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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 I, Runes 1-14: Texts and Comments 
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2003, All Rights Reserved        

Proceed to Rune 12
Return to the Index of Set I

Rune 11:
Eleventh lines, Set I (Sonnets 1-14)

                         Rune 11

     Within thine own bud buriest thy content.
     Shall sum my count, and make my old excuse,
     So thou, through windows of thine age, shalt see
 4  Then how, when Nature calls thee to be gone,
     Beauty’s effect with beauty were bereft.
     Then, what could Death do if thou shouldst depart?
     The eyes ’fore duteous now converted are,
 8  Resembling sire and child and happy mother.
     But Beauty’s waste hath in the world an end.
     Be as thy presence is, gracious and kind.
     Look whom she best endowed, she gave thee more!
12 Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake,
     Against the stormy gusts of winter’s day—
     As Truth and Beauty shall—together thrive.
     Glosses: 1) content = satisfaction, substance; 2) suggesting, “My account will summarize my old explanation”; 5) Beauty’s effect may be Beauty’s offspring; bereft varies “bereaved”; 8) Resembling = looking like, reassembling (i.e., reuniting), as the Runes do lines; 11) she suggests Beauty (see 4, 9) or Nature (4); 14) Together implies “with someone else, not singly.”

     11. Within Thy Bud

     Your essence and your potential for real contentment lie buried inside you, budlike.
     My account here will sum things up, repeating my old argument,
     so that, looking at things through the eyes of yourself as one who is old—but also from an enlightened modern perspective—you can envision
  4 how, when Nature eventually calls you to leave,
     Beauty’s offspring, an heir of yours endowed with beauty, might feel loss at your passing.
     In that situation, what would Death gain at your departure?
     The childlike eyes, once dutiful to the living parent, now shift to serve a higher purpose,
  8 bringing together father and child and the mother’s happiness, perpetuating lost parentage.
     But if beauty is wasted in this life, it ends in this life.
     Be considerate and kind, the way you show yourself to be when one is with you.
     Take note of the fact that Nature gave you more than those she endowed with most!
12 Since beauties and physical charms fade and finally leave,
     in preparation for the hard blusters of the winter to come,
     consolidate your forces, perpetuate yourself by companionship—just the way Truth and Beauty will go on doing.


        Continuing the main theme of Set I, the need for beauty to procreate, this quietly rational lyric gives that advice to the poet’s unnamed muse. The tone contrasts with Rune 10, with its frantic imagery.

        Superficially, Rune 11 is the summary account and familiar argument it claims to be (2). But the text is not ingenuous. If, as elsewhere in Q, the listener is male, then the metaphor “bud” (1)—with strongly sexual innuendo—degrades his dormant equipment, which could “flower” (while ironically “deflowering”) into beautiful offspring. The “endowment” line (11), punning on “...the Moor,” may be an old, stereotypical joke about African males. Line 2 jokes about an apologetic “tally.” “Beauty’s waste” (9) may mean unfruitful sex. Scatological wit in “Nature calls” (4) forces new meanings onto line 1.

          If “Shall” (2; cf. 3, 6,14) encodes “S[ue] Hall,” Will’s daughter, then “bud” may work as a metaphor for a woman’s potential to “flower” into motherhood. “Content” (1), “count” (2) and “con-verted” (7) encode conventional wit about “country matters,” as Hamlet puts it (3.2.123).

            Concurrent puns are about the Runegame. “Bud” suggests “latent rose [a pun on ‘rows’]” and objectifies Q’s potential for textual “unfolding.” Talk of numeric tallies (as if in columns) and of creating the poet’s “old X-queues” (2) may allude to the traditional acrostic “numbers” game, demeaning it. Similarly teasing are the epithet “runes [Q rough windowes] of thine age” (3), plausible “runes of th’ neige [French ‘snow’],” and the variable pun “beauty’s S-sect ” (5). Too, the text accumulates doublets whose elements “thrive together” as quiet analogies with the linked Sonnets/Runes: e.g., “sum…and make,” “Beauty’s effect with beauty,” “sire and child,” “gracious and kind,” “sweets and beauties,” and “truth and beauty.”

         A closely related motif is about linkage and separation: e.g., “sum”; “make” (i.e., mate); “excuse” (2), suggesting “leave”; “beauty’s effect with beauty”; “bereft” (5); “depart” (6); “Re[as]sembling...” (8); “presence” (10); “forsake” (12); “Against” (13); and “together” (14). A “vision” motif includes “windows,” “see” (3), “eyes” (7), “th’ eye” (pun 10), “resembling” (8), and “Look” (11).

           Other crafty plays add texture. Line 8 puns “reassembling fire and chill.” “Pre-sense” (10) plays against “Sense” (12). “Sewing” figures—in a knotty warp-and-woof—include “dot hem” (12); “my cameo, Lady X, cuff / sew thou” (2-3); “wear, barest, the new hat” (5); and “waist” (9). “Stormy gusts” (13) points back to the pun “th’ rough wind” (3).

          A coterie reference to the Earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesley, may lie in the pun “My Count shall sum and ma[t]e my old X-queues” (2)—i.e., “…add up and re-connect my time-honored acrostic lines.” Because “Wriothesley” itself (pronounced “Risley,” more or less) punned on “Rose-ly,” the word “bud” (1) plays on the name, as do all the “Rose/Rows” figures in Q. Subtextual letterstrings that pun on “W.H.”and “Rizzy” include u riestthy (1, cf. “you, Rizzy”); wh ennat u reca (4, cf. “W.H. innate, you, Rizzy”); and nhow ‘wh ennat,’ ure call, sthee to, beg one (4, cf. “Now [In ‘O’...] ‘W.H. innate,’ your call, ‘Southy’ too, Big One”). The phallic play “Be as thy [beasty] pee, Rizzy, inches gracious and kind” (10) is also in the line.

           Suggestive plays on “Anne/end” permeate 8-10. Amid this deeply buried Anne-wit, the pun “reassembling sire, Anne, child...” (8) depicts a reunited family in the poet’s own household. Underlying Set I is the biographical irony that Will himself has forsaken his own family duties and that his advice may be partly self-directed. The pun “S[ue] Hall, sum my count and make a mild excuse” ( 2) jokes about the poet’s “numbers game” and its “errors.” Lines 11-12 house puns on Will’s twins, Judith (“she, gaue t...,” cf. “...Judy”) and Hamnet (hem-s, cf. “Ham. S.”). The letterstring “gaue the more; / Since...” (11-12) encodes “Judy/Ham, arising, see...” and “Judy-Ham orison [prayer] see....” “Gone” (4) puns on “John” [son-in-law Hall?].

Sample Puns

          1) Witty, jaunty Annie on butt, bury Shakespeare thy cunt-end; bud cf. rose, “rows”; Witty knight, aye known. Be you débris, Shakespeare [=st]; Witty John, thy noun—“butt”—buries T.T., aye content
           1-2) thick Anne tend, S. Hall, Sue; thick Anne tends Hall, Sue...
           2) S. Hall, Sue, my cunt Anne, make [i.e., mate], my old excuse; my old X-queues
           3) Sue; Southy, the rune does oft hie [i.e., escape]
           3-4) S. Hall ’tis Eden honed; oft eye neige fall,’tis Eden
           4) Hen., O, W., Hen., nature calls thee “Top John”; to be John
           5) Bawdy is a sect witty, bawdy W., Harry, bare is (tee!)
           6) The new Hat., Cold Death, dusty household stayed apart; staid ape-art; cold death do eye, if thou, S. Hall, dost dip hard
           7) This Caesar do choose
           8) Our simple “I” inches higher, ends held (hell’d) and happy m’ odor (…oather); Anne dab (dip, dub), pay m’ oather
           9) Butt, bawdy ass, was Shakespeare, hating the world; hath cf. Hathaway
           9-11) you, Earl, Dane end, beast, high priest, in sighs gray show us Anne, dick in d’ loo
         10) Bess, thy presence is gracious and kind; Beasty presence eye, succor seize, Anne-kind; in seas gray, see joust unkind
         11) Loo-queue hums (hommes), Hebe fit in, daughter of He-Jove, the Moor; beast; Moor (phallic); daffy Judy hymn o’er
         11-12) beast-endowed, she gave the Moor his inches (we tease)…
         12) Sin (Sign) see of wet-ass Anne débuted; Ass, John, see sweetest end, début, just autumn of elves; sweet S. (ass), Anne
         12-13) Four f--k a gay Anne Shakespeare, th’ fit whore, my Jew-Shakespeare soft. When? Thursday
         14) Ashtaroth [Baal’s consort, fertility goddess] Anne, Beauty S. Hall, together thrive (…there I view); As truth and beauty fall, toga—there to here—I have; toga’d hard, hairy V; took Ed hard, hairy ewe

Acrostic Wit

          The acrostic codeline houses not only “W.S.” (and ST, the family name cipher) but also suggests Betty or “bitty” (code BTT), Elisa or Lisa (LSAA), and “baby” (BB). These converge to point toward hidden wit about Elizabeth Hall, Will’s granddaughter, born 21 February 1608.

          The string “TT” always suggests Thomas Thorpe, Will’s printing agent, whose name appears as “T.T.” on Q’s title and dedication pages.

         The downward acrostic
codeline—WSST BTT R BB LSA A—thus offers such potential readings as “Weest Betty, our baby lassie (Lisa), eye,” “Weest Betty, our baby Elisa, eye” (with variants “Wisest,” “West,” “Saint,” “bitty,” “Lisa,” and lassie”), and “W.S.’s ‘To be...” T[homas] T[horpe]—or baby—[wi]ll say aye.” Other potentialities varying similar themes include “Wise St. Betty, her babbles aye eye (her babble say; her ‘babel’ sigh),” “Wise St. Betty, our Baby Eliza (Lisa),” “‘Was Shakespeare bitter?’ be Babel-sigh,” “W.S.’s ‘To be…,’ T.T., our babble, say,” “Wise saint be T.T., our babble say aye,” “Wise St. T.T. ribald is aye,”and “W.S., ass tup, T.T. or baby lazy (…Eliza, Lisa).” “Trouble” and “treble/triple” are possible variants here.

          The upward reverse code—A AS L B BRT T BT SSW—may be read, e.g., “Aye ass’ll be bred t’ bite Sue [pictographic ‘asses’ teeth: SS VV],” “‘Aye, aye’s,’ liberty be t’ SSW,” “Asses’ liberty to bits [pur]sue,” and “Ass-lip arty (red) bit Sue.”

Proceed to Rune 12
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