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 120
Return to the Index of Set IX

Rune 119
Seventh lines, Set IX (Sonnets 113-126)

                         Rune 119

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

     Of his quick objects hath the mind no part,
     Creating every bad a perfect best.
     Tan, sacred beauty, blunt the sharp’st intents.
 4  It is the star to every wand’ring bark
     That I have hoisted—sail to all the winds—
     And, sick of welfare, found a kind of meetness.
     How have mine eyes out of their spheres been fitted,
 8  And I, a tyrant, have no leisure taken!
     O’er on my frailties why are frailer spies,
     Till each to razed oblivion yield his part
     And rather make them bourn to our desire
12 Under the blow of thrallèd discontent?
     For compound sweet, forgoing simple favor,
     She keeps thee to this purpose, that her skill.
     Glosses: 1) his (ambig.) = the mind’s (suggesting the friend’s, poet’s, bad’s [see 2], beauty’s [see 3]); 2) best puns on beast; 3) = The poet’s parchment (a phallic conceit), with Tan an adj. or imper. verb; 5) all: phallic pun, “awl”; 6) welfare, found puns, “Will S., I resound”; meetness: phallic pun, “meat[i]ness,” “meat-in-ass”; 7) spheres: another namepun (compare “...speare-S,” reversing “S-speare”); been fitted puns on “benefitted”; 9) O’er on puns on Oar, Orion, “‘O’-rune”; 10) part suggests body part, eye, phallic “I”; 11) them = my frailties (see 9); bourn = a destination, landing place; compound sweet suggests Sonnets/Runes, this couplet, my eyes, testicles; 14) She = beauty (see 3); this purpose echoes objects (1), intents (3), desire (11).

     119. Tan, Sacred Beauty

     Errors dashed-off, impulsive projects, these lively artifacts are unrelated to reason,
     making each item a paragon of badness.
     Parchment, my sacred beauty, darken in the face of brilliance, foil the keenest purpose, withstand the sharpest probes.
  4 In this dark, it is a guiding star to every straying ship
     that I have hoisted—a raised sail to catch any wind—
     and, sick as I am of insipid certainties, have found in some measure apt.
     What far-ranging things have shocked my provincial sight!
  8 How I have driven myself like a slavedriver, never stopping!
     Why do spies less insightful than I focus their glasses on my weaknesses
     until each has to adjust his seeing part to leveled emptiness
     and construe those defects of mine as to some extent the end result of over-aspiration
12 perpetually beaten down and held captive by frustration—as a voyage frustratingly becalmed?
     For a sweet couplet (in a duplicitous project), passing up simpler fare,
     my “tan, sacred beauty” holds you to seeing this as the course I had in mind; she has that ability.


          Sailing past scatological flotsam (such as “O, Scheisse...” in 1) and phallic jetsam, one finds in the offing a remarkable poem about Will’s procedures and frustrations as a writer, with “tan, sacred beauty” (3) meaning “parchment”—the inscrutable Q text, a variant of the Perverse Mistress (see 14) that “blunts” the poet’s purposeful pen. “Tan” suggests hide darkened from the sunlike friend’s brightness. And darkness rationalizes such motific conceits as guiding stars (4), blindness (7), oblivion (10), and prison (12).

        Plays on singing (a “wandering bark,” e.g., is an unpitched yawp) merge with details about “heavenly” music, writing, and a “sweet [i.e., Sonnets / Runes] compound” (13) that’s lively and irrational (see 1), “sick of Will-fare” (6), and wide-ranging (7). Diction about building and enclosures includes Spheares (7)—a namepun suggesting “rounds/runes” as well as Globes. The concurrent long-line pun “...austere ‘S-speare’-sapience eye, T.T., ed[itor]” engages Thomas Thorpe, Will’s printer.

        Routine “eye-wit” puns conflate vision with erect “I’s,” “under-eyes” or testicles, tortured shrieks, and affirmations (“ayes”). To “sound a kind of meatiness” is, bawdily, “to plumb a mate.” Misogynistic bawdry includes the pun “Endure th’ itch [= h] below of th’ rolled, aye fecund end” (12), overlaid on “country” wit that’s akin to some of Hamlet’s overt puns.

        Of two examples that add scatology to the mix, the first is a wife-berating typographic joke employing m as an inverted w: “O, Scheisse-quick object, is Hath-the-[w]ay end, an ‘O’ part serrating you...” (1-2), and “...beau, iron turds I rune, dirty below oft-heralded ass, cunt-end fork homme pounds weight of organ, gift ample, sour...” (encoded in Q 12-14 as ... bo rne toourdes i re,Vn der the b low oft hralled d is cont ent, Forc om pounds weet; F orgoin, gf imple sauor,...). Such low wit skews the term compound sweet in 13 and suggests that the pun “...austere Sphere is benefitted” (7) has in mind the “O” as a pictographic orifice, “an O-part” (see 1).

        More personal wit about the Shakespeares includes, e.g., “Hath-the-[w]i...” (1) and various Anne-puns (e.g., 6, 8, 11) and plays on “Annie,” Will, and “...speare” (7). The play “Anne, sick of Will’s heir, found a kind of Meatiness” (6) may pun on “Ham,” the son named Hamnet, and about Anne’s weight gain and later corpulence. “Compound sweet” (13) suggests both the twins, Ham and Judy, with “simple favor” denoting “Sue.” “T’ Anne S., acred body, be land the sharpest intents” may point to Will’s 1602 purchase of 107 acres of Stratford land, and more generally to his acquisition of area property.

        “Quick objects” may mean the Shakespeares’ living children—the “two raised up live” (Q to raz’d op liu [10])—so that line 1 may mean that reason has played no part in Anne’s rearing of the poet’s two daughters—another “compound sweet.” Other personal puns include “Home, m’ Annie sought oft, her ‘...speare’ is benefitted” (7). Hints about Oedipus’s blindness (see, e.g., 1, 7) remind us that in his leave-taking scene before exile Sophocles’ hero also leaves two daughters behind. One meaning in 14 may be that “...Anne S., acred...,” keeps the family intact.

        Readers who don’t find such personal speculations intriguing may stick to the more basic job of ferreting out the poet’s sequential train of thought in the runic linestring text.

        Closing puns in that her skill (14) include “theatre-skill” and “theatres kill,” amplifying the “Globe” play in 7.

Sample Puns

          1) O, Scheisse, quick, cob; Office queue I see [suggesting the acrostic codeline]; Hosea seek you, I see cobs to shit at; see cob Jack shitteth; men; mend; m’ end
          1-2) know bear, decorating you rabid; the theme Indian appeared, serrating you; I Acts hated, emend no parts; emend no part creating Eve, Rabbett [see Butterworth 208], aye perfect (a peer-sect befit); serrating every body; Creating every body a peer-sect beast
          2) Reading Jew rabid appears; rabbi dapper f--ked beast
          2-3) bad a peer-sect be, if Titans agree
          2-4) jury bade a peer’s ass t’ befit Anne’s acred, bawdy, blond, heavy piston
          3) Tense, acrid, bawdy, blunt this harpist; Anne is assy, red, bawdy, blond, titty sharp as tents
          3-4) pissed-in tent city sight I, Southy, Host Tar, Tower yonder eye; tent city is t’ Esther towery, wan
          4) It is the Ashtaroth o’ Eve, runed; I tease this tar, too, Harry W. entering bark; sight Southy’s Tartary wan (wandering jabber)
          4-5) eying Gibbar, jet Hathaway hoisted; drying jib, Ark t’ Hathaway hoisted; in jabber kidded I, a voice t’ Ed
          5) hoist Ed’s ale to all the winds
          5-6) Ed fellatio-alto [respite] indecent seeks; you Indies end
          6) Handy sikh, kiss Will; Eying disease, quay of Will fair sound—a kind O’s “meatness”; meat in ass; maiden ass; awful Saracen Dagon does meet; I see Kiev well, seraph on deacon does “meat” an ass; aching, do summit nice see
          6-7) meet an ass-fume—Annie’s “O” stout hear; Show half m’ Annie, aye Southy o’ fatter spheres benefited
          7) Hathaway—m’ Annie—eye, Southy; austere asp here has been sighted; oats, tear soft arras
          7-8) to Dan (Eden), dietary end, heaven, austere S’speare’s been sighted and died; t’ Ed Anne died—why rant?
          8) I in didie ran to heavenly surety; urine, the venal ease you read, aching; know leisure t’ ache in; a venal, azure tea aye ken; Handy, eye Tyre—and the windlass [i.e., indirect route] you’re taking
          8-9) leave you red a keener “O” in my ass
          9) own m’ Israel t’ eye, swear, ass, rail; O, rune misery, ill—’tis wiry, frail recipes; oar; O-rune—my surrealities—weary, surreal our space; whore, on my frail tease-wires rail eye subtle itch; W., Harry’s “rail” errs, pissed ill, itched
          9-10) steal each Torah
          9-11) eye still equator-haze, doubly venal Dis, part in dread
        10) Zed (i.e., Z), O, be-leaf I; Lavinia’ll despair; Live, I own G. Eld’s part and…make the hymn be horny turd of ire
        10-11) his Pa, our tender “adder” makèd Ham, born to our desire…; adder maketh amber net, hoards ire
        11) End dear Adair, maggot hymn, born toward ease, I rune
        11-12) runed, ruddy be lusty herald; tardy ass, I rune, dirty below; whore in a Tower, desire you endured
        11-13) Anne (deride her) maked Ham., born to our desire…
        12) “Ready below” oft heralds cunt-end
        12-13) reedy blows th’ Raleigh tedious cunt-end for compound sweet; In, diverse hommes, pound Swede’s whore!
        13) Fork [i.e., groin, utensil] homme pounds, we eat; wit’s orgy ingest aye (in jest eye), m’ play savor
        13-14) laugh hoarse, hiccup, Southy—to thy supper, pussied Hath.; plays (please) aver Jacob, Southy
        14) Circe keeps Thetis poor; Sheikh pissed, he taught his peer, pussied Hat., her skill; this porpoise hatters kill; fetid hearse kill; Europe, oft t’ Hatteras keel

Acrostic Wit

          The downward acrostic codeline—OCT IT AH AOT AVFS—insists on encoding a date. In fact, the letterstring seems to play with the date of the defeat of the Spanish Armada (8 Aug. ’88) while suggesting a specific date and situation in Will’s life during the year before Q came out in May 1609. Undogmatic decodings include these samples: “Oct. 8, ’O8, Office [i.e., duty; a locale],” “Oct., I t[o] a hot office,” “Oct. eyed, I hate office,” “Oct., eye tidy office,” “Octet I hate, a vice,” “Octet, aye 8 [lines], half-ass[d],” and “Oct 17 [=IT], eye hot office [suggesting ‘passionate duty’].”

        The reading “O, see T that I halve…” puns about making a “7” from “T.”

         The upward code—S FV AT OAH AT I T C O—suggests, e.g., “Ass, if you ‘8, ’08’ eye,’tis so,” “Ass feud owe [acknowledge] aye, hated company,” “5 of you eyed aout [F. Aug.] 17 [etc.]. So....,” “S.-feud owed I to company,” “…I toted (?) company” (as “I’m carrying the company financially” ), “I to a hatted company,” “I tow a hated company,” “…to a ‘Hat.’ed’ country [i.e., Stratford?],” and “…I, two-witted, coo”—with “To wit” amplifying “office” as “duty.”

         The down/up hairpin suggests, e.g., “October 8 [17?], ‘08, offices few, I to a hated [heated, Hat’ed] company,” “…offices of a toad I take, O.”

Proceed to Rune 120
Return to the Index of Set IX
Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets