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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 95
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Rune 94
Tenth lines, Sonnets 85-98 (Set VII)

                         Rune 94

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

     And to the most of praise add something more
     Which nightly gulls him with intelligence,
     Or me, to whom thou gav’st it, else mistaking
 4  For bending all my loving thoughts on thee.
     Thy sweet belovèd name no more shall dwell—
     When other petty griefs have done their spite—
     Richer than wealth, prouder than garments’ cost.
 8  Sense that my life on thy revolt doth lie,
     That in thy face sweet love should ever dwell,
     Though to itself it only live and die.
     Which for their habitation chose out thee,
12 If like a lamb he could his looks translate
     (But hope of orphans, and unfathered fruit),
      Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose!
     Glosses: 1) something more puns, “something ‘moor [i.e., dark]’,” e.g., this poem, the runic cycle; 2) gulls = dupes, gorges, pierces; him may point to praise in 1, suggesting hymn; 3) it = something more in 1, intelligence in 2; else mistaking = otherwise erring; 5) puns: Moor, “know morsel’d [ink]well”; 8) revolt = radical change, turnaround (echoing bending in 4); 9) sweet...dwell echoes sweet..dwell in 5; 11) Which for their habitation... = Whoever for his focus..., with their pointing to his looks in 12; 12) If...translate = If only...; 14) pun: rows (i.e., verses), with the line suggests rubrication in a ms. (see 2) and playing on Southampton’s family name, Wriothesley (pron. approx. “Rose-ley”).

     94. The Deeper Million, Something Moor

     Now let something more be added to my highest praise, something dark
     and provocative that nightly moderates praise with new information, red-lettering this hymn
     and prodding me. With this you’ve inspired me. Otherwise I might wrongly
  4 arc only my approving thoughts your way in these distorted rounds.
     Your sweet, beloved name shall live no more
     (after other petty annoyances have worked against you, too)
     in a state of consummate riches, fuller of pride than stately garments.
  8 Try to understand how my future rests on such a turnaround
     as would show love living eternally in your sweet face,
     love that, if kept back selfishly, will only live and die alone.
     Whoever can’t keep his eyes off you, who sees you as shelter and clothing—
12 if only such a one could look toward heaven like a lamb
     (a change of prospect likely only in orphans and unborn creatures)
     and, regaining innocence, no longer praise the blood red of the rose!


          Will’s puns on “moor” (1, 5) describe each and all of his darkly obscure poems while hinting at blackness in the muse’s character, symbolized by the “deep vermilion of the rose” (14). “Something more” also means “revolt” (8), a needed change of perspective (12), and an avowed desire to present a balanced “hymn” (2, pun) that will “praise” (1, 14) the friend (3-4), though not uncritically.

          In fact, the friend’s absence and disregard for the poet trigger a mildly vindictive tone, but Will sees himself as needing reform, too, and fated to go on praising bloody red rather than pure white. (Rune 93 closes on the same note.) An ending linepun here directs the muse and any runeplayer: “Unearth [p = th], raise the deeper million in the Rows”—restating “unfathered fruit” (13) and suggesting “...many hidden ideas in these lines.”

           The poem focuses on color—especially innocent white, blood red, “moor,” and “gules” (implying “redden” or “make golden”). The word “habitation” (11) links diverse imagery by meaning “living place” (see 5, 9, 10), garments or adornment (see 7, 9, 12), and “usual action or focus”: The idea that the poet is habituated to the unnamed muse is clear.

           Interlinked terms that generate a motif about writing itself include “praise” (1, 14); “intelligence” (2); the hint of rubrication—that is, red-letter ms. capitalization in the terms “gulls” and “vermilion”; the pun “failed well” (5); “iambus”; and “translate” (12). Q’s letterstring aLambehec ould (12) convincingly encodes both “Iambus.../Iambic” and “Alembic old,” in a line about “translation.” The alembic, a distilling device, figuratively suggests a means of “racking one’s brain to get ideas” (OED).

           The Rose, of course, is a traditional symbol for love and transcendency. “Rose” may also suggest the anus, as critic Eric Partridge—the expert on Shakespeare’s bawdry—has noted; here “rose” conveys hints of anal sex. Phallic humor starts with the puns “foamy thing moor” (1) and “in-tail-agent-see (” (2). “Thy revolt” (8) jokes about “turning around,” while wit about unproductive sex with sheep also obtrudes in lines 12-13, which play on the notion of “making sheep’s eyes.”

           Because “Rose” puns on Wriothesley (pronounced something like “Rose-ley”), the family name of the Earl of Southampton, Southy is likely a primary auditor here. (And see below in the closing paragraphs of commentary below.)

           The “Lambe” line (12) also seems to describe saccharine paintings of Christ, his eyes cast toward heaven. Line 13 seems to dismiss this “hope” as irrelevant, and 14 shows an “evil” preference that rejects Innocence. In a playful sacrilege, the friend replaces the Lamb as Will’s focus. Subtextual details that point to Christ as foil to the muse include “gulls him” (2), “spite” (6), costly garments (7), “revolt” (8), and “in thy face sweet love should ever dwell” (9). “His looks translate” (12) is a play on “His hooks” [l = I], the epithet “Zooks!” The conceit “your face outshines Christ’s” is a lyric commonplace.

           The poem encodes a pun about Will’s estate in Stratford, along with plays on the names of all three of Will’s children—Hamnet, Judith, and Susanna (Mrs. John Hall). The estate pun may show Will mulling over his quest for a family coat of arms: “...witty end-legend see, / our meadow, home to huge house, title is a mistake, in je/st...” (2-4). Puns on the children’s names are these: “Witch nightly gulls Ham’et [with w an upside-down m or in]...” (3); “Hermit, homme, thou Ju’ Shakespeare eyed, elf-miss...” (3), with, I deduce, ft = the conventional Shakespeare name cipher, an s “shaking” a spear-like t; and “Thy sweet beloved name and home [...homme], S. Hall, do well” (5), with concurrent variants that are bawdy and disparaging. Hamnet, the poet’s son, was long dead when Will prepared the Q ms. for publication.

           Plays on “Anne” occur handily, since every “And” or letter n allows one. Pejorative first-line wit, e.g., “Anne, toothy, moist (...muffed), aspera(s) ad something more (...m’ whore),” appears to have in mind the maxim per aspera ad astra, “through rough things [hardships] to the stars.” Part of the wit here is that “something moor [i.e., dark]” ironically replaces light-producing “stars” in the statement.

           Other representative letterstring puns in the codes of the verses include these: “...oft, peer, I seduce homme hating (...eating) m’ whore” (1); “46 end in Gaul, my love in ghetto” (4); “spider I see here, then 10...” (6-7); “Thou Giotto eyed, cell see, it wan (...see hell, Satan, Lyly, and I)” (10); and “Inner pair eye seated (...seeded), a pair ‘millioning’ the rows” (14), suggesting, first, Adam and Eve as human foreparents and, second, Q’s proliferating pair, the Sonnets/Runes.

           A convincing reference to Rabbett, one of the King James translators, lurks in 11 (code: rhabit), in contiguity with translate and a pun on Luke, encoded as looke (see 12). Possible plays here suggest a good-natured interrelationship between the two writers, Will and Rabbett: e.g., “Witch farty, I Rabbett aye shun, [&] cough out the ass, like alembic [i.e., a distillation device or still] old, his Luke 5 translate bawdy. Hope is our fantasy (fancy...) undone, satire at his root....” Or some such, with many variants. Concurrent in 12, e.g., is the slightly more obvious pun, “Eyes (As...; Ass...) like a Lamb, he could his Luke 5 translate bawdy....” Here Will as the experienced sorcerer foils Rabbett as the innocent. Depicting a “rabbit” as a Lambe enhances the wit, and having Lambe occur emphatically in a line coyly concernsed with biblical translation is apt.

           If lookes is a coterie reference to Luke 5 (with S= 5, conventionally), the specific content of that biblical chapter becomes relevant: The passage narrates various miracles of Christ, includes the dinner with Levi, and it closes with the parable admonishing listeners not to “put new wine in old bottles.” In light of these materials, the play on alembic old (code: aLambehec ould) becomes a pun on “old bottles,” with the closing image of “deep vermilion” in 14 fleshing out the allusion to wine.

           A variant aspect of the implicit interchange in the close here is Will’s offer to “help out” his translator friend—an in-grouper in the coterie—by suggesting innovative approaches to the process of rewriting Scripture. One version of the encoded comment goes this way: “Witch swarthy, I Rabbett aid, I own, cough out this: ‘Like iambic ought His Luke 5 translate, bawdy opus our fancy, and Donne satire add, as written or parsed, hid, a peer [i.e., one among the runic in-group] maligning the rows [i.e.,of the translated text]’ ”(11-14). The textual ending puns on eros, errors, and theories.

           Complicating this wit aimed at Rabbett is a concurrent play on Southampton’s pet name, Southy (encoded as se out thee), signalling such puns as “Southy is like a Lambe...” and “Southy is like alembic old, his looks translate beauty, hope of orphans, and unfathered fruit...” (11-13). The last two items seem topically relevant to details inSouthy's own life.

           One set of witty possibilities does not rule out others; but the Southy materials smack of the 1590s, while the Rabbett wit is necessarily ca. 1604-1609.

           My own guess, as a theory that might explain what Q now shows us, is that the earlier decade was the period of original composition, and that certain extant details were refined and refocused as Will prepared the ms. for publication in the years leading up to 1609. His alphabetic code was quite flexible, suggestive in its own right of hidden meanings, so a little tweaking here and there could make it “work” on many levels to appeal to many constituencies and suggest many concurrent possibilities.

           Future studies of the two visible sonnets that we know existed in the late 1590s—and that appeared in changed forms in 1609—might help answer some questions about the stages of composition of the Q ms. Our approach to those texts will need rethinking, now that we can conclude that Will consciously prepared his own ms. for publication, working on it jot-and-tittle with Thorpe’s collaboration in the printing process, envisioning it (in the great Renaissance tradition of writing sonnet cycles) as his magnum opus and ensuring before his own retirement that it got into print.

           The Rabbett wit may go far toward explaining how the much-discussed Shakespeare nameplay worked its way into Psalm 46—and toward convincing us that the nameplay is contrived rather than a product of happenstance.

Sample Puns

          1) off foamy thing, m’ whore; Anne toothy, most tough, th’ [p = th] heresy (th’ heir I see); End toothy, moist, ass-peers, add, foamy-thing Moor; oft, peer, I seduce homme eating m’ whore; eye sad foe “meating” m’ whore
          1-2) rouge nightly jewels him
          2) W.H. I see nightly; eagle (legal) shame within tale eye; Witch; knight, legal sham; nightly gulls S., Ham’t; end, hell, eye, gents
          2-3) legend see, our meadow, home to huge house, title is a mistake; will Shem wait until legend’s o’er? eye, mewed in tail, agent’s ear—me, too; summitto
          3) O’er meaty “O,” W.H., omit who coughed; Shakespeare idol see, ms.’d (misty), aching; thou Ju. Shakespeare eyed, else mistaking
          3-4) kin-giver be ending Hall, mellow John [in]; O’er meaty “O,” vomit huge eye, vast eye tail, see miss taking fore-bent inch
          4) end in Gaul; dangle mellow in jet huge
          4-5) Auntie (Santé), thy sweet be laudanum no more; Four-bent-inch Hall, my loving thought-son thee, thy sweet beloved name no more S.Hall’d well; t’ son (sun; too soon), “Thetis” we’d bellow
          5) thy sweet face…shoulder’d well
          5-6) raveled, we loon’d here pet, aye greasy, shaved, wan t’ Harry S.
          6) W., Hen, oather petty, greasy ass, half-donèd Harry, (hairy) ass pity
          6-7) spider I see here; nadir of pity reach; W.H., another pet, tigress is (Tigris eyes), half-donèd Harry’s patter I see, hear; t’ Hen. W., health!; th’ air of piety, richer than wealth…; asses half-donate Harry-spit, richer than wealth
          7) Rich or thin wealth, th’ Row D erred in German; “Injure men,” tease coughed; prow dirty neger, mend his cuff
          7-8) coughed ass in sated Mylesian there
          8) John “seeded” my Livy, Auntie revolted; Sensed Hat. my leaf…
          8-9) owe the Lady Hat. in thy face; O Lady Othella/Othelli [sic] the Dante (that Auntie) says is witty
          9) ten this ass feudal owe; lo, you shoulder duel; T’ Hat.: In this ice, sweet love, fooled ever, dwell [cf. Dante’s Inferno]; The dentiste I see sweet loaves hold
        10) Thou Giotto eyed, cell see, it wan; viand eye; Hugh taught of hell-site; thou [Anne, cf. 9] taught of hell-site
        10-11) wan Lyly vanity watch for
        11) Witch farty I raped; shun sea, Ho! Southy
        11-12) Southy is like alembic old: his looks translate; chase out thief like a lame bee; I rabbit aye shun, see hoof out the ass, like a lamb pickled
        12) Eye slick iambus old, his Luke 5 translate; Eye-flick eye, Iambus old, high, slow, kissed runes
        12-13) keys to runes late be
        13) you tup “O” sore, fan (“fin”) ass handy, unfathered ass root
        13-14) Herod’s route know, reprise, the deep vermilion [i.e., bloody]; sir, you aye tenor praised
        14) Inner, peer, aye, I set heady pair, “millioning” the rows [cf. Adam and Eve, Sonnets and Runes]; Nor pear I see; enter O, see; lion in th’ Row F (rough); the heady peer-mill I own in the rows; eye fetid pure (peer-)hymn

Acrostic Wit

          The emphatic lefthand acrostic code—A WOF TWR ST TW I BN—suggests such decodings as “A wolf [cf. Rune 93.12] tore Shakespeare [= the name cipher ST], two I be; end,” “A wolf tore Shakespeare t’ ribbon [tongue-tied]!” “A woe-fit were Shakespeare’d whippin’,” “A woe-fit were Shakespeare’d web-end,” “O woved worst webbing,” “A woof [i.e., woven cloth, with warp-and-woof a runic metaphor] to arse, T.T. wiping,” “A wolf—two-arsed, too—eye eaten [B=8],” “A wolf it were, stew I be in,” “A woved worst[ed] t’ wipe Anne,” “A Wolf it were, Shakespeare [= ST = ft, the name cipher] to whiten [B=8], ”and “Aloft ’twere ass, T.T. wiping.” The codestring WIBN also suggests weapon.

          The reverse (upward) codeline—NB IW TT SR WT FOW A—suggests, e.g., “N.B.: You, T.T., sir, witty foe eye,” “In Betty is rude flower [baby-talk],” “In beauty is our wit for aye,” “Night [B=8] eye, wit’s rude foe eye,” “Nate [the boy actor?] you’d tease or wet (...whet) for aye,” “N.B. Aye witty, sir, Witty Sue eye,” and “Anne, bawdy ass, our wit’s [F=S] away,” with a nameplay on “Hathaway” suggested by N...OWA, i.e., “Anne...away.” Likely conclusions are that T.T. is Thomas Thorpe, Will’s printer, and Sue is Susanna, Will’s daughter. Betty may be Elizabeth, her daughter and the poet’s granddaughter.

Proceed to Rune 95
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