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

Proceed to Rune 94
Return to the Index of Set VII

Rune 93
Ninth lines, Sonnets 85-98 (Set VII)

                         Rune 93

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

     Hearing you praised, I say, “’Tis so, ’tis true!”
     He—nor that affable familiar ghost—
     Thyself thou gav’st, thy own worth then not knowing,
And I by this, Will, be a gainer too.
     Be absent from thy walks and in my tongue;
     If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last.
     Thy love is bitter, then high birth, to me:
Thou canst not vex me with inconstant mind.
     But heaven in thy creation did decree,
     “The summer’s flower is to the summer sweet.”
     Oh, what a mansion have those vices got!
12 How many lambs might the stern wolf betray,
     Yet this abundant issue seemed to me,
     Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white.
     Glosses: 2) nor = not; 10) puns: summer = “adder,” “numbers man,” metricist; flower = flow-er, inker, writer; 11) mansion suggests a handsome facade; 12) How many = Whatever number of; lambs puns on “iambus” (an iamb); 13) this = this slaughter; abundant issue reiterates high birth in 7; seemed to me puns, “seamèd [i.e., sewn, having hidden veins] tome.”

    93. Abundant Issue

     I concur repeatedly and profusely when I hear people praise you.
     That man—not the hackneyed, soft-spoken apparition people fancy—
     who is you yourself is the one you gave me, at a time before you knew your own worth;
  4 and I, Will, have gained from that action of yours.
     Leave the usual paths of your everyday life, and be on my lips instead;
     if you intend to leave me, at least do not put me last in your priorities.
     Sometimes your love is bitter on my lips, and sometimes ennobling, inspiring creativity.
  8 Your unfaithfulness and unpredictability can’t perturb me or make me inconstant.
     In your making, however, I admit that heaven decreed
     the summer flower to serve only its season. (You are sweet to this “adder” in the garden.)
     O, how large and handsome a structure houses your vices!
12 However many lambs (or iambs) the unempathic wolf may dupe,
     such slaughter has seemed abundantly fruitful, a prolific topic, to me,
     nor have I ever been dazzled by the lily-white options—ghosts, lambs, untainted purity.


         This topical welter—praise, ghosts, walks, bitterness, “high birth,” summer, a mansion, wolves and lambs, a lily—seems to reproduce in imitative fashion the “abundant issue” and “high birth” that Will mentions in his “creation” (see 7, 9, 13). Thematically, though, the rune aims toward coherence as a defense of the friend’s “inconstancy” (8), which the mixed figures also objectify. As usual, the conceits are themselves intricately interwebbed. Discerning their coy linkages, one of the reader/player’s pleasant challenges, allows a privileged introit into Will’s mind.

           Itself a piece of “spoken” praise, the poem embeds a witty cluster of images that concern themselves with speech and oral activity. Such details and puns include these: “Hearing you praised, I say…” (1); “affable” (2), with its root meaning “easily spoken to”; “jawest” (in “ghost” [2] and “gau’st” [3]); “gnawing” (3); “thy swill” (4); “Be…in my tongue” (5) and “Thy loaf is bitter” (7); “vex” (8), implying cessation of peace and quiet (OED) with talk; “heaven…did decree” (9); “sweet” (10); “betray” (12), an “oral” term because it means eating the lambs; and “abundant issue” (13) as “verbal fluency.”

           Secondly, the poem clusters images that describe the addressed muse, who has “worth” and once “gave himself” to Will (3-4). Details suggesting that he is a handsome, leisured nobleman include “thy walks” (5), “high birth” (7), “to the summer sweet” (10), and “what a mansion!” (11); the muse compares favorably with the “lily’s white” (14). But other details sketch the friend’s negative traits: e.g., “thou…leave me” (6) and “Thy love is bitter” (7). The friend is absent (5), of “inconstant mind” (8), self-centered (10), a “mansion” full of “vices” (11), and a “stern wolf” that betrays lambs (12). Thus irony tempers the poet’s agreement with the muse’s admirers (1), and an idealized view of him is illusory (2). Nonetheless, the friend’s perverse mix inspire verses (13) and finally seems preferable to that purer beauty that a white lily symbolizes (14).

           Indeed, the motif of whiteness gives the poem a third strain of coherence—“ghost” (2), “lambs” (12), lilies (14). Wittily, “in my tongue” (5) suggests thrush (see OED) and the “mansion” (11) seems a kind of “whited sepulcher.” “Thyself, thou ghost…” (3) translates, “You’re sickly, pale, or dead.” A “summer’s flower” (10) might be white, and the “leaf, m’ last” (6) might be a blank end page in Q.

           Routine phallic innuendo includes, e.g., “The foamer’s ‘flow-er’ is to the foamer sweet (...sweaty).” More interestingly, a set of contrived plays about “feet” include “walks,” “tongue” (which a shoe has), “last” (5-6), “goest” (2, 3), “’tis foot, is true” (1), and “iambs” (12).

           Vaguely biblical diction triggered by the line about heaven and creation (9) includes “thyself thou gavest,” “mansion,” “Lambs,” “bitter,” “abundant,” and “Lillies.” Sacrilegiously, the “affable familiar ghost” (2) is Christ, and the “bitter, thin, High Birth tome” (7) is the Bible. Line 11 echoes “In my Father’s house are many mansions” (St. John 14: 2). Line 1 puns, “Isaiah, ‘tis so, ‘tis true.”

           Incidental puns include “...foe, taste rune earthy, tough; a bluff A.M. ill eye” (1-2); “Ju[dith?] Shakespeare,” with ft the conventional family name cipher (a pictographic S “shaking” a spear-like t) in gau’st (3); “Few eye(s) see Giotto, women yell a hymn, B.S.” (11-12); “Hominy, lamb is maggoty” and “Who? M’ Annie...” (12); “hiatus” (Yet this, 13); and “Nor did I wonder at the alias Wyatt” (14).

Sample Puns

          1) Here in Jew, peer eyes Daisy, ’tis sod’s t’ rue; sod I strew; peer, I said, eyes fetus; Harry, injure Paris, defeat his foe; Paris dies, hiatus is odd
          1-2) taste rune earthy, tough, a bluff, A.M. ill; Southy’s t’ rune o’er that…ghost; Southy’s t’ rue North, a tough, able, familiar Joe
          2) Hen or th’ taffy eye; ass able, familiar, goest
          2-3) bless Emilia, Argus, T.T.
          3) Ju. Shakespere; you North then not (Northern knot) knowing; see togas, T.T.
          3-4) Owen warred at (worded, warded) henna’d kin, Owen gained aye by this; not knowing Anne, diabetes will be a gainer
          4) Anne, die, by this Will be a gainer; Willobie again heard, O; diabetes will be again heard
          4-5) “To be,” absent from thy walks and enemy tongue; eye swill-beginner to baby
          5) kiss Anne, Dane, a mite own; Babe-scent formed you all; Anne-din, my tone Jew’s t’ howl ill [the line suggests fallatio]
          5-6) kiss Anne, dine, my tongue is to haul tea (is too halty); maiden Jews howl to leave me; in midden, Jews thou will till
          6) If thou will till Eve, meadow note; howled Levi, “Maiden ought leave”
          6-7) do not leave mellow fit [i.e., stanza] to Heloise
          7) Thy loaf is bitter, thin; Thy love is better than Hubert (Herbert); berth; Th’ yellowest bait, tartan eye; eye Bardy tome
          7-8) bitter the neighbor that owe me th’ house, Anne’s tenant
          8) Thou see Anne Shakespeare, an oat, vex me with inconstant mind; O, Duke’s mewed (mute), Hen see unfit tend my end
          8-9) witty in cunt stand men, debuting; debuted evening, this red (rite) I own
          9) this ready “O’ indites
          9-10) butt-heavy 9 [inches], thy creation, died, decorate his O, homme-arse is lower; indict greedy ass
        10) This homme Mersey’s lore eyes, too
        10-11) few twat eye; fool Orestes immerses widow; slower; slur; lower his toothy, foamy arse, we eat O; wee twat, a man’s, eye, O knave, thou see Vice’s God
        10-12) if we taught a man Sinai, Athos, Wise God, how many lambs (iambs) might the Stern Wolf betray (batter aye)?
        11-12) I seize Giotto, women yell a hymn; Hath-“O” see, vice has got home, Annie
        12) lay, my best, mighty is; O, how m’ Annie-iambus might the stern Wolsey betray; Bess, mite; iambus’ mighty woe-leaf
        12-13) trade this, a bound Dante issue, seamed tome
        13-14) two men are dead; amid (emit) ptomaine whore died (did; hoarded); Dido mean or Dido endeared
        14) North eyed; In her did I, wand, err; aye T.T.’ll eye ally S., W.H., “I’d”; Anne or Dido endeared the lilies’ white (lily sweet); eye T.T., hell ill, eye Swede; he, Lyly, is sweet; radial ill eye; in th’ rattle ill lies Waite (wight, Wyatt)

Acrostic Wit

          The downward emphatic acrostic code—HHT A BITT BTOHYN—suggests such decodings as “Hid, a bitty debate own [i.e., recognize],” “Yet abide B-tone,” “Hid aye, Betty be toying,” “Haughty be aye T.T. [i.e., Thomas Thorpe, Will’s printing agent], bidden,” “Haughty bee, eye titty bitten,” “Hit (Hid,...) a bitty Bedouin.” and “Letters [H = pictographic “ladder”] t’ abbot be twain.”

           With B= phonic 8, the codestring BTOHYN suggests “Eton/Eden/eaten” and the entire code, “Haughty bed, Eden” and “Hittite eyed Bedouin.”

          The reverse (upward) codestring—NYHOT BTTI BATHH—suggests, e.g., “Knight, Betty bathe,” “Nigh, hot, be ‘tidy’ bath,” “Knight be T.T., obeyed,” “Nighed Betty Bath,” “Nate ate T.T. [B=8], I ate 8,” “Aeneid [Book?] 8 T.T. obeyed,” and “In Wyatt, 80 hated H’s (itches).”

           The fuller, “hairpin” codes (i.e., down/up and up/down) suggest still further encryptions.

Proceed to Rune 94
Return to the Index of Set VII
Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets