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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 124
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Rune 123
Eleventh lines, Set IX (Sonnets 113-126)

                         Rune 123

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

     The mountain or the sea, the day or night—
     Mine eye well knows what with his gust is greeing
     When I was certain o’er incertainty:
 4  Love alters not. With his brief, hours and weeks
     Bring me within the level of your frown
     And (brought to medicine) a healthful state.
     And ruined love, when it is built anew
 8  And soon to you (as you to me) then tendered,
     I may be straight though they themselves be bevel.
     Therefore, to give them from me was I bold.
     For thy recórds, and what we see, doth lie;
12 But all alone stands hugely politic
     Which is not mixed with seconds, knows no art:
     Her audit, though delayed, answered must be.
     Glosses: 2) gust is greeing = …taste is agreeing; 8) tendered = offered, acted more tenderly; 9) themselves points back to various skewed, crooked, slanted, or sloped items—e.g., mountain (1) and the angled hours on a sundial (4), but these “bevel” things are also the Runes, which the poet has “boldly” discarded (see10), instances of “runèd love” that may be “built anew” (see 7);10) to give them from me = to rid myself of (these “bevel” items); 11) thy records = the facts of your life, these poems; 12) politic = skillfully contrived; 13) seconds suggests “inferiors” and “units of time”; 14) Her audit = Perfection’s (oral examination of accounts).


    123. Not Mixed with Seconds: Runèd Love Rebuilt

     The mountain or the sea, the day or night—anywhere, at any time
     my eye can see clearly what satisfies its taste
     now that I’ve overcome indecision:
  4 Love doesn’t change. With this pronouncement about love, the passing of time
     brings me into the range of your frowning eyes
     and—thus sternly corrected and improved by contact with such an ideal—into good health.
     And, my flawed love being thus rehabilited (even as this runic love poem is reconstituted)
  8 and quickly offered to you, and you in turn offering yourself back to me,
     I can be straight with you, though subjects I’ve mentioned—hills, waves, hours shadowed on sundials, eyes—and certainly people in general and these runes all may have their own crooks, slants, and angled indirections.
     Therefore I’ve boldly dissociated myself from all such things that aren’t on the level.
     Though your recorded past, these verses about you, and what our eyes see in the world are all false, inaccurate, and unreliable,
12 there stands nonetheless—singularly isolated, magnificently self-contained, skillfully contrived, and in total control—
     something timeless, untainted by inferiority, transcending artfulness.
     Her judgment, when finally articulated, must be reckoned with.


          Typically, the poem is subject to witty readings that recognize broad humor and friendly jibes at the (ostensibly admired) muse/listener. If read soberly, the text contrasts life’s unreliably shifting features with the timeless ideal of love—a fixed certainty that Will equates with his love’s (judgmental) face.

          One epitome of the text is this: “Now confident of my own values, which are tempered by the absolute that you embody, I love you unchangingly. Neither art nor life is dependable in any straightforward way, but your timeless perfection delivers a Last Word that can’t be ignored.”

           Legal language includes “justice” (Q2 gust is, a pun), “brief,” “bring me/brought to…,” “state,” “tendered,” “records,” “politic,” “audit,” and “answered must be.” Love’s “brief” (4) is like a papal letter (OED 1460) or some official, authoritative written statement (1641). As such it is “straight” (9) and contrasts with the “bevel[ed]” things in the visible world. The “audit” (13-14)—traditionally oral, as the word implies—parallels this “brief” as another touchstone utterance. But a “politic audit” also contrasts with a dogmatic, pontifical “brief” (4). (Such contradictory readings routinely offer forking-path options in Q’s Sonnets and Runes.) “Audit…delayed” suggests the Last Judgment (1548).

           The puns “Herod” and “oddity” (initial in 14) help explain the final, goddess-like personification—demanding, “artless,” and “unseconded.” Like the “frowning” face of love (5), she is a stern form who issues unequivocal pronouncements. Perhaps this “she” alludes to Will’s Dark Lady—whose appearance in Q is “delayed” until Sets X-XI.

          An eye motif (see 2, 5, 11) helps unify the poem, as does linked architectural jargon including the elements “level,” “ruined,” “built,” “straight,” “bevel,” and “stands hugely.” Helping build the rune are repetitions and contrasts that stand as figures for the Sonnets/Runes: e.g., “sea/mountain” (paralleling “level/bevel,” “straight/bevel”) and “day/night” (see 1, 5, 9); “built/ ruined” ( 7); and “[written] brief/[oral] audit” (4, 14).

           Puns and family jokes inject bawdy distractions. Family namewit includes “The Mount Anne earthy, fetid eye, horny yet” (1); “M’ Annie Will knows, Anne [ = w = IN] Hath-way…” (2); “Th’ resort o’ Judy, Ham S., roam you, a sibyl” (10); “Hall—aye, John—stands hugely polled, I see […aye sick]” (12); and “Erudite Anne [= et = and] huge, daily wide, Anne S. wordy [weird] must be” (14). Puns occur on “butt,”“awl” (e.g., 12), phallic “I” (9), and “muff” (14). A representative pun is “wittiest bare-ass whores an’ dukes / be-ring me within the loo…” (4-5).

           The OED helps clarify obscure meanings, some of which are already glossed (above): “Gust is greeing” (2) means “…taste is agreeing.” “Tendered” (8) means both “offered” and “acted more tenderly.” “To give them from me” (10) means “to rid myself of [these ‘bevel’ items].” “Thy records” (11) are both “the facts of your life” and “these poems.” “Politic” (12) means skillfully contrived. “Seconds” (13) suggests “inferiors” and “units of time.” “Themselves” (9) points back to various skewed, crooked, slanted, or sloped items—e.g., “mountain” (1) and the angled “hours” on a sundial (4). These “bevel” things are also the Runes, which the poet has “boldly” discarded (10)—instances of “runèd love” that may be “built anew” (7). Though the Sonnets are artfully “mixed with seconds” (13)—with the discarded runic texts—Will’s pure love for the friend is “straight “(9).

           Puzzling terms, tense shifts, and squeezed syntax force readers’ minds into a nimble mode.

Sample Puns

          1) The Mount Anne earthy see; “ear” th’ seedy, dear knight (Nate); eye North easy; hid irony (iron I) jet
          1-2) Theme owe you: Antenor t’ Hesiod hied, e’er night may nigh; knight my newel [post] knows; day or night, many will kin owe, Swedes, Jews t’ eye
          2) M’ Annie I well know, Sue, Hat-way thigh is gusty; Hathaway’s gift, eye sugar; Hath-a-weighty; Hathaway, this Jew; W.H. ate witty “I,” sickest, I succor inch; witty is justice; ’tis grange
          2-3) sugary engine eye; Hathaway’s juiced, eye sugar-engine, juice certain; Many eye Will, kin owes W.H.—eyed with his gusty (juiced) “I,” succoring W.H.; I seek ring-whinnies surd; is Grey injuring Jews, sir?
          3) I, W.S., seer t’ Anne; sea-art tiny, Orion see, art dainty; W.H. Aeneas seared, aye
          3-4) neo-runes erred aye until oval tears Anne owed; When Jews hurt Anne, O-rune’s hurt, Auntie Love alters
          4) Lo, veil tears not, witty sub-razor is handy, weak; Love-awl tears an “O,” to wit, his breezy whore, Anne; Loo-altar, snot, wets…whore-ass
          4-5) Sandwich is baring mutant hell, evil o’ furious rune; dewy kiss be-ring, mewed in the loo, lover’s rune
          5) Bring me witty John (Hen.) t’ hell evil; I entail evil over Pharaoh
          5-6) F-row end, B-row get, Tom, a dick in a healthful state [printing?]; tender you eye needle (nettle) o’ W.H.
          5-7) over surrounding débris, T.T. emits anal thistle tight and round
          6) Anne B-row jet, tome dicing; rude Tommy dice, anneal (anal); “Medician” ale
          6-7) Titan dour you eye; tight, handy rune’d low “W.H.”
          7) oven eye…; W.H., knight, is billed anew (built an ewe); a knight’s bullied, an ewe; eye sibyl tan; knight, eye subtlety anew
          7-8) Anne—wan, disowned—owes you, Tommy T.; Hen eyed Isabel, tan, wan
          8) Eye Sue, too, maiden ten dread; knight owes you tome thin, tendered; to you issued homme thin
          8-9) end ready may be straight t’ haughty Tom’s leaves (loos, loose baby vile); Thin,10, dread “I” may be straight, though th’ eyed Ham. S. else be bevel (hell see, babe evil); Tommy’d intend t’ redeem Bess t’ write
          9) I may be straight, thou Judy-themes loose be bevel (babe evil); see leaves’ Babel; silly ass be Baal
          9-10) see leaves be Bible t’ Hereford; t’ Ham S., elves babble, therefore to Judy, Ham is Remus (…babble airs, orate o’ Judy, Ham is Romeo’s sibyl); babe evil t’ Hereford; veiled, hear fart o’ Judy, Ham S.; the eye-themes be bailed here—forty of Judy/Ham, of Rome
        10) Therefore two, Judy/Ham, form a muse aye bold (I behold); Judy/Ham from me was, I be old; Gaudeamus Remus eyeballed
        10-11) I’ve theme: If Rome mew sibyl, deferred here see our descent; Therefore, too, Judith/Ham. from me was eye-balled for thy records, Anne, deux, Hathaway seed o’ th’ lie [suggesting a sex act]; Remus eye-balled fort
        11) t’ Herrick, whore, descend; Farty wrecker, Dis and twat we seed oddly; Fart Harry chords unto Hathaway; see Dudley; Anne Twat-way see dawdle
        11-12) th’ labia t’ Hall, all wan, is tan Dis huge, lip old
        12) But awl (butt-hole) all wan stands hugely politic (pole, it I seek)
        12-13) huge Leopold lady seek, W.H.; eye sick witch’s knot; Pole-ladies’ queue ages note
        13) eye snot mixed with fecund Dis; An “O’s” no art; W.H., aye cheese in Edom (autumn) I X’d
        13-14) fecund Dis know, snort hear, oddity, sea toad allayed, land is weird, musty bay; kin o’ W.S., North erred
        14) Erudite thought elide; …allayed Anne; Eli, Dan; Herod eyed it, huge delight: Anne-sword (Anne’s word) muffed be; th’ odd lay, dance we heard, hymn used “To be” (used to be); Erudite totally (total lie), Dane’s word mews “To be”; herd mufti be

Acrostic Wit

          The downward acrostic codeline—TM WL BAAAIT FB WH—ends with the initials, WH, that appear on Q’s cryptic dedication page. Sample decodings include these: “Tom, Will, Betty, Fop W.H.,” “Tom, Will beat (bait), fob [deceive, take in] W.H. [John Hall and/or Harry Southampton],” “Tom will beat (bait, bite) Fop W.H.,” “Tom, Will, bitty fop W.H.,” “Tom, Will, be 80…,” “Tom, Will, 8 [in.], 8 [in.]; 4 [in.] be W. H. [F=S],” “Tee! Mule-bait fob [deceive] W.H.,” “To mew [i.e., coop up, own as a caged possession] labia tough, be W.H.,” and “Willobie eye t’ sate [F=S, B=8] W.H.”

          The upward (reverse) codeline—HW B F T I A A A B LWMT—“H.W., be of tabby [brindled silk] loomed,” “H.W. be fit [stanza] A, I aye eye B loomed,” “You: beef, tabby loo-mountain,” “Ewe, beef, tabby loomed [i.e., woven into this texture],” “Hew beef, table Wm. tea,” “H.W. be, of type, loo empty,” “H.W. be, for Tabby, low mountain,” “H.W. be stable [F=S], Wm. cross [=T, Tau],” “H.W. be for Tabby loomed,” “H.W. be f---, Tabby lament,” and “H.W., be-f--k Tabby, limited [limned, cf. ‘lined’ as ‘striped’].”

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