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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 14
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Rune 13:
Thirteenth lines, Set I (Sonnets 1-14)

                          Rune 13

     Pity the world, or else this glutton be!
     This were to be new made when thou art old
     But if thou live. Remembered not to be,
 4  Thy unused beauty must be tombed with thee,
     But flowers distilled, though they with winter meet.
     Be not self-willed (for thou art much too fair),
     So thou—thyself outgoing in thy noon,
 8  Whose speechless song (being many, seeming one)
     No love toward others in that bosom sits—
     Make thee another self for love of me!
     She carved thee for her seal, and mint thereby,
12 And nothing ’gainst Time’s scythe can make defense.
     O none but unthrifts, dear my love, you know,
     Or else of thee this I prognosticate.
2) This (ambig.) = this choice, this dismembered poem cycle; 3, 5) But = Only, and is an automatic pun, e.g., on beauty, bawdy, body, butt, bud; 11) She (ambig.) points toward Time (see 12); 14) this (ambig.) = an optimistic future (see 10), your death (see 12), the company you keep (see 13), and/or the poem’s whole statement.

     13. “To be…” New Made

     Take some thought of the world, or go on selfishly as you are.
     The decision (and these writings) can be resurrected for reconsideration when you are old
     only if you live to be old. Remembered as one who died early, destined to be forgotten,
  4 your hoarded beauty must be buried (as it is here) with you,
     nothing more or less than the essence of flowers, frozen by winter’s cold.
     Don’t be self-willed or intentionally wild (for you are much too handsome and fair-minded)
     with the result that you—dying at your zenith,
  8 your many-voiced but harmonious melody a swan song—
     can fit no love for others in your heart:
     Out of your love for me, make another self for yourself!
     Time cut you out to be her engraving seal, her mint for new coinage,
12 and nothing can hold its own against time’s knife.
     O, my dear love, you know only profligates.
     Otherwise I’d be on firmer ground in these predictions about you.


          The friend whom Will addresses (and chides) hears two sets of options: To live to be old or die now, to reform or go on living selfishly. Typically in Set I, the argument for change suggests procreation, particularly in the figures of 11-12. Here Time is the fatal “carver” that has decreed the auditor’s final “cutting down” but has also “embossed” him (or her?) with beauty and made him responsible for “minting” new copies of himself, a source of fabrication and invention. Two similar phrases assert the central theme: “to be new made” (2) and “Make thee another self” (10)—with diverting puns on “maid” and “Make” (a Renaissance pun on “mate”).

           The pun “‘To be’ new made...” may hint that Hamlet’s speech (ca. 1600) was already an “old saw.” “‘Pitty’ the World (cf. The Globe)” is another “theatrical” pun. (The “pit” was where the “groundlings” stood.) “Rehearsal” is a letterstring pun buried in Q11 (...r her seale...).

           Two “or else’s” (1, 14) frame the text with implied threats. “Be not self-willed” (6), a pun on “Will,” warns, “You can’t be your own heir” and “Don’t try to play Will’s role.”

           One way to read the rune is to imagine that Will addresses his own Q texts (and thus himself): Q’s “self-Will’d, unused beauty” is non-reproductive, needing to be “re-membered” (that is, reconstituted). It’s always in bad company, and finally “tomed.” Now, at last, after 400 years, these old texts are being “new made,” as line 2 hopes. But from the poet’s viewpoint ca. 1600-09 they are surely “unthrifty.” The last line jokes, “I’m just making up the prediction that somebody will reconstitute you.” Other details that allude to the Q texts include a “re-membered knot-to-be” (3); “flowers [slurs, inky ‘flow-ers’]” (5); “speechless song—being many, seeming one [wan, gone]” (8); and “copies” reproducing beauty (11). “Sits” (9) puns on “fits” (i.e., stanzas) and maybe on “sets” (of poems). Will’s jab at the listener’s buddies (13) may mean, jokingly, that he’s wasting his time hanging out with the Runes.

           Such criticism also makes a point that recurs in Q—that the friend moves in a dissolute social set. The poet wants ideal behavior and, in an unflattering catalog lists the friend’s flaws: He cares for nobody (9); sings nobody’s praises (8-9); is gluttonous(1) and “self-willed” (6); has improvident friends, including Will himself (13); is defenseless again time (cf. “meter”), his powerful antagonist (5, 11-12), but doesn’t submit gracefully to the uses that time requires of him; and may burn himself out (3, 7). Still, he is “dear my love” (13), one “much too fair” (6) to act as he does.

           Word and image patterns add texture. The motif of gluttony (1) triggers “She carved thee” (11) and the scene of a fat man at lunch—“outgoing in thy noon” (7)—in whose “bosom” there’s little room for anything else to “fit/sit” (9). “Make…another self” (10) puns on “double your weight” and/or “slim down,” and other puns about food litter the text: “mint” (11), “thigh’s glutton,” “beets were red” (1-2), “bean” (2, 6), “new made” (2), “flours distilled,” “tear meat” (5), “much too sour” (6), “suet-jawing” (7), “oral,” “fatty,” and “heady sip” (14). Other witty clusters highlight economics, music, and sewing. Conventional figures for aging show us flowers, winter, and time (4-5, 11-12). Sexual puns hide in “self-Willed” (6), “no-thing” (12), and the common words “I,” “none,” “meet,” and “but.” Routine plays on “Anne” (esp. in 12) and “oathers” (see, e.g., 12, 9-10) recur. (An “oather,” I deduce, is a peer in the brotherhood, wittily “pledged.”)

           Endword are echoic (e.g., be / be /thee / meet / me and noon / one), and the mid-line pairs distilled / self-willed (5-6) and others / another (9-10) seem calculated. Self recurs (6, 7, 10).

           Vague pronouns add gamy ambiguity. “This” in 2 can mean “This choice” and/or “This dismembered poem cycle,” while “this” in 14 suggests “an optimistic future” (cf. 10), “your death” (cf. 12), “the company you keep” (cf. 13), and/or the poem’s whole statement. “She” (11) points toward “Time” (12). “But” (3, 5) denotes “Only.”

           Sample throwaway puns are “My Cathay [China] aye note here, sail see, so real...” (10) and “Thetis I prow” (14). “Times” (12) puns on “Tommy’s” and may be aimed at Thomas Thorpe, Will’s printing agent. “Else” (see 1, 6, 7, 10, 14) puns on “elf.” (See other puns below.)

Sample Puns

          1-2) Pity you, Earl d’Or, El Southy is glued on Betty; “Pit-ty” the World [cf. The Globe], oriel see, this glued-on bit high is; This glutton Betty, swear; Bede, I swear
           2) Thighs were tupping you, maid W.H.; Thy sewer Anne [et]-“O” be; we hear “To be…” new-made, window-art old; windy Howard old
           2-3) W., Hen, t’ Howard owe lad-butt; Thy Sue-ear (pudendal) to be new-made when towered Hall débuted “I”; W.H. in Tower told beauties t’ howl
           3) Beauty-fit [stanza], howl, aver, a “membered” knot-to-be…; knot
           4) muffed; “tomed” witty
           5) flowers slurs; flow-ers [flowing lines]; winter meat (phallic)
           6) Be knot self-Will’d; Be knots elf-Will’d; be not cells wild [cf. flowers (5)]; Bean, aught, cell fueled, fart (self, you let fart); self-willed soared Howard, much too far (…of air)
           7) Southy, thy cell see; O, you’d go, engine; suet-jawing Anne, thin one
           8) W.H., O, seize pee chilly, see, son, cheap inch, many see m’ inch wan; see m’ engine; m’ Annie S. (…see m’ John gone)
           8-9) See man, John an “O” loved (in “O” lowed)
           9) No love t’ Howard oather scented; other [oather-]sin; fits stanzas; boatswain
        10) Ma[t]e, th’ Anne, other self, furloughs [OED sb. 1625] me
        10-11) Ma[t]e, the Anne—other self (oather’s hell), for love of me she cared
        12) Anne No-thing, gay Anne Shakespeare…see Anne, make; Thomases, eye Thick Anne, Make, Deaf Anne see
        12-13) Scene 1, Button th’ Rift, Ass
        13) “O,” nun-butt, V-end, her ass ’tis, “dermal ‘O’”; fit [stanza] sadder; in there I sit, sadder—my loo, you know
        14) O, reel, cease; Oriel [window] see of Thetis… (cf. 1); eye prow, Gnostic 8 [inches?]; “I”-prow Gnostic ate; I prow knave, tease 8 (to sate); Thetis eyebrow (highbrow) Gnostic ate

Acrostic Wit

          The downward acrostic letterstring code—PT BT BB SW N M SAOO—suggests, e.g., “Pity Betty, baby’s whine miss I, O,” “Pity Betty, Baby [&] Sue in ms. eye, OO [= eyes],” “Peed bitty baby’s wen, m’ Sue,” “Pee tipped baby’s wen messy [sigh]),” “Pity bitty baby Sue; Anne, m’ sow,” “Pity Betty: Baby saw Ann, my sow!” and “Pity bitty baby, Sue, Anne, Messiah.”

          Forms of “pit,” “To be,” Swan (the theatre?), and Sue make the letterstring intriguing.

          The upward codeOOASM N WS BB TBTP—encodes such potentialities as “Awesome Anne; W.S., baby-tipped pee,” “OO [= Ogle] ass, men, W.S.—baby t’ be tupped,” “Ogle ass, men…,” “Wise man W.S., baby ‘To be’ to be,” and “Why is m’ Anne wise baby t’ beat, pay?”

          The paired “eyes,” oglers encoded as OO (and next to SA, suggesting “see”) seem to recur as conventional pictographic wit in Will’s scheme, paralleling the playful pattern in Augenmusik, where whole notes function similarly.

Proceed to Rune 14
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