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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 98
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Rune 97
Thirteenth lines, Sonnets 85-98
(Set VII)

                         Rune 97

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

     Then others, for the breath of words, respect
     But when your countenance filed up his line;
     Thus have I had thee as a dream doth flatter.
 4  Such is my love, to thee I so belong,
     For thee, against myself, I’ll vow debate
     And other strains of woe which now seem woe,
     Wretchèd in this, alone, that thou mayst take
 8  But what’s so blessèd fair that fears no blot.
     How like Eve’s apple doth thy beauty grow!
     For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds.
     Take heed, dear heart, of this large privilege—
But do not so, I love thee in such sort!
     Or, if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer,
     Yet seemed it winter still, and you away.
     Glosses: 1) others puns on “oathers,” sworn coterie members; 2) But = Only; filed puns on “filled” and (as an eyepun) on “sallied,” “sailed,” and “sullied”; his points back to the breath of words (or of Words, the braggart soldier of Rune 96); 5) vow = commit myself to; 6) strains is a musical pun; 7) mayst take puns on “mistake”; 8) But = Only; 13) they (ambig.), punning on “th’ eye,” points to sweetest things (10) and breath of words (1) and thus suggests “poems”; so dull a cheer puns “subtle ache (...ass) here/hear,” with other variants.

      97. Eve’s Apple

     For all these airy sounds, then, people may pay attention
     only when your countenance has marched up the line of words like notes on a staff;
     in those cases I’ve embraced you the same way dreams create flattering illusions and false romantic hopes.
  4 My love is such, and I belong so completely to you, that
     I’ll commit myself to controvery—to taking your side of the argument, even against myself—
     and to the other forms of anxiety and pressure, and further sad strains, here woefully felt,
     wretched in this solitary activity, in order that you can select
  8 only what is so perfectly lovely as to be unmarred and unstained.
     Your beauty grows very much like Eve’s apple,
     for, in certain sequences of events, sweetest things turn sourest.
     Be wary, dear heart, about the various privileges of choice and change embodied here.
12 Then again, don’t worry. I love you completely, in all your variety.
     Even if these strains are songs to be heard—not apples to be tasted—they sing so gloomily
     that it might be said to seem now like winter, with you gone, apples out of season.


          With “Eve’s apple”—enticing and dangerous—as its central poetic figure, Rune 97 comments both on the flawed attractiveness of Will’s unnamed listener/muse and on Will’s imperfect embodiment of this allure. The poet’s tone is ambiguous. His praise of the muse’s “countenance” (2) is full of negative innuendo. His self-criticism feels conventional but, as usual, can be literally explained by the complexity of the Q project, which makes writing “good” verse hard.

          Though the main conceit seems sparsely developed, many sly details (often comic or ironic) allude to Eden. As something “thou mayst [not] take” (7), “Eve’s apple” (9) is both ”blessèd fair” (8) and a sweet thing turned sour (10). As a symbol of the “large privilege” of choice, a matter requiring that one “take heed” (11), this apple showed a “blot” (8) and “turn[ed] sourest” by prompting Original Sin (10). “Alone” (7) seems ironic because line 3 suggests an ideal Edenic connection, line 4 implies a committed “marriage,” “vow” (5) hints at a wedding oath, and “strains of woe” (6) even supplies the wedding music. “Your countenance filed up (...silly dupe) his line” (2, my emphasis) suggest’s Adam’s lineage, his sinful descendants. “Strains of woe” (6) also suggest transmitted sin—with a play on “defiled” in 2.

          Further, line 1 may admonish the listener, “Respect each other because you’ve said your vows”—with “the breath of words” implying Creation, the beginnings of speech, and Adam’s first system of nomenclature. Jokingly, “re-specked” (1) means “marred again.” “Strains” (6) echoes “stains”; and “dull” (13) is a foil to “shiny” (like an apple). Line 11 puns, “Eat dirt.”

           Also crafty are these puns: “your Count and Aunt’s [de]filed up his line” (2); “your cunten Aunt’s [de]filed up his line” (2); “Thus halve I Ad(this adder)am….” (3), with the puns “this add-err” (i.e., additional mistake) and the cider amplifying the wit; “stemmy cell see”; “ill vowed, Eve [code: Q eb] ate” (5); and “mistake” (7). “Winter” (see 13-14) contrasts with an implicit summer of “growth” and apples (9), while “strains” (6), “sourest” (10), “subtle a cheer” (13) and “winter still” (14) suggest cider-making. “Eve supple” puns both on her “growth” (9)—from ribby origins—and her gullibility. A “hiss line” (2) is what the serpent used on Eve.

           Other lexical links seem calculated. Initial words in 12-14 pun “butter y[e] et.” “Cherry ye et” occurs in 13-14. “You away” (14) contrasts with line 2, which implies presence. “Seemed it Windier still” (14) echoes “breath of words” (1). “Retch” means “bring up phlegm,” so the pun “W. retched in thy salon” (7) coyly links “Eve’s apple” (9) to Will’s own Adam’s apple.

           Diction beyond the obvious about the topic of writing also occurs, including such examples as “I had [i.e., embodied] thee” (3); “a terse, yucky simile to the eye foe be” (3-4); “strains [musical lines, types]” (6); “in this alone” (7, ironic in Q’s double scheme); “this large privilege” (11), a conceit for the cornucopic cycle(s); and “they [i.e., the poems] sing...” (13).

           Lines 13-14 encode a tedious joke about the interrelated letters Y, W, and U that may be rendered, “…subtle eye, see here / Y, & seemed it W in tears [i.e., torn in two] telling U, ‘A W eye’.”

           Other incidental puns, routine game elements in the Q verses, include these: “...a gay Anne S., Tommy see, aye silly, wood [i.e., crazy]...” (5-6), where “Tommy” may be Thomas Thorpe, Will’s printing agent; and “White see: M.D. eyed winter still and dour”(14), where “M.D.” may have Dr. John Hall, Will’s son-in-law, in mind.

           The closing letterstring elements and you away suggest “Anne doughy,” one of hundreds of suggestions in Q that Will’s wife was fat.

           A more complex play in 14 uses Y as a pictographic “seam,” a bodily crevice: “Y, Anne [= et = and] seam, died; W [a ‘double groin’] inter: ass, tail, Anne doughy.” Yet concurrently plays on “wide,” phonic Y + et. And and you away is a bifurcated play on “Anne [...] away.”

           With Yet = “Wyatt,” the name of theearly English sonneteer, the same code allows such a reading as “Wyatt seemed aye t’ whine tears...” (14).

Sample Puns

          1) Then, oather, suffer; forty bared hiss; swords respect; an odorous ass whored (oared)
          1-2) Thin; T’ Hen, oathers forty breathe off words “Harry S., pieced beauty, W., Henr…”
          2) W.H. in your cunt eye, Anne see filled up; W., Hen., your cunt aye none see, sealed up; dupe’s line; vassal eye
          2-3) will deux-piss line; filled you pizzle [penis] in th’ huss; you sh…i…t [Q s haue I had] thee a sad ream; you shitty ass…
          3) Th’ huss Have-I-had teased reamed “O,” this letter [...ladder, i.e., acrostic rune]
          3-4) terse you see his mellow V; a terse, huge simile to the eye foe be
          4) Suck a seamy love-tooth
          4-5) chase mild Ovid odious, oblong, farty, aging; Sue, cheese mellow, toothy aye, of “O” below, gave “O” earthy again; th’ eye’s odd, reamed oaths later suck, aye seamy, low
          5-6) Tommy see, aye silly, wood, abating; Forty “edge” Anne Shakespeare, Miss Hell-Vial, woody, beaten daughter: Shakespeare runes (reigns, rains “O” sewage)
          6) Anne-daughter veteran is of woe; In doughty rift our Annie is; woe suggests woman; woe-witch, an “O” wife (...whiff); W.H. itching; an O, seamy woe [cf. Eve’s apple, 9]
          6-7) W.H., eye China Sea, moored, see Eden; In O, ass, immure a touched John; in O see m’ wo-, wretched in this, awl wan
          7) wan thought; wretch, dentiste alienated thou mistake
          8) Be you twat, ass’s “O”, beloved of Harry—that S., Harry, is noble; ass desired Hat’s ears, now bloody; fear snow bloody
          8-9) low towel (dowel) eye; Harry S., know blood, howl, accuse applied oath; blow thou, (below, thou) lick Eve’s apple
          9) Will I cave supple; Holy cave supplied oath; thy bawdy G-row           
          9-10) Rover, sweet ass T.T., hangs, turns; Howl I cue, easy pealed (…supple, doughty, bawdy, gross or sweet)
        10) Forest weedy, Shakespeare things turn forest, bait hardy
        10-11) eye ready Adeste; Yet hear deed (Y’ et her dead) t’ ache head
        11) cedar heart; this large prow allege; T’ kettle dirty, lusty ass, leer; eye slur, jabber; hurdle oft is large; lofty
        11-12) eye victual t’ jab
        11-13) “edge” bawdy duenna, t’ follow thee and f--k, afford her a fetus
        12) Butt, dough knots owe, aye low, thin f--k of art; fart
        12-13) John, f--k ass-arteries t’ heaven, jetties witty, subtle; Farter I fit, he’s inched; eye Sue, idea is “O” dull
        13) foe, dull ass hear; subtle leisure; you lecher
        13-14) Harry, ye to sea made it; itchy, red (ready), is omitted wen; itchy, red ass emitted wind; you’ll lechery yet see emitted; witty, subtle age, red see mead; subtle, a cherry ye et, seamed it, W [runic Wen], terse till; subtle lechery’d seem dead
        14) Shakespeare ill, endive aye weigh; t’ island you aye weigh; to island dewy; M.D. eyed wine tear, still and dewy; W. enters “till”: Anne Deux-a-way (Deux-I-weigh, Do-away)

Acrostic Wit

          The emphatic downward acrostic code—TBTS FAW B HFT BOY—suggests, e.g., “Tybalt’s foe be hefty boy,” “‘To be,’ ’tis fob [i.e., a trick, artifice], ladder [= H, acrostic rune], fit [i.e., stanza], boy,” “…’tis faux…,” “‘To be,’ ’tis fob-letter forte t’ boy,” “T. beats fop, hefty boy,” “Tupped is faux, pasty [code F = S] boy,” “Tub, ’tis fob [i.e., artifice], ladder fit, buoy,” “Tipped ass, fob, ‘ladder’ fit boy,” and “Titus/Tight-ass [B=8] foe be hefty boy.” Tup means to fornicate. Here, TB is at the Top of the acrostic ladder, a phonically appropriate position.

          The upward (reverse) code—YO BT FHB WAF STBT—suggests, e.g., “You bet fob waves tipped,” “…was [F=S] stabbed,” “You bit of hip, wave, ass t’ beat,” “You bait fib, waif, Shakespeare bitty,” “You beat fate [B = phonic 8], wife (...waif) stabbed,” and “White [B = 8], tough hip waves t’ beat.” WAF S suggests “Wife S.,” i.e., Will’s Anne.

          With B = 8, F = S, the upward code suggests, e.g., “Wights hate wives tight ” and “Wights hate wasted tea.” The reader/player deduces such conventional equivalencies—and others including ST as the Shakespeare name cipher—through hours and years of experience with the Game. Original players would have had coterie indoctrination into such conventions. Doubtless Will discovered some of these alphabetic shortcuts as he went along and conventionalized them in his thinking as he perceived multiple meanings emerging, instantaneously and to some degree automatically. His “Great Mind” (as he calls it) must have enabled overlaid concurrencies to coexist far more readily than most of us more limited mortals can imagine.

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