Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets

Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets: A Restoration of the Runes
by Roy Neil Graves, Professor of English
The University of Tennessee at Martin

Set XI, Runes 141-154: Texts and Comments 
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2004, All Rights Reserved        

Proceed to Rune 143
Return to the Index of Set XI

Rune 142
Second lines, Set XI (Sonnets 141-154)

                          Rune 142

     (Second lines, Set XI: Sonnets 141-154)

     Fore they in thee a thousand errors note
     (Hate of my sin, grounded on sinful loving),
     One of her feathered creatures broke away
 4  (Which, like to spirits, do suggest me still),
     Breathed forth the sound that said, “I hate / My sin-
     ful earth, these rebel powers that thee array
     Fore, that which longer nurseth the disease
 8  Which have no correspondence with true sight
     When I, against myself, with thee partake
     With insufficiency, my heart to sway
     Yet who knows not. Conscience is born of Love,
12 But thou art twice forsworn, to me love swearing.”
     A maid of Dian’s this advantage found,
     Laid by his side: his heart-inflaming brand.
     Glosses: 1) The line puns, “[1]41 ended, housing 500 errors in ode”; 3) her = Diana’s maid’s (see 13); feathered creatures: i.e., an arrow (see the pun in 1); 4) pun: “Witchlike, two...”; spirits, a namepun, puns on “spurts”; 5) The odd ending “My sin...” suggests a playful mea culpa; 5-6) The aberrational tetrameter line (Sonnet 145.2) and hexameter lines (Sonnet 146.2) complement each other to create a perverse kind of regularity, so that the “E-row” (i.e., line 5) about an “arrow” has an “error”; 6) pun: “...poor is that theory”; 7) pun: witch (see 4, 8); 9) partake = participate; 10) heart puns on “art” and on “hard,” a phallic joke (see art twice forsworn in 12, punning “hard, twice force-worn”); 11) Q conscience (as Sonnets editors note) puns routinely in Q on “cunt-science”; 12) bawdy pun: e.g., “..hard, twice sore, is worn t’ homme low, few hearing”; forsworn = perjured; 14) his = Love’s (see 11), Cupid’s; heart: see 10, 12.

     142. A Heart-Inflaming Brand

     Before anyone might have a chance to detect a thousand faults in you—
     actually despising my own rhetorical errors, based on unnatural affection—
     a distracting arrow, shot by the one of the maidens of the huntress Diana, broke away
  4 (feathered shafts—analogues for quills—like spirits still insinuate my presence, just as that word puns on my name)
     and this arrow seemed, as it hissed through the air and escaped heavenward, to be saying, I hate my
     sinful earth
(mea culpa, I’ve botched my metrics here), all the rebel powers lined up
     in front of you, and whatever exacerbates

  8 blindness of the sort that makes humanity’s high-reaching aims poor,
     as I, fighting suicidally against my own interests, participate with you
     in a bumbling enterprise—my loyalty and the skills it triggers being destined to bring down
     no known target over the hill. Duty and obligation typically grow out of love,

12 but you appear doubly disadvantaged in swearing to our mutual obligations.
     Thus one of Diana’s huntresses gained a decidedly phallic advantage when she discovered,
     lying (flaccid?) by Cupid’s side, his heart-searing “arrow.” (She arced it high and away, bearing its message to pierce some unknown heart—or none at all.)


          Here in Rune 142, a truncated line (5) and “erroneously” attenuated one (6) merge to create iambic regularity (and a mea culpa). In trying to figure out the text, we pick up on the primary allusions to Cupid and Diana, both arrow-shooters. A cryptic prepositioned pronoun (in 3) gets clarified later: “A maid of Dian’s” (13) and “[Love’s] heart-inflaming brand [i.e., his arrow]” (14) show that line 3 can mean “one of Diana’s arrows…,” ironically a phallic dart stolen from Cupid.

          The mythic Diana (or Artemis) presides over maidenly nymphs. She is the twin sister of Apollo, that supreme archer, and often appears as a huntress engaged in the chase.

           Without naming Cupid, line 14 implies his presence, equivalent to Love, named in 11.The pun in errors (1) suggests Eros—Cupid’s other name—in a poem about arrows.

           Diana’s arrow, the “feathered creature” here (3), is also an emblem of Will’s “breathing” quill (see 5). This errant arrow—Will’s pen—“whispers” a diatribe against “sinful loving” (see 1-2) but delivers the moral that “conscience is born(e) of love” (11).

           The drama in which the “twice forsworn” (12) auditor and Will interact seems vague. However, “twice forsworn” (12) echoes “two spirits” (4) and means partly that Will is equivocating as the writer of two concurrent texts. His “errors” (1) and the “insufficiency” that “sways my art” (10) in fact establish the rune’s main motif—imperfection, evil, and immorality. Some diction treats warfare and (of course) writing.

           Authorized confusions that add to the riddlic effect here include the for / fore / four puns (1, 7); the alternating “two spirits” (4) of the rune (making 2 and 4 seem like asides); and closing phallic bawdry about a “hard, inflaming brand” (14).

           Much of the humor is also “numeric”—triggered by the phrase “a thousand errors” in line 1. To understand this wit, which may seem tedious and puerile to modern readers, we must observe that this particular poem is built partly on a unique numeric joke in Q: Here an 8-syllable line (i.e., line 5) links up with a 12-syllable line (line 6) to generate metrical “normalcy” in the form of two pentameter lines that conform to the usual length of the lines in Q.

           To understand Will’s numeric wit we must also remember that in the poet’s day “numbers” means “metrics.” A poet was a “numbers man” and, punningly, an “adder.”

           The first line here in Rune 142 puns on “41 ended” and thus points to Rune 141, which Will has just completed. Line 7 here opens with the encoded pun “Forty two” (code For that w...). Numeric wit continues with a “two / to” pun in line 4, with the pun “fourth” in line 5, and with the pun “twice fours...” in line 12. Other lines open with numeric puns that expand the poet’s gamy focus: e.g., One (3); 10 (as W in line 4, 8, and 9 and as VV in 10, with “wide w...” an opening pun in 11); and 8 (encoded as B in 5 and 12). The pun “I made deux’s [i.e., 2s] dance t’hiss adieu...” (13) is in this same loop of tediously crafted wit.

           Regular rhyme is technically impossible in the Runes, given the overall scheme that Will employs in Q to generate the two concurrent cycles. The poet, as he does here, often makes up for this lack by careful selection of terminal words. Crafty design shows, e.g., in end-rhymes (away / array / sway); in terminal assonance; in echoic pairs (loving and love, sway and swearing); and in half-rhymes (found / brand, here a kind of closing couplet). Echoic or repeated terms inside the lines also show artful linkages: e.g., maid / laid; heart / art; hate, which recurs; and the punning play on errors / arrows / Eros / E-rows (i.e., 5th lines).

           Craftily, the poet’s “E-row” (i.e., line 5) is about an “arrow” and has an “error” because it is metrically short. Linked with this wordplay, in a poem implicitly about Cupid, is the pun “Eros.”

           The pun on “farty” in “For they...” (1) overlays the poem with another crude possibility for what the poet means when he speaks of “breathing forth the sound...” (5). Other “low” puns further typify the buried but surely authorized wit here, intended to entertain a private male audience to whom (as Sonnets editors before me have noted) a broad pun in “conscience” would have been routine. One form of such wit is this: “...who knows not cunt-science is born of low butt, whored twice, force-worn...” (11-12).

           Another deeply buried pun in the opening lines is “classically” provocative: “Forty-one in Thetis and Eros note hiatus, missing ground...” (1-2). Thetis, a mythical sea-goddess, was the husband of Peleus and mother of Achilles.

Sample Puns

          1) Sortie eye, India tough endures Anne (endorsing ode); Eros, arrows, “E-row’s” an ode; Farting Thetis eye; heat heaven, dear whore; into heath Evander roars not; Farty indeed, you fanned her (our) arse node (note, in ode); in the ethos, Anne-terrors note
          1-2) note [as end of line occurs] hiatus; no Deity owes my sin; Sortie ye, India to half, end, a roar is noted; Farty Anne, that huss Anne dear, roars an oath; Forty-one [i.e., Rune 141] ended, housing D [500] errors noted; note Hat., oaf, Miss Anne; our snotty hate owe some; in O, tea is missing; synod hates my heaven
          2) G-row needed incense; ’tis missing ground, Eden, seen; my fine Negro you ended on his end; don, Finn of Hull, lo, you join; oaf, miss an edge (egg), Rune D, Ed, (rune dead) wants Anne, fool, lowing
          2-3) G-rune did on sensual loin go; fellow Hugh-John, Jonah fears; Jonah’s hearsed Hera, Ed; Jonah, of Hereford he read
          3) Wan offer is ether, Ed., see, read (see red) your sub-row A, queue eye; hear, Ed, Creator’s brogue; serried, you erase B-row, a queue
          3-4) a queue aye you heckled
          4) W.H., I see, heckled wolf; f--k I Ass Tommy’s till
          4-5) if pirates do f--k ass, Tommy still bared it forth (…bearded, farty); Witchlike, two spirits, deux, f--k aye Shakespeare, me still (mess till), bared head for Th. T., he found it; Witch-licked woe-spirits dose you, gusty miss, t’ ill bared; Tommy’s till buried hid fart
          5) fey, eye date; Hat. sedate
          5-6) that fated (fetid, faded) ms. eye; that’s idiot missing, if you Lear tied; sound that seedy item wise; I hate ms. insular, Titus; Is idiot missing, Fuller th’ thief?
          6) My finis you’ll hear; Miss John Fuller, that heavy rebel, poor is; Muffin of Hull leered; the cereb[r]al power is thought
          6-7) lip arrested, theories hoarded W.H.; earthy, the verbal powers t’ Hat., t’ Harry farted
          7) W.H. edge longer inures Edith; Fart, Hat-way, chill “O,” injuring your faith, that is easy
          7-8) in your Seth, Thetis, Eve, W.H., I see; Thetis’ witch-heaven owe; “I see a f--kin’ ‘O’,” chorus punned
          8) John, Huchown (Hugh-John) owe, see Horace pun, dense-witted ruse (witty truce) I jet; Witch heaven owes our ass; suited, rough, I jet; W.H., eye coven o’ coarse pundits
          8-9) spawn dense, wet header, you f--ked W.H. in leg and steamy ass (…anal, aging, stemmy); an ocher aspen, dense with terror, f--ked W.H. anally
          8-10) Witch Have-no-Core (Heaven Ogre) is pawing, dense wit, rue f--ked W., Hen., eye a gay Anne Shakespeare, missiles you eyed help her t’ ache with insufficiency, my heart to sway (my Hard-to-sway, my “hard” toss away)
          9) We neige eye in fit [i.e., stanza]; Lucian’s Tommy’s elf witty
          9-10) W.H., in legend, is Tommy’s elf—witty, pretty, acute Hen. S.; with the party acute [i.e., erect], Hen’s hussy see
        10) Wedding Sue, asses eye science; Witness uses eyes; Witness you face, antsy; Wit, insouciance, (science) ye may hear, T.T.; …Hen. S. uses antsy merd to ’suade who-knows
        10-11) semi-hard, tough wight W.H., O knows not; “sciency” my art to Ass Wyatt; merdy, tough Wyatt W.H. oaken owes not
        11) Why Anne [et]? Who knows. Knotty cunt-science is born of love; Ye et hawk (hog) in O-snot (O’s knot); we snotty-cunt-science ease by horn of low butt
        11-12) see in seas Borneo’s low beauty; sea’s bourne [destination] Oslo be
        12) Be you, T.T., Howard, twice forsworn Tommy; twice forsworn tome low swearing; Bawdy Howard, too, I see forsworn; Worn, Tommy loves W.-earring; T.T. wise is our sewer (wise sorcerer) in a tome low
        12-13) see sore few horny Tommy low, swearing “I’m a Deus”; Tommy loves wearing a Midas dye; John gamy, eye Deo, sudden as this
        13) Eye meadow’s dye, Anne’s thighs odd; I, sad, want a Jesu-end
        13-14) I sad wand-tag found laid by; a Jesu-end delayed by hisses, ideas, art, end’s lame inch barren; eye Jesu-end, lady by his ass
        14) Lady buys fetus’s heart, inflaming bare Anne (be her hand); inflaming be Rune D; John, slay my inch-brand (bare-hand); eye shirt, John’s lame [i.e., thin plate of armor]; dais [i.e., bench], hurting ass, [wi]ll amend jabbering; hear a tennis lay, my inch barren; eye sheer tinsel

Acrostic Wit

          The downward emphatic acrostic code—FHOW B M FWWV[V]YBAL—suggests various decodings, with the letterstring BM as a clue that the meanings may be scatological. Possible readings include, e.g., “Foe, be my foible,” “Fou be my fable?” “Show [F=S] B.M. of you (of W.), wavy ball,” “Show wight (Wyatt) [B=8] my foible,” “Shoat, Miss Whitehall [B=8],” “Avowed hymn fetal (...feudal, futile, fatal, subtle),” “Of hope my fable,” “S.H., O, you be m’ Sibyl (...syllable),” and “S.H., who be my Sue, you be Hall.”

          The upward (reverse) code—LABYV[V] WWF M BWOHF—suggests, e.g., “Labia-whiff, hymn buff [i.e., cause to burst out by sudden force],” “Labia-wife [Libbie, y’ wife] may be wolf,” and “Lay [i.e., a poem, with bawdy overtones] by 25 or 30 femmes be wove.” The down/up hairpin letterstring encodes other strained possibilities. As a pictographic detail, the string VVWW suggests fangs that, by depicting a ravenous orifice, seem to link with “labia,” “wolf,” and “foe.”

          The down/up hairpin encodes “Foe [Faux] B.M. few wipe, awl, labia whiff—maybe wolf [down].” The string VVWW suggests fangs and links with “labia,” “wolf,” and “foe” to depict a ravenous orifice.

Proceed to Rune 143
Return to the Index of Set XI
Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets