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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 125
Return to the Index of Set IX

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

                         Rune 124

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

     The crow or dove, it shapes them to your feature
     And to his palate doth prepare the cup—
     Crowning the present, doubting of the rest—
 4  But bears it out, ev’n to the edge of doom.
     But shoot not at me in your wakened hate,
     Which, rank of goodness, would by ill be cured!
     Grows fairer than at first—more strong, far greater—
 8  The humble salve which wounded bosoms fits.
     By their rank thoughts my deeds must not be shown
     To trust those tables that receive thee more
     (Made more or less by thy continual haste,
12 That it nor grows with heat, nor drowns with showers)—
     But, mutual, render only “me for thee”;
     And her quietus is to render thee.
     Glosses: 1) it suggests my eye or pen, this page (a slave, a bearer); 2) his = your feature’s; palate puns on Pilate (a biblical allusion); 7) Grows puns on “G-row is...,” i.e., “line or verse 7...” (as this one is); 8) salve puns on salve (L. salutation) and (as a close anagram) on slave (see 1-4); 10) tables suggests inscriptions, columns of verses; 10-11) thee more and more may pun on the unfinished play of T[homas] More that Will probably had a hand in writing; 11) Made more suggests Maid Moor, i.e., Dark Lady; 12) it = thy...haste (11), with That it punning, “The teat...”; 14) her points to thy...haste and to the pun “Maid Moor”; render thee = melt, produce, or represent you, with to punning on two (suggesting eyes, sonnet/rune, the two “missing couplet ” lines in Sonnet 126, etc.); quietus is to puns, “quietuses two,” alluding to the two “missing” lines in the visible Q text of Sonnet 126 and perhaps to the two upcoming sets, X and XI, presumably not yet written and thus still unspoken.

     124. Tabled Renderings

     This enterprise shapes birds of different feathers (dovelike Sonnets, crowlike Runes), light meat or dark, to suit your whims
     and prepares a cup suited to the palate that goes with them—
     crowning the present moment, ignoring all the rest—
  4 but ends up carrying that cup, like a lackey, till Doomsday.
     Now don’t shoot out at me (I may be a Bard, but I’m no bird, certainly not a Crow) in some antagonistic mood of yours
     that, full of self-importance, might actually be improved by catastrophe.
     More appealing to me than formerly, both in you and in myself, are the possibilities of
  8 humility and humane consideration.
     A discriminating, hierarchical attitude must not make me appear
     to invest inordinately in tending those public tables (that is, to ignore the Runes and focus only on the Sonnets) where you’re most often seen as a partaker—
     sometimes here, sometimes there, in continual activity
12 unconnected to the ups and downs of mood or of weather.
     Equitably, rather, I should always render in balanced fashion neither more nor less than absolute devotion, total servitude;
     any respite in your gustatory flightiness just gives me a breather to render you here, myself engaging in this divisive act of bifurcation that may pull you in two directions at once.


          The murky situation here seems to depict two men frantically “table-swapping”: The poet appears to be cast in this scenario as a “page” (suggesting also the poet’s “text”) trying to keep up with the unnamed auditor, a bad-tempered glutton who pulls rank. The fare, Crow or Dove, dark meat or light, smells like Runes and Sonnets—which are also the “tables” that the two men dart between (10). (The tabular nature of the hidden texts in Q is implicit, with rows of text lined up vertically. Rank [6, 9] also echoes the idea of columns, rows, or lines.) The “carving knife” (suggested by “it” [1]) may be Will’s pen, and the friend’s responding weapon a gun (5). Both men also use “eyes”—which can “shape” (1) and “shoot” (5), thus triggering a concern for “curing” and “salving” (6, 8) any resultant wounds.

          If “Crow or Dove” means textual meat, the “too-trussed” (10) tables—as “tablets” and lineated lists—stand for Q’s undergirding structure. As the friend pops up here or there, in Sonnets or Runes, the “page” hardly knows where to focus his (or its) attention. “Rank” (6, 9) puns on “rancid” and “[verse] rows” and alludes to (disparate) stations and banquet protocol. The poet/page (see 8ff.) says one shouldn’t “trust” one groaning board more than the other, implying metaphorically that neither Sonnets nor Runes enjoy a superior status.

           Many other terms enforce Will’s preoccupation with “station.” Generally, the poem addresses service and attack, mutuality and its obverses. “Salve” is a close anagram of “slave,” in a line suggesting that the page would feel better if his master, whose “hate” threatens to be aroused (5), were to say “Salve”—“Hello” (8).

           The complex joke in “render” (13, 14)—suggesting “offer [service],” “depict,” “melt [fat],” and “cut in two”—anticipates the problematic “missing-lines couplet” of Sonnet 126, where two empty parentheticals stand in Q instead of couplet lines. Punningly, this airiness is the “Quietus” (or “Quietuses two”) mentioned here (in 14); various words and puns in the the rune reinforce these senses. “Humble salve” (8), e.g., puns on “lard” (a pun on Lord). A runeplayer must “render” (i.e., bifurcate) the “empty couplet,” using one line of it in Rune 125, the other in 126.

           Vague motific allusions to Pilate, Christ’s “bitter cup” (2, 4), and the Last Supper texture the rune. Lines 2-3 pun “End to hiss: Pilate doth prepare the cup, / crowning thee....” In context, “salve” (8) suggests a latinate pun on salvation, which cures wounded hearts (see 8).

           In the Q game, Row A, B, and C (and so on) mean lines 1, 2, and 3. Here the starting pun on “The C-row or D of it shapes theme...” (1, with the pun “Ovid shapes theme”) has echoes in the puns “C-row” (in Row C, i.e., line 3) and “G-row is fairer than at first” (in Row G, line 7). “Bears it out, even to the edge of D...” occurs in Row D (i.e., 4). A later pun amplifies this line-labeling wit: e.g., “Thought, it in our G-row is wit-hating; our D-row nice wits harass” (12).

           The word Crow in Q always calls to mind Robert Greene’s infamous attack on Will as an “upstart crow.” Here “shoot not at me in your wakened hate” (5) reinforces this subtextual reference, with “shoot” (5) and “grows” (7, 12) housing an implicit reference to “green.”

           Typically, Q’s more (7, 10, 11) puns on “moor.” The pun “Maid Moor, our lass...” (11) helps explain her in 14 and suggests “Dark Lady,” a prominent conceit in Sets X and XI.

           Q’s me in your (5) puns on “manure,” following puns on “butt” (4, 5) and preceding puns on “rank” (9) as foul smelling. Picking up on this motiv are the puns “Gross, sour, earthen...” (7), “our only miss/ms. earthy” (13, with a pun on rune), and “Enter quietuses to rune dirty” (14). “Our only Miss earthy” (13) is a variant of the poet’s “Maid Moor” (11).

           The puns “edge o’ Sodom” (4) and “Midas ass must not be shown” (9) are allusive. (And see below.)

Sample Puns

          1) This roar doubt—fey, pieced hymn; pissed; The sea, our oar doughty, shape, Southy, hymn to your sea-tour; This row, The C-row, or D, Ovid shapes t’ Ham’ et (…theme); Crow cf. R. Greene’s “Upstart Crow” attack; fey episteme, Tower, see a Tower
          1-2) you runed to Isabella; Tower seizure ended; eyed fey, a pieced Ham’et, our feature ended; Tower seat your own (your end, you runed)
          2) hiss polite oath, peer, parity sup; Pilate doth prepare the cup, crowning thee, peer offended
          2-3) peer, pee arete, cup see; elated, O, the peer parrot hiccup’s runing; air, the sea you piss, runing
          3) Zero winning, the peer’s ended, O you betting oaf; see runing, the pee raven’d [i.e., blackened]; rest [musical]
          3-4) doubting ghost, Harry his Tybalt buries; tinges there of Tybalt; you bit ingester’s tibia
          4) Butt bare, sit out, even to the edge…; you tuned oath, Ed, key of D
          4-5) into the hedges’ dew, maybe you’d fountain odd eye, Tommy, in your wake; my butt, foot noted manure
          5) Bawdy food, noted menu rue; Butt hoots note A to many; mean, you rogue (rook) knighted; a Kennedy hate; eye Canada, too
          5-6) Butt’s hooting aught at men, you’re wakened, Hathaway, cheering, sick of goodness
          6) rinse, kiss good anus wool; W.H., I see herons kiss God in ass—fueled bile, beak, you read; Witch, our Anne, sick of goodness, would by ill be cured; wood [i.e., crazy], bile, B.C. (busy) you read; “ILL B.C.” you read; enough “Willed Billy”; Willobie ill be cured
          6-7) cure, dig rows of air, earthen at first; B.C. your degree is; your dug rows fair Arden hates
          7) G-row [i.e., 7]’s serer than at first; thin “I” t’ sire saint, Moor-strong
          7-8) if I reared, he, Nate F., I reft, my oar strong f--ker, 8 or 10, able, foul; ruddy-hue Mobile’s, Hall, view
          7-9) moor Shakespeare [ft], Rune-giver greet (great), earthy, humble, sallow witch, wan, dead, be O foamy, his fits bittier, rank thoughts; The homme, by love-awl huge, wounded Boatswain S.
          8) W.H., I chew on dead bosoms
          8-9) eye Thisbe there
          9) herons kidded a Semite, Edes; in Sikh-thought, Semite Edes (…mid-Dis, mid-days) must not be shown; didies musty, naughty Bess H. own; though jet [black] as mid-day is, muffed knot be found
          9-10) musty, naughty, be show in Tartarus, T.T., host able, stayed; show windowed ruse, T.T.
        10) Too trussed, those tables; those edibles t’ Hat. are easy weight; tables suggest the “tabulated” texts, the Last Supper; T.Tho., see table, staters heavy the Moor made; is Tartarus eaved (Eve’d)? Bless th’ adder, see Eve-theme o’er
        10-11) those tables that receive the Moor Maid, moor our lass [cf. Dark Lady]; Maid, more or less bitty (Betty)
        10-12) Re-made, moral Sabbaths untie, nullified t’ Hat.
        11-12) you, hollow, stated “Negroes” with heat; bitty, cunty “newel” has T.T. hated (hatted)
        11-13) bitty cunt, in you Hall haste, that “I” tan (10) o’er-grows with heat inner, drowns with force, butt mewed you, Hall
        12) The Titan o’ergrows weedy Eden, or drowns
        12-13) Sabbath-muddler, end a rune in our D-runes, witty show rasped; a tenor dour owns Wyatt’s whore’s butt-hymn, you’d veil her end
       13) Body mute you’ll render one Limey; Butt mute you awl, render one Limey forty (farty, Southy); to Hall, randy rune, lame, farty; O, Nellie May’s earthy
       13-14) Limeys earthy, aye in dark you eye; farty-end hark you eye t’ assist our nether tea; Fort Enniscorthy you seized, tore in; th’ end, Heraclitus, historian dirty
       14) Handy Ark you eye t’ use; eye store and dear tea; Anne dear (Endor), quietuses two render thee; End hear, quietuses two, our end earthy.

Acrostic Wit

          The downward acrostic codeline—TAC BB WG T BT MT B A—suggests, e.g., “Take baby witch t’ bed, empty be aye (empty bay),” “Take baby wedge [cf. a dildo] t’ bed, empty be,” “Take baby teeth [VV, pictographic teeth], get bit,” “Taste baby wedged bit, empty be aye,” “‘Tack’ be begat by (tee!) ‘Empty Bay’,” and “Tease baby wicked, bitty (Take baby wig t’ Betty)—empty be I.” The last assertion seems Will’s admission that his wit is puerile.

          The upward (reverse) code—A BT M TB T GW BB CAT—may mean, e.g., “A bitty (beady) hymn typed [pictured] Jew [as a] baby cat,” “Apt hymn t’ bait Jew…,” “Apt, empty bitty Jew 8 begat [B=8],” “A bitty ‘M’—type, tag [t’ egg] W.—be picked [with W an upside-down M],” and “A bitty ‘M,’ typed ‘G,’ web begat.”

          If G here were M, the letterstring TM would suggest “Tom.” The acrostic may play on Thomas Thorpe and “tom-cat,” “Doubting” in textual line 3 echoes the epithet “Doubting Thomas.”

           Southy in the Tower may also be in mind here, since it’s known that he had a cat as a companion there. CAT (3-1), playing on Kate, may also allude to The Taming of the Screw.

Proceed to Rune 125
Return to the Index of Set IX