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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 VII, Runes 85-98: Texts and Comments
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2003, All Rights Reserved        

Proceed to Rune 89
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Rune 88
Fourth lines, Sonnets 85-98 (Set VII)

                          Rune 88

      (Fourth lines, Set VII: Sonnets 85-98)

     And, precious phrase (by all the muses filed,
     Making their tomb the womb wherein they grew),
     My bonds in thee are all determinate
And prove thee virtuous (though thou art forsworn),
     Against thy reasons making no defense.
     And do not drop in for an after-loss
     Some in their hawks and hounds, some in their horse—
For it depends upon that love of thine,
     Thy looks with me, thy heart in other place,
     Unmovèd, cold, and to temptation slow.
     O, in what sweets dost thou thy sins enclose!
Thou mak’st faults graces that to thee resort:
     What? Old December’s bareness everywhere?
     That heavy Saturn laughed, and leapt with him!
     Glosses: 1) ...phrase = the “sweet name” of the auditor (pun: Anne); 2) tomb puns on “tome”; 3) bonds = restrictions, covenants; 4) forsworn = perjured, repudiated; 6-7) the subject of do not drop in is Some; 8) it = the “after-loss” (see 6), suggesting a reception after a defeat; 14) Saturn is stereotypically sluggish.

     88. An After-Loss

     Now, my sweet epithet (honed and recorded by all the muses,
     insuring them postmortem vitality),
     you establish the limits of my husband-like commitment,
  4 which asserts your virtue even if you are false,
     not even trying to argue with you or to rationalize your actions.
     Now my after-party acknowledging defeat is not attended by
     any smart set of mounted hunters,
  8 for its tone is governed by your kind of love,
     your eyes on me but your heart elsewhere,
     unmoved, cold, and unresponsive.
     O, how you enclose your sins in such sweetness!
12 When faults come to you, you turn them into graces:
     Look! When old December’s bareness was all around,
     even the leaden Saturn laughed and frolicked with him at your party.


          The main conceit in this muse-directed apostrophe is an “after-loss” party following a defeat (3-5) that’s described in legal jargon, as if it were a court case in which Will came out the acquiescent loser. The friend’s behavior, both charming and cruelly cold, sets the character of this “party” (8-11), and the friend’s capacity for inspiring frivolity in unlikely settings (12-14) is an analog for the boisterous runes here inspired (see 1-2).

          Legalese is overt in “filed” (1), “bonds,” “determinate” (3), “prove thee virtuous,” “forsworn” (4), “reasons,” and “defense” (5).

           More covert are terms compatible with the “court” conceit—e.g., “loss,” “unmoved, cold [like a judge or jury],” “temptation,” and “to thee resort”—and legal puns including “summon” and “in oather place [suggesting a witness stand].”

           The opening lines suggest “marriage bonds” that require an absolute commitment—the poet as the husband, the friend as the mate who’s to be “proven virtuous” (4), is frigid (10), and can “makes graces” (12). Thus the “after-loss” is like a gloomy wedding reception, poorly attended (6-7). “Thy reasons” (5) is ironic, because the “wife” is not rational. Puns on “making” as “mating” (2, 5, 12, based on the Renaissance equivalency make = mate) and a play on “groomy bonds” reinforce the conceit, with “precious phrase” (1) suggesting “I do.” (Since Will’s own marriage to Anne may have been a shotgun affair, that party might well have seemed an “after-loss” to him.)

           Too, the rune puns about “filing off” the initial word, “And,” so that it becomes “An’” or “Anne”—in apposition to “precious phrase” (2) and “thee” (3). Puns such as “do not drop ‘n’” (6) expand the joke. (Editor Stephen Booth cites an earlier critic who has proposed that, in another context in Q, “And” puns on “Anne.”)

           I believe that a pun even occurs here on Fulke Sandell(s), the name of one of Anne and Will’s bondsmen (cited, e.g., in biographer Marchette Chute’s index)—as “My bond, sinthee [are]all determined Anne proud, virtuous…” (3-4). (Will seems to encode old Fulke’s family name without the “s.”) Here the “r” character that Rune 87.1 suggests be “reserved” is what interrupts the code form of Sandell: “…are….” No minimalist’s detail seems beyond Will’s range of manipulation or concern.

           The linked personifications “Muses” (1-2), “Graces” (12), “old December” (13), and “heavy Saturn” (14) give this rune an overtly allusive character. The image of two old males cavorting at an ironic wedding reception—one of them “bare,” one “heavy”—is ludicrous. The ostensible point is that the friend’s influence can turn faults into graces (12). What old December... (13) puns on “White...” (suggesting both snow and bare skin) and “Weighty...” to amplify the images and personifications of the closing scene.

           Line 2 refers implicitly to the Runes, which are “entombed” even in the act of being generated. Tomb puns on “tome.”

          Other puns include these: “Eying deeper, see, I owe [i.e., admit] you suffer: A feeble theme you see sealed” (1); “‘Anne, proud, heavy, righteous...,’ thought Howard of our ass-worn, aging sty: Our Avon ass-make [i.e., mate], engine odd is Anne. See?” (4-5); and “...look: Sue, aye timid, here to another place unmoved” (9-10). Recurring puns in Q depict Anne as overweight (plausible in light of her having been the mother of twins), pious, and otherwise unappealing. Line 1 here links her with a pun on “Pharisee” (in phrase). One pun in 3-4 seems to sound a playful directive, telling us to help the poet get out of his marriage vows: “My bonds end thee, a reality: Terminate Anne—proud, heavy, righteous, th’ Huge Turd forsworn...” (code: My bonds in thee a re all de terminate. / And prouet heevi rtuous, th ough thouart forsworne...). The next line continues, “Against thy reasons making no defense.” (In other words, “Don’t stop to examine your motives for getting rid of her for me.”)

           The pun in “deter mine 8 (...determine 8)” (3) points to the rune number, 88.

           The fact that Will links one half of his endwords by consonance gives the poem a crude approximation of rhyme: forsworn (4), defense (5), loss (6), horse (7), place (9), enclose (11), and resort (12). (A regular rhyme scheme was a technical impossibility in the Runes, given the concurrent demands of rhyme in the visible Sonnet cycle.)

Sample Puns

          1) Anne, precious phrase, bile-theme, you see; Anne/peer show is fairest: by Hall the muff is filled (…Tom’s ass filed); a feeble Tom you see; vial; And peer shows Pharisee bile; Aye in “dipper” see “I”; fairies built hymn, you see; theme you see shuffled
          1-2) Amos shoveled (shuffled) my King t’ hurt him; the muff is vile (sullied), dim, aching (tee!), hairy tomb be the womb wherein th’ “I” grew; the Muses’ sullied hymn; Muse assailed m’ king
          2) May-king [cf. 13-14]; My ache aye inched hairy tomb; the womb be weary integer (end t’ jeer); W., Harry, in the eye grave; end th’ edge, Eve; G-row; Tom, Bede you imbue herein
          2-3) The G-row may bond (my Beyond), send Harry a letter (ladder [i.e., vertical acrostic])
          3) Maybe “O” ends in the air, all determinate; awl; Ariel; a reel
          3-4) terminate Anne, proud, heavy, righteous, t[oo] huge; Hall did “ear” m’ Annie, Tanned, proud, heavy, arduous
          4) hit Howard forsworn (…force war in)
          4-5) sore is war, any age; Any age, Anne Shakespeare’d hairy ass own, ass making no defense; you jet Howard’s arse, war, neige eying
          5) a gay Anne fit theories on smacking in ode; reason’s making knotty sense; Again Shakespeare there eye, fon
          5-6) aching node offends Anne
          5-7) in scene, Dido note, dropping foreign ass t’ Earl of S.
          6) eying Dido, knot rope
          6-7) John, sore Annie S. tear, loathesome Anne; Anne, dough-knot, D-row pincer, an astral office; sore enough t’ realize
          7) Summoned Hero kiss and down; Sow men their hawks and hounds, sow men their horse; aye in downs, summoned Harry whores; raucous
          7-8) summoned, Harry, our favorite deepens/deep-ends—a pun t’ hate
          8) Fart deepens (a pun t’ Hat, lowest hiney)
          8-9) lusty hiney t’ heal, OO [a pictographic ogle], kiss
          9) Sue, eye timid, headier tenet (tenant) here; The Y [pictographic crotch] looks wide (white), meaty, hard in other place; hard aye an oather plays
          9-10) herbalist you name; here plays you name Ovid could end; her place…Ovid called “end”; in another play, see unmoved, cold Anne; Anne to tempt eye
        10-11) autumn partitions allow, own what’s witty; aye shun flow, O, Hen., W.H, aye ’tis wet, said O stowed high sins in seals
        11) O, eye new Hat.’s wit (…wet ass); eye nude ass; O, eye nude, sweet, sad Ovid, thou this incense (...innocence) love
        11-12) th’ haughty hyphens enclosed “home-ache”; this inn-sign (...ensign), close to home eye
        12) Thou, make [mate], Shakespeare faults Graces [cf. Muses, line 1] that to thee resort; Thou makest salts [i.e., tears] graces; re-fart; revert; coughed faults gray see; races thought to the River T[hames]
        12-13) hairy’s our twat old
        13) W.H. aye told [tallied] dick-members bare in ass everywhere; waddled; wattled dick, m’ bare ass, bareness everywhere; Baron, fever you hear; suffer you, Harry?
        13-14) rude, haughty vice eternal ought end; baring ass, you reared Hathaway-ass eternal, haughty Anne dull aye peed wit-hymn; end delay: ape, two eyed him; jet handily, pee, to item; peed wight, eye him; handily pituita (pituitary) hymn; Saturnalia

Acrostic Wit

          The downward acrosticAMMAAAS FT VOT WT—encodes, e.g., “A maze, fit [i.e., stanza]—what wit (...what vaunt)!”; “Eye hymn’s fit—what wit!”; “A.M. mass fit you, oat wet”; “Amos-fit, what wit!”; and “A maze of taut (...toad-)wit (...of tough ode-wit)”—with other bawdy possibilities including “...twat-wit” and “..twat wet.”

           As a numeric (or time/date) line, the code suggests such readings as “A.M., May 5 [S=5] of 202. Tee!” and “Is it 5 o[f] 2:00?” With T = 7, other potentialities are latent in the letterstring. The string TVOTWT can be read 2027: TV-0-TW-7.

          The up acrostic code—TWTOVTFSAAAMMA—suggests, e.g., “Taught oaf tough sum I,” with other, bawdier possibilities including “Too tough—toughest—am I” or “Too tough to fist am I.” The elements RTTVS and A MMAAAS in the codes of Runes 87 and 88 suggest “rites” and “a mass” (or Amos, the Old Testament book), so players who prefer hearing more pious inherencies can set off—on bended knee, if they choose—to ferret them out.

Proceed to Rune 89
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