Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets

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 119
Return to the Index of Set IX

Rune 118
Sixth lines, Set IX (Sonnets 113-126)

                         Rune 118

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

     Of bird, of flower, or shape which it doth lack—
     Such cherubins as your sweet self resemble
     Creep in ’twixt vows, and change decrees of kings;
 4  That looks on tempests and is never shaken
     And given to time. Your own dear-purchased right,
     To bitter sauces did I frame my feeding,
     Whilst it hath thought itself so blessed never.
 8  As I buy yours, y’ have passed a hell of time!
     Give salutation to my sportive blood;
     Have faculty by nature to subsist.
     What thou dost foist upon us that is old,
12 It suffers not in smiling pomp, nor falls.
     Lose all and more by paying too much rent,
     As thou goest onwards still, will pluck thee back.
     Glosses: 1) it = your...self (see 2); 2) cherubin = cherubs, second-order angels; 4) That = Your...self (see 1, 2); 5) right puns on rite (see vows in 3) and write; 6) puns: “Two...aye...”; frame = adjust (OED 1550); 7) it = your...self (1, 2, 4) and, ironically my feeding in 6; 8) buy reinforces give, purchased (5), Give (9), Lose (13); 10) subsist = preserve (your) existence; 11) is old puns, “...I sold,” echoing the economic diction elsewhere; 12) It = Yourself (see 1, 2, 4, 7), with phallic innuendo; 13) all is the phallic pun “awl”; 12-13) ...paying too much rent, / As puns, e.g., “Tom [Thorpe] huge, rent [i.e., torn] ass...,” “Low sale and more, by paying Thomas, herein ‘T/As Tho., you..., Jew...’”; 14) goest puns on “ghost”; still will puns on“ steel will,” i.e., iron resolution, with plays on Will, we’ll, weal, well; pluck playfully points to bird (1), food (see 6), and sport (see 9).

    118. Sportive Blood

     Birds, flowers, or other figures that your sweet self really does not assume—
     angelic shapes suggestive of you, forms that seem to reassemble in you—
     may intervene insidiously in lovers’ vows, writers’ commitments, and even royal decrees.
  4 Your real self meanwhile confronts rough seas and always remains unperturbed,
     never temporalized (and also not overly committed to metrical verse, or to Tommy). Being under a costly obligation to you, as a writer
     I’ve adjusted my own diet to harsh liquids of other sorts than “rough water”
     while you’ve thought yourself angelically happy.
  8 Thus you’ve passed a hell of a long time, while I’ve paid the price for that interim!
     Recognize my playful vigor and acknowledge it!
     Find it in your own nature to survive!
     Whatever self you pawn off on us, whatever old form you assume to decoy us with
12 persists in healthy, smiling splendor and is undiminished.
     Even if you lose everything, or more, by your profligacy,
     let your poet Will, if not your own volition, restore you as you continue to press forward.


          In Rune 118 Will reassures his unnamed muse—calling him ideal and permanent and imagining a scenario in which he saves the friend from “loss.” Though frilly figurative analogies seem devious and inadequate (1-3), and though the poet’s life is full of unpleasantness (5-6), he also sees writing (i.e., the Q project) as exciting sport (9) that admits a chance of heroism (13-14).

           Imagery here seems helter-skelter but focuses partly on time. The puns “tempus sand” and “shaken” (4) define an hourglass, and “Will pluck thee back” (14) shows the poet-hero turning the glass over to admit a fresh start. In fact, the cryptic “shape” mentioned in 1 may be the distinctive profile of an hourglass—one “answer” (of many) to the riddle here.

           Other image clusters are about religion, economics, and cards and gaming. Contrasting with “celestial” and religious diction are, e.g., “creep,” “bitter sauces,” and “hell.” A buried, ironic allusion to the Crucifixion lurks in such details as “suffers not” and “much rent” (13), that is, quite torn apart—like Christ’s garment, and like the Q texts, seamless but paradoxically rent into Sonnets and Runes.

           Though Will admonishes the muse to persist (10) and sees his attributes as immutable (11-12), “foist” has negative implications, and Will finally admits that the profligate friend may run out of capital (13-14). The language of economics is pervasive: e.g., lack, given, purchased, buy, subsist, lose, paying, and rent. Such terms link with a buried allusion to cardplaying and gaming that’s detailed in plays on cardlike decorations (1-2), “Jack” (1), “Kings” (3), “Ace,” “passed” (8),” “sportive blood” (9), “Witch it [the deck?] doth lack” (1), “foist” (11, a dicing term), “falls” (12); “Lose” (13), and “pluck the back” (14).

           Even the acrostic code may be read as a gaming pun: e.g., “O’s [i.e., ‘snake-eyes’] see, a loaded die [= tat (OED 1688), code TAT] t’ wage you I lay.” A “dodge” (code TWAGH, also ‘t’ wage’) is a shifty trick. (See Acrostic Wit, below.)

           These samples of encoded puns (with some codes spelled out) illustrate the cornucopic potentialities in Will’s carefully calculated letterstrings:

                1) Bardolph;
                2) azure; Reubens; hairpins (Q herubines); Caesar is humble, “Caesar” assemble (Q se[I]sere s emble,);
                3) rows; Towsend, Davison (Q t vowes,and), perhaps topical plays;
                5) Angevin; Tommy, “Grenada” eye (Q time yourownede a), with a “misspelling” that cries out for “editing” by Thomas Thorpe, the “T.T.” of Q’s frontmatter; “Tommy, you runed, [and] I reproach as dear aide...” (Q time you rownede a repurch as’ dr ight,); poor jester (...Chester) eyed (Q pur chas’dr ight); Oedipus half deride (Q edearepurc ha[f]’ dright);
                7) Hathaway jetted seas subtle, fed in ewer (Q hathth-o-[v] ghtit se[i]se soble [ff]ed n euer);
                8-9) He’ll oft eye Magus’ “awl” (...eye Magis all) (Q hell ofT i me,Giues al); Hall, you Titan tome give Portia (Q al u tation tom y[f] portiue); poor Tybalt odes I see (Q por tiuebl ood?Haue[s] a c); and
              14) aye Southy goest onward; you seek the Bacchae; you seek Thebes quay (Q u cke theebac ke,).

          See below for other expansions of puns in the lettercode lines.

          Q’s visually insistent gaps bracketing the comma in 8 link with a nameplay on “Tommy” (Q Time) to encode a typical collaborative joke executed by the poet through his known printing agent, Thomas Thorpe, who signs as “T.T.” on Q’s title page. One pun here suggests that Will is “painting a picture” of T.T. for their buyer/readers: “Never a sigh, buyers: Ye have (halve...) pastel of Tommy.” The “pastel” in 8, a miniature typographic pictograph, suggests a cherub’s rear-end (see 2). The derogatory link between “Tommy” with “Jew” (here in 8-9, ...Time, / Giue...) is recurrent: Will razzes his entrepreneurial printer friend over his penny-pinching.

Sample Puns

          1) Of Bard; Oaf Bardolph, ass low, rear’s happy, W.H. aye shitted oath, alack; fop; whore is happy witch; Awes Bard—oft slurrer—if happy witch, “I’d,” doth jack; a pew high shitteth Jack
          1-2) kiss you Caesar; kiss huge Aruban ass, azure (a sour-sweet cell); rear of a puked oat Jack sucks; kiss you cheese here; Jack sucks Harry, buying (baying) ass; Jack sucks her, you be Annie’s ass
          2) Reubens’ azure sweet see; Suck his hairpins as your sweets, liver assemble (a symbol); be aye in ass azure if you eat (“8”) cell of Ralph
          3) See rapine to eye; [set] XII we sent, changed a series o’ f--kings; acres; “dicker,” ease O, f--king ass; See raping twigs, thousands hanged; Towsend see hang, degrees of kin guess; pain tweaks Davison [see Akrigg 138], see, hanged he
          3-4) In two, I “X’d” voice; Southy tail, “O,” kiss; Kings thought Luke a saint, maybe; saint changed Creusa, seeking Southy
          4) eye sinner f--king
          4-5) saint, eye sinner shaking Anne; ’tis Anne, designer of a keen end (...of aching)
          5) Tommy “Grenada” [Q yourownedea, “misspelled” and needing editing] repairs; Angevin toad eye, mirroring a deer (Adair); rite,Tommy, you rune; I mirror nadir, pure, chaste rite; poor Chester eyed; Oedipus half deride
          5-6) a satyr, I get up, eye terrace, a wise ass, die
          6) obit tears a wise ass; forces, voices; Too bitter sauces, died I, fair Amos heeding; Titus or Amos heed; O, bitter Sue sees deed I frame, ms. heeding; aye disarray maims Ed
          6-8) seeding Jew’ll state Hathaway jetted cells so blessed in ewer (in your ass)
          7) see foe bless dinner
          7-8) Satan erase I; haughty, tough elf, sob less, Ed, in ewer; recipe you receive
          8) buyer, shave Pa’s tail; buyer, save pastel of Tommy; Pa, fiddle esteem; eye Hellas, Tommy; Eye Siberias…; A sigh, buyers… [pictographic caesura] ye have, paste, a hell of time [suggesting wretched meter]; as a buyer, ass, ye half pay Shakespeare, aye [I], half Tommy!
          8-9) lost, eye Magi’s awl; Magus; Tommy, give salutation to my sportive blood [i.e., Thorpe, write me a preface—Q’s dedication page is signed “T.T.”]; Jew’s awl you tied, aye, onto miss poor, too bloody; eye my Jew’s awl you tied John to
          9) Jews eluded John; Jew saluted…; I shun Tommy’s port; Jew, Saul, you’d eye; you Titan Tommy sparred
          9-10) poor Tybalt odes I see; miss poor to eye, feeble, odd, half sick, you’ll tie; sportive be ludus aye
        10) Half-fecal Tibi; Half-ass, a cul type in, add your toes (typing a turd); shackled; half-shekel
        10-11) is twat out oft? Half say guilty be y’ nature, tough you be—fist twat, thou dost
        11) hoist tup on you, stated Isolde; fit o’ Pontius t’ Hat I sold
        11-12) stat eye Saul die
        12) banner falls
        11-13) Hat. assaulted Sue, if her snot ends my line cheap, homme-pain or faults, love, Hall, Anne the more by paying too much rent; W.H, eye T.T., who dost foist upon us that I sold, it is user-snot in smiling pomp (an arse Hall is), level and more (lose, Hall and Moor), be ye paying Thomas our end (rent)
        12-13) false Lovell end
        13) Love Hall, Anne demure; Love awl-end, Moor; Lowell eye in dim Araby
        13-14) eying Thomas, here end a stalk [phallic], often warty
        14) Aye Southy goest onwards, Shakespeare ill; eye stoic Afton weird; As thou Jew stone, words still…; seek Thebes’ key (quay); ghost-tone [that] words fiddle Will plucked; Will plus Kitty be ache; lucky (you seek) the Bacchae; words still Willobie, look to Hebe’s key; Luke; fiddle will the lucky Oedipus

Acrostic Wit

          The downward acrostic codeline—OS CTAT WAG HW IL A—suggests such readings as these: “Host-seeded wag you allay,” “Host sated wag, you I lay,” “O, sated wag, Will, eye,” “O, seated (seeded) wag, Will eye (Willy),” “…jewel eye,” “O, scat! A dog you’ll eye,” “Hosted, we Jew ill eye,” “Host cat ate whale. Aye!” “Housecat ate whale eye (...Willy),” “O, scat [i.e., tax] ate wage o’ Willy,” and “O-scat [i.e., rune-tax]….”

          The little encoded couplet “O scattered way, / Jew I lay [jewel aye, Jew ill aye (…allay)]” evokes the Via Dolorosa scenario.

           The upward (reverse) codeline—A LIWHG AWT A TC SO—encodes such potential meanings as these: “Ah, liege, ought I tease so?” “All eye W.H., God at sea. So?” “A loo-itch got I (A loo gaudy...), ’tis so,” “Awl-itch got I to see Sue,” “A loo-ladder [=H] got I to see-saw,” “Allege a wit, aye ’tis so,” “Holy witch, oddity seize, O,” “Halloway got a tick, so,” “Alloway God aye teases, O,” “Alloway audit see, Sue,” “Ail you jaw, titties, O,” “A loo-Jew to tease so,” “A lay W.H. got at sea, so…,” and/or “Awl I W.H., good at see-saw [i.e., sex].”

           The down/up hairpin code suggests, e.g., “Hosted, we Jew Ill eye—a low Jew t’ tease, O,” “Host seated wiggly Luigi…,” and “O-sated wag Willy Luigi would aye tease so.” “Hosted” suggests the sacraments, and “Jew Ill” is a mild sacrilege suggesting Christ.

           Q’s recurrent form giue (for “give”) in the linear text always encodes “Jew” and suggests Judy, Will’s daughter.

Proceed to Rune 119
Return to the Index of Set IX
Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets