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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 V, Runes 57-70: Texts and Comments 
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2003, All Rights Reserved        

Proceed to Rune 65
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Rune 64
Eighth lines, Set V (Sonnets 57-70)

                         Rune 64

      (Eighth lines, Set V: Sonnets 57-70)

     When you have bid your servant once adieu—
     Without accusing you of injury
     Since—mind at first in character was done;
 4  And time that gave doth now (his gift) confound
     The scope and tenure of thy jealousy
     As I all other in all worths surmount,
     Stealing away the treasure of his spring,
 8  Increasing store with loss, and loss with store.
     Nor gates of steel so strong but time decays,
     And, strength by limping sway disablèd,
     Roses. Of shadow, sense his rose is true.
12 Ere, beauty’s dead fleece made another gay;
     By seeing farther, then, the eye hath shown
     (And thou present’st) a pure, unstainèd prime.
     Glosses: 3) i.e., first reactions were written down; 4) now = (at) the present time; confound = confuse; 5) thy = my (toward you); 7) his spring = time’s... (see 4), by “storing roses” (see 11); 8) store = gain; 9) gates of steel suggest storehouse gates; 10) the line suggests sagging gates on broken hinges (see 9) as well as drooping roses (see 11); 11) Of shadow = from a faint copy; rose is puns on “roses”; 12) Ere = Before now; dead fleece = curls; gay (n.) suggests a nosegay, a knot of hair.

     64. Loss and Store: The Treasure of His Spring

     After you told your servant goodbye—
     I don’t accuse you of inflicting hurt
     since then—my initial reaction to the loss was set down in writing;
  4 now bountiful time, which always gives us the present, confuses
     the extent and duration of those of my thoughts that would try to possess you
     as I surpass all others, even the richest,
     storing up my Rose—my Rows—the treasure of springtime,
  8 increasing a reserve in which loss and gain are equally mixed.
     No strong storehouse gates escape time’s decay,
     for hinges break and the gates swag; drooping likewise wilts
     roses (such as those I try to store here). From imperfect adumbrations, then, perceive that the poet’s Rose is perfectly real and truly beautiful.
12 Until now, the locks of the dead would have formed just another hair-knot nosegay;
     by looking past such a trinket now, the eye has revealed—
     and you, my friend, represent—a pure white rose in its prime, presented to you, my reader.


          Typically riddlic, the rune evokes “rose”—a conventional emblem of ideal beauty—as the key to unlock itself. Deserted by his muse and at first “jealous” (5), the persona contemplates mitigating his loss by “storing roses” in verses that are like storehouses (7-11). Though time will surely “decay” these, they can stand as shadows of the “pure unstainèd prime” (14) that once existed. The routine pun in “rose” on “rows”—verses or lines—clarifies the logic, and Q’s pairing of sonnets and runes (a lost phenomenon now being revealed) helps explain the paradox “loss and store” (8). “Pure unstainèd prime” (14) suggests a white rose (or tabula rasa), while “roses of shadow” (11) paints them in hiding.

          Also implying flowers are “treasure of his spring” (7), “another [nose]gay” (12), and the pun “your servant wants a dew / Without” (1-2). The verb “wants” triggers diction about supplying a need: e.g., “gave,” “his gift” (4), “Stealing away the treasure” (7), “Increasing” (8), and “present’st…” (14).

           Storehouses suggest tombs, as do the details “adieu” (1); a gravestone inscription that may be wrong (see 3-5); “stealing away” (7); and “beauty’s dead fleece” (12)—the last foiling “roses of shadow” and “pure unstained prime.” Because “Ere” puns on “ear” as “to plough” (OED), line 12 jokes about sex with sheep or dead bodies. Bawdry also lies in such puns as “In crease, inches tore, with love”(8) and “Inner gay tease of steel foe strong, bawdy, eye—m’ dick’s end” (9-10).

           Will’s only known patron—often proposed as the “handsome younger friend” of Q, and often equated with the mysterious “Mr. W.H.” (“H.W.” in reverse) of Q’s dedication page—was Henry Wriothesley (pronounced, roughly, “Rosely” or “Rizzly”), the third earl of Southampton. My own guess is that Will thought of Southampton as an “in-group” member of the runic coterie, privy to the buried wit in the lines. I suspect, further, that every “Rose” in the Q lines would have resonated as a play on “Wriothesley,” a name that puns on “rose lay [a ‘lay’ is a poem]” and “rows [of text] lay [buried].” Too, the opening word here, “When...,” puns on “W., Hen.,” probably another part of the buried wit aimed at Southampton. Line 1 jokes, e.g., “W., Hen., you have bed your servant one City eve,” and line 2 jokes that that’s not an “accusation of injury.”

           Another likely coterie auditor is Dr. John Hall, Will’s son-in-law back in Stratford. Here line 6 encodes “I. all” and “in all,” both plausible nameplays on “In. [= Jn.] Hall.” Medical diction in 2 and 10 (“injury,” “limping sway disabled”) also may have been aimed at Dr. Hall.

           A third likely coterie auditor for Q is Thomas Thorpe, the printing agent named by reputable scholars as the “T.T.” of Q’s title page. I note that all of Q’s mentions of “time” (here, e.g., 4, 9) also pun on “Tommy.” The idea of “doing mind in character” (3), a reference to encoding ideas in print, enhances this cluster of Thorpe-directed coterie wit. Line 4, e.g., puns, “And Tommy T. had Judith [the name of Will’s twin daughter] in O’s jest [ his gift]...,” with O = “round” or “rune” but also a pudendal pun. I deduce from recurrent wit in Q that Thorpe is the “Swede” whom the poet addresses here in subtextual banter (see below, Sample Puns, line 10).

           The first line embeds elaborately tedious plays on Will’s initial, beginning with the divided “W” (“double-u”), Q’s VV. All but two words in line 1 embed “u” or “v”; of these two, “bid” puns on “bied” (divided, bifurcated) and “once” embeds “u” as upside-down “n” and also puns on “wants”—a “w” word. Other such puns in 1 include “Wen” (archaic “W”) in “When”; “‘u’ half,” “bied U-er,” “one sad ‘u’,” and “wan, ’tis a ‘di-“u”’.” Lines 2 and 3 continue this minimalist’s joke about alphabetic “characters”: e.g., “W. hid out, accusing ‘u’ of injury [inch, ‘u’ wry], / Sense mended his error-stains, erased errors dun.” Q’s routine form iniury plays on the inverted connection between “n” and “u” typebits. “Mind at first in character was done” (3) translates, “Ideas focusing on alphabetic characters were put down in my first line—just above.” “My Anne [= ‘n’] died first, ‘n’ character wasting” links the joke to Will’s usual wife-berating wit.

           A typical throwaway pun in the textual lettercode is this one: “Sin, semen did sire Shakespeare [= St, the conventional name cipher I have deduced], incorrect error was [eros] done” (3). Overlaid on this hidden meaning is one of my personal favorites: “Science mandates our steins erect—or used, one (...our waist down) ” (code: Since mindeatf ir stinc arrect er wasd one). The line is a good example of how the poet could compose letterstrings to convey an overt meaning in a line while hiding other kinds of extended wit. The f/s interchange was an important facilitator in the process, as were the irregular spellings that the Age allowed. Will’s genius for sensing and engendering concurrent meanings in his letterstrings far outruns that of most mortal minds, but even he surely had to labor in jot-and-tittle fashion to make his codelines carry so much freight.

Sample Puns

          1) W.H., a knave bittier, is errant; dour see runed CI [101] A.D., (in city) eye Eve; When you obit—yours, erring tone—see, adieu
          1-2) W., Hen., you have bed your servant once a day; your fervent wand, sad “I” (aye without ass)
          2) Wit, how Tasso’s “I” inches in, ivory (eerie); Witty ode, ass, you sing, using ivory; Anne (John), Jew offend your eye (your “Y”)
          3) Science mandates our steins erect; Sin see, my end, at first John see erect, aroused wand; Sense; Sin, semen, date First John correct; see, erect Ariosto (Anne ended; intimate); I Nick arrest, a ruse; aye an Icarus, t’ err (air) was down
          3-4) first, insert Esther, waist down and dead; sudden end, Timothy hate God
          4) immediate, Judith in O wedges (J. Shakespeare see unfound); intimated God, O, the Gnosis, ’tis unsound (t’ ass unsound); no wages son found
          4-5) the newest jest, deacon found this key appended to North’s thigh; unsounded, ask up-ended Anne; ass, cup, ended Anne
          5) High Jew love I; in debt (John died) in Uriah’s thigh lousy; Anne died in urée o’ Southy
          6) Assail oather John Hall; Aye is John Hall oather John Hall, worthy, sir, your mount; anal warts surmount
          7) Is teal enjoyed hid, or azure; in God hid our azure offices; rise (erase) Uriah, ass aspiring; Steal inch away, that razor           7-8) Still enjoy theatre as you rave, hiss, peering in; engine, gray of hinges, Torah eyed, hell oven
          8) Inker, avenge history with love and loss. Why history? John, see her ass, inches t’ whore with love—Anne, love, witty Shakespeare whore; idol of Andelusia
          8-9) witty, low, see Andelusia, eye t’ history inner, gay
          9) Energy, aye ’tis hostile foe—strong, but amid ease aye; Inner gaiety is oft “eely” foe strong; Beauty aye made a case         10) Swede is able
        10-11) Swede is a bloody, rough ass; Ladder o’ Caesar’s shadow senses our uses (Rufus) true; Eying defter inch, Tybalt aye may be (pee) in jest, weighty, fabled, rough ass; Anne Shakespeare rune get, bile eye, imp-inches weighty eye, fabled (sabled rows, sable dross)
        11) Row F (Rough) is soft shit; since see, High Sorrow fester
        11-12) is Rochester Europe? Error see, soft, fey dolphin (Dauphin), Caesar office truer; rows (our “O’s”) aye strew Rubaiyat’s dead, sleazy maiden; otter
        12) Rubaiyat eye, sad, aye devily easy; Harry, beauty S., dead is; Europa you tease, dead
        12-13) lazy (lacy) maid Anne ought here gay be, yes; Ere a body is dead, flee, Semite, an oather gay (gabby)
        13) Pissing, is Arthur, then theatre’s (the Odyssey) hound
        13-14) Bi- S.-inches art hurt, handy eye Hath. shown Anne; this Onan did Hooper scent
        14) Anne t’ Hooper sent stupor unfit; Anne, 2% stupor; Anne, thou present (prevent) Shakespeare a P/U (Phew!) rune; Shakespeare eye innate, peer, eye me; Shakespeare eye Ned/Nate prime; Anne, Ed, bury me; rune stained peer-eye (“I”)

Acrostic Wit

          The downward acrostic codeline—V[V]WS AT A SINAR E B A [V?]—suggests such readings as “Use eye t’ eye Sinai, Araby,” “Visit a sin (scene), a rib eye,” “You W. S. eyed, a sinner he be aye,” “Wise-eyed ass, eye in error be aye,” “You W. S. eyed, a sinner he be aye,” “W. was [Vice...] at ease in Araby,” and “20, 5, 8 [= 33?] aye is John, our boy.”

          The upward codelineA BERAN ISA TA SW[V]V—may be playfully decoded to read, e.g., “A Baron, I say t’ Sue,” “Aye barren, eye sad-eye Sue [...eye saddest wife],” “A barren ‘I’ sates Sue,” “Aye, Baron, ‘I’ sates you,” “A/B, a rune I said, aye [pur]sue,” “Iberian Isaiah,’tis John V [X?],” “I bare aye niceties, woo,” “Ape or Anne I satisfy,” and/or “Ape or Anne I sate, I swive [i.e., have sex with].”

          Encoded hairpin (that is, down/up) possibilities include, e.g., “You W.S. eyed, a sinner he be, aye, a barren Isaiah t’ [pur]sue (..t’ Sue)” and “You sight a sinner, he be Iberian, aye, Sadducee.”

          The codestring BERAN suggests Biron/Berown/Berune, the name of a character in Love’s Labor’s Lost, a cryptic play that scholars have suspected of encoding topical or coterie meanings.

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