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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 126
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Rune 125
Thirteenth lines, Set IX (Sonnets 113-126)

                           Rune 125
     (Thirteenth lines, Set IX: Sonnets 113-126)

     Incapable of more, replete, with you
     (If it be poisoned, ’tis the lesser sin)
     Love is a babe. Then might I not say so?
 4  If this be error, and upon me proved,
     Since my appeal says I did strive to prove
     But thence I learn and find the lesson true,
     So I return, rebuked, to my content,
 8  But that your trespass now becomes a fee.
     Unless this general evil they maintain
     To keep an adjunct to remember thee,
     This I do vow, and this shall ever be;
12 To this I witness call the fools of time:
     Hence, thou suborned informer, a true soul!
     (                                                                  )
     Glosses: 2) it = Love, suggesting mother’s milk (see Love is a babe in 3); 3) then might puns, “thin mite, ...midget”; 7) content = subject matter, peaceful state, punning “cunt-end”; 8) trespass points to sin (2, 5), error (4), punning on “tress-paths”, hinting at a pubic route of access; fee (an eyepun on See, sea) = pay, bribe, estate; 9) they = people, those who see error (see 4), punning “th eye”; 10) adjunct (a grammatical term) = a qualifying description; 12) fools is an eyepun on souls; 13) suborned = bribed; soul is an eyepun on fool; 14) Part of complex wit (see comments below), the empty line jokingly provides a place for foolish “witnesses” (see 12) to sign their names.

     125. Love Is a Babe

     Satisfied, fulfilled, with you—
     if it should be poisoned, that’s one of your smaller crimes—
     love is a babe. Why shouldn’t I say so then?
  4 If I’m wrong and proven wrong,
     since in my defense I can say that I’ve tried to prove my position
     but have learned from that process and seen the truth,
     I’ll return to my subject, chastened, staying within my range, and as happy as a baby
  8 except for the fact that your sinning now threatens to become a penalty to bear, indeed a whole province for exploration, and people are accusing you of bribery, too:
     To keep people from maintaining the aforementioned “General Evil”
     as the ready epithet when your name comes up,
     I swear this, and always will—
12 and call every fool who ever lived to set his signature to this in the blank provided below:
     Henceforth, and from this point, you underhanded undercover man, you are an honest soul!
    (Witness: _________________________________ )



          Rune 125 is at least partly a backhanded tribute that addresses the unnamed auditor (1, 8, 10, 13) in a discursive, waffling parody of legalese. The text introduces Will’s conceit about love’s innocence (1-3), questions and dismisses that idea (4-9), and then elaborates a contrastive topic, the muse’s “sinfulness,” and artificially glosses over it (8-13). Courtroom terms here include “error,” “proved,” “appeal,” “prove,” “learn…the lesson true,” “return,” “rebuked,” “maintain,” “remember,” “vow,” “witness call,” and “suborned informer.” “Might I (eye) not say so?” (3) suggests an eyewitness (12). The poet-persona, defensive himself, finally speaks as vindicating judge, though the ironic effect is to brand the friend “guilty,” not innocent.

          For complex reasons that grow out of the arrangement of the Set IX spread and the fact that the closing couplet of overt Sonnet 126 is a pair of “empty” lines, the last line of Rune 125 (concurrently Sonnet 126.13) is a blank space enclosed by paired, italicized parentheses. This blank line, a kind of tabula rasa, is part of an elaborate little conundrum, a uniquely baffling closing feature of Q’s Set IX. Some editors of the Sonnets have ignored this “empty” couplet, assuming it to be a printer’s addition to round out a “short” sonnet; now that we know of Q’s gamy nature, we can be sure that the airy couplet is authorized, crafted, and functional.

           In Sonnet 126, where the pun “Here Quietuses two render thee” occurs, the couplet functions as one kind of “rendering,” while its two line elements work differently (and separately “rendered”) in Runes 125 and 126. “Render” means both “depicted” and “cut in two.”

           Here in Rune 125, the blank closing line may function playfully as the “dotted line” on which a “witness” can attest Judge Will’s decision—with the pun “fool(s)” in “soul(s)” (12, 13) showing just how insincere the mock-defense is.

           Consciously ambiguous, the empty space may also suggest an “airy” soul (13); a memorial “adjunct” (10), using a grammatical term (OED); an “error” (see 4) for readers to assign to author or printer); and/or the open sea or orbic world to which the listener is ordered “Hence!” for his purported “trespass” (8, 13).

           The acrostic IILIS… (see below) and other fishy sea-jokes hint that the end pictograph (14) is an “isle”—not “…a true fowl” (13)—while “Seas I did strive to prow” (5) and “Hence,… Informer” may point to the “rendered” sketch of a departing ship, its “name prowed” (4).

           I deduce that line 13 links with the end parentheses in 14 (functioning as two lower-case l’s) to generate puns aimed at Will’s only known patron, Henry Wriothesley (pron. approx. “Roseley,” “Rizley”): e.g., “Hence, thou suborned, infirm rat Wriothesley!” The pun “Red Roseley” suggests that the many, more overt references to roses and buds in Q had Henry Wriothesley at least partly in mind. The plays “Tommy, Hen. see...” (12-13) and “Hen., see Thos., a born ed[itor]...” (13) suggest that Thomas Thorpe, Will’s printing agent, is also in on the game here, at least in Will’s mind at the time of composition or of revision for publication.

           Hints in the diction of the Rune 125 also suggest Original Sin (2ff.) and crime—a topic integral with a figurative “trial.” Such terms occur, e.g., as “Incapable,” “poisoned,” “lesser sin,” “error,” “rebuked,” “trespass,” and “general evil.” Germane details that cultivate a playful allusion to Eden include, e.g., “Sin’s my apple saucy” (5), “divined this Fall ever be” (11), “th’ hiss be error, and a pun” (4), and “If it [the apple?] be poisoned, ’tis the Lass errs in Love” (2-3). In fact, the voice in the poem may be Eve speaking to Adam—or perhaps addressing the Apple (the “adjunct” keepsake of sin [10]) or the biblical serpent, the Apple’s advocate, a “sub-horned Informer” (punning on “devilish end-former”) that “shapes ends.”

           The conceit “Love is a Babe” triggers such puns as “mite” (3), “wet nurse” (“wet in ass”), “foal soft, I mean” (12), and “born(ed)” (13). The Babe’s phallic “sub-horned adjunct” may foil the surfeiting muse’s perhaps “poisoned” love-instrument (see 1-3). “Incapable of Moor” and “If it be poisson’d,’tis the lesser fin” typify further instances of bawdy wit.

Sample Puns

          1) Inca Bible (babble), owes m’ whore, repelled wit; polite John eyed Hugh
          1-2) John, see ape, ablest Moor, rip lady with use; Incapable of Moor, R.I.P, laid with ewes
          2) Eye fit B, poisoned tease; Eyesight be poisoned
          2-3) If it be poisson, dead is the lesser fin; I sight baby oiseau in didies; eye Southy laugh, erasing loos aye; t’ hell is Saracen lousy
          3) Louis I be a beaten midget; fear finial of Aesop aye; anal office eye; Lousy be a beaten mite (maid)
          3-4) thin, mighty knot is Esau’s thigh; E-row (Line 4 is from Q’s No. 116, “misnumbered” 119.)
          4) eye fetus, bairn, deux; is Berne dupe, enemy? this burned you
          4-5) Aye Southy’s bare “O” ran dew upon my “prowed” ass; Ed’s “inch” may appear, Size l; my prod is in seamy ape, else I eased it; descends my appeal, if accidie destroyed O (…destroy dough)
          5) my apple fey eye, seeded; my apple is easy dyed; I did fit our Eve, top row; maybe Pallas easy died; my ape-palace aye is sighted
          5-6) vapid, th’ ancille [i.e., handmaid] horny Anne defined; eye you top-row bawdy; does true tup rove butt-ends?
          6) But in Salerno, Anne, descend t’ hell’s center; Bawdy, in cellar née, Anne t’ Sandell is untrue; Bawdy, the ancillar(y) Nine designed the lass untrue; descend t’ hell if untrue; descend, th’ Eleison t’ rue; Ill urn, Anne descendeth, a lesson t’ rue
          6-7) t’ Helios, O, in trousseau [bundle] I read your inner book, T.T.; Esau ired you, runer, booked; Sue, I return, rebuked, to my cunt-end-butt-Hat-you-Y, our terrors pass now, B.C., home safe; enter you Sauterne
          7) Sue, eye R. Turner, booked; rebuked, Tommy, see Auntie end; lesion’d rose [suggesting a sore anus]
          7-8) you get to Macon (Mason, get Tom a son) to end bawdy tour; to Macon to end Botetourt race; your trespass…becomes a sea windless (windlass), this general evil, laddie, main; catamountain Tybalt adored
          8) in O be Echo
          8-9) Bawdy, th’ Tower-trespass snub is, hommes, a venal, hefty hiss; homme’s a senile ass; ass, snub co-mss. anal; misses, analyze this gin, a really vile theme eying; a come-session left his general evil t’ Hymen; eye Seine, laugh
          9) this general leveled Hymen; You in lass see thigh-sucking error level th’ Hymen; Mount Annie
          9-10) m’ Auntie Anne took (t’ hook) a pen at (painèd) John; emend “Antioch,” append “John”; Hall availeth, “Amen ’t Annie”
        10) a dun (dying) Sikh tore m’ embered, heaty (ambered, heady) ass, I do vow
        10-11) amber Thetis eye, dove owe, and debts of Hall you repay; Thetis eyed Eve; my birdie this eyed
        11) This “I do” vow, Anne did hiss, S. Hall ever be
        11-12) this evil liver be toad’s; This eye: Dante’s shallow verb; Dante’s asshole, Euripides aye witnesses all; Euripides you eyed, an ass; this feller be toad’s eye-witness; hiss if allure be taut (taught), high issue eyed; a lever-bit, odd issue, eye tennis, see Hall, the philosophe Tommy
        12) see Hall, the Philistine
        12-13) the solace (full ass) oft I minced; ass, you be born dense whore, merdy Russell; Tommy, in Sestos you be born; incest house you; oft immense Athos is up; tough, you, baby-horned John, soar
        12-14) eye men, sea-toss, you borne, dense (dance) o’er mer, a trousseau [bundle] you’ll sail (…see, hell)
        13) Hen, Southy, O you suborned informer, a true fool; Hence, thou Sue, borne t’ John, farmer, a true soul; John, sir, merit her, you fool; John, ass or merd, ruse awful; in form a rat, you fool; see th’ house you burned; sore m’ red arousal; a trifle
        14) The space suggests an “airy” soul (13); a memorial “adjunct” (10); an “error” (see 4) for readers to assign to author or printer

Acrostic Wit

          The downward acrostic code—IILIS BS BVTTTH ( —looks like a play on “Eliz., Bess, Beth see” (with the lefthand parenthesis mark = C = “see”), perhaps alluding to the poet’s young granddaughter. The acrostic code also suggests, e.g., “Isles be subtle [with ( = L],” “To [=II] Liz, Bess, Beth, [with the mark ( = a protective crescent moon, implying safe sleep for the granddaughter?],” “Ill is B.S.-buttock,” “48 [=IIL] ‘I’s’ ate [B=8] his buttock,” and “Aisles be his buttocks.”

          The reverse (upward) codeline— ( HT TT V B S BSILII—suggests, e.g., “See it, T.T., you be ass, be silly,” “See Hittite fights [B=8] bacilli [staves],” “Sea-ladder, T.T., tubs, be sea-hell—aye, aye,” and “See ladder [= pictographic H], T.T., tubes be silly (...tubs be sly).” (As usual in Q, “T.T.” suggests Thomas Thorpe, Will’s known printing agent.)

          The down/up hairpin code suggests, e.g., “Elizabeth’s butt shat ‘To be’s’—B.S. silly,” “Elizabeth’s bawdy ladder [=H] shat ‘To be’s’—basalt woe [II=TWO].”

          All fourteen characters in this letterstring may also represent numbers: Converting the alphabetic down string (e.g.) into numerals yields this: 1, 1, 50, 1, 5, 8, 5, 8, 5, 7, 7, 7, 1-1 (= 0), and 100. Such equivalencies generate many wild goose chases for Will’s reader/players seeking to “decipher” his crafty codelines by looking for numeric “solutions.”

Proceed to Rune 126
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