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 150
Return to the Index of Set XI

Rune 149
Ninth lines, Set XI (Sonnets 141-154)

                         Rune 149

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

     But my five wits, nor my five senses, can
     Be it: lawful. I love thee as thou lov’st those—
     So run’st thou after that which flies from thee.
 4  And whether that my angel be turned fiend
     I hate, she altered with an end;
     Then, soul, live thou upon thy servant’s loss.
     Past cure I am, now reason is past care.
 8  How can it—O, how can love’s eye be true?
     What merit do I in my self respect?
     Who taught thee how to make me love thee more?
     But rising at thy name doth point out thee.
12 Fore, I have sworn deep oaths of thy deep kindness.
     But at my mistress’ eye love’s brand new fired;
     This brand she quenchèd in a cool well by.
     Glosses: 1) But = Only; nor = not; 3) pun: So runst thou = Sue, runest thou...[i.e., Sue, you speak in whispered riddles]; 4) pun: my angel... = my inch-hell; my ‘angle’ be turned t’ sin; 5) puns: A. Hate (paralleling Anne Hathaway), S. Hall, altared, Witty Anne; 7) Past cure suggests pastoral care; curé (OED 1655); 8) puns: see Anne; “I” (phallic) be “plumb”; 11-12) But = Mere; pun: Butt arising, a thin aim doth point t’ odious whore aye (...eye hose worn); 14) puns: “th’ eyes bare Anne,” “This be a rune,” Will; well plays on Will, and Well by, on Willobie, an allusion to Willobie His Avisa (1594).  

     149. How Can Love’s Eye (or Phallic “I”) Be True?

     My rational but not my sensual faculties can
     be governed. I love you the same way you love others who aren’t interested in you—
     I see you so busy running after something that’s trying to get away.
  4 And whether or not my angel has turned into a devil
     I despise, my experience with that “end” has altered my life by giving me other goals;
     thus, my soul, you subsist on what’s left after my earlier physical losses.
     Now that my mind is past anxiety, I’m past the point of medical or pastoral care.
  8 Oh, how can a lover’s eye see clearly? (How can an unruly erection be upright in choosing its target?)
     What’s left for me to care about in myself? How can I keep my self-respect?
     Who taught you how to encourage my love for you?
     One points you out merely by rising with an aroused groin when your name is mentioned.
12 Before, I’ve cursed vigorously when your nature penetrated me.
     But recently, a love-arrow shot toward my mistress’ “eye,”
     and she quenched it in a cool well nearby. (Don’t misread my conceit: I’m talking about mss. and “I’s” and “ayes,” about quills and inkwells. My target here is always you.)


          Typically, the situation somehow involves three figures in a triangle: the poet, his unnamed auditor/friend, and a mistress/fiend/angel. Ambiguous connections among these three hinge partly on bawdy innuendo. One summary of the scenario may be, “The Q project [i.e., the ‘mistress,’ a ms. or mss.] has altered and turned hateful, and when I try to show affection toward her she quenches it in the nearby [ink]well.”

           Three punning terms that apply to the Q text are “altered” (5); “brand” (13-14, as “pen”); and “mystery sigh low, sub-runed news I aired, this be runed, fecund...” (13).

           “Lawful” diction in the text about a trial or a marriage seems not to create real drama. But the problem may be my own limited understanding. Suppressed texts in Q often hide a key that unlocks the situation. Finding that key is a reader/player’s challenge.

           Like the 13 others in Set XI, this rune incorporates a line from the “short line” sonnet, Sonnets 145, a curious text that is itself an enigma in the apparent cycle in Q because it’s written in tetrameter lines rather than the usual pentameters. The couplet of Sonnet 145 reads: “I hate, from hate away she threw, / And saved my life saying not you.” Stephen Booth, in his careful edition of the Sonnets, builds on earlier criticism to note that “hate away” puns on Hathaway, and And, perhaps, on Anne.

           The wife back home is surely tangled in the mess of the Dark Lady or Perverse Mistress, much discussed by earlier critics as an aspect of Sonnets 127-152 in particular. As my own findings illustrate, Will’s hidden jokes in Q about Anne are mostly derogatory—lambasting her as simple, pious, and fat. The most overt pun in Sonnet 145.14, “Anne saved my life...,” is only one of many possibilities. The line seems paradoxical and autobiographically tantalizing. One punning reading of the line is “Anne faux’d my life’s inch, not you” (code: And fau’d my life faying not you).The line also embeds the pun “End sodomy ill, my life’s inch in odd ewe.”

           Typically, Will’s punning meanings are cultivated, provocative, and irreducible.

           Other wifely references color the text of Rune 149 here. The pun “Anne [W = IN] Hat. married. Do I?” (9, suggesting “I do”) and the crisscrossed syllabic anagram “And hate-I-whe” (initial in lines 4-5) make the opening seem like an unfaithful husband’s mea culpa.

           Further “Hat.-wit” lets us be sure that Anne is, at bottom, Will’s “low theme whore” (pun 10) in Rune 149: Sample puns include these: “see Anne, beetle oval, wan loaf, th’ ass t’ howl of...” (1-2); “th’ Hat.-witch flies from thee (...filly is formed)” (3); “Anne, Anne [W = IN] H., either, th’ Hat., my angel, be turned fiend I hate...” (4-5); “A. Hate.,” a she altered, witty Annie” (5); “eye Hat., field-turd--wit anent th’ hen foul...” (5-6); “fon [i.e., silly], I suppose ‘tis our house Annie’d hawk,” linked with “How can love’s eye be true?” and “How can low sigh batter (...better) you?” (7-8); “Anne Hat., merry to-do eye in ms.” (9); “Anne Hat. married, dull Anne, myself” (9); and “Th’ eyes bare Anne, deaf he-cuntt, shitting asshole” (14).

           Q’s at thy name (11) puns, “Hath-Y [i.e., Hath’way] name.” And Q’s letterstring ...thee how to make me loue thee more (10) puns, “...the How-to-make, m’ love-theme o’er,” with puns on “low,” “whore,” and make as the going term for mate. “How-to-make,” with m as an upside-down w, puns, “the How-to-way key.”

           The derogatory nature of Will’s subtextual attacks on Anne in Q makes them marginally suitable for public printing. The cover of the Runegame, however, allowed their assertion with impunity by giving the poet deniability.

           A coterie allusion to Willobie (14, in ...Well by) links with the pun Avisa (1, Q …y fiue fe…) to help muddy already muddy waters. Willobie His Avisa (1594) puzzles Shakespearean critics because of its reference to an H.W. and “his familiar friend W.S.” A biographer of Will’s only known patron—i.e., Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd earl of Southampton—notes, “Contemporaries must have found hidden meanings behind the poem’s bland repetitive moralizings, for Willobie His Avisa went through five editions in fifteen years, even though the authorities tried to suppress it in 1599” (Akrigg 216).

           The riddle of Avisa is surely tied in somehow to decoding Quarto riddles.

           Details do suggest that some of the wit here in Rune 149 is aimed at Southampton: For example, the acrostics So…/A.../I.../The (3-6) and SAIT[Th]H (3-8, P = Th) both encode “Southy”—with “Butt rising at thy name” (11) joking about his social status and about the name “Wriothes[ley],” pronounced Roseley or Rizley.

           “Rising” also whispers about the Essex rebellion that sent Will’s patron to The Tower. “I have sworn ‘Depose’ [depots?], oft hid” (12) may be slyly seditious. The runic game allowed not just bawdry but also sacrilege and political criticism, in an era when free public expression was not established.

           Amid a welter of anal, scatological, and bawdy puns, “That which flies from thee” and “runs” (3) means ejaculation, and “love’s [well-quenched] brand” (13-14) and “my ‘angle’” (4-5) are phallic. Thus other senses of “rising” emerge.

Sample Puns

          1) Bawdy missive witty is norm (…wide is, enormous); witty is enormous avis, in season; five [the no. of sonnets (runes) left to do]; eye, teasing, our ms. Avisa, in season; Edison; Addison; Bawdy my feud is; Butt-ms. eye, view it, sinner; sin see, ass, see Anne
          1-2) in O, rheumy office in season, beetle awes you; See Anne, beetle, oval, wan loaf
          2) Bay Toulouse you’ll eye; by Toulouse you’ll eye lotus (…Louis; wan Ovid; low thistle oust Thomas); Beat low, full “I”; eye loo, the ass to loo fit, Thomas; ill, Ovid hissed howl; Sue’ll I love, this thou allowest; awfully loud hiss, howl (Howell) owe; I love the ass hollow of T.T.
          2-3) Caesar, unfit t’ house turd, had witches’ lice of Rome; hoof sore you knifed; low fit thou see, Sue runes, T.T.
          3) hoofed, a rat, Hathaway see, hiss lies formed; Sue, runest thou afterthought; turdy (dirty) Hat.-witch fleeces Rome (her home); W.H. aye chiefly is of Rome (a fair homme)
          3-4) Cicero met Hindu-hater; thou ass-turd Hathaway, cheese, lice form the end
          3-5) handy white herd ate mangy Libbie t’ earn descended, easy altered wit
          4) Aye in doubt, hear thought-mangle, bitter your end; Undo it, earthy Tommy—angel be turned fiend; Anne daughter had, my angel
          4-5) my angle better (bitter) Nate’s end “I’d”; rune descended filtered anent Hen S.; of India deviled, Urdu eye; Tommy, aye in jail-bed you runed, ascended fey; Aye in duet hear that my angle be touring Dis, India; deaf Anne died, filtered (silly turd); Bede you runed, ascend aye; my inch’ll bed (beat) urn, designed I 8, feel turd within end
          4-6) Sin-deity sheltered wit, hind end t’ Hen S. 5 “A. Hate.” she altered, witty Annie; I ate filtered weed; I hate filtered Wyatt
          5-6) dirty white hand, end in Isolde
          6) Tinsel, elevate how Pontius ruined his love (loss); T’ Hen is old Livy th’ opened, heavy rune t’ solve (solace); T’ Hen S., Old Olivet, how you pun! Thin fool, live, Thorpe, on thy servant’s loss (love); a pun t’ high Cervantes, lo, see; indifferent is love; this Iran,’tis (this, a rant, is) low; you Po in this runed
          6-7) see rune t’ slough, paste, see you rhyming O, reason’s pace t’ carousing
          6-8) Thin, fou Lyly, you tup Auntie S., erring to slow seepy stick, you ram in whore, easing “I” seepy, ass t’ carouse, Annie, too
          7) cure I Amen; I a man owe, raving aye; Paste, see, you rhyme an “O”; pay Shakespeare’s heir; cure, eye Menorahs
          7-8) O weary, fon eye, suppose t’ see a ruse; carouse aye in Edo’s anal office (orifice)
          7-9) past Cairo, see Annie talking, lo, saboter you’d mirror
          8) Hawk Anne, eye toucan (aye talking); eye, in Edo, Seine low; aye toucan low you see; canal of easy bed (Bet) rue; see endless “I” bitter; Hawk-Anne eyed O, how can loo’s eye be true?
          8-10) How can I token loo use? Aye,better you’d merd dun miss, liver’s paste too dowdy
          9) m’ Urdu eye in missal fair; W. Hat. married, “Do I?” (reversing “I do”); “Do I?” in missal, sir, is pieced; eye temerity doughy in missal (…in my fellow’s arse pissed); Anne [W=IN] Hat. married, dull Anne, myself; Harry S. pissed
          9-10) two hooted theatre o’ my camel, Ovid hymn o’er; t’ haughty, vaunty hee-haw, Tommy came; eye enemy sell ferrous piss t’ W.H.; White Merida aye enemies’ll see, her aspect waited
        10-11) Tom, accumulate hymn o’er-bawdy, raving aye to th’ enemy; Butt rising, a thin aim doth point
        10-12) Butt rising, eye T.T., Hen., aye mid-oath, pawing twat, the fore-“I” half ass-worn, deep O hiss, thy deep kin
        11-12) Eve-orifice were knee-deep O; John, tout the fore-I heavy; titty heifer aye has
        11-13) th’ pointy thief arrives, whore Nate (…ornate he pisses O’s tidy pee, kin to a nice, bawdy atom)
        12) hiss oft, heady pee; kind dine, ass, butt ate
        12-13) Fore, I, half 4 [inches], need a piece o’ Southy, deep, kind, an ass (nice,) butted
        13) Bawdy Adam ye missed (mist), our eisell owe, ass; ass barren, din you sired; my mystery-sigh, lo, is barren; lo is Berowne new-sired; …loose be a rune; noose ired; Teresa’ll owe you ass bare and new-fired (if ired)
        13-14) Bawdy, eye Tommy, mystery-sigh low, sub-runed anew, sired t’ hiss; ired, this brand f--k you
        14) This B-rune; This brand f--k you in shitting asshole; quenched “I” nice hole, well buy; simpering, Dis he quenched; John, heckle Willobie; Anne, shitting asshole lullaby; eye end, fecund shit in a cool well buy; ass, eke you Anne see, head in a cool well; you Anne see, he, Dennis OO [= “to ogle”], Lowell by; identical Willobie

Acrostic Wit

          The full lefthand acrostic codeline here (as in other Q texts) is crafted to embed teasing wit that a reader/player is challenged to ferret out. Since the lettercode suggests “baby” and “bit/bed,” the W’s in the codeline are pictographs suggesting sagging breasts or fanglike teeth. If Will worked on the texts in the years just before the 1609 publication, such details as “Bessie” and “baby’s 8...” may allude to his granddaughter, Elizabeth (b. 2/1608), the daughter of Susannah Shakespeare and Dr. John Hall.

           In any case, the downward acrostic codeline—BB SAIT PHW WB F BT—suggests such “low” readings as these: “Bessie type you, wight’s bitty [B=8]”; “’88 [the Armada year] sight few, 8 of 80”; “Baby sight: ‘Phew! Wipe off bed”; “Bessie I (Bess aye I) type, web of Betty”; and “Baby’s 8 fangs [=PH+VVVV, phonic ‘f’ + fangs] beef bit.” Other readings are these: “Babies 8 pubes (pubis) bit [F=S]”; “Bessie type you, wight’s bitty [B = 8]”; “Babies ate few, beef-bit”; “Baby’s 8 [phallic], phew! beef beat”; “‘Baby’s 8,’ few befibbed”; and “Baby sighed, ‘Phew! Wipe off bed.” “Bessie” and “baby’s 8 teeth” may allude to Will’s granddaughter, Elizabeth (b. 2/1608).

          The upward reverse of this codeline—T B FB WWHPT I AS BB—suggests playful readings such as these: “To be fop, whip, tease baby,” “‘To be…’ of Beau pity ass, baby,” “‘To be…’ of Beau pity (A sob),” “To-be fop wiped eye, ass, [eyes,] baby,”and “Tub, if Beau pities baby.” The game expands because (as I deduce) B = phonic 8 and F and S may interchange (conventionally, because lower-case f and s looked alike). “Tub” suggests “Tup,” meaning to fornicate.

           One full “dirty” reading of the down/up “hairpin” codeline depicts a baby with soiled diapers: e.g., “Baby sight: Phew! Wipe off bed, [&] tub, if Beau pities baby.” 

Proceed to Rune 150
Return to the Index of Set XI
Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets