closing question suggests that “waxing” self-assertion is the way to prepare for eternity. (As a foil, one recalls Faust’s own end.) The puns on “witch altars” (4) and “rune” (14) also link Will’s “eager compounds” (Rune 114.6) with black magic. The last line puns, e.g., “Who halved bi-waning rune-end? The Rhine Faust” and “Who haste by waning rune? Anne, the Rhine Faust”—with initial puns on “Waste” and “Waist” that seem to denigrate Anne.

          The massively-bottomed pyramid suggested in 12-14 stands partly for corpulent Anne, a joke reinforced by another wife-berating pun in 14: “Who hast by waning grown? Anne died here, an ass hoofed.” Q’s Who hast-by-way... puns on Anne Hathaway. Other puns toward the last include “aye m’ Shottery [the Hathaways’ hamlet in Stratford parish] I’d jeer at.”

          Puns late in the poem also suggest wit aimed at Thomas Thorpe, Will’s printing agent and likely collaborator. Samples include these: “Tommy, eye rune odd, hinge (...inch) novel...”; “the ‘tittle-rune’ seek, our man Tommy, a rune odd, inch novel, an ‘oathing’ strange”; “As subject, too, Tommy’s low—or, too, Tommy shat, or laid great, base ass forward...”; and (terminally), “Waist by, weigh an inch, grow an end, Th., a rune foist ( fit; shove it).” The pun “witches’ Sodomy Ed.” (9) may also refer to Thorpe, whom Will from time to time seems to regard playfully as his “editor.”

          Concurrent puns in line 11 include “Two me” (clarifying are), tome, airy nothing, and “nothing, an oval” (a pudendal joke). In line 12, “two times” suggests double metrics, Sonnets/Runes. Q’s ...s hate (12) is scatological.

Sample Puns

          1) The party’s sons shun; Anne is partly blind; Doth part his son; unction ends, part libel; shun Andes, peer
          1-2) be lender (blind her), W.H., eat her, S. Hall, assay M’ Annie S., eat her; ether
          2) O rude here is Hall, I see him eye any faith; Isaiah m’ Annie eye, faith t’ rue; O rude Hershall, aye feminy ass
          2-3) in a satyr (satire) you wide (white, Waite, Wyatt) enemy judge
          3) Y [crotch] et, then…; Why Ann [et] thin? My Judy gem Anne took anew…; enemy, judge, amend (mint) new an orison; Magi
          4) Witch alters W., Hen, “I” tall, terror t’ John; Witch altars W., Hen, eyed, altered; tirret [tirade] John offends; awl, turd I own, sin, Dis; all terror shuns Indies
          4-5) shun, ass, ends of argot
          5) For God (a pun), your dearest love took Hall; tupping your dearest ludus, Hall
          5-6) uterus to love took Hall as tupper; you pawn your dearest lute to callous (call us) tupper, vendor melodious
          5-7) to see [Dr.] Hall aye is to prevent our maladies unseen, applying ass-ears to ope ass, end o’ pissed ovaries
          6) in Tower my lady is unseen; prevent cf. “blow out frontally”
          6-7) son of E[d]en apple, John; see nipple, whine; you in ass, Annie aptly inches “ear’s” tups
          7) inch serious tups Anne; applying series to opus, and opus to series; sears
          7-8) fierce Nate’s muffed “I” endure (under my terrain of grief); fear sin, Edes [cf. Butterworth 208], muse-thunder mighty runes; to Saracen, Ed is musty; tough, eerie senate (synod) is musty; Anne hops to fair sin (to Circe; …hopes to sear sin), eats muffed “I”
          8) under mighty rune’s gray asses (FF’s, SS’s), John, bow
          8-9) Ed’s mufti you endure, my train’s gray, shun bow indeed; Needy is muffed eye under my transgression boned, the just pleasure lost, witch is foe deemed; Grey shun, bonded, he’s to plea
          9) End this two-ply serial; play, assure lofty Witchs’ sodomy
          9-10) lofty witch’s sod, amid witch’s hall, above that
        10) Witch, evil ape, O fetid, idle ranker, m’ Annie; idol rune see, care of m’ Annie; Hat. eyed Lorraine
        10-11) anchor, main—to mer; the title, rank, ermine—to me are nothing strange
        11) Tome eye, re-knotting novel nothing; Tome, a rune, oath-inch new’ll nothing strange as subject tote; …toady; Aryan ode hinge, an oval nothing
        11-12) an oath inches, tearing Jesus up; nothing naval noting, Shakespeare ranges subject to tie mast lower; veteran Jesus you bestow
        12-13) eye my chateau or lady great; Lady Grey; Grey debases sword two times, lover, toady, eye m’ shit; As subject, 2 x Love or 2 x Hate, o’erlaid, great bases for eternity; lover to Tommy shat oral aid
        12-14) Act II: Tommy is lover, too, Tommy’s hater, lady great bays, suffered her knight, you, hasty, bay
        13) Whore laid…; sore to earn, I’d “Yoo-hoo!” half to buy waning G-rown end, debt herein is housed; Our lay (Orly) degrade basest forehead
        13-14) I, too hasty, buy waning gerund and therein shove fit; horrid urn eyed, you hoist tibia, whining, groaning, dead Harry in Scheisse
        14) Who? Hast-by-way Anne; Anne dead herein is housed; eerie end, Faust[y]; groan, Anne, debtor in Scheisse

Acrostic Wit

          The downward acrostic letterstring—DO Y WF AAN A WTAOW—can be decoded, e.g., as meaning “Do ye whiff Anne, a widow?” “…feign a wet ‘O’?“ “…fon, eye wet ‘O’?” and “Doughy wife aye eye, naughty, O” (suggesting that Anne is puffy, fat, with a pudendal joke in “O”)

          The upward reverse letterstring code—WOA TW AN AAF WYOD—suggests, e.g., “Woe to Anne, ass wide [F=S],” “Wood [i.e., crazy], wan, eye a Swede” (a likely jibe at T.T., Thomas Thorpe, Will’s printing agent); “Woe, a twin I eye of white [suggesting the poet’s dead son, Hamnet, as a ghost]”; “Woe aye to wan ass (to a knave...) Wyatt”; “Weighty, weigh Annie’s weight”; “…nephew odd”; “Woe eye two, Annie’s wide (...weighty)”; “Woe aye t’ Wayne, aye, a few owed”; “Woden eye, half witty”; and “Woe eye twain, a feud,” suggesting difficulties in the Sonnets/Runes.

          The down/up hairpin suggests, e.g., “Doughy Wife Anne, a widow, would weigh in half wet”; “Doughy Wife Anne I wed, I owe woe—a twin half-wit”; “Dauphin awed (odd) eye. Owe woe aye to a knave, Wyatt”; and “Do you whiff any Wyatt—owe [i.e., recognize] a twin of Wyatt?” (Wyatt was an early English sonneteer, Will’s predecessor in the craft that Q features.)

Proceed to Rune 116
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