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 VI, Runes 71-84: Texts and Comments
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2003, All Rights Reserved        

Proceed to Rune 79
Return to the Index of Set VI

Rune 78
Eighth lines, Set VI (Sonnets 71-84)

                         Rune 78

     (Eighth lines, Set VI: Sonnets 71-84)

     If thinking on me then should make you woe,
     Then niggard truth would willingly impart
     Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest:
My spirit is thine, the better part of me    
     Then bettered that the world may see my pleasure,
     Showing their birth, and where they did proceed.     
     Time’s thievish progress to eternity;
 8  And, given grace, a double majesty
     He robs thee of, and pays it thee again.
     On your broad main doth willfully appear,
     When you entombèd in men’s eyes shall lie,
12 Some fresher stamp of the time-bettering days,
     Speaking of worth. What worth in you doth grow—
     That you are you so—dignifies his story.
1) then (repeated 2, 5, and echoed as thine in 4) implies “when I’m dead” and puns on “thin” and “t[o] Hen,” perhaps Southampton; 1-2) pun: “wooden neger dead, rude, you hold”; 2) willingly (see 10) puns, “courtesy of Will”; 4) broad puns include spirit (spurt, ...speare), thine (thin), and better part (bitter part); 5) pleasure = plaything(s), poem(s); 6) their points to my pleasure[s] in 5—i.e., the poems in Q; birth puns on berth (naut.); 7) Time’s = “Time is” but puns on “Meter’s”; 9) He = Time (see 7); 10) main = sea, domain (pun: mane); willfully is a namepun (see 2); 12) bettering (pun: battering), see better, bettered (4-5); 14) his = Time’s (see 7); his story puns on “history.”  

     78. Some Fresher Stamp

     If thinking about me sometime should make you grieve,
     then foresight and an author’s honesty, both usually in short supply, would Willingly show you
     a restful death, yours or mine—a more soothing condition in either case than real life.
  4 My spirit is yours, the better part of me
     thus improved to show the world these playful predilections
     in the process of revealing their origins and mode of development.
     Time is a progress to eternity in which much is taken away;
  8 and, given the presence of grace, it is a double nobility
     that time robs you of before repaying you, finally, with grace:
     On your wide expanse there appears, at Will’s command,
     even after you seem to men to be dead and buried,
12 some newer sign of that stage when you outdid time by living,
     asserting your virtues. The worth that thrives in you—
     the fact that you are what you are—adds dignity to history, the story of time.


         Here Will reassures his auditor(s)—including us and himself—of possibilities beyond death that will allow the “spirit” of both poet and unnamed muse to live afresh. “Spirit” suggests “...speare” and is thus, like “willingly” (2) and “willfully”(10), a namepun.

         Will’s tone is relatively upbeat, with “grace” (8) spiking the poem with vaguely Christian overtones. “Double Majesty” (8) may mean a full earthly life and something hereafter as well. But it also means Sonnets and Runes. Indeed, the emphasis here is on Will’s “pleasure” (5) and the potentialities that his pastime poems have for entertaining and memorializing the auditor—retaining something of the friend’s image and “worth” (13) for future readers to enjoy, too.

          As in many Q texts, the intended audience that needs the poet’s reassurance seems to be as much us, his future readers, as any contemporary “muse.” As Will thinks of “my pleasure,” the Q poems, he imagines later recompositors “showing their birth, and where they did proceed” (6) in the process of giving his book a “fresher stamp” (12) by means of a new imprinting.

         This public medium now fulfills the supportive role the poet anticipated..

          Customary ambiguities in the Q lines that routinely help make the Runes “riddlic” begin here with “then” (1) and proceed with such vague or remote pronouns as “their” (6) and “his” (14). “Time” (7)—a thief, if a somewhat benevolent one—is the usual heavy of the piece, so the pun “Time-bettering daze [pun: Deus]” (12) sets up Will’s dazzling project itself as the ultimate hero, a deus ex machina who can rush in and save the day.

          Details including puns encourage us to imagine Will’s only known patron, Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton, as one principal auditor. (Southampton had a nautical background and spent time in The Tower.) Suggestive details include the puns “Willfully appear, W.H., anew entombed…” (10-11) and “The Tower you sought again: I seize High Story” (see Q’s letterstring Th tyouare… [14]). Concurrent are bits of nautical flotsam magnetized by the term “your broad main” (10)—such puns, e.g., as “rude hold,” “import” (2), “fell sea that seals 5 play in...” (3), “battered,” “my sea may be lea azure” (5), “berth” (6), “gray sea eye” (8), “battering” (12), and “doughty, row t’ Haiti” (13-14). Words like “proceed,” “progress,” and “story” might also fit a sea-narrative, and notions of “sealing up” (3) and of being pirated by Time (7-9) gain naval colorations. Thus as we “see the berth” of the poet’s stowed items, we in effect raise a sunken vessel and reverse its former “battering” by Time.

          An economic motif cued by “niggard” (2) links such details as “the better part” (4, echoed in bettered [5] and bettering [12]); “thievish progress” (7); “given grace” and “double,” (8); “robs…and pays” (9); “stamp” (12, suggesting coinage); and “worth…doth grow” (13). Meanwhile, “fresher stamp” (12) harks back to “seals up all interest” (3). Here “awl,” that usual phallic pun, activates broad puns including “entombed in menses” (11) and adds “low” meanings to “spirit,” “part” (4), Southampton’s reappearing “tower” (14), and so on.

          Family name puns in addition to those on “Will... speare” include plays on John and Susannah Hall, the poet’s daughter and physician son-in-law: Q’s should (1), e.g., puns on “S. Hall,” while would (2), nearby, encodes “John [w = IN = Jn.] Hall.” The full letter-queue code in 1 puns, “Eye S., thinking on maiden S. Hall dim, a cue/queue in [= w = IN] ‘O’ [= Round/Rune].” Puns in 11-12 include “in men’s eyes, S. Hall lithesome (OED 1768) is....” The letterstring hat the w... suggests “Hathaway” and links in 5 with the pun “ seamy pleasure” Q’s shall (e.g., 11) always puns on “S. Hall”; so (e.g., 14), on “Sue”; and And (e.g., 8), on “Anne.”

          A scatological pun in 1 suggests an analogy for the Runes themselves: “A stink-engine midden [= dunghill, punning ‘maiden’] is, hole t’ make you woe.” Allusive puns, somewhat more refined, include “Angevin [i.e., of Anjou = Plantagenet] grace, a double majesty” (8) and “So my force (...farce, ...series) here is tempest, hid aye, my ‘battering days’...” (12-13). The Angevins’ “double majesty” points to their joint rule over France and England. The poet’s “tempest” here may not mean his play, which probably postdates Q, but does amplify other “sea-imagery.”

Sample Puns

          1) If thin King John maiden should make, you woe; Eye stink-engine; inking, join me t’ Hen S.; O, name tinseled make; name tinsel dim a cue; ague; Aye stitching kin, John made S. Hall
          1-2) Eye stinking John, maiden (midden) S. Hall dim, a cue wooden; you Woden nigh; Eye fit [stanza], ink-inch, “O” [round] named “Hen. S., Fool, Damn Ague, Woe, Wooden Neger, Dead Rue, the Woody Will, Inch Limp, Part Dead”; damn ague would Annie-garter rue
          2) Then Nature did rude Hugh old “willingly” impart; Garter you’d hue; you’d hue old Will-inch limp, hard
          2-3) old Will in July, eye him, parted; woody Will-inch, limp part, dead, hisses on deaf leaf that seals up awl (Hall) in rift
          3) Dead is f--king Dis, hell is hated, false, appalling rest; fecund eisell’s t’ Hat.-cells appalling interest; that feels up Hall, John, reft [fissured]; ass, you pale in our fit 4 [phallic, ejaculatory]
          4-5) Ms.-pirate eye, Southy innate, he bet Herbert owes maiden bed
          5) Hathaway, Earl dim, I see; Thin, bitter death a titty (aye T.T.) hurled; may ye see my play, sir; see map-“leafure” (leisure)
          5-6) see m’ pee lazier show; he, W., earl dim (earldom), I see, my pleasure showing jet or berth; my play’s your show; the world demise eye, Maypole (maple) azure showing; if you’re a shoo-in (issuing), jet here
           6) you in jet Herbert undo here; eye repartee handy
           7) Time’s [i.e., meter’s] thievish progress taught our knight aye; Tommy’s...
           6-8) earth endured hated prose, Ed. Tommy is th’ heavy shaper o’ graffito—turn it, eye Ann (handy Jew in gray)
           8) Anjou in gray see; Anjouvin; An avenger eye; Anne; End o’ June gray see, I dapple May
           8-9) gray see aye Dublin, Leicester, opposite heaven; Dublin lay [song] is t’ Eire (teary) opus; grace, a double Mystery, abyss’d, heavy End
           9-10) Thief Anne deposit hedging, honor buried, m’ Annie doth Willfully appear; Anne paced th’ Age, Annie, on her broad main; sight thee a gay nun, your broad main; any honor be rudiment o’ th’ will
         10) On her bread m’ Annie doth will, full lip, a pear
         10-11) a rune tombed; here W.H. innuendo, embedding men, seize
         11) in tomb (tome) bed enemy; few labor anew
         11-12) W., Hen., you entombed in menses’ valley; John menses, S. Hall, ye saw mess reversed; …ye saw ms. reversed; enemy hence, eye Cecil lithesome, fresher, his tempus (i.e., time) better (...batter)
         12) Sue ms. reversed aye, hymn pieced (tee!), time-[meter-]bettering daze
         12-13) Owe [i.e., Acknowledge], Southy, Tommy, battering Judy’s ass, peaking
         13) Speaking o’ Sue earthy, Hat. wore thin; G-Row; sword hued warden; eye nude oath
         13-14) Ass peaking, “O” sore, twat-wart in Judith, growth, adore, use ode, dig in ass’s history
         14) T’ Hat. you arouse “O,” dig in; deign one size his fit “O” wry; That ewe arouse; ass-O dignifies history; you sow, dig in his ass, his Shakespeare O wry; Sue dignifies history; Th’ Tower you fought (sought) again eases fit hoary; eye Scheisse fit; butt, heat a torrid sauce; Dane is Isis’ Tory

Acrostic Wit

          Adding inherent meaning to the downward acrostic code—ITDM TS TAHOWS ST—is, I propose, the name cipher ST (the poet’s family initial plus T, a pictographic “spear”), conveniently a concurrent pun on “saint.” (The contemporary digraph st depicts an s seeming to hold a spear-shaped t as if by the handle and “shake” it.)

           Gamy decodings of this codestring, then, include “Item ’tis t’ house Shakespeare,” “Eyed dim t’ stay: Who? W.S., Saint,” “I’d emit tasty ‘O’ [= ‘round,’ i.e., rune]…,” “Eyed, empty Shakespeare I house, Shakespeare,” “Item: Test aye how’s Shakespeare,” “Item Thos. T., aye housed,” “Item, ’tis tasty,” and “Item tasty? How’s tea?”

           The upward (reverse) codestring—T SSWOHAT ST M DTI—suggests such readings as, e.g., “ T’ Southy is Tom dead aye,” “T’ Sue H. aye: Test m’ ditty (Taste m’ titty),” “Teases, woody-stemmed, t’ eye (die),” “’Tis sweetest Tom, dead aye,” “’Tis swatted, stemmed ditty,”and “Teases witty (woody) stumped eye (aye).”

          “Tom” is likely Thomas Thorpe, Will’s printing agent (see “TS. T.” in the downward code), whom the poet often seems to label “Swede”(here SWOHAT). “Sue H.” designates Will’s daughter Susannah Hall, and “Southy” is Southampton.

Proceed to Rune 79
Return to the Index of Set VI
Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets