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

Proceed to Rune 145
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Rune 144
Fourth lines, Set XI (Sonnets 141-154)

                         Rune 144
     (Fourth lines, Set XI: Sonnets 141-154)

     Who in despite of view is pleased to dote—
     And thou—shalt find it merits not reproving:
     In púrsuit of the thing she would have, stay
 4  The worser spirit—a woman colored ill
     But when she saw my woeful state
     Painting thy outward walls so costly gay
     Th’ uncertain, sickly appetite to please
 8  That censures falsely. What they see aright
     Am of myself, all tyrant for thy sake.
     And, swear that brightness doth not grace the day,
     Least guilty of my faults thy sweet self prove
12 In vowing new hate. After, new love—bearing
     In a cold valley-fountain of that ground—
     Came tripping by, but in her maiden hand.
     Glosses: 1) Who in despite of view = Whoever, despite what is visible,...; 2) it (ambig.) = doting, what’s seen (see 1), this text; reproving puns on re-proofing; 3) stay = allow to remain as is, support; 4) colored ill = turned ill-tempered (pun: printed badly, in black ink); the pun “collared ill” adumbrates an ugly, uncomfortable contemporary ruff; 5) But = Only; state may suggest “condition of the ms.”; 8) they (punning “th’ eye” = people with such “appetites”; 11) prove echoes reproving in 2 and suggests “proof”; 12) bearing = moving, extending; 13) a cold...ground suggests “a fault” (see 11) in the poet’s textual ground, playing on groan and “round/rune”; 14) maiden hand suggests a schoolgirl script, with but...hand punning, e.g., “butt in her midden [i.e., dunghill] handy.”

     144. My Woeful State: She Merits Not Re-proofing

     Whoever enjoys this ms. despite all her apparent problems,
     including you, will find that doting on her is welcome and re-proofing unnecessary.
     Pursuing the very thing this ms. encourages, you should leave her as she is, abiding
  4 her darker nature, for she comes off as an ill-humored, botched-looking mistress
     only because she has been privy to my pitiful situation and the miserable state of this text
     as I try to brighten up the walls of this your monument like some whited sepulcher
     to please the fickle, finicky tastes
  8 of negative people apt to make unfair judgments. What such onlookers actually see here
     is of my own making, and it’s for your sake that I manage things with an iron hand.
     Now, if you openly confirm the blackness you see here and swear you see nothing bright,
     your sweet self proves absolutely guiltless of any of my faults
12 by being vehemently critical of me. Later (and with such a ceremonial dissociation being imagined as behind you) a new strain of affection and affirmation stirred forcefully
     from within a coldly productive crevice of that “faulted” ground
     and rippled by—all in an innocent-looking schoolgirl script that was quite unlike this poet’s “tyrant” hand, which I’ve characterized here as inky dark and error-ridden.


          Clouding the meanings of the 28 visible Q texts from Sonnet 126 onward—and of the 28 Runes that now emerge as different permutations of the same lines—is the enigmatic female figure traditionally called the Dark Lady or Perverse Mistress of the Sonnets. I read this figure mainly as Will’s personification of his own writing project, the perverse Q texts themselves: She is his “Mistress/Mysteries,” his “Mystery sighs” (a pun, e.g., in Sonnet 130.1), his “ms.” or “mss.,” with “I’s” that are “Rauen blacke” (see Sonnet 127.9) and with wiry black hairs that are like textual lines, “honored ‘why-ers’” (see Sonnet 130.4). Confined in his writing chamber and engaged in a love/hate relationship with her, Will surely felt the pleasurable stress she inflicted—even as we do now, but much more so. For in her hands lay two reputations, his own, as writer, and that of the handsome, nameless muse whom he sought, by writing the Q texts, to honor and immortalize. Hence, I believe, this famous “love triangle”: Poet, Friend, and Dark Mistress.

          Amid the knotty drama of Rune 144, then, I read the female “worser spirit” (4) as the perverse runic text itself, and I see her foil, the blithe “maiden hand” (12-14), as a figure for the Sonnets—written, so to speak, in “fair copy.” Addressing his friend (8ff.) as a “sweet self,” Will criticizes finicky tastes (7-8), takes responsibility for whatever in Q does not “please” (see 1, 7), and—in a “good girl saves the hour” coda—paints a “brighter day” scenario. Foils—contrastive pairs that add texture and drama—include the blithe and perverse maidens, which I read as emblems for the Sonnets and Runes, along with such pairs as men and women, tolerant and picky readers, and realistic and romantic writers. In the end the “maiden” enters the scene as a gracefully cursive deus ex machina—a mechanistic resolution flowing from the fissure of Will’s jetty wellspring (13).

          Language self-consciously about printing, writing, and engraving includes “re-proofing” and “proof” (2, 11); “woeful state” (5); and “hand” (14) as script—along with “faults” (i.e., errors) and “leafed” (pun 11) as “paged.” (The OED seems to support “proof” but not “state” as printing terms.) More obscure puns on the topic include “knot [i.e., riddle, puzzle]/ note/an ode” (2, 10, 12 [Q new hate]); “…all silly, what th’eye see, I write” (8); “…knot gray see, th’ heady leaf t’ gild” (10-11); “thou shalt find it, my writs’ knot re-proofing” and “thou shalt find aye temerity’s [i.e., foolhardiness’] knot” (2); “Aye, m’ oaf, ms. ill see” and/or “…ms.-leaf alter and sort” (9); and “See, a meter…” (14). “Ground” puns on “gerund” and points to “bearing” (12-13)—which, as a verb or verbal, means “moving with force” (OED 1593).

          Legal jargon complements a thematic interest in judgment: pleas, merits, stay, state, censures, swear, guilty, prove, and vowing. Faults (11), suggesting both “crimes” and “hidden fissures,” points to “whited sepulchers” (see 6), while have (3) puns on “halve,” i.e., cut in two or fissured. They (8) puns on “th’ eye.” Collour’d (Q4) puns on colored, cholered, and collared. The insistently comic double entendre “butt in her maiden hand” (14) makes “new love bearing” and “valley fountain” (12-13) seem bawdily suggestive, too.

           “Anne” puns abound, leading perhaps to another identification of the perverse female of the text. All in all, the preoccupations of the text suggest that “the worser spirit, a woman cholered ill” of line 4 may mean the poet’s wife. For example, line 2 puns, “Anne, thou shalt find et merits not re-proofing,” where the joke is that et = and = Anne. Line 10 puns, “Anne, swear that brightness doth not grace the day.” (“Anne’s ‘Anne-ear,’ that buried Anne-ass, doth not grace the day” is a more complex pun, with w = IN = Anne in one case, with n = Anne in another, and with “ear” a Renaissance conceit for the pudendum.) The “in’s” (e.g.) of lines 12-14 also provide plays on Anne. “Hate” (e.g., 12) in Q always insinuates Hathaway. And finally, the closing pun “...butt in here, maiden Anne” is relevant—with maiden punning on midden, i.e., dunghill. Even all tirant (Q9) encodes “Awl, tear Anne....” For other plays on Anne, see below.

          The usual rule in Q applies: One reading of a text does not rule out others that the text may suggest—though the goal of the reader/player is always to find the best interpretation.

Sample Puns

           1) Hugh-John Dis picked; Windy spigots 5 use; I jet of Swiss place did ode (audit); W.H. Owen despised; Windy fib I jet, a few I supply; eye wasp, leaf’d (least) toad; aye wasp listed; pee aloft, too
           1-2) O, Sue, I spliced ode oaten, did household tough end; W.H., O, in Dis pity, O’s view aye, ass, pleas dyed ode, our rune; Windy spite, hose view, “I’s” (ass, eyes) pleased two—doubting Thos., Hall; Hall descended, married ass, notary proving John pure
           2) I, dimmer, write, “Snow, tear up roofing”; Hall descended married, snot reproving; Is India temerity’s notary, peer? Anne did tough household end; Anne died, house, hall,’tis ended, merits not R.I.P, roofing; Anne did house Hall, ’tis ended, merry it is; … married sin, aught (Mary-to-snot) reproving; re-proofing
           2-3) Roving John pursued hoisted hinges’ hue, oldest t’ eye
           3) gay neighbors, you aye toasty, hating fuel-days t’ eye; John, pure foot’s [metrical] the thing, she (fee) would have Shakespeare aye; thing [phallic]
           3-4) fey wood-half is tid(e)y wharf; oldest idea, warfare, spared (speared) a woman; wood [i.e., crazy] half-state hew or fear; stay the warfare of pirate, awe homme
           4) I, too, omen see, O, Lord; The Whore S. errs, peer eyed a woman cholered, ill; a woe, man-colored; a woe, manacle, O you riddle
           4-5) writ a woman, “Cull Lord Albert,” when she saw him; woman, see old Lourdes, ill beauty
           5) state [a printing term?]; butt-wen, fey, foamy; in she-ass, a muse you’ll fit; fees amuse you less; woe is Hull’s state; W.H. in fey, foamy wassails tied (tight; tide)
           5-6) “O” full stayed [stopped] pain t’ inch 6 doubt war, duels, f--k host; to hard waltz focus tail; ward wails “F--k off!” to legatee
           5-7) Butt, wen, she saw mew offal (awful) Shakespeare ate (8 [phallic]), pain (tee!) inched high, outward, wails foe, cuffed, leggy, thin, sir, taints I see
           6-7) Hall’s “F--k off!” to legatee [i.e., Sue] answered Anne; ghostly Eden see retain fickle appetite, topple Eve; gaiety insert, Annie’s “I” see (any size), cleped hated apple
           7) sick lie abated Oedipus [l=i]; Th’ Huns erred aye; eye nice icicle; Aye Nice I see, cleped Edo-place; Thin, see our tan sickle, “I,” a pet, 8 to please; eye a pet 8, too, please; eye a pet “82” [Will’s marriage year], please; appetite; thin, see a retina, fickle eye, pate (pet it)
           7-8) effete, Hat. censures Saul
           7-9) doubly I see (icy) that scene: furry-ass Saul salutes aye a rigid Amos missal, salty rune (sealed to Iran); pleased Hat. sin (scene) of your ass saucy, lewd, th’ “I” sere (“I’s” here) jet amiss
           8) silly W.H. ate the hazier “I”-jet
           8-9) Time’s (Tommy’s) missal seal
           9) see ludus eerie (airy) I jet; A muff myself (miss, lass) awl t’ ire Auntie S., earthy f--k
           9-10) for thy sake, Anne S. we readied, buried in a fetid, handy gray citadel (seedy dale; seated aisle; seeded isle); A muff miss’ll seal t’ I—her end farty f--king different (deferred) 8, buried in ass
         10) fetid Hen owed Gray seeded “I”; weird Atterbury “tennis” doth note; Aldeburgh (cf. Akrigg 51); Anne deaf, warty, hot, buried an assed “O,” the naughty gray, sated eye; …gyre I sated aye; Anne…buried knife; bright niece; doth knot grace the day?
         10-11) note jay acidity left, jellied; the dial east gild; aye Southy “dial” is t’ gild (tickled); see Dedalus tickled; accede heady leaf t’ gild (guild)
         11) wise missal Southy sewed—see leaf-proof; Least guilty, wise miss, halt Southy’s witty cell; leaf deckled ye owe
         11-12) prowing V, O, ingénue ate ass to renew love; proving vow, John, new hate’s tearing you, lubber John; Southy’s witty cell see, prone, 5 own gin you hate; Leafed Jew’ll (jewel) tease my faults, this witty ass’ll see prow in V, owing new hate after new love baring
         12) I taffeta renew, low be earring, eye neck old; June 5 owe in gin; I knew Owen
         12-13) John, vowing anew (in ewe), hates t’ earn (urn) ewe love—bare inch in a cold valley’s “O”
         13) Eye Nicole; [The numerals] 5, 11, to Anne’s thought, [a] gerund; neck old valet found; I, nigh, (A neigh) could waylay ass; found, Annie; G-row; round, rune; ground [bass line]
         13-14) round, see a maid ripe, John; Dick, a maid ripping (amid ribbing), gipped (jibbed) honor (John, her maid); run the gamut, rape John
         14) Sea, emit our “I,” peeing babe you tend here, my aid (maid) in hand; inure maiden hand; …butt in her maiden hand; midden [dunghill]; jibbed, enter (honor) my Eden handy; bawdy Norm eyed “anent”; jibbed John, hermit neighing; see a Meta-rib inch by; tenor may eye Diana end; see a maid raping jay; ripping by bawdy John, hear Medina end; you ten hear Medina; jibbed, I near Medina end (and…)

Acrostic Wit

          The downward acrostic codeline—WAIT B PTT AALIIC—suggests topical readings focused on Wyatt, the antecedent sonneteer, and Waite, possibly a figure involved in the seditious, ill-fated uprising that landed the Earl of Southampton, one possible auditor here, in the Tower of London (see Akrigg 116). Concurrently, WAIT may encode wight (i.e., creature), white, weight, wait, weighty, wit, Wade, weed, weedy, and witty.

          Possible readings of this codeline include these: “Waite be petty ally, I see,” “Wight (Waite..., Wyatt...) be petty, awl aye I see,” “Wight bepity, all icy (awl assy; a lassie),” “White be petty awl icy,” “White be puddly ice (petals),” Weighty be pet, Alice,” “White be Pit [in the Globe], alack,” “White be pit—tail I see,” “White be petal, icy,” “White be petals,” “White be pet I lick,” “Waite bepity, alack!” “White (weight) be pee, T.T., eye Alice,” “Wyatt (Waite) be fatally icy,” and “Wyatt be petty, all lies”

          The upward (reverse) codeline—CIILAAT TPBT IAW—can be read, e.g., “See I a lady (laddie) pee bit, I awe (bitty ‘O’),” “Chilly T.T. [titty] pity I owe,” “Silly type, Betty,” “Sea eye, laddie, tub t’ yaw [veer],” and “Silly 8 tupped jaw.”

          The down/up string suggests“White be Pit, alack! Chilly, eye typed (tight) jaw,” “Waite be fatally killed t’ pity, O,” and “Wyatt be piddly acolyte type t’ you (yaw).”

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