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

Proceed to Rune 81
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Rune 80
Tenth lines, Set VI (Sonnets 71-84)

                         Rune 80

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

     When I, perhaps, compounded am with clay,
     That you, for love, speak well of me untrue
     That on the ashes of his youth doth lie—
 4  The prey of worms, my body being dead
     And, by and by, clean, starvèd for a look,
     And you and love are still my argument—
     Commit to these waste blacks, and thou shalt find
 8  Whose influence is thine, and borne of thee:
     From thy behavior, beauty doth he give,
     Whilst he upon your soundless deep doth ride,
     Which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read.
12 What strainèd touches rhetoric can lend!
     Which shall be most my glory? Being dumb?
     Not making worse what nature made so clear?
     Glosses: 2) That = So that; 5) for a look = at a glance; 7) Commit = Refer, Join (yourself).

     80. These Waste Blacks, Your Soundless Deep

     When it may happen that my body is mingled with earth,
     in order that you, for love’s sake, speak well of me, an imperfect man
     who lies on the ashes of his youth—
  4 food for worms, my body being dead
     and eventually picked clean, a skeleton to look at,
     and even then eloquent with the theme of you, and love—
     enter and embrace this ink-black region and you shall discover
  8 whom you inspire and buoy up:
     Your actions are the source of the beauty he contributes
     (as he rides on your silent, fathomless ocean)
     to unborn readers (who may miss things, or overexplicate).
12 What strained touches rhetoric can add!
     What shall be most to my credit? Staying mute?
     Not falsifying what nature made so plain?


         Seemingly self-effacing, Will’s comment here about himself as writer actually employs the “strained rhetoric” he seems to eschew (12) because he suggests his texts are like an ugly, worm-eaten corpse (5) that can be “o’er-read” (11)—with puns on “oar” and “red”—as a thing of beauty (9) that’s carried on the tide of the friend’s “soundless deep” (8, 10). As “waste blacks” (7), the mute poems are also like the sea itself, the soundless medium (cf. 10) of a “dumb” poet (12). The word “commit” (7) suggests voluntary burial—maybe ours—in this medium. “Clean” (5), “strainèd” (12), and “clear” (14) are ancillary jokes about water, and “influence” (8) suggests “in-flowing.” Other watery and “nautical” puns include “furlough’s peak”; “speak well of me” (2); “thou salt find [finned]” (7); “canal (channel) end” (12); “moist my glory” (13); and “not making [knot-making] wharf” (14). The word “compounded” (1), a comments on the Sonnets/Runes project, points toward a mixture of clay (1) or ashes (3) with the liquid element. Both “well” (2) and the hint of ink in “blacks” (7) link Will’s “liquid” motif to the act of writing.

          Entertaining juxtapositions occur: e.g., the “dining” worms and “starved” poet (4-5); the “dumb” poet (13) and the auditor who should “speak well of me” (2); a corpse that is “born” (8); the pseudo-pious details “pray” (4) and “ashes” (3); the contiguity of “ashes” and lye (Q 3); the puns “wit slay” (1), “still my argument” (6), and “rhetoric canal (channel) end” (12); and the epithets “these waist blacks” (7) and “maid so clear” (14)—the last pair housing implicit conceits for Runes and Sonnets—and thus for the dead Hamnet and living Judith.

          Troublesome syntactical attenuation (especially 3-7) seems to be part of the riddlic challenge here. “Still my argument” (6) translates, “I haven’t lost my train of thought”—which continues immediately in 7. Among possible syntactic arrangements is a “quiet close” in which the final lines are heard as affirmations: “What strained touches rhetoric can lend, / Which shall be most my glory, being dumb, / Not making worse what nature made so clear." (The two unattached participles refer to the poet, an implied subject.)

          Bawdy innuendo in the line about “riding a soundless deep” (10) encourages broad readings of such details as worms, nakedness, penetration, “eyes,” and “moist glory”—and also of witches, wens, ewes, loos, Jews, Ann, and knots. The acrostic houses six emphatic W[h]’s. (See below.)

Sample Puns

         1) W.H, a nice peer, helps hell come; see homme, peon dead, amid his lay; a mute itch slay; W.H. in ice, peer happy is
         1-2) damn wit’s elated
         2) speak well o’ Simeon true; furlough’s peak we love; speak well of Mentor; cue; low ass, “P,Q…” love
         1-4) dead Ham—witty clay that you, sir, love—speak well of me untrue that on the ashes of his youth doth lie, the prey of worms
         2-3) well o’ semen turd had on it, heavy, soft; we love men t’ root; rue th’ taunt heavy; rue that wan thief; tirrit [cf. tirade]
         3) T’ Hat, Auntie S—hisses; a fey Sophist youth doth lie
         3-4) do th’ light help raise; Lady, pray, oft were mass, my body being dead; oft were ms., my bawdy being, dead; lady, praise Worms
         4) war mass; warm ass; The prey o’ swarms, my body; ms. may be O deep, eying Godhead
         5) by eying débacle, Anne starved; anus tarred, sorrel OO [pictographic “see”]
         5-6) Anne By-and-by, clean, is tarred, sorrel, oaken; Sorry Luke and you and love are…my argument; Looking, dwindle our fiddle; Luke, Anne, twinned lovers
         6) Undoing, lower ass till my urge you mend; Anne, deliver a fiddle, my urge; versatile my argument
         7) mutatis was Tybalt, accent Thos., Hall, defined; See Ham[n]et (Hamlet), too; Shakespeare “To be” lacks, and thou, S. Hall, descend [like a deus ex machina]; Jack sinned, thou, S. Hall, t’ offend
         8-9) W.H., owe fiend’s low incest t’ hind-end, be horny oft, ever o’ meaty behavior; W.H., O, fiend-loving, seized hiney and bore nasty-formed Hebe, heavy whore, bodied o’ the Jew; of thief, Rome, thy behavior
         9) Fair homme, thy behavior bodied “owe th’ Jew” [suggesting Southy as spendthrift]; O, you rebutted oath
         9-10) the jewel is the weapon you resound (your ass found)
       10) Will Shakespeare, he upon your soundless deep doth ride; laugh deep, daughter
       10-11) W.H., ill of Theban orison, delays a deep, doughty ride (; which eyes…shall o’er-read
       11) eye snot ye et, serrated; “I” is knotty,…
       11-12) Shallow rear, Ed. waits to reign, Ed. T., O you see his red, whorey sick can; Witch S, noded, serrated S. Hall o’er-red: What strained touches rhetoric can lend! Ed, S. Hall, houri, (whorey) twat, is t’ reign
       12) What Shakespeare runed, touché, ass, read (…touché, is read)! red o’ rack (whore I seek), see anal end
       12-13) seek kennel end, witches’ hall; ouch, serrator I seek, see anal end which shall be moist, mickle
       13) Witch S. Hall, beam oft (be moist), my glory-being dumb; my glory be inched-homme
       13-14) Be-inchèd homme been out (be in/out) making war, see, W.H. innate, you remedy foe, sea lear (vocally; eerie); seal ear [pudendal]; Arabian god homme be not, my king war-feuding, a Tower made vocal (adore m’ Dis)
       14) Knot; making [i.e., mating] whore, Sue, Hat-neigh, too, re-made; maid f--k, leer; see Lear; adieu, remedies o’ sailor

Acrostic Wit

          The downward acrostic codeline—WTTTAACWFWWWWN—with its surfeit of Ws, the poet’s favorite initial, adumbrates such interpretations as these: “Wit’s wife win,” “Witty, I Sue offend,” “Witty ass, whiff wen ,” “…whiff, win,” “Wet ass, (Witch-)wife win,” “Witty eye, aye see W. fon,” and “Wet ‘I’ [phallic] I see….”

         The upward codeline—NWWWWFWCAATTTW—may be read, e.g., to mean, “Anew f--ked T.T. crotches […10],” “In wife wicked two [cf. ‘wick,’ phallic],” “Anew whiff you Cato (…Kate, too),” “Anew, fuse Eden,” and “Noose [F=S] wicked, too.”

          The down/up hairpin codeline (more obvious than the up/down one but not preeminent) suggests, e.g., “Wit eyes crotches [=VV] of 40 [VVVVVVVV] in…” and “Wit eyes 10 of 50 in new wife—wicked, too,” “Witty, eye Sue, fon enough….” Numeric inherencies in the code elements encourage a reader/player to hunt for hidden numbers such as a time or date: Playfully, V = 5, C = 100, T = a potential 7, N = IV= 4, and so on.

Proceed to Rune 81
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