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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 100
Return to the Index of Set VIII

Rune 99A,
First lines in Set VIII (Sonnets 99-112)

Rune 99B, Second line in Sonnet 99
and First lines in Sonnets 100-112


                         Rune 99A

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

     The forward violet thus did I chide:
     “Where art thou, muse, that thou forget’st so long?
     O, truant muse, what shall be thy amends?”
 4  My love is strengthened, though more weak in seeming,
     Alack! What poverty my muse brings forth
     To me, fair friend, you never can be old.
     Let not my love be called idolatry
 8  When in the chronicle of wasted time—
     Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul.
     What’s in the brain that ink may character,
     O, never say that I was false of heart.
12 Alas, ’tis true I have gone here and there.
     O, for my sake do you with fortune chide?
     Your love and pity doth th’ impression fill.
__________
     Glosses: 5) Alack, an exclam. of regret or surprise, puns “A lack” (i.e., “Something’s missing”); 6) To me puns on Tome; be old / Let not puns, “...behold leaden ode...”; 7) idolatry puns on “idle” (see wasted time in 8); 10) What’s = Whatever is...; 12) with 5: Alack, Alas; 14) impression = perception, printed copy (as of this poem, of Q).

                            Rune 99B

   (Second line, Sonnet 99, + First lines, Sonnets 100-112)

     Sweet thief, whence didst thou steal thy sweet that smells?
     Where art thou, muse, that thou forget’st so long?
     O, truant muse, what shall be thy amends,
 4  My love is strengthened, though more weak in seeming,
     Alack! What poverty my muse brings forth
     To me, fair friend, you never can be old.
     Let not my love be called idolatry
 8  When in the chronicle of wasted time—
     Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul.
     What’s in the brain that ink may character,
     O, never say that I was false of heart.
12 Alas, ’tis true I have gone here and there.
     O, for my sake do you with fortune chide?
     Your love and pity doth th’ impression fill.
__________
     Glosses: 1) steal = obtain, hide; 3) what = whatever; 5) Alack, an exclam. of regret or surprise, puns “A lack” (i.e., “Something’s missing”); What = Whatever; 6) To me puns on Tome; be old / Let not puns, “...behold leaden ode...”; 7) idolatry puns on “idle” (see wasted time in 8); 10) What’s = Whatever is...; 12) with 5: Alack, Alas; 14) impression = perception, printed copy (as of this poem, of Q).


     99A. The Chronicle of Wasted Time (I)

     I scolded the early spring violet, regally-colored and beautiful, this way:
     “Where have you been, my inspiration, to leave me so long alone?
     O, absent muse, how will you compensate for being away?”
  4 My love is stronger now but appears weaker when I express it,
     alas! (My love appears to be lacking.) Whatever poor poetry my inspiration produces
     here, beautiful friend, you can never be tiresome or depleted.
     Don’t let it be said that my love is false worship or idleness
  8 expended here in this chronicle of wasted time—
     and neither should my superstitious fears (as if before an awful god) nor my prophetic insights be called idol worship.
     Whatever is in my brain to be characterized in ink,
     O, never say I was false-hearted.
12 Alas, it’s true I’ve oscillated and seemed helter-skelter.
     O, is it because of me that you find life unfortunate?
     My love and concern for you—and your feelings for me—fill heart, brain, inkwell, and text.


     99B. The Chronicle of Wasted Time (II)

     Sweet muse, where have you hidden your sweet fragrance now?
     Where have you been, my inspiration, to leave me so long alone?
     O, absent muse, whatever the means you eventually use to make this up to me,
  4 my love is stronger at the moment but appears weaker when I express it.  
     alas! (My love appears to be lacking.) Whatever poor poetry my inspiration produces
     here, beautiful friend, you can never be tiresome or depleted.
     Don’t let it be said that my love is false worship or idleness
  8 expended here in this chronicle of wasted time—
     and neither should my superstitious fears (as if before an awful god) nor my prophetic insights be called idol worship.
     Whatever is in my brain to be characterized in ink,
     O, never say I was false-hearted.
12 Alas, it’s true I’ve oscillated and seemed helter-skelter.
     O, is it because of me that you find life unfortunate?
     My love and concern for you—and your feelings for me—fill heart, brain, inkwell, and text.


Comments: 99A

          This rune—which indeed may seem to go “here and there” (12) or nowhere but isn’t hard—may address the ”violet,” beloved muse, reader, text, or even a Stratford relative. Will’s ostensible tone is self-critical and contrite, with lack of inspiration a dominant theme.

          Beyond the sketchy scene suggested by line 1 there’s little drama, but the text shows figurative and rhetorical coherence. Clustered negative elements characterize Will’s work, e.g., as “weak in ‘seaming’” (4); poor (5); old (6); “idolatry” (7); a “chronicle of wasted time” (8); fearful (9); falsely expressed (11); and rambling (12). “Chide” (13, and see1) implies criticism, and “amends” (3) hints at the need for correction. Amid the usual references to writing itself—e.g., forward, art, muse, chronicle, character, and th’ impression—the pun “fore-tune” may allude to the problematic “extra” first line in the poem—discussed in the introduction to the set (below).

           Another element of technical coherence appears in the series of “religious” terms: “Amen’s” (3); “shrine Dieu” (6); “idolatry” (7); “prophetic soul” (9); “What sin…ink may character” (10)—and, more vaguely , “heart” (11) and “love and pity” (14). Linkages also occur in alliterative repetitions—e.g., “forward,” “forget’st,” “forth,” and “fortune”; in initial “O’s” (3, 9, 13); in “Alack” (5) and “Alas” (12); in the foils “false” and “true” (11, 12); and in the play on “brain” and “heart” (10, 11). Two lines end in “chide,” and an initial acrostic TWOM (1-3) intersects the pun “Tome” (6)—with the pun “two-hymn” (in both) reiterating the idea of A/B variants.

           Literally, Will addresses an early spring violet, an inspiring “muse” (2, 3, 5) and apt symbol for the friend because it is beautiful, regally colored, and “truant” (3) during a barren time, both earliest-blooming and tardy. Identifying this flower with the absent “fair friend” (6) makes that figure the principal auditor. But the couplet might address any reader, and ambiguities in 14 allow the line to mean a variety of things. The pun on Ann in “The forward, vile et [& = and = Anne] thus (th’ huss) did I chide (1)” makes the text seem an apostrophe to the wife at home, with interesting ironies: In real life Will has absented himself from her, but the rune accuses her of truancy and identifies her as the muse whose absence negates her role. The poem seems autobiographical when Will admits “I have gone here and there [cf. ‘I have John here, Anne there’]” (11-12).

           Concurrent puns about Anne include the “forward vile/vial et” (1), a pudendal joke, and “The 4-word, vile Anne,” may be a joke about the four syllables in “Anne Hath-a-way.”

           Perhaps the poem addresses the “O”—the round itself (see 3, 11, 13) and the “Tome fair” (6). Maybe “the forward violet (violate)” that “did itch hide” and that “fore-jettest so long” (1-2) is phallic, a purplish “violator.” One minimalist’s joke in “th’ impression fill” is that the “hole in the ‘O’” type bit gets clogged in printing it. The pun “‘O,’ formy fake” (13) may allude to the round’s “spurious structure.” The play “…that thou fore-jettest so long”—where “fore-jettest” means “jots initially, in dark ink”—seems a likely reference to the extra long line that initiates the B-variant text, and also to the lengthened (or “strengthened”) line 4 in 99A.

           Scatological puns on “loo” occur in the acrostic and in the text: “my loo’s ass strange, jetting Ed[itor?]—huge, moor weakness” (4); “Let not my loo be cold. Adieu, latrine (…called “I do” latrine)…” (7-8); and “Your loo, Anne, pitty, doth th’ impression fill” (14). Scatological innuendoes lie, e.g., in “so long” (2); “brings forth” (4); “sour,” “can,” and “you newer see Anne-boweled” (6); “wasted” (8); “foul” (9); “scenty bran” (10); “sauce overt” (11); “All ass,…I have gone here and there” (12); and “formy fake dough” (13).

Comments: 99B

          Much of what’s above, of course, also holds true for this text, which varies by one line merely—significantly, the first—from its A variant.

          Here, however, the “Sweet thief” (1) is the “truant muse” (2, 3) whose absence debilitates the poet’s verses.

          Though the substitute line makes little difference in meaning, 99A seems to chide the “forward violate” (i.e., the disruptive prefatory line) of the set for spoiling things, and thus may address the text itself, while 99B seems to chide the inspirational friend; the ambiguity in “muse”—both a figure that triggers creativity and a personification of poetry itself (OED)—allows these two dramatic situations to diverge.

           Rune 99A opens more concretely and thus more vividly. But 99B shows parallelism and seems smoother in the syntax of its initial apostrophe. In 99B, each of the three opening lines may encode a question, with three varying epithets for the auditor; thief and steal (1) vaguely anticipate truant (3) and link with false of heart (11) but initiate no real cluster of imagery about theft.


Sample Puns

99A

          1) The “forward violate” [disruptive preface, supernumerary 15th line of Sonnet 99] thus did [Sonnet] 99 [Roman numeral IC] hide; th’ huss; hide [put on parchment]; you city (seedy) dick hide; This our wordy vial, Anne [et], th’ huss, did chide
           1-2) Thus did 99 hide W., Harry, a rat (or T.T.) whom you see; T.T., you steady (use didie,) shit very hard; eye dour art

99B

           1) Sue 80 see, whence? W., Hen., see, dead; Swede heavy W.H. enseeded; W.H. enseeded Shakespeare; stealthy feud (foot); T.T. (Swede), Hat., see, female ass; a lady’s witty thought see
           1-2) see female, Sue, here; female’s weird tome (tomb) you see; wet, ’tis female ass where hard Thomas used Hathaway’s “O”; orgy ’tis...

99A and 99B

           2) W.H. eerie, art thou muse? W.H., he reared to homme, used aye T.T.; Mused Hath-a-V forget; you fetid house, whore jet ; arid (Ararat) home you see
           2-3) fool on God runed
           3) Ode runed t’ muse W.H. eyed; Muse W.H.; Muse John had S.Hall, Betty, aye m’ ends; fey Libbie Tommy ends; bitty hymen dies; Tom, you see W.H., aye, ’tis Hall, Betty. Amen.
           3-4) amend similes, ass
           4) My loss, Shakespeare rune, get; …goeth needy, huge hymn, O wreck; Moor, weak in semen; Homer we can see
           4-5) in jelly seek W.H.; my angels cued poor Tommy; seaman galley see, quay’d port y’ may miss, bearing so-forth; huge Moor we can see “seaming” Hall; in jealousy queued poor Tommy
           5) A lack; Eye Jack [suggesting cards]; February inches forth
           6) Tommy’s Harry’s wry end; Tome’s air is runed; [letter] “U” newer [Q neuer, reversing to “reuen,” rune] see; see Anne be old
           6-7) dune you reckon billet; see a nipple, lady note; behold leaden “O”; you never see “N,” behold “L” (hell)
           7) Helen [L + et, and, Anne] note, my love; mellow be sea (B.C.); tenet mellow be heckled; note my lobe (lope)
           7-8) eagle, Dido lay to rune; Let not my love Bess Hall die, dollèd rune; Hall died, O, later eye W.H. (I do latrine eye) in the chronicle of wasted time
           8) time meter; see Hero, nice leaf wasted; Uncle owes W. a fit
           8-9) Ed, eye Maenad Minoan; Ed. Tommy note; Ed. Tom, minnow Tommy owe, nefarious North probe
           9) Note m’ Annie own ass-ears, an earthy, probed, “I”-sick fool; North, the prophetic fool; headaches howl; Note Minoan seer senior
           9-10) O, you ludus eye in the barren thought
         10) W.H. I tease in the brain (B-Rune); innate, Hat. inks my character; What sin, the branded John see come; Hat. “Inca maize” hears
         10-11) Inca maze harassed erroneous eye; my itch harassed her “O,” never ass; seek major actor, onerous-eyed (on your side) Hathaway
         11-12) eye vassal, fief, heartless tease; Onerous aid Hathaway, asses all seized her tail; O never say t’ Hathaway…; O newer, sight (sate) Hathaway’s false Eve-heart, all-ass, ’tis true; seize hurdles to eye, stare you aye
         12) A lass, ’tis true, I have John here, Anne there; I have John, Harry, Anne…; John errand did here
         12-13) the rover may f--k doughy oaf, heifer, too, naked; Anne did hairy “O” form—yes, ached “O” uses our too-nice hide
         13) see hide [i.e., parchment]; C hide [in this A/B structure]
         13-14) eye dour love (low, veined pit); hide your loo-antipathy; Fortune’s Idol, often (Oven) deep, I dyed; eye dour love and pity; oath, theme—peer’s finest ill
         14) doughty hymn presses aye on (Ion) still; doughty th’ empress if John fail; theme peers eye, onus ill


Acrostic Wit

99A

          The double-columned down/down emphatic downward acrostic codeline—TV[V]OMA T L WN V[V]OAOY H[H]HYL OEHO[H]N LF O—suggests such readings as these samples: “Tommy, tell when we’ll own leaf, O,” “Tommy T., loon, will own leaf, O! ” “Two model we new…,” and “Tom at loo W. knew….”

           The reverse of this codeline—i.e., the up/up letterstring OFL NHOHEOL YHHHY OAOVVN WL TA MOVV T suggests, e.g., “Awful Nile, ye own, will to move it (Will tamed),” “Oaf, [Oft] lineal whine [the acrostic line and attenuated phonic string it encodes] Will tamed,” “Oft lineal, ye, John, Will tame oft,” “…you even willed a movement,” “…you Avon willed, A.M. ode,” “Offal [Awful] anal itches [=H’s], [Dr.] John willed a [bowel] movement,” and “O, fool, kneel! You even willed a moat (mote, mode).”

           The 99A codeline generates other variants, given that—because it occurs as a first-line text in the set—it is a two-columned “ladder” with four starting points, two at the top and two at the bottom. Hairpin (i.e., down/up and up/down) permutations further complicate the range of possibilities.

99B

          The down/down codeline in 99B—SVVOMATLWNVVOAOY HHYLOEHOHNLFO—gets off to a different start and, in the middle, loses its “second capital.” (99A.1 opens with two enlarged capital letters.) Possible readings include those initiated by the words “Sue…,” “Summit…,” “Some…,” “Swam…,” and perhaps “Swami… [1773 from Hindi].”

          In the reverse of this same sequence, the letterstring…TAMOVVS interestingly generates such possibilities as “…Thomas,” “…Amos,” “…amuse,” and “…mows.” Notably, this ladder-rune loses an initial “Tommy T.”(in the 99A version) but gains an initial “Sue” and a terminal “Thomas.”

           Little substantial change occurs in the middles of these codestring: Instead of …HHH… (in 99A), the codestring in 99B runs …HH…. But because a single H can mean itch, edge, age, or a pictographic ladder, even the slight omission can have meaning.

          Four permutations here (down/down, down/up, up/down, and up/up), each with two different starting points, will generate variations on those in 99A. A patient player could explore these.


             
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