general, as I’ve said, the first 14 visible Sonnets in
Shakepeares 1609 Quarto (the 14 that comprise Set I in Qs
scheme of numbers) encourage a handsome, unnamed male friend to marry
and increase. The group of lines that generates Rune 6all
the 6th lines in Set Ipredictably asserts a variant on the same
theme. Whether the friend the poet addresses is his patron
(the Earl of Southampton), his son-in-law (Dr. John Hall in Stratford),
or someone else, Will offers both serious advice and broadly
suggestive coterie wit aimed at an unknown readership.
the heart of this vivid poem is the conceit that the friend is
a fire at which people can warm themselves in winter. Without renewal
the fire will go out and warmers will be thrown back into a state suggestive
of primitive times before the advent of fire. The friend’s need
to sire progeny is again a main theme, though “leaving behind a
form” of him (9) can be effected, too, by the surrogate endeavor
of these texts. Thus the poet acts providentially for the improvident
friendwho, ironically, has remained a hot topic of scholarly discussion
but also nameless these four centuries. The poet chides the friend, but
many clues suggest that his dressing down is lighthearted, part of an
entertaining coterie game.
(3)which connects imagery about agriculture and economicsmeans
domestic economy (OED) but also denotes a husbands kind
of tillage. In fact, the poem is full of phallic innuendo,
housing an implied figure of a lighted knot or log (1; pun 10) that the
self-feeding fire of passion (maybe onanism) consumes. Besides bounteous
largess (4), other provocative terms include lusty (2),
tillage, husbandry (3), strong youth
(7), and even pointing (14). Will (6)always
a pun on the poets name in the Q linesitself suggests carnal
desire (OED 1603). The latent image of a bull covering his
herd from heat (12) is tangentially apt.
in the Sonnets, meanings often emerge in the Runes that are not
strictly syntactic or fully logical. Editor Stephen Booth, in his edition
of the Sonnets (Yale UP, 1977) has noted how a given sonnet may bring
together seemingly unrelated images. Now that we understand the overlaid
Sonnets/Runes linkage, we can see why and how such disconcerting mixes
have always occurred. Diction here is typically ambiguous, and “floating”
syntax lets some lines be statements or questions.
the friend-berating tone and comic bawdry, the picture in the last lines
is touching: Lonely, disappointed creatures leave the former refuge of
a dead fire to wander back out into the cold. A punning allusion to Eden
in without this foliage, Anne could [sic in Q] decay(11)
jokes about a figleaf (and hence cold) and links up with the
motif of creatures being driven out into a hard world for having wasted
a boon and failed at the tillage of
about Will and Anneand John and Sue Hallcrop up prolifically
in the gamy letterstrings of the Q lines. Plays on “husbandry,”
“married,” and “Willing” underscore the usual
“Anne” jokes.) Loosely related to husbandry as
agriculture, imagery about weather pervades the poem.
studied cluster of economic imagerygalvanized by the term
willing loan (6)includes substantial
(1); treasure (2); bounteous largess, given
and give (4, with an eyepun on Jew in Qs
giuen); left behind (9, implying a legacy); gainest
(10); and the such puns in determination (13) as debtor
men aye [
many] shun / debtor-men I shun.
The two triplet
series—folly, age, and cold decay in 11, thunder, rain,
and wind in 14—are formally echoic.
joke about the runegame, which is to some degree self-generating
and is ample, perverse, and interlinked.
Seedest Shakespeare (Seed fit), thy leg hits ass lame with self-substantial
if you be Shakespeare, Anne (tee! Auntie), eye Hall, Sue Hall, W., Harry—all
the treasure of thy loo-sty days (dies)
“W [= IN],” here (hear) “Hall,” that
reassures thy love
day is deaf t’ Anne S. that I lay, Jeez!
deaf t’ Anne, Southy, till a cheese; thy huss be Anne dry
O, you, Anne, show ass, large ass, given thee to give; largess
Judy O [= the round] hid…; to Judy “O” hideous
W. enter, Anne confounds him there
son-sound, is Ham[n]et here?
Will-inch glowing, / Resembling strong youth; those that paid you ill
eye in glow and erase ’em
in his middle age John [= In.] H. is middle age, / By union is married
ear (pudendal); deux, dieu
Th’ Anne, “eared” Hathaway in “O”
[rune] is whore misty—half tail, assed behind that gainest thy assy
gay Anne Shakespeare, this elf thou, Shakespeare eye; see kissed knot,
you, T.T., hiss, allege Anne dies old; foliage; Without this foliage [i.e.,
these leaves], Anne could (Q) decay
Anne dies old: Decay, witch, erased from heady diet
Anne, o’ piety hard
W.H. I see here, Shakespeare from head (form hid) did see Anne, O pity
her, descend no debtor ; “O” Peter dignified
my Anne aye shunned Henry, pointing to witch’s thunder, rain and
windy; reign Anne windy; “aegis’d”, you end a rune,
end to end; Pointing to aegis, the under-rune end windy
downward acrostic code—F WD TT WR BT TWW F P—suggests,
e.g., “Food, Rabbett, whiff—pee,” “Food to rabbit,
tough pea,” “If wood titty were bit, tough pay,” “Feud,
war bit—tough pay,” “Food, ’twer bitty, whiff
pee,” “Forward t’ war be two-wife fop,” and “If
wet (wed) titty were, butt, too, half up.” (The Rabbett jokes may
be pointed toward a member of the King James Bible committee of that name.)
upward code—P F W W TT BR WTT DWF—suggests
such potentialities as “Pee of witty brute deaf (…brute: Dive!),”
“Pee few, T.T. bare, wet, deaf (dove),” “Pee of W. wet
bare wedded (bare-witted) wife,” “Pee feud be rude to dwarf,”
“Pee feud brew, T.T. dive (dove),” and “Feud brooded
codeline’s P and TT suggest a urinary joke about Thomas Thorpe.
The letter P in a codeline may stand for thorn, archaic TH. The codeline
W’s always have pictographic potential—e.g., as fangs or dugs.
Numerous alphabetic symbols also may have meaning as Roman numerals. Fs
and Ps may possible be musical dynamic markings.