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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 VIII, Runes 99-112: Texts and Comments
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2003, All Rights Reserved        

             
Proceed to Rune 107
Return to the Index of Set VIII

Rune 106A,
Eighth lines in Set VIII (Sonnets 99-112)
Rune 106B, Ninth line in Sonnet 99
and Eighth lines in Sonnets 100-112

                        Rune 106A

     (Eighth lines, Set VIII: Sonnets 99-112)      

     The Roses “fearfully on thorns did stand”—
     And gives thy pen both skill and argument;
     But Best is best if newer intermixed,
 4  And stops his pipe in growth of riper days.
     Dulling my lines, and doing me disgrace
     Since first I saw you fresh which yet are green,
     One thing expressing leaves out difference—
 8  Ev’n such a beauty as you master now—
     And Peace proclaims Olives of endless age
     Ev’n as when first I hallowed thy fair name,
     So that myself bring water for my stain,
12 And worse essays proved thee my best of love.
     Pity me then, and wish I were renewed,
     That my steeled censor changes right o’er wrong.
__________
     Glosses: 2) thy pen = your poet; thus, “...your poet affords both...”; 3) newer (Q neuer) = more originally, with a play on “never”; 3-4) Best... / stops his pipe = ...plays his instrument; 6) which yet are green puns “...witch yet, R. [i.e., Robert] Greene,” alluding to Shakespeare’s infamous detractor (see note to Rune 102.14); 7) ...leave out [i.e., “leafs out”] difference puns, paradoxically, “generates diversity (on ‘leaves,’ i.e., pages)”; 9) i.e., the topic elicits a predictable cliché; 12) worse contrasts with Best in 3; 14) censor (Q sense or); o’er (Q or).


                         Rune 106B

(Ninth line, Sonnet 99, + Eighth lines, Sonnets 100-112)

                    Our blushing shame, another white despair,
     And gives thy pen both skill and argument;
     But Best is best if newer intermixed,
 4  And stops his pipe in growth of riper days.
     Dulling my lines, and doing me disgrace
     Since first I saw you fresh which yet are green,
     One thing expressing leaves out difference—
 8  Ev’n such a beauty as you master now—
     And Peace proclaims Olives of endless age
     Ev’n as when first I hallowed thy fair name,
     So that myself bring water for my stain,
12 And worse essays proved thee my best of love.
     Pity me then, and wish I were renewed,
     That my steeled censor changes right o’er wrong.
__________
     Glosses: 1) white dispair = ghostly pallor, empty sheet, erasure; 2) And puns ironically and sarcastically on “Anne [Will’s wife]”; thy pen = your poet; thus, “...your poet affords both...”; 3) newer (Q neuer) = more originally, with a play on “never”; 3-4) Best... / stops his pipe = ...plays his instrument; 6) which yet are green puns “...witch yet, R. [i.e., Robert] Greene,” alluding to Shakespeare’s infamous detractor (see note to Rune 102.14); 7) ...leave out [i.e., “leafs out”] difference puns, paradoxically, “generates diversity (on ‘leaves,’ i.e., pages)”; 9) i.e., the topic elicits a predictable cliché; 12) worse contrasts with Best in 3; 14) censor (Q sense or); o’er (Q or).


     106A. Roses and Thorns

     In the figure of roses “standing fearfully on thorns”
     your poet offers both facile ornament and a thesis;
     but Best is best shown in an unmitigated and more originally expressed condition
  4 playing his pipes, as it were, in the climactic ascent of maturity.
     Deadening my lines and embarrassing me with awkwardness,
     ever since I first saw you flourishing (as you still are)
     my repetitious thesis keeps on leaving out variety and uniqueness—
  8 the very kind of beauty you now control—
     and “peace” calls forth those time-honored olives, figures unchanged
     since I first revered your fair name,
     so that I weep, as if to blot out my poor writings before correction,
12 even while bad efforts at composition show that you are my best love.
     Pity me, then, wish me revitalized,
     and hope that my sharp, self-critical pen unflinchingly superimposes right in the lines where wrong was erased.


     106B. Another White Despair

     Here occurs another erasure on the page, more blankness, more embarrassing errors.
     Your poet—since he’s creating a palimpsest—thus epitomizes both his technique and thesis.
     Really, the best art requires originality and complexity of the sort this project attempts
  4 in order to “play its pipes” in mature fashion.
     Weakening my verses—at least making me look bad to readers who only see the Sonnets—
     ever since I first saw you flourishing (as you still are) and was inspired to write about you
     is the fact that I’ve been writing visible sonnets but having to suppress my counterpoint runes
  8 (you yourself are good at showing a conventional public self and suppressing the rest)
     so that, “Peace” triggering “Olives,” my public poems sound predictable and clichéd
     the same way my very first poems about you did;
     the situation I describe means that I’m always having to write on top of what’s underneath
12 and that my bad attempts at verse show general readers my total love for you (but little else).
     Understand my situation, then, and hope I find the energy and acumen
     to revise so that what can be seen on the page is better than what I choose to suppress.


Comments: 106A

           Playing with organic and “religious” diction, this apostrophe to the muse is Will’s mock mea culpa for his trite figures, errors, and repetition. As “your writer,” the metonymy “thy pen” (2) anticipates “my steeled censor” (14). “Best” (3) and “my best of love” (12) represent the idealized friend—a “master” of beauty (8) who is roselike (1), consistent (3, 7), maturely lyrical (4), still vital (6), and worthy of worship (10). Subtextual phallic humor breeds amid thorns, pens, pipes, “things,” growth, freshness, waterings, “renewal,” and a “steeled sensor (‘fin’ sore).”

          A weedy bed of organic terms conglomerates thorny roses (1); “growth of riper days” and “daisy” (4); freshness, greenness, “tare green” (6); “leaves” (7); “my aster” (8); “olives” (9); “watering” (11); “renewal” (13); and “change” (14). “Pitty” (13) is also a garden pun, like “rows” (1)—echoed in “lines” (5)—and “fence” (14), itself triggering the add-on pun “see hinges, right or wrong” (14). A “steeled censor” (14) might be a metal pruner, while “leaves out differences” (7) puns on figleaves in Eden.

           A cluster of “religious” diction includes disgrace, master, peace, endless age, hallowed, water (for sin), love, pity, renewed, steeled censer (thurible), and right or wrong. “Water” (13) triggers puns on “wharf,” “prowed,” “flow” (12), “misty, eeled,” and “oar” (14).

           Diction about writing is both overt (see 2, 5, 7, 11, 12, 14) and intrinsic: e.g., a clogged pen is a “stopped pipe” (4); “disgrace” (5) suggests “sour note”; “saw” (6) puns “write in clichés”; to “‘leave out’ difference” (7) is to “print variety”; and “right o’er wrong” (14) describes the Q palimpsest, with Sonnets “over” Runes. The play on “wicked R. Greene” (6) amplifies “Dulling my lines, and doing me disgrace” (5). Unlike the olive-bearing dove (see 9) after the Biblical Flood—here the Upstart Crow inappropriately “brings water” (11). “Stops his pipe” (4) suggests both water-flow and raucous music. “Th’ horns” (1) anticipates “pipe” (4) and “proclaims” (9).

           Four initial “Ands” generate plays about Ann. “Worse essaies” (12) is a likely eyepun on “Wriothesley,” with the i-minim suggesting l. And the acrostic S/O/E/A/E/S/An (6-12) encodes “Susan.”

Comments: 106B

           While 106A starts with a consciously clichéd conceit, 106B.l describes an “erasure” (see also 11, 14) that suggests both “changing details” and “obliterating the runes from view” by writing the sonnets “over” them. Since this palimpsestic endeavor strains and “mars” the poet’s apparent work, the new first line sets in motion a wholly new logic in the text that follows it.

           The pun “dis-pair” (106B.1) suggests “dissociated twins”—Sonnets/Runes, with a pun on “Dis-pair,” a hellish couple (with Dante’s capital of hell, Dis, in mind). The pun also anticipates such diction as skill and argument (2), intermixed (3), “dis-grace” (5), difference (7), worse / best (12) and right / wrong (14).

          As always in Set VIII, of course, the B variant here shares much with the A text, despite the divergence generated by the different opening lines.


Sample Puns

106A

          1) Tarots easier fool John; Th’ Row F (i.e., line 6) is ass-earful yon (John); thorns [archaic “th” characters]; Row 6 (i.e., Row F) has two y’s = thorns]; dyed; the rough ass Circe’ll lie on, the horny ass; lions the horns did stain
          1-2) in Dan, dig aye; tan, dandy guise to help in body’s kill

106B

          1) Whore below, f---ing S., Hamnet; Ham, another white despair [cf. ghost]; a minute hear; Our blushing fame, Anne, O the rude, deaf pee-er; Hymen ode heard deaf peer; I know the Rood
           1-2) An oather [i.e., a sworn coterie member], Wyatt disappears and Jew’s typing be oaths, killing de [the] argument; Die, spy: I rune t’ give Southy pain—both ass kill and dark homme end

106A and 106B

          2) Ask islander, Jew, my end; thy [“th” and “y” =thorn/thorn]; oath’s killing dirge, gummy end (Jew meant)
          2-3) in dark you mend Tybalt, be fit aye; land Ark, you men
          3) you “To be” fit eye, sub-fit is newer, intermixed; Butt; Beauty; Bawdy; Body; beast; Bess Shakespeare (twice); eye F-rune [neuer, reversed], with F suggesting forte
          3-4) even you runed, e’er m’ extant fit opes his pipe; John, tear my X [i.e., acrostic, cross] t’ end-stop shy ass; “end-stop” Scheisse-pipe
          4) ass, hiss Pepin—Grrr! owed every pretty ass; Anne Shakespeare, ope Scheisse pipe in G-row; John, grow th’ O’s wry, pretty ass; dies; dais
          4-5) ass subtle, “inch” Millicent to win gem; injure “O,” wit whose rape hurt ass, dull inch malign ass; oaf wry, pretty ass, dulling my lines
          5) Anne; in Dido, wench, meatus (Medes) gray see; Dull inch my line is, Anne doing me disgrace; Anne, twin-gemmed, eyes (ass) gray see
          5-6) undoing mete, if Grey sees John
          6) I “saw” you fresh, wicked R. Greene; Ass, in Caesar-fit I saw you fresh; Sin see if I err, fits awe you fresh which yet are green; W.H., I see hid; eye cheetah art [cf. “lion” (1)]
          6-7) W.H., eye Cheddar green, wanting expressing, leaves out
          7) loo sought ass, a rune see; Wanting ex-peer, if enclavé, Southy is serene, see? foreign syringe; One thing express: Angel, Eve, Southy dice a rune, see
          7-8) Wan thing expires, sing alewives oddest foreign swoon; in jelly-vase odd defer, and soon f--k a bawdy ass, you master an “O”
          8) Even f--k, aye, bawdy ass you master now (an “O”); assume ass t’ earn
          8-9) eye Psalmist err now, aye, in deepest brogue; hap odd ties you; A live, soft end, lass-age
          9) see brogue, lame is Hall; I use often dill, sage
          9-10) see a Jew in Aswan, first eye Hall
        10) a swain, sir, of tallow (oft hollow) did hiss; Eve, Anne, a swan, surfeit eye
        10-11) Sir, in Amos oded missal see; eye halo, wed this Harry and a miss; this Aryan ame sought Hat; Hallowed thy fair name, Sue (Southy); Eve and a swain I versed, I. Hall, O, wed thy fair name, Sue; Even-assed W., Hen, first I hallowed thy fair name—“Southy” Thomas’ll see
        11) Sought, eye tummy, cell see (Southy, tummy [&] cell see): Bearing Judy, razor missed Annie [i.e., no Caesarean]; Southy, Tommy’s hell see
        11-12) waiter’s whore must Anne endure
        12) rowdy may be fit of love; Anne dour effaces proud theme; Anne wore sapphires
        12-13) Anne, whore, seizes ass, proud theme; end whiff, Jewry nude; beast o[r] fellow pity maiden Ann; vapid Tommy t’ Hernando [De Soto?] ashore runed
        13) Anne, dewy, fiery, nude (fire renewed); Pitty cf. The Globe; Pit-time, my Eden; “Pitty maiden” [suggesting (male) actress]
        13-14) thin end whiff, Harry, Rune U, dead; rune you did had a misty lead fence or sea-hinges, right or wrong
        14) T’ Hat, miss tilled, sense her; ride (rigid) whore wrong; W rune; VV [= 10]; rue Rune G; Hat. my steel defends (deafens); censor, see, hangs writer; sergeant jest write or rue


Acrostic Wit

106A

          The downward codelineTA BAD SOEAES APT—suggests, e.g., “Tabbed [Dog-eared] is Aesop. Tee!” “Tabbied [Full of cats] …,” “Tabby diseases eye, pet,” “Tea, bad sauce, eye pit,” “To bed’s ease apt,” and “‘To bed’ sways a [theatre] pit.”

          The letterstring PT echoes pitty (13).

         The upward reverse codeline—T PA SEAEOS DABAT—houses such potential decodings as these: “T’ pass ease, debate,” “T’ piss eased aye Betty,” “Type A seized A-bait,” “T. pisses debit,” “T’ pass ease, debate,” “Tee! pieces debate,” “Tip eases debate,” “Tip eye, see East abate,” “Tip assy eased a bit,” “T’ pay, seize debt (debit),” and “Toothy Sister Bet (bet) [P=TH].”

           The down/up hairpin suggests “To bed Sue’s apt, to pay Sue’s debit,” with John Hall the auditor for a father-in-law’s suggestion about enhancing Sue’s dowry benefits.

106B

           The downward code—OABA D S OEAESAP T—suggests, e.g., “Obadiah see as apt (saw ease, a Pit; sways a bit),” “Obadiah’s Aesop’d,” “Aweigh, bad sea’s a pit,” “A way bad seize, apt,” “O, a B.A. disease aped,” “O, aye bed Sue, ass apt,” “O, a bed! Sue’s apartment!”and “Ope A.D.’s ease apt.”

           The upward (reverse) letterstring codeline—T PAS EAEOS DABAO—can be read to mean, e.g., “Tip (Type) I seized, a boy!” “‘Tub’ eye seized, ‘a buoy’,” “T’ pass ease, dab eye, O,” “Type eye, see ass debut,” and “T’ piss eased a boy.”

             
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