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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 X, Runes 127-140: Texts and Comments 
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2004, All Rights Reserved        

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Rune 140
Fourteenth lines, Set X (Sonnets 127-140)

                        Rune 140

     (Fourteenth lines, Set X: Sonnets 127-140)

     That every tongue says Beauty should look so,
     Give them their fingers, me thy lips to kiss,
     To shun—the heaven that leads men to this hell—
 4  As any she belied with false compare.
     And thence this slander, as I think, proceeds,
     And all they foul that, thy complexion. Lack,
     Perforce, am thine, and all that is in me;
 8  He pays the whole—and yet am I not free?
     Think all but one, and me in that one, Will,
     And then thou lovest me, for my name is Will!
     And to this false plague are they now transferred,
12 And in our faults, by lies, we flattered be.
     Kill me outright with looks, and rid my pain:
     Bear thine eyes straight, though thy proud heart go wide.
     Glosses: 1) That = Given that, Because; possibly, too, a pre-positioned pronoun referring to what “every tongue says”--i.e., “Beauty should look this way or that.” The string ...hat euery ton... encodes “Hathaway, written (...wry ton),” and lines 5, 6, 10, 11, and 12 start with puns on Anne; 1-2) puns: ...Look: Sue, Judy, Ham[ne]t, heirs (John [= in] jeers)—a rare line-up of Will’s children’s names, with the son-in-law’s, John [Hall]’s; 4) any she = any female; 4-5) pun: Aye is Annie Sh. “a-bellied” with sauces. Oh, m’ “pear” Anne did Hen. see t’ hiss [with Hen. = Southampton?]; 5) thence i.e., from idealism and false comparison; 6) all they points back to every tongue in 1; 6-7) Lack (Q lacke) may be a personification, punning on Iack, i.e., Jack (John), with all a play on Hall (suggesting John Hall, Will’s on-in-law; 8) am I not f... encodes “Hamnet S.” (Will’s dead son; see 2), with the poignant suggestion “I, Will, am no more”; 9) but = merely; 9-10) and me in that one Will / And...puns, “Anne, m’ Anne, th’ ‘Hat.-one’ (Hat-o-neigh, punning on Adonai) Anne, ill Anne...,” with W = IN, encoding “Anne”; 14) go wide puns on “Judy,” i.e., Judith; closing pun: “...thou, jetty parody, art Judy.”


     140. False Compare

     In this situation where every glib talker runs on about ideal Beauty,
     let such people go on kissing their own or each other’s hands, and give me your lips to kiss
     or turn away from—a dualistic heaven that brings a man to such a hell as the one I’m in—
  4 in which case you’d be acting like any female underrated in the light of some rigid ideal.
     Such a slander, I believe, proceeds from false sets of expectations and narrowness of views,
     making all those wagging tongues find fault with what they see in you. Lack      
     necessarily becomes yours in this situation—but I mean the Lack that I, not you, objectify.
  8 Lack—your lackey, an under-endowed Jack to do your bidding—takes full responsibility on your account. And yet am I not free?
     Imagine everybody to be just one person, whom I, Will, personify,
     and then you automatically love me, your simple servant Will,
     and—with everybody being me—all others, including the narrow-minded and judgmental, are now transferred into this unreal suffering, this hell of mine,
12 and we, in crevices of inadequacies, are thus flattered by all the falsities of this syllogism.
     Ease my suffering with the coup de grace of a hard gaze:
     Keep your eyes only on me, though your proud heart—or “prowed hard”—may range expansively in this welter of active tongues I’ve generated for you.


        Rune 140, an accumulation of the 14 end-lines in the visible Sonnets in Set X, features typically distracting sexual wit. Still, the text may suggest a vague dramatic scenario that rationalizes the poet’s details. Everything hinges on our equating Will, a poet addressing his beloved unnamed friend, as Lacke (Q lacke [6]). As Lack, Jack, or lackey, the speaker is a kind of low Everyman (8-10), a man “without,” a kind of court jester who is reminiscent of a figure in some old morality play. This situation allows such jokes as “Lackey/Jack pays the bills” (8).

        “Lack’s” simplisitic limits as a thinker show in all the warmed-over paradoxes—that heaven can become hell, that “lack” is a positive property, that one man is all men, that looks can kill, that the bound man is free.

           Contrasting with this sycophantic and naive lackey are “they” (1-2), some unidentified talkers who prate about ideal Beauty (1-4) and thereby veer into “false comparison” by ignoring what reality offers; Will, a.k.a. Lack, says that their “talk” is “slander, as I think” (5). With ingenuous logic (e.g., 9-10) the common-sense persona prefers reality, even if he sometimes “lacks” it and endures “hell” for it (3).

         Both Lack and the unnamed talkers have “views”: “They,” gossipy and judgmental, think “Beauty should look so” (1), but Will directs his patron to “Kill me outright with looks… / Bear thine eyes straight…” (13-14).

         Like many of the runes, this one has some of the character of a dramatic monologue,

         Bawdry colors the jester figure’s plea for “mastery.” His language is rife with innuendo about tongues, fingers, jacking, awls, will, faults, plagues, and “proud hards.” Lack’s language also shows the siege mindset of a sufferer in hell (3) who needs a coup de grace (13). If the “faults” remind us of the “bad pockets” in Dante’s Inferno, such an allusion comes from Will the poet, not from Lack, his naive speaker.

         If Beauty is heavenly, Lackey’s master is a devilish “proud heart” who “goes wide.”

         Family puns include “Look: Sue, Judy, Ham’et, heirs” (1-2). In one of its forms, the poet’s closing joke puns, “...Thos. Thorpe rowed hard Judy.” A pun on “sea” intervenes in the form of the lefthand parenthesis mark ( = C = sea) that aids in squeezing the long line into the space that Q’s margins allowed. As usual, a good bit of “Anne-wit” intrudes EG

         Q’s as I thinke procee… (5) puns, “Eye/Aye Southy in keep [i.e., The Tower] rose/rosy/Rizzy/arose, see).” All the “rose” and “rizzy” puns in Q are plays on Henry Southampton’s family name, Wriothesley, pronounced roughly “Rizzly” or “Rosely.”

           The closing pun also allows other plays aimed at Thorpe, Will’s printer: e.g., “Buried heinous fit [i.e., stanza] read: Tho. Thorpe rude heard ‘Jew sweet.’” Another variant ends “Buried, eye nice, straight Tho. Thorpe—rude, hard ‘Jew’ Swede.” (Will frequently implies that Thorpe is a money-grubber; the appelation Swede, surely a body-type epithet, occurs in Sonnet 1.1/Rune 1.1 as an exactly spelled letterstring. Here one pun offers a sketchy depiction of Will’s “Swede “Beard and eyes fit red Tho. Thorpe, red hair t’ go ‘Swede’.” The concurrent pun “ hair to go ( white” is another pun that uses the parenthesis mark to suggest wispy hair down over the face. “...[R]ed hair t’ ghost-white” is still another reading. Such recurring wit about the Swede, always inconclusive in any given instance, accumulates in Q to encourage an emerging portrait of the T.T. whose joke on posterity almost matches Will’s own.

         Lexical echoes, foils, and rhyme—including me/free/be and two Wills—show formal intricacy.

         Part of the tediously authorized alphabetic wit here emerges because Q shows Sonnet 131.14 (here Rune 140.5) as flush left rather than indented. (The couplets in the visible sonnets are conventionally indented, so this line calls attention to itself.) Accordingly, my paste-up version of the rune pulls that line leftward, “balancing” line 14, which—as it says in its terminus—“goes wide.” This small joke seems to be part of the “row naming” game in Q, whereby “Row D,” for example, would mean line 4. Line 5 here (i.e., Row E or the “E-row,” a pun on “error”) ends with a pun about the poet’s ambiguous line designation: e.g., “...low and erased ink th’ [p = thorn, archaic th] Row C, E, E, D is.

          Line 14 continues this tedious pattern of wit: “Bear thine eyes straight, Tho. Thorpe, Row D here t’ go, queued (...cued; ...cue, eye D, E).” (Here as in many instances elsewhere, the main auditor is Will’s known printing agent Thomas Thorpe, the man who helped the author effect the jot-and-tittle wit of Q as it proceeded from hand-scripted form into the printed form that the poet envisioned. The pun “out right, witty low key is end arid” in 13 helps call attention to this contrived “end-wit,” as does the fact that this line about “going wide” occurs on the implicit arrangement of Set X in the bottom right position, where the block of open space after visible sonnet 140—the last one, occurring in a “short line” of two texts—would have allowed the line to “go wide” on the page.

Sample Puns

          1) The towery town gives bawdy show, lad looks; The Tower to you Anne gives; you in Jeez’s Body fold (soiled Luke); you deviled Luke’s O; T’ Hath-er-way, two inches ease, bawdy fold’ll hook foe; in guffaws [1720, echoic] bawdy should look so
          1-2) Lad Luke foggy wet emptier singer’s meaty lips; seize beauty, fooled; beautiful look: Sue, Judy, Ham’t, heirs; fooled locust, ouch! ass-holed, loo gave “O” Jew
          2) Judy made her ass injure some tail; God hymned Harry’s inch, résuméd hell; Gaudium t’ Harry’s “I,” in Geresim tail aye; “Judy, Ham’t” here finger some; Judy hymned heresy (…“Heiress injures me”); in chairs metal I piss; inch or summit I’ll pass; Judy made her ass injure some tail; Ham’et, heir S., injures me; meaty lips to kiss [cf. Hamlet 5.1.206-08, re. Yorick]; give theme t’ Harry S. (hairy ass)
          2-3) eye piss, togas, tush; I pissed August “O” fon; some Italy eye (P.S., togas, too)
          3) Tough Hun the Heavy End, Hat., leads; the addled semen, toady shell; Too fon the Hugh-John…; thought led seamen to thy shell (th’ eisell)
          3-4) you in the heavy entity, lead, cement odyssey lesson (oaths, odes, Otis); th’ eisell aye is Annie’s help; high is Hela aye; th’ eisell-ass Annie S. happily “dewed” his awl
          4) Ass Annie, she, bellied with sauce, come, peer; Annie, she bellied with false come-pair; see homme, pair (pear) [Edenic]
          4-5) Alsace homme parented Hen; randy T., he incites his laundress, I think; all f--k homme, parent t’ Hen; errant (Aye in debt,) Hen cedes Flanders
          5) you in duress eyed Hen keep our ocher Ed’s handy awl t’ hassle Anne [et] Hat.; flay, under eye, Satan
          5-6) reciting key, Hebrew see, Ed, sandaled, hazel, thoughty, complex; see Ed’s end, awled, he’s old (holed), that, his ample X [acrostic, mark of illiteracy] I own, Jack; John (dear, acid Hen), keep roseate Sandell dazzled at thy complexion (at this ample action)
          6-7) see O, impale action, jack peer’s whore, seamed high; hie, complex John, Jack peers o’er Siam; keepers o’ersee a Meaty Anne
          7) Peer force o’ mighty Annie end, “awl” (Hall) to Hat. is enemy; tiny and dolted is enemy
          7-8) Awl, that I-sin, maybe eased you holing; diadem eye in ode; thin and elated, I sin, maybe I eased you, howl and die; Dolty Addison (Edison) maybe eased you; a maiden handled haughty sin may be (pee)
          8) He, Pistol, I indict (indite), a man odd, free; am I not ƒ… suggests “Hamnet S.”
          8-9) paste, you’ll indite a maenad serried; fairy tinkle be you, tone; Hamnet ferret, Hen
          9) Anne demanded (demented) one Will; serrating quay, halibut wan; wan Endymion thought on you ill; awl butt, Onan demean
          9-10) Anne demanded annulling; anal inch did Hen to Howell owe; end minty-eyed O’Neill aye in death; new island did Hen toll
        10) O, you esteem sermon Amos will indite; hell of stem is o’er minim; Anne did end t’ hollowest tome form; “Shakespeare [ft],” Monsieur, minims “Will”
        10-11) Amos well ended odyssey, left placard
        11) Dead oath’s false plague, our thane, owe; Hall, see feeble a Jew earthy, naughty rune fear, Ed; this saucy pee-lake you eye, ready now
        11-12) plague…ends Ferdinand; play, Jew (plague you) earthy, naughty runes, Asser-written, dinner of all (t’ enter us all; …interest all); Anne, serrating dinner salty, subtly is wise (…is wifely turd); dandy John whores all
        12) inure Saul to subtle Jesu; Anne-din our fault is; whore faults bely Sue S.; Sue S. lettered (“laddered”) be; in our salty spell, ye swivel
        12-13) pickle me, odor I get (jet); Billy [cf. Will] Sue’s latter débacle made right with Luke
        13) Anne dear eyed my pain; look, ass, end deride; end o’ ride may be Anne; two idle oxen deride my pain
        13-14) eye neighbor t’ Hen, asses’ tirrit
        14) thigh, prowed hard, Jew-queue eyed; Bare, thin “I” is fitter, aye; Bury the “I” nice, straight; Bare thine “I” ass-straight, though thy “prowed hard” go wide [in a wide line]; see why I die; joke ten eyed; eye jetty Hugh-jet, high, proud; help rude art t’ go, Swede [ ( = C]; help our O, vertigo see witty; Shakespeare [ft] rigid, to you jet up; T.T., write who? Judy, the rowdy, hard Judy; queued

Acrostic Wit

         The exact constituency of the downward acrostic codeline is ambiguous because the odd indention pattern (with line 5 out of its usual alignment as it is positioned in Q in Sonnet 131) may be a calculated signal that some other letter than the initial one in the line (maybe T, which starts “thence”) ought to be substituted in the codeline. With that substitution, the code—T GTAA[?T]APHT AAAK B—seems perhaps to continue to make an issue of the tag-like projections that protrude from both sides of the text: e.g., “Tag [i.e., an ornamental pendant] taped [i.e., bound, like a book] ache be.”Such acrostic encodings as “Tagged, eye a pat-a-kate” and “Tagged, I typed a caper [using ...KBeare as the continuing code, drawing the first word from 14]” seem likely to be other parts of the poet’s “tag” jokes here. Other decodings (with variants in the alphabetic constituents of the codeline ) include, e.g., “T’ Judith aye I eye keep,” “T’ Judy a fit [i.e., a stanza] I aye keep,” “T’ God diptych be,” and “T’ jet aye, I a fit eye aye keep (aped ache be).”

         The upward reverse of this codeline—BK A A A TH PAA[T?]AT GT—suggests, e.g., “Big, I eye aye th’ pageant,” “Étiquette [i.e., label, cf. line 5, left; with code B=8] I paged,” “…heap I aye étiquette,” “Beck I eye aye, th’ pate [painted?] jet [i.e., th’ head (intellect) black],” “Book aye th’ pate get,” “Beget hepatic tea [i.e., a ‘liver cure’].”

         The down/up hairpin encodes “T’ Judith, ache begat hepatic tea,” and “To Judith ache, be cat hepatic tea”—a blank verse line. Another reading is this: “Tag typed [i.e., the bookmark-like lefthand “tag” at 5?] aye a key be—be key aye typed jet.” The palindromic string AAA suggests a cry of pain.


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