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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        

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Rune 154
Fourteenth lines, Set XI (Sonnets 141-154)

                          Rune 154

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

     That “she” that makes me sin, awards me pain,
     By self-example may’st thou be denied
     If thou turn back and my loud crying still
 4  Till my bad angel fire my good one out
     And—saved my life, saying “Not you,”
     And death once dead—there’s no more dying then.
     Who art as black as hell, as dark as night
 8  Lest eyes, well seeing, thy foul faults should find,
     Those that can see, thou lov’st; and I am blind—
     More worthy I to be beloved of thee,
     Her love, for whose dear love I rise, and fall
12 To swear against the truth so foul a lie.
     Where Cupid got new fire, my mistress’ eye,
     Love’s fire heats water, water cools not love.
     Glosses: 8) Lest puns on Least and “Leaf’d” (i.e., put on leaves, pages); well puns on inkwell, pudendum, Will; 10) I puns on eye; 13) my mistress’ eye (a pudendal play) puns on “my mystery-sigh”; 13-14) puns: e.g., “my mysteries, aye / low (...allow), suffer, hate...”; “I, low, serrate Sue aye...” ; 14) water suggests the poet’s tears or ink; puns: ...snot allow (etc.).

    154. The Fires of My Bad Angel

     That so-called female that makes me sin and rewards me with pain
     is one you can escape by acting in an exemplary and humane fashion,
     returning to me and calming my loud crying,
  4 until she, my bad angel, stokes up the fires and drives you away;
     once my life is saved (death having told me I’m to live, I having admitted I’ve lost you and that between us there’ll be no more “dying”)
     and the threat of death is past, there will be no more dying then.
     You who are as black as hell and who make yourself as dark as night
  8 so that a cover of darkness hides your foul faults from clear-sighted people—
     you love people with vision, and I am blind.
     My blindness means that I, more than those others, deserve love from you
     who are the object of the affections of my mss.—and she is the sole reason I get up every morning. In her service I can be lofty and elevated, but I can also descend
12 into gross duplicity, falsehood, and obscenity.
     At the place where Cupid found new fire to heat his arrow, the “eye” or “I” of my “mistress,”
     love’s fire brings on hot tears and heats the “well,” and no liquid—certainly not one that’s heated up—cools love.


          Typical problems arise from ambiguities about “her” (1) relationship to Will and about whether his “bad angel” is the “mistress” or the auditor-friend whose help he solicits. Decoding “mistress/mysteries” as “Runes” clarifies a love triangle in which Will loves the “she” who tortures and controls him (1); the friend can hardly stand her company (4) even though he’s her only raison d’etre (10-11). Plays—red herrings?—on “hat,” “awa,” “make” (i.e., mate), and “Anne” in 1 link Will’s wife with this female, while puns on Sue Hall (s hell, sw ell, f oule, f aul, f houl) in 7-8 add that daughter into the mix.

           Whoever the “mistress” is, the auditor, by “turning [his] back,” might offer an orifice to ease Will’s loss of her pudendal “eye.”

           One clue to the friend’s identify is the pun “…Hen / W., whored as black as hell…” (7); Q’s hen,/Who/ar… almost spells “Henry.”

           Jokes about “good wands,” “bad angles,” “rising and falling,” and “foul lies” texture the bawdry.

           However construed, the rune combines imagery about sight, heat, passion, angels, and hell. “Faults” (8) suggest hellish, Dantesque crevices as well as bodily orifices, while “Moor” puns operate routinely.

           Rhymed couplets occur at 8-9 and 12-13; the pairs 2/7 and 5/14 are also echoic.

Sample Puns

          1) That shit Hat., make [mate], eyes my “fin” new, hard (…ass may be Annie); That ass heated may kiss my fin, new, hard, as my pay; That shittem [wood] eye case my sin—eye war, Dis, maybe Anne; That fit [i.e., stanza] Hat. makes, miss in a ward (word) is maybe Annie; Hat. makes my sin new-heard (inward); ms., in a word, is homme-pain (...home pain; ...home-pain, i.e., homemade bread)
          1-2) a warty ass may be aye an abyss, hell, sex; Some pay Annie, buy, sell sex ample
          2) Bevel sex ample, my fit tup, Eddie neighed; Busy leaf, X [i.e., acrostic] ample, m’ Shakespeare “O,” you Bede nighed; see X ample, mazed th’ O” [i.e., round, rune] be; bitty knight; Betty neighed
          2-3) diced (deft, dazed), haughty urn beckoned, my ludus wry; …mayst thou bed knight (Nate) if thou turn [thy] back…; my fit th’ obit, Annie dies
          3) I see Cain; I see, caned, my low dick; beacon dim, yellow dick, wry inches till; Eye stout urn beckon…; If, Tho. T., you earn back Anne, dim, yellowed, see ring’s till; “I” stout urn, backing (be aching), dim, yellow, decrying (dickering) “Fiddle!”
          3-4) syringes (wrenches) tilt, aye, Limey, batten jealous ire; in jest I’ll (ingest ill) till my batten, Chelsea rim
          4) “Till” my body, angle ass, “I” rim; Inkless, I rhyme; My good “one” (1 inch, wand) out; my bed angel’s ire may goad; ill may be Eden; jell serum, wicked one; angle, serumy Jew, do Nate (tonight)
          4-5) serum my Godwin owed Anne, dissolved; eye in De Soto my lazy, fey inch; I rummage Odin, oding Dis; wicked one Odin, Dis awe; midget Aeneid and Sodom, Yellow Sea eye, engine owed you; Donne ode eye in Dis; my goo donate I in default (…in th’ “fault”)
          5) end sodomy, Levi; autumn (odd hymn) ye’ll eye, ceasing not; Aye in default, my leaves eye, John; Annie is owed my leaf
          5-6) leaf’s ingenue turned; know Turin deeded, Huns; Andes, aye you’d (…I hoot,) Melissa’s engine audient date, unseeded; engine ought you end; see-sawing, no tune did Hun see
          6) I, in Dayton, seeded terrace; Handy aye, thou inseeded Harry S. in O moor, dying t’ Hen; Hun’s dead t’ Harry S.; wan, see debtor’s gnome, O red (read) ye eye; Handy “death,” wand’s dead to Harry W., no Moor, dying thin; terse (terror’s) gnome, O, read ye
          6-7) Hen, whore taste, bless (blast) castle, ass dark as night
          7) W.H., warty, (Howard,) as black as hell; a sibyl, I see Castle Leicester
          7-8) Jack aye shall eye a satyr kissing “I” jetless; hard as bullock, a shell’s dark ass knight loved (left)
          8) Lofty ass we’ll see in jetties old; Lest; leased; leaf’d; eyes, “I’s”; well pudendum, inkwell, Will; feeing; soul; salts [suggesting tears, perhaps sailors]; devil is old; foul, salty is shoal; old salt is foul, decent
          8-9) old vendettas heated can (t’ Hat., see Anne) fatal, oft tandem be; thy solace aye, Yule ’tis, fall (full, shawl) descended; S. Hall defined (designed) the “O”, fitted [stanza’d]; …seated (sated; sighed) Ed.
          9) iamb’ll end
          9-10) faith, a deacon fetal owe, fit and ample, in dim whore warty, aye to be beloved o’ Southy; Though fetid (fated), see Anne S. eat, hollowest Anne, dam blind, moor, warty, aye tubby below (bellowed oft)
        10-11) rue our tied-up bellow, dusty hurl of sorrows; oft herald of sorrows, Daryl, arise
        11) Hurl over, hoofed, eerie, lower eye fiend fall; Her lover, W.H., O, see dear, low eye (“I”) rise and fall
        11-12) loo, aye rife, ends Hall, tough W., Harry, again; lo, arise Andes, alto; salty O’s we rune
        12) Tough, we reign; Tough wear again stated our youth, foe folly’ll eye; Two firkins (Arrogance…) T.T. hid
        12-13) Tough we rage—Anne Shakespeare, that rude hussy, foul ally (alley) where queue peed; Ruth, Sicily (saucily) allure
        13) W.H. couped God; W.H., erase, up I’d jot anew; eye pudendal, phallic “I”; my mystery-sigh; mysteries sigh (see); mystery is aye; mss. eye (see, sigh); peed God new serum; paid, God new serum hymns t’ rest eye; God new Verum hymns [cf. truth, 12]
        13-14) silo’s fairy I tease (…eye t’ sue); Silas ferrets sweeter Wyatt, Hercules in ode low
        14) Lucifer hates Wyatt (Waite, wight, etc.) rude, reckless, an oat low; Loo is fiery aye, tea’s water; W-8 err(s); see old ass knot love; Loose sire, eat Sue, “I” to rude arse-hole, ease in, “O” to love; water, cool snot, love; Sue, eye terror, Turk old, snow (is now; ass now) t’ love; a tear cools no tallow; whiter (ruder) coolies note, low; loose ferrets wait here, white, reckless

Acrostic Wit

          The emphatic downward acrostic codeline—T BITA A WLT MHT WL—suggests, e.g., “To beat ‘I’ aye (To Betty aye), will Tom hit Will?” “Tea, bit, I eye, well to model,” “Tidy [B = 8] tool [,] Tom hit well (hid Will),” “Tee! Betty-well Tom hit well,” “T., bait eye—I will it, Mighty Will,” “To [type]bit ‘A’ will Tommy tool,” “…awl Tom hit well,” “‘T’ bitty will Tommy tool,” “T. bitty ‘awled’ Mate Will,” and “T’ Betty, a ‘willed’ maid-well.”

          The upward (reverse) acrostic code—LWT HM TL WAAT I BT—can be read in ways that these samples illustrate: “Lewd hymn to lewd eye be. Tee!” “Loo-theme low: 8 I bit,” “Lewd hymn, tell weighty bit (…t’ loo eye aye tipped),” “Lute, emit Hell, weighty beat,” “Low theme: Till, weighty bit,” “…Till, weighty ‘I’, butt,” “Let him till weighty butt,” “Lout empty, lewd I bit (aid),” “Let hymn tell Wyatt I hate tea,” “Hell with him, tell Waite ibid.”

           The letterstring WAAT encodes such potentialities as Wight / Waite / Wyatt / weight / weighty / wit / wade / wide / white / wight. Wyatt, Waite, and Tom (Thomas Thorpe?) are potential topical references that recur in the Q subtexts and that I discuss throughout this site.

           The down/up hairpin suggests, e.g., “Tidy, tall tomato, elude him (hymn), delude 80 [B=8].”

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