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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 68
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Rune 67
Eleventh lines, Set V (Sonnets 57-70)

                          Rune 67
     (Eleventh lines, Set V: Sonnets 57-70)

     But like a sad slave stay and think of nought,
     Two, what you will. To you it doth belong
     Whether we are mended, or where. Better th’ eye
Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,
     Mine own true love that doth my rest defeat.
     (Mine own self love quite contrary I read.)
 8  Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate
     O’er what strong hand can hold his swift foot back,
     And simple truth, miscalled simplicity.
     For she hath no exchequer now but his,
12 Making no summer of another’s green.
     Then churls, their thought’s (although their eyes were kind),
     Yet this thy praise cannot be so thy praise.
     Glosses: 2) what you will encodes the pun hat you wi, i.e., Hathaway; 3) mended = pieced together (as the Runes are); 7) cut (ambig. v.) = run away, separate, wound; 8) Q Ruine puns on “Rune”; 9) his = ruin’s, and thus “rune’s”; swift foot puns on “footed” (i.e., metrical) verse; 11) exchequer= storehouse, punning on “X-checker,” suggesting an acrostic gameboard or a player/sleuth; 13) churls = low-bred fellows; Q thoughts = thought’s = thought is; their eyes were kind: phallically suggestive (see, e.g., the pun “their ‘I’ is working”; and see 3);14) so thy puns on Southy, i.e., Southampton, Will’s only known patron.

     67. What Ruin Hath Taught

     Now, sit and mope like a dejected servant, thinking of nothing,
     of couples and coupling—of zero or 2, of what you will. It’s up to you, Will,
     whether we two get pieced together, and where. (Reader, it’s up to you to recompose the Runes.) Better that the eye
  4 feast on true natural rarities,
     aspects of my own true love, who keeps me awake nights—and whom I address here.
     (I see prideful self love in another light.)
     So that my love shall never dart out of memory, leaving a hurt,
  8 this ruinous state has taught me to ruminate as I do here
     about what strong hand can hold back ruin’s quick passage (or Will’s movement in meter)
     or can block simple fact, really not simple at all.
     For nature has no treasury now but truth’s
12 and makes no summer from anybody else’s greenery.
     Then, even while maintaining the look of support for me, wrong-thinking boors are thinking,
      “Surely, Will, this tribute of yours cannot be yours. Given its form and character, it’s not even a tribute. And surely this can’t be another tribute to ‘Southy,’ the Earl of Southampton.”


           As in Rune 66, Will “ruminates” here about the Runes themselves, whether and where they will be recomposed, and how people will overcome skepticism about them. He calls future nay-sayers “churls” (13) and, in a vague scene, envisions some low, slow mind trying to mend the fabric but remaining incredulous that the gored “praise” being pieced together can be what it is. The puns “wear” (3), “knot,” and “sew” (14) reinforce the cutting-and-mending motif.

          Other details suggest “running” and “staying” (see 1). The former cluster includes “de-feet” (5) and “his swift foot” (9). Too, “cut” (7) suggests swerving; Ruine (8) puns on “run”; “another’s green” (12) might be a laurel wreath or running field; and “rarities” puns on “rearing up.” Conversely, “my rest” (5) and “quite contrary” (6) hint at a balky horse, and line 9 implies an equestrian. A related series of words implies not horses but cows: “ruminate” (8); “Feeds” (4); the pun “Ye et” (14); “another’s green [i.e., fodder, pasture]” (12); “cud” (pun, 7); “think of naught” (1); “simplicity” (10); and “kind” (13). If the swift-footed are like horses, the “sad slave” and “churls” (1, 13) are cattle.

          “Think of naught/nought” (1) recurs conceptually in “my rest” and in “resty feet” (5), a “musical pun.” “Swift foot back” (9) hints at a dance step, an image reinforced by the terms “cut,” “miscalled,” and “strong hand.” Naught, two, what you will” beats out a dancelike “1-2, 1-2-3.” The poem ends, “Can knot [i.e., puzzle, riddle] be ‘footy’ praise?”

          As a foil to Will’s patchwork, another pattern about natural wholeness links the phrases “the rarities of nature’s truth” (4), “Mine own true love” (5) and “simple truth, miscalled simplicity” (10)—all allied with the poet’s muse, nature’s “exchequer” or storehouse (11).

          Part of the humor is about whom the poem addresses, one of the much debated “riddles” of the Sonnets. Here their eyes (13) puns on “t’ Harry S.,” suggesting Henry Wriothesley, the third Earl of Southampton, Will’s known patron and the man most frequently proposed as the shadowy “Mr.W.H.” of Q’s dedication page. So thy (14), I propose, also puns on “Southy,” i.e., Southampton: “Can ode [...knot] be Southy praise?” is one pun in 14.

          The poem may also be Will’s comment to Anne—the absent wife, a frequently denigrated figure in the wit of Q—about their estrangement. Line 10 puns on “Anne, Simple Truth miscalled Simplicity,” “Anne S. ample...,” “Anne’s ample..., and “Anne’s implied.” (Earlier critics have seen that And in Q may pun on “Anne.”) Anne’s “ample” size is a recurring joke in Q’s subtextual wit. Mine owne... (5, 6) plays on “M’ Annie owe [recognize]. W.” (5, 6). One pun in 5 is “My Annie own to rue: Loud [Lady] Hat. doth my rest defeat.” Hath taught (8) puns on “Hath-a-V,” and thus (8) puns on “th’ huss.” One pun in 8-9 is “Are you [Rue...] Anne Hathaway? Get me the huss to rue, my Annie too rude....”

          “Rise,” “rear,” “raise,” and “naught” (a hole-like zero suggesting “round” and thus “rune”) all encode incidental bawdry, as do the puns “it doth be long,” “men dead,” “feeds/seeds,” “self-love,” “strong hand,” and “their ‘I’s’ workin’.”

          Puns about the gamy Runes include “Naught” (1), “rare-eye-tease” (4), “Ruin” (8), and “Ms. Called Simplicity” (10). The play on “checkerboard” in “exchequer” (11, see OED) suggests that “truth’s only gameboard” calls for a “strong hand” (9). Horses and “churls” both suggest chess pieces, and an “X-checker” may be one who seeks and peruses acrostic lineups. “That he shall never cut from memory” (7) means, playfully, that a recompositor of the Runes can’t just wing it during the pasteup process. Neuer in Q (e.g., 7) always embeds the reverse form reuen, and shall (e.g., 7) reverses, as llahf, to an eyepun on “laugh,” “love,” “life,” and “leaf” (i.e., page).

          A hidden topical play alluding to Francis Meres and Robert Greene sets one context for “churls” (12-13): Making no summer of an others greene (12) puns, e.g., “Making an ‘O’ [= round = rune] is homme Meres; another’s Greene.” A variant pun is “My king, an awesome Meres....” Robert Greene was a detractor who before 1592 labeled Will an “upstart crow,” while Francis Meres praised Will’s writings openly in 1598. The phrase “another’s green” echoes Greene’s charge that Will was himself derivative, with “green” hinting at envy and immaturity as motives for the original attack. An others concurrently puns on “an oather is...” with “oather” (I suggest) meaning a coterie member sworn to secrecy. “An oather’s Greene” means, in one sense, “a coterie rune-maker’s detractor.”

          Various other puns in the letterstring codeline (for indeed the whole text can be read as such) include these: “Th’ eye feeds on it: Here a riotous ‘O’ [i.e., a ‘round’ or rune] is nature’s truth” (3-4); “Mine own trull [= strumpet; i.e., Anne] Ovid hated...” (5); “Rune had tough tomatoes t’ rue, my Anne ate our ‘O’ [= round, rune], a taste wrong” (8-9); and “Yet this thy Paris cannot be: South Iberia I see” (14). (See below.)

Sample Puns

          1) a sad ass’ll Ovidian death (debt) ink; effete Slav is Diane; ass, add saliva stain; eying th’ Incas in ode
          1-2) O, you Giotto weighed; think o’ snot, too
          2) to weigh tool (too-wet “Y” old), twat doth be long
          2-3) Too, Anne [= w = IN] Hathaway, ill twat, do the blond Judy [i.e., her daughter Judith] rear; the blond Jew hit
          3) “W.H. et hairier men,” did O roar; O, rear, be et, turdy; the air we aye remanded our W.H.; heather; ermine; debtor; herb; dour Harry; we are men dead, our rare bed dirty (turdy); rarebit
          3-4) W., Harry, be a turdy hayseed; hayseed, saunter aye; he seeds son there aye
          4) here a riotous “O” is nature’s truth; off Nate, you race to Ruth
          4-5) in a Tower is truth Minoan
          5) Him eye now, natural Ovid; Minoan Anne [et] related doughty hymn  
oath, miry fit, deceit Minoan see, leaf low, quiet, contrary I read, that evil rune [Q neuer] cuts Rome
          6) Minoan’s elf locates entrée wry; M’ Annie O, win fellow’s love, quiet cunt rare, aye red; quiet country air ye read
          7) evil Anne, you hirsute ass
          7-8) you deform mammary rune; Th’ tea S.Hall nurses, you t’ Forum, maim our year
          8) Our Whine Hath. taught meatus to rue mine 8; taut maid housed O, room innate
          8-9) Rune had tough tomatoes t’ rue, many ate—O, rue a taste wrong; to ruminator W.H., a taste wrong ends
          9) What Shakespeare rune can defend (deafen) Hall?
          9-10) O, rude fit, our engines, annul; O, rude, strong, handy, see Anne, hole his ass, whiff
          9-11) Outback Anne, Simple Truth, miscalled Simplicity, for she hath Knox check her
        10) Aye in deaf hymn played Ruth; a laddie’s imp lazy to eye; Anne’s ample; Anne’s hymn pealed her oath; ms. see, old, simple, eye city
        10-11) Teaser shitteth an ox; Miss scalds him, placates whore
        11) Fore, she Hath an “O”
        11-12) eager, know beauteous May; Make, in Genoa’s humorous Anne—O, there’s Greene
        11-13) check her, an “O,” beauty’s make [mate], engine o’ fume, arse, another ass, grainy, thin, see her lustier thoughts scald, how you jet, Harry S.
        12) gnoff, you Meres eye; an oat, (note) here is Greene; My king knows you, Meres
        13) t’ injure Leicester; eerie thought sealed haughtier eyes’ working; thoughts sealed Hugh; t’ Harry S., we’re kind; another ass, Greene thence hurls th’ airy thoughts
        13-14) we’re kind, yet this thy praise cannot be Southy praise; we recondite, hasty praise see, a knot by Southy praise
        14) pee raise, see Anne-knot, Bess haughty praise; cannot be Southy Paris? Pharisees a knot be; South Iberia I see

Acrostic Wit

          The downward codeB TWF MMT ROAF MTY—suggests, e.g., “Bed, wife, empty, roof (rows, our ‘O’s’) empty [F=S],” “Bed, wife, empty. Row [Our ‘O...,’ i.e., ‘Our Rune...’] half empty” “Bitty, whiff hymn empty, our row (‘O’) half empty. Why?” “80 [B=8] whiff m’ mighty row, half empty,” and “‘82 [B=8], is empty row, ….” (Will married in 1582.)

          The upward codestring—YT M FAORT MM F WT B—features insistent FAORT-WT: e.g., “Yet m’ farty hymns of wit be,” “Y’ et m’ fart, hum of wet bee,” “Yet m’ fart 2000-foot be,” and “Wyatt may fart hymns wedded.”

          Down/up hairpin readings include “Beady wife-hum drove m’ tide-y hymn; forte m’ hymn of wit be” and “Bede, whiff m’ empty row of empty items. Eye our Tom’s wet 8 [inches].”

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