Link: Rune 1 as an Easy Sample Text
Future link: The Runes as Gameboard Texts

Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets
           

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        

             

Click on a link below to see the text in paste-up, edited, and paraphrased forms, with sample puns and acrostic wit.
Rune 1
Rune 2
Rune 3
Rune 4
Rune 5
Rune 6
Rune 7
Rune 8
Rune 9
Rune 10
Rune 11
Rune 12
Rune 13
Rune 14

 
         Available here are Runes 1-14, each synoptically arranged in paste-up, edited, and paraphrased forms,
with my editorial comments and with editorial samples of puns in the lines and of gamy potential meanings that lie hidden in the emphatic acrostic codelines.

           Rune 1 emerges when you read “across” the set spread shown below so that you link up the sequence of 14 first lines. The other runes in the set emerge similarly: For example, Rune 2 is the sequence of second lines in the 14 visible sonnets shown below, Rune 3 is the sequence of third lines, and so on through Rune 14.

           Clicking on a rune number in one of the boxes above (Runes 1-14) will allow you to read and study an individual text carefully, comparing its edited form to the actual details of the Quarto lines and to my editorial paraphrase. All editorial materials represent carefully considered but necessarily incomplete approaches to the riddlic, gamelike texts hidden in Q.


Notes on Set I (Sonnets 1-14): “Marriage and Increase”

          Though scholars have often stressed the thematic unity in Sonnets 1-17 or 1-18 (see Ramsey 6), Kenneth Muir, Hilton Landry, and C. Knox Pooler have all concluded—without knowing about Q’s 11 lost sets—that Sonnets 1-14 form a thematic group. Pooler has suggested that Sonnet 15 is the first to treat the theme of immortalizing the poet’s friend through art. Muir finds consistency in the first 17 sonnets but notes that “in the last three…there is a change” as the theme of immortality through “the permanence of great poetry” takes over and that of encouragement to marry fades (Muir 45; Landry 144, crediting Pooler’s Arden edition).

          Necessarily, the general content of the sonnets in a set determines that of the sibling runes—and vice versa. Set I deserves the editorial title “Marriage and Increase” since, however varied, its runes and sonnets all encourage union and procreation. Set I houses no blockbuster sonnets—not one that has gained a wide readership or frequent anthology status.

          The set establishes patterns that the others follow. Each visible text is “a number,” and each sonnet follows an English rhyme scheme (abab cdcd efef gg) that precludes any rhyme scheme in the runes. (If the runes rhymed, Sonnets 1 and 3 would have the same scheme—as would Sonnets 2 and 4; 5 and 7; 6 and 8; 9 and 11; 10 and 12; 13 and 14—and the supply of end-words would be sphinctered down hopelessly.) Four sonnets of the 14—1, 3, 4, and 10—use be/thee or me/thee couplet rhymes, generating incidental abaa rhymes in Runes 13 and 14 and “switched” rhymes in the couplets of Sonnets 3 and 4 that pun on “witty be / be witty” and “to be / not to be.”)

          Set I also illustrates Q’s underlying “warp-and-woof” structure, rationalizing the “knottiness” of both sets of texts. Eugene Gant’s reference in Look Homeward, Angel to the “woven density” of the Sonnets shows Thomas Wolfe’s apt prescience (278). (Gant finally gives up on the Sonnets because they are so hard.) Paul Ramsey’s “web” of connectedness is another metaphor with the same drift (6ff.). What Elizabethans liked in their knot-gardens, they also liked in their poetry: intricate, interlocked designs. The Q texts are a covert reductio absurdum of this interest.

          Looking at Set I and imagining the poems penned on a folio-sized leaf, about 22 x 17 inches, in the near-minuscule hand of the More remnant (link: How Will Wrote the Runes) invites us to envision how the poet composed a given set. Writing the first sonnet of the set and the first lines of all 14 sonnets (generating Rune 1) would have imposed no unusual constraints, except that each line as Will composed it had to start another poem. These two texts, Sonnet 1 and Rune 1, laid out the formal and thematic dimensions of the set. As the poet successively added lines, “down” or “across,” the texture of his set thickened and his choices grew more complex. Still, when he wrote any given line, his problem was to advance the sense and wit of two texts concurrently, not 28. Perhaps the poet roughed in all the lines for the set on a single folio leaf and then refined the texts on separate leaves, jot-and-tittle, so they could bear more punning freight. In any case, the process was exacting and tedious.

          Set I also shows how each of the 14 visible sonnets in a set parallels one line of a sonnet text, and how the 4-4-4-2 pattern of the leaf parallels three quatrains and a couplet. Q shows the sonnet couplets indented, and my restoration of the sets follows suit, generating the symmetry that the poet surely aimed at, a set arrangement that allows the two pages to mirror each other. Notably, the first mention of mirrors in Q—“Look in thy glass…” (Sonnet 3.1)—comes atop the righthand page just at the point where that page begins to “mirror” the other. All references in Q to mirrors are puns about the poet’s mirror-image set structure. (Sonnets and runes “mirror” each other, too.) In many other ways Q’s verses allude coyly to its architecture. If the poet meant all along to suppress the runes at the printing stage—or was resigned to their loss—then surely such references are clues, dropped to help us restore his lost magnum opus in the very way they have proven to do.

          Similarly all the figures in the Q lines about numbers and “counting” start to mean more when we know that a structure of numbers underpins the cycle. Many hidden puns are thus about “relevant” numbers. In Set I, the poet’s content points to his form in Sonnet 1.14—the start of Rune 14—by punning “Two-eight…,” the 28 texts on the spread that he is “starting” to complete. More cryptically, the set’s terminal pun “…deux meaned 8”—i.e., “2 stood as a ‘mean[s?]’ for 8”—reiterates the other one, the one that triggered our search for such obscure wit.

          Other game elements on the set spreads are starlike acrostic links of texts and of emphatic letters. While Will encoded AVON so that it appears only when Rune 1 gets recomposed, other alignments stand in file only on the visible spread. Reading “up” in Set I, e.g., reveals the emphatic first-line acrostics OFT and ALL. Reading down and left to right, a 14-element codestring teases us: FT I V[V]T FOLL AN V M VV (encoding, e.g., “Fit [Stanza] eye, wit, follow new hymn. [signed] W.,” “Fit eye, witty fellow…,” “Of twat-folly, Ann, you mew [whine],” and “Half-taught fool Anne you mew [coop up].” The reverse codeline reads VVM V NA LLOFT [V]VIT F (encoding, e.g., “Wm. you know, a lofty Wit, forte (F = S?)” and “Wm. you nail aloft—W., aye tough.” Other variant codelines inhere in each set—up-and-downs, side-to-sides, zig-zags.

          Finally, new strings of meaning emerge in the sets because two patterns of linearity are always at work in Q, and because whole texts can behave in the sets like lines—and, in the whole structure, like syllables. In each set, for example, the last two texts look (and may act) like a “couplet” to the whole unit (see, e.g., Sets III, XI). Too, the content of any given poem, sonnet or rune, triggers 14 side-effect patterns. Thus the progression of ideas in any rune—often replete with octave-, sestet-, quatrain-, and couplet-like turns—roughly parallels the progression of the other runes in the set, with modulations, dramatic high points, and turns of thought acting like shared property. Imagine fourteen cars driving on parallel roads in the same direction through fourteen varied regions.

           The miracle, of course, is that each report of the trip, as any Q text records it, shows such a vividly particularized view of what’s out the window. The modulations of “sonnet logic” in the apparent texts do allow wide variations of substance in the runes. And a single striking image from any one sonnet can sometimes seem to give a rune its defining character, its main conceit.

             

Click on a link below to see the text in paste-up, edited, and paraphrased forms, with sample puns and acrostic wit.
Rune 1
Rune 2
Rune 3
Rune 4
Rune 5
Rune 6
Rune 7
Rune 8
Rune 9
Rune 10
Rune 11
Rune 12
Rune 13
Rune 14

Link: Rune 1 as an Easy Sample Text
Future link: The Runes as Gameboard Texts

Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets