(Most will open very quickly.
A few may call for a bit of patience.)

How Will Wrote the Runes
An Easy Sample Text: Rune 1

 The Runes in Three Forms:
Unedited Texts
Edited Texts
Paraphrased Texts

  Introduction & Background:
The Discovery of the Runes
Features of the Runes
Playing the Runegame
The Cast of Characters
Background & Precedents
Other Parallels
Topics in Q’s Subtextual Wit

Reading the Sonnets Anew

  The Sets: Texts & Comments:
Set I: Runes 1-14
Set II: Runes 15-28
Set III: Runes 29-42
Set IV: Runes 43-56
Set V: Runes 57-70
Set VI: Runes 71-84
Set VII: Runes 85-98
Set VIII: Runes 99-112
Set IX: Runes 113-126
Set X: Runes 127-140
Set XI : Runes 141-154

The 11 Set Spreads
Index to Subtextual Terms
Index to the First Lines
Index to the Editorial Titles

Sources, Publication History

A History of Public Response (proposed link)

Other Links:

Game Elements in Q:
The Texts as Gameboards
Puns on “
Robert Greene”
Puns on “Anne” in No. 66
    *The Sonnets Upside Down & Runes Reversed?
  Playful Texts by Others:
     *New Answers to the OE Riddles
     *The Hidden Rune in the Medieval Pearl
     *The Hidden Rune in Spenser’s Epithalamion
     *Sir Walter Raleigh’s Hidden Signature
     *Rhyme-scheme Wit in Herbert’s “The Collar”
s Hidden Signature in Messiah
     *Acrostic Elements in Blake’s “London”
     *Whitman’s “A Riddle Song”

Academic web page:

    Roy Neil Graves, a Tennessee native, has taught English since 1969 at UT-Martin. His academic degrees are from Princeton (1961), Duke (1964), and Ole Miss (1977). His professional web page (see the link above) details his work as a teacher and writer.

     What nobody seeks is seldom found.—Pestalozzi
     Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.—Swift
    Isn't it astounding that all these secrets have been preserved for so many years just so we could discover them.—Orville Wright
     A true critick ought the concealed beauties of a writer, and communicate to the world such things as are worth their observation.—Addison


   AUDRY: I do not know what “poetical” is. Is it honest in deed and word? Is it a true thing?
   TOUCHSTONE: No, truly, for the truest poetry is the most feigning, and lovers are given to poetry....— As You Like It  3.3.17-20




—————a literary discovery website––––––––––

Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets
A Restoration of the Runes

by Roy Neil Graves, Professor of English,
The University of Tennessee at Martin
Copyright ©Roy Neil Graves 2004 All Rights Reserved
This site allows liberal fair use of materials for non-profit educational purposes and public discussion.

Posted 23 April 2003,
with on-going revisions and added links during 2003-2005, 2010


——Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise (Sonnet 106.14)——

          There’s no credible-sounding way to announce what this website documents:
          The 1609 Quarto text of William Shakespeare’s Sonnets (Q), a cycle of 154 visible poems, embeds another, hidden cycle of 154 sonnet-length texts—the Lost Sonnets, or, alternately, the Runes.
          The purpose of this website is to publish these restored texts, lost some 400 years.           Each of these newfound poems shows sense and wit. Each is riddlic, gamy, and consciously crafted. Each can be paraphrased. Each is Shakespeare’s composition, not mine.
           By calling Will’s buried cycle the Runes, I adapt an ancient generic term for arcane writings: A rune is a cryptic poem or riddlic communication. The term recurs as a coy pun in the Q verses—as, for example, in the odd-looking Q line “Bare runèd quires [i.e., ‘stacks of paper’] where late the ‘Sweet Bard S.’ sang” (see Q’s letterstring Bare rn’wd quiers.. .in Sonnet 73.4), and also in “Roughwindes do shake...” (Sonnet 18.3), where the term links with a namepun. As RVON..., it’s also a second-column acrostic pun in Rune 1. (Will, of course, lived in an era that allowed erratic spellings, and he relished puns.) Even though I’m sure personally that the term carries Will’s authority as a coterie generic label, it shouldn’t become a stumbling block to anyone who questions it.          

          I found the Runes in 1979, and this site continues the on-going process of making them known to (rightly incredulous) modern readers.
          Published in this universal medium, these long-lost poems are now free to anyone who wants to read, study, enjoy, and validate them.
         A public writer who didn’t see himself as precious, Will, I think, would approve of this global venue as a modern stage for mounting his work, with groundlings welcome.

          Concurrently while writing the Sonnets, Will—as he likes to call himself in his verses—composed and hid these poems, systematically “recycling” the same 2,157 lines that make up the visible Sonnets so as to generate and simultaneously embed an astounding succession of playful poems that until now have lain hidden and gone unread.
          The endlessly debated cycle of Sonnets in Q is, in effect, an elaborate double entendre, an extended overall pun in which each line of verse does double duty—once in the Sonnets and once in the Runes. Each line in Q takes on a different complex of meanings in the Runes from those it has always had in the visible Sonnets. (Those public meanings are, of course, complex.) The fluidity of meaning in the Q lines is one element that makes the Runes possible.
          As 14-line poems, the Runes are similar to the Sonnets but are unrhymed, more cryptic, more gamelike, and more associative in their organization plans.
          Necessarily, the themes and conceits of the Sonnets and the Runes overlap.

          To hide the Runes, Will used an organization scheme that relies on sequence, parallelism, and the number system of the sonnet form itself. Anyone who understands this scheme can restore the lost texts to their original form.
          All in all, the poet’s hidden plan is a brilliant lost example of suppressed design (or sprezzatura) that is wholly compatible with Renaissance aesthetic principles and practices. The published format in Q obliterates almost all overt indicators of the existence of the Runes. Working in reverse, I’ve reconstructed how the Q texts might have looked in the oversized, hand-scripted format that I believe Will originally used. (Link: How Will Wrote the Runes)

            Each text published here is a unique recovered artifact, an addition to the Shakespearean canon that carries in itself its own stamps of authenticity because it shows meaning and wit beyond what happenstance could ever have generated. The marvelous intricacies of the texts allow new, up-close glimpses into the workings of our greatest literary mind.
           Though much remains mysterious, many of the long-debated mysteries about the 1609 Quarto begin to clarify themselves as we start to think openly of Q as a Game intended to pull the leg of posterity. (The “rival poet,” for example, is surely Will as runewriter.)
           Indeed, finding the Runes forces revaluation of every aspect of the Sonnets and calls into question many of our received opinions, including all the cherished ones.

           The links at left allow ready access to the Lost Sonnets in their unedited, edited, and paraphrased forms. Some links also offer backgrounds and interpretations that may help readers make sense of the Runes. The judgment of history about these poems will be an evolving process that any literate person can now take part in.

          My own theories and speculations should never detract from the texts themselves. In particular, academic quarrels with my inevitable errors and misconstructions shouldn’t obscure the hard evidence here—the incontrovertible body of primary artifacts that this site showcases.
            As finder, first editor, and—for the short span of a lifetime—modern custodian of the Runes, I invite your interactions and comments.
           Like Dr. Johnson as he brought forth his Dictionary, I take pride in what I’ve been able to do in this undertaking but must beg readers to be indulgent toward its shortcomings.
           In adapting the textual components of this site from a 600+pp. book ms. that I drafted in the late 1990s, I know that the complex process of reformatting materials into this non-linear medium will trigger oversights, inconsistencies, and gaps.
           Smart readers here will seek out a clear view of the forest amid the distractions of all the trees. There’s simply no easy way to lay out such a complex and mind-boggling discovery.            
           In general, these lost poems also aren’t easy. (Neither, of course, are the visible Sonnets.) Since Rune 1 makes sense as readily as many of the Sonnets do, it’s a good place to start. (Link: An Easy Sample Text) RNG. Last site revision 16 November 2005.