Toward Broader Readings of the Quarto Lines
Runes hidden in the Sonnets bring some clarification, but also new
challenges: Some of the Runes are very hard, and most are at least
moderately teasing and frustrating to read for coherence and sense.
Given the problematic Q lines and unfamiliar runic permutations,
some of the 154 Runes first reappear to us as blurs that need focusing,
and others appear as murky mysteries or as dazzling sleights that
make us blink.
first necessity for reading the Runes is to let go of what
we’ve previously thought given lines “mean” and
to start with clean slates as Quarto readers. Another requirement—hard
for me personally—is to eschew calling the Runes “subtexts,”
since they originated as coeval creations and in fact may in their
crafting reflect even more time and patient care than the Sonnets
do. If anything, they are conjoined—the way what used to be
called Siamese twins are joined. The truly “subtextual”
aspects in Q are the deeply buried puns, such as those cataloged
in the index, and the acrostic games and “gameboard”
From the point
of view of readers who’ve known about the Sonnets but not
about the Runes, the latter, of course, feel subtextual; inference
suggests, too, that Will saw them as private, not public. Whether
he saw them as “secondary,” however, is another matter.
anything “subtextual” in any runic text, a first goal
for reader/players is to try, as I have tried, to construe the artifactual
linestring so it “makes sense”—and concurrently
to experience the text as a game that’s attempting rather
successfully to thwart the very reduction to linear meaning that
we’re trying to make. My editorial punctuations and paraphrases
offer one set of possibilities in the case of each rune, but readers
will derive their own versions and have their own experiences.
the Runes may seem to be doing violence to the lines they bind together,
especially as they expand the “meanings” in the familiar
old saws: e.g., “S. Hall, I come, pair thee two, a summer's
day” (Sonnet 18.1); “Let me knot two [suggesting Sonnets,
Runes]—the marriage of true (…mirage oft rue) minds”
(Sonnet 116.1); or “Bare runèd quires where
late the Sweet Bard sang” (Sonnet 73.4), also “…where
Earl (…W., Harry, Earl) ate the Sweet Bard’s [h]angin’
meat… (73.4-5). Readers who object that I’m misreading,
mispunctuating, or misconstruing Will’s lines are confused
about how his punning plan works. At least two roadblocks may routinely
bar our treatment of the Q lines as such gamy letterstrings: the
modern disdain for puns as trivial humor, and modern bardolatry,
the reverence for Will that makes us discount “low”
meanings as somehow “beneath” the dignity of a “serious”
readers progressively salvage the Runes from oblivion,
new attitudes toward Shakespeare’s Q texts and lines will
emerge, recapitulating in various fashions the struggle I’ve
already undergone myself, and complementing the suggestions I make
in this book.
I’ve offered samples of a few familiar lines in their old
and their new contexts. Here are a few others that show further
how each Q line gains an alternate set of meanings in the Runes:
|I all alone beweep my outcast state;
I summon up remembrance of things past
Which I, by lacking, have supposèd dead.
30.1-3: 2nd lines, Sonnets 29-31)
In this authorized string of lines, when the poet speaks of “‘re-membrance’
of things past(e)”—not only lost but also “pasted
together” and perhaps “sham” (cf. paste
OED 1659)—he puns about the very act he’s (and we’re)
engaged in, putting artificial parts together again to create a
pasteup text that may seem spurious. “Outcast state”
(cf. “exiled kingdom”) even seems likely as a neologistic
printing term describing a “discarded” text. (OED shows
“state” as an engraving term in 1874.) The pun “Witch,
eye (Witchy…) black ink, half-supposèd dead”
describes the Runes; more overtly, the details “state”
and “summon,” along with the pun on “lackey,”
combine to suggest lost kingliness and thus a lost domain or sphere.
The double entendre “which I, Bill, aching [a king], half
supposèd dead” is a still another pun about the loss
of a mysterious province—really, as this book shows, half
of the poet’s verse cycle. The concurrent pun “witch
able, a king,” depicts Will as a magician in control. “Summon
up” not only suggests “add line to line,” as in
a tally—the proper business of “my adder’s sense”
(Sonnet 112.10)—but also “conjure into being.”
Similarly for the first
time we hear new meaning and playful wit in this unfamiliar
directive to Will’s unnamed friend—or to some other
auditor, perhaps us:
|Give warning to the world that I am fled.
After my death, dear love, forget me quite (quiet)
Upon (A pun!) those boughs which shake against the cold.
73.1-3: 3rd lines, Sonnets 71-73)
In addition to the plays
“… dear love forgèd me—quite / a pun!”
and “love forged me quiet,” this bit of lost text embeds
the nameplay “Shake” and the fuller pun “Witch
Shake., against thee, see [c = see], old….” (OED shows
“pun” 1662, origin obsc.) The ligature ft [i.e.,
“long s” + t] as a name cipher helps
create the pun “Witch Shake., aging Shakespeare,” “…see
boss [protuberance], Witch Shake., again ft, thistled,”
and a joke about “Which Shake[speare]?” The third line
also offers puns on “soul,” “sold,” “cud,”
“code,” and “God” (in Q’s could,
“cold”), while “fled” (in the first line)
admits the puns “flayed”—a writer’s joke
about parchment and about “losing one’s hide”—and
“slayed,” because ƒ and “long s”
interchange visually. (Booth calls the letterforms “nearly
identical” [ix]). Finally, this tercet encases a joke about
the torture that comes from “stichs” or line units:
e.g., “…e quite [equity, acquit] / a pun [‘acute,
a bun,’ suggesting a protruding buttock, or ‘equate
a pun’] thou see: bough-switch, ass ache again, stick (‘stich’
[line unit, verse, card trick]) old…”—or some
such. The “whispered”conceit suggests that the figurative
“boughs” are like Q’s line units, which have been
“left out in the cold” all these years, and which, further,
are like instruments of abuse, like switches on buttocks. The put-upon
reader here begins to understand the meaning of the play, “After
my death, dear love forged me quite a pun!”
third example, one of the Runemaster’s immodest self-references,
helps show how much new stuff there is to be found in the Expanded
Q, “this composèd wonder” (Sonnet 59. 10) with
its “newfound methods” and “compounds
strange” (Sonnet 76.4). The address below, like the one just
above, seems to be directed toward a future recompositor or, rather
sarcastically, toward the “beloved friend”—who
may in the poet’s mind have seemed likely to be the same person:
And arts, with thy sweet graces gracèd, be
No praise to thee, but what in thee doth live—
He of tall building, and of goodly pride,
When all the breathers of this world are dead….
82.8-11; 12th lines, Sonnets 78-81)
Here the image of “breathers” figuratively reinforces
the phrase “what in thee doth live,” while “doth
live” and “are dead” foil each other neatly.
puns (the term is meaningless in Q) in the linestring include these:
“And hard is witty Swede [i.e., Thomas Thorpe, the ‘editor’],
gray see Ed. be / in ‘O,’ peer’s toothy, bawdy,
wadding that ‘oath-leaf’”; “When all Lethe
be…”; “When all the beraters of this world [cf.
‘my sphere,’ The Globe] are dead…”; “beraters
oft hiss [The Globe]”; “We null the beraters of [The
Globe]”; “We annul thee…”; and “Be
readers (Beraters) of this whirled, or dead.” The quiet pun
“arts…be / an ‘up-raise’” anticipates
“tall building,” while a joke about “mouths”
resides in the collaborating phrases “in operas [1644, from
It. and Fr., and from L. works] toothy be you
taught (…taut, twat)” and “the breathers of
this world are dead (…the breath, or soft high swirl, darted).”
The initial play “Ann darts, witty, sweet…”—like
“Witch Shake.” in the preceding example—may be
another latency about the poet’s wife. Concurrent puns, distracting
but entertaining and thus part of the game, include these: “good
Libbie (written) Hall”; “In operas toothy, bawdy, waiting
to heed oath, Livy, he’s tall”; “aye vestal be
you, ill, dying, and of God…”; “wry dune alt [high]
he bred here”; “goodly pee, ridden ‘awl,’
to Hebrew there (Hebrew’d heiress) soft is.”
deterred by such puns or doubtful about their “authorization”
(for certainly a reader cooperates in creating or re-creating them)
may at first choose to ignore such minimalistic word play, concentrating
instead on the obvious and substantial surface coherence, the sense
and logic, in the three restored sequences above, studying at first
the emphatic rather than the tangential evidence for the poet’s
authorization of the sequences, analyzing the lines for evidence
of craftsmanship and order rather than disorder.
However far a reader
may want to pursue them, the lurking sequences of newfound meanings
in the Q lines and their combinations make it easier than before
for one to take the poet at his word when he talks (as in Sonnets
27-28 or 43) wearily of late-night composition, of being frustrated
and bone-tired at bedtime, and of not being able to sleep because
of the “journey in my head (irony enemied; irony enema’d;
‘iron-eye [or phallic ‘I’], enemy, heed’).”
Our increased understanding of Will’s real difficulties and
frustrations as he labored to complete his arduous grand design
may lead us to hear his complaining aspects as fairly honest, not
Too, ironic or
deprecating contexts in the Sonnets are now less likely to belie
the potential accuracy of such comments as “my verse astonished
(my verses tones [cf. ‘tomes’] hid; my verses, to one
eye shut; my verses twin…; my V [pictographic groin], arse,
a stone I shit)” (Sonnet 86). Such epithets as “new-found
methods” and “compounds strange” (Sonnet 76),
broached above, occur in Will’s comments about his own writing.
And the term “both your Poets” (Sonnet 83) now becomes
pregnant with the meaning “Sonneteer and Runemaster.”
Knowledge of the buried scheme, in fact, invites us to reconsider
many of the details and much of the matter that is in the Sonnets—but
especially the poet’s profusely recurring references to himself
and his preoccupation with his own on-going activity as a writer.
the discoveries posted on this site have far-reaching implications
for reading the texts that have been before our eyes all along,
since the original coterie would surely have read not just the Runes
but also the Sonnets broadly, for their wit. Offering new approaches
to lines and thus to the whole of the Q texts, the present book
not only reveals 154 lost runic texts but also begins to restore
to us the Sonnets themselves, showing us the original interconnections
among the visible texts as the author first juxtaposed them on hand-scripted
pages, and revealing in particular their coy playfulness, their
leg-pulling and game-playing character, on a scale that far transcends
the white-noise level of punning we have already detected in them.
Puns in the Quarto: “Simple” to Complex
to play the pungame is like learning to swim in that at some point you
have to jump into the water and do it all at once, a kind of sequencing
may help readers get the hang of it. First, one can start with the “usual,”
conventional, single-term puns in Renaissance usage—including such
bawdy examples as “country matters,” with pudendal suggestiveness
(e.g., Hamlet 3.2.123), “die” as “have sexual
intercourse,” and “ear” as pudendal.
Along this same line, Booth
notes such puns as these in the Sonnets: glass = mirror, hourglass
(Sonnet 3.1); husbandry = agricultural management, manly “tillage”
(3.6, 13.10); uneared = not fruitful, “untilled,”
as a womb (3.5); thing = object, generative organ; nothing
= vulva (20.12); all, punning on “awl” as “penis”
(26.8); travel/travail (27.2); vulgar = commonplace, base (38.4);
dumb = mute, unfeeling (38.7); count/cunt (58.3, 75.7); countenance
= face, patronage, a play on “cunt” (86.13); acquaintance,
with bawdy overtones (89.8, 12); hate away / Hathaway (145.13);
and And/Anne (145.13).
Partridge offers access to hundreds
of other conventional Renaissance puns.
A standard list
of predictable puns in Q could also include these: anon /
a nun; antique/antic; as/ass; well (inkwell,
pudendum); bear/bare; best/beast; but/butt;
could/cold/called; depends/deepens; desert/dessert;
duly/dully; grown/groan; heart/art/“hard”;
hold/holed/hauled; hour (Q hower)/whore; horse/hoarse/whores;
hue/hew/Hugh; hymn/him; lays/lace; like/lick/lack;
might/mite; more / m’ whore / Moor/More; morn/mourn;
my loue / mellow; ne’er / near / in ear; nor/inner;
or/oar; poor/pour; proud/prowed; pine/pain;
reign/rain; rime/rhyme/rim; rose/rows/arrows/errors/eros;
seal/sail/sell/sale; seen/sign/Seine/scene/sin; sit/sight/cite/site/seat/sate;
tell/tail/tale; there/their/tarry/ t’ Harry /
th’ear; thus / th’ huss; thy/thigh; tomb/tome;
waste/waist; which/witch; wight/wait/weight;
Other one-term substitutions
include “ƒ--k” and Q’s fuch; “butt”
(“body,” “bawdy,” “beauty”) for
but; “Luke” or “luck” for look;
and “Annie” for “any,” —as in “For
shame deny that thou bear’st love to Annie” (Rune 1.10).
A next stage of punning,
still easy, takes short elements and reinterprets them: e.g., my nature
(107A.11) = miniature; why then (129.4, following Q white)
= whiten/widen/waitin’ / wade in / Wyatt-end; me thy lips (140.2)
= meaty lips; Iackes so happy are in this (139.2) = Isaac’s
soppy errant eyes (…a rune t’ hiss); day say ore (104A.10)
= desire; the very (104A.10) = thievery; the Stars (18.1)
= this Taurus, these tars; my barren rime (18.2) = maybe I err
(maybe error) in rhyme, maybe a runer I’m; then my (18.2)
= th’ enemy, th’ hen may…; But day (18.14)
= body, bawdy, beauty; To witneffe (18.12) = two eyed an ass;
to wit, knife; too-white knave; to Wyatt, an ass; farre more
(136.4) = farmer, sour m’ whore; why write (75.6) = wearied,
worried; W.H., you’re eyed; and I death my daies fhould
(18.8) = Idea: Tommy dies fooled (…th’ Midas of old).
examples, some of them a bit more complex, include these: to
thee / toothy (45.6); a league is took / a leg I stuck (47.1); black/bullock;
to die/ today; mark / m’ ark; than/thin; with/witty; my name / minim;
ruined/round/runed; that/thought; line/lain/lying; part/party; spirit/spurt;
now/know; clean/ceiling; pine/pain; they / th’ eye; again/aging;
compile (78.9) / see homme pee ill; graces / gray seas; gracious
/ gray shows; lovely/lowly; owes/hose; afford/a fword; ƒaint/saint;
ƒrom or ƒrame/serum; o’er-read (81.10) / horrid; bless
/ be less / be lass; plain/pealing/playing; barren / be a rune / Berowne;
in/John/Ann/eying; clear/sailor; comments / see homme ends / come man
t’ ass; other/“oather”; cannot / see a knot; gulls (86.10)
/ jewels; again/aging; a king/aching; for thy / farty; so thy /Southy;
stay/sty; shall / S. Hall; Eve/ewe; ƒaces/fauces; to it
/ taught / twat; lovely/lowly; mansion (96.9) / man ass eye on…
/ menace, I own (…Ion, John); gentle/Gentile/genital; errors/Eros;
stern / ass, turn; being / be inch / baying / buying; his/hiss; pied/paid;
yet / ye et; robbery / “robe-ry”; canker (99.13) / see Anne,
cur; if/eafe/eyes/ass; time/Tommy; not that / noted; that / T’
Hat.; overgoes (103.7) / Argus; mend / m’ end; fuch/suck/
ƒ--k; beauty/body/bawdy; leafe/leaf; ƒlame / slay me;
look/Luke; now / in “O” (pudendal, anal); hand/handy; favor/four/fore/fore;
tan / t’ Anne; crown / see rune / zero in; admit / Adam eyed (…ate);
Let me not / Lady may not(e) / Laddie may Ann ode; giue/Jew;
appeal/apple; policy / pole I see (why?); still/steal; date/died; razed/raced/erased;
fears not / is ear snotty; crime / see rhyme / serum; heir/hair/air/hear/here;
thee behold (131.5) / Tybalt; prison / Paris own; and whoe’er (133.11)
By exploiting punning
possibilities in short snippets as those above, one builds up gradually
to longer components—lines and multiple lines.
Fuller Linepuns in the Letterstring Codes of Q
Below are some
insistent examples, with the clustered letterstring codes in Q that yield
them. In these instances one has moved from merely detecting isolated
puns to runic deciphering of a more complex sort—a lost art in modern
reading practices that requires a playful, creatively flexible construction
of the alphabetic code. The originality of the wit (and sometimes the
metered or pleasantly cadenced patterns, too) may lead us to hear such
plays as authorized—more so, at least, than of our own contriving.
Hominy, ale, ye end up sick… Howmany
ahol y and ob feq… (33.3)
For tooth-essential salt, I bring John’s own semen (…in
Seine seamen; …in fancy hymen)
For toth yfenfuall ƒault I bring inf en ce,Imayn
Applied in cunt handy, thin, misty 8 [inches]—I needle y’
ass remote (…y’ ass-rim odd)
HaplyeIt hin keont hee,an d then myf t ate A ndheauil y ƒ
Apply th’ ink Auntie Anne did in misstating devil’s
HaplyeI th inke onthee, an dt hen myftate,An dheauilyƒ ro mwoet
When Lucan were dead, is Rome the thing it was? When
louecon uer ted f rom the thing it was (49.7)
To Livy, a fecund elephant see-saw needed (…aye fecund elephants
liue a fcond l i ƒeon fe co ndhead, (63.12)
Science mandates our steins erect, yours (ewers) down: Indeed, eye
meaded jaw, doubting
Since mindeatƒ ir ftinc arrect, erwas done. Andt i methat
gaue, dothn (64.3-4)
A rooster roast done (…roasting), Anne did eye meat: Hat.-jaw
(Mated Judith…) doth now his gifts (jests) [i.e., his crowing]
rwas done. An Dt i met hat gaue, doth now his giftc on ƒound
If state offers you limited aid, John, (…I own [admit]) you
hear a lack.
…f ftate, Oƒeareƒ u llmedit at io n, w here
a lack, (65.8-9)
Handy form, my far off, witty oathers’ altar, near panting
Magi witty, bawdy…
hand From me ƒarre of, with others allto neere, Painting myage
with beauty (70.4-6)
Andean (Ending…), th’ hymn is t’ ill Greene but
weepy, twatted witch.
…andhein th em ft ill greene, But weepe tohaue,that
In ark you aye see kitchen jet, hid yellow taper shows my nights’
waste (…knight’s waist).
…n orq u i c kechan ge?T hyd yallhow thypre tious my
nuits wafte, (72.6-7)
Worried, eye Shakespeare ill, alone: You read his ame.
Whywrite I ft ill allone,eue rt hef ame, (75.6)
In a Ming [vase], thy enemy be less (…bellows…) seasonal
repartee. N a ming thy name, b leffes an ill repor
Eye slick alembic old, high sill, oak stair, and slate (…oak’s
terrain oscillate [OED 1726])
I ƒlike aLambehec ould hi sl ookes tr an flate.
Age, amend: Apples [cf. the story of The Fall] herald a sequence
…ag eme.And haplieoƒ ourold a cquaintance t ell.
Saw-dust thou, too, eye in death, a rune (…erring).
thou too, a n dth e rein (102A.3)
Sought (Sewed, Sowed), high tummy, cell see: Bearing Judy, razor
Sot ha t my fel ƒe brin gwa te rƒor myft aine, (106A.11)
I teach (ditch) theatre for liquor, aye foamy (…I foam, Tommy;
hold my tongue)
I teach theehow,There fore likeher, I fome- tim e hold my tongue:
Human descending, the First Cunt, see it, O, ass lewd, hairy, bared
fore-nothing, this wide V, never fecal, thin, gummy….
…umen t ,Finding the ƒirft con ce it o ƒ
louet here bred, For nothing this wide V niuer feIcall, Then giueme…
Ass, you see meatus, that “I” half-scanned, addle Lancaster,
my crape tights murky, nude…
ACc u fe methus,that I haue fcant edall, LIkeasto ma keourappe
tites morekee neWHat … (113.5-7)
You pawn your dearest lute, O callous (to call us) tupper, vender
…v pon your deareft louet o call,As topre uentour malladies
Lame fool, dafter ward, suborns Lear error.
…lame fhoul dafter ward sburnec leer er.Or
Tom [Thorpe] hawks m’ own fit (ft=Shakespeare) airs,
handy things, in digest (… and, dead, hangs)
Tom akeoƒ m on ft ers, an dt hings (117.2)
Tomahawk [OED 1634] of mine stirs, handy thing is in, digs to boot
Toma ke of mon fters, an d thing s in digef t, But
Tomahawk of mine (man) stirs Anne dead, inches in, digs to butt
or ass, keen- inch to amuse a million decadent sonnets anew
Toma ke of mon ∫ters, an dt hings
in digef t, But r ec ken ing t ime,whofe million daccident sOno,itis
Tommy wove million decadent sonnets, any verse (“Annie-verse”)
…time,whofe million daccident sOno,itis ane uerf i
Witch-work is on leaves, effort numb readier is (…red whore
Which work es on leafes offhort numb redhower s, And…
T’ Ham S., elves babble dares, orate o’ Judy: Ham is
Romeo, sibyl (…ass able).
…t hem-f elues bebeuel Theref oret o giuet hem f rommewa
s Ibold (123.9-10)
If it be poisson dead, is the lesser fin lousy (…Louisa)?
If it be poifon’ d,t is the leffer finne, Loueisa
They say Dante is shallow. (They say Dante’s shallow-ribbed
odes you eyed […ate].)
Thi sI doevowandthi s fhalleue rbe,T othis Iw it…
Euripides you eyed in a scald’d, heavily soft, immune set
…euerbe,Tothis Iw it n e scallt heƒole soft ime,Hen
Sotted o’ the Roman, Mauritania eye, mighty (…empty)
fothat o the r mine, Morethenenough a mItha tve
Aye litotes witty will make John giddy, shunned huss (…shown
i ll:Tothyf wee t will mak in gaddi tiont hus. (130.8-9)
Maybe I, too, end in Japan.
p i ttiew ant in gpaine. (130.14)
Awesome, ye see Livy and theme-sources eye (…again’ll
Oƒhim,m y fe lƒe, and theeIam
ƒorf aken,Hel ear… (133.7-8)
Fertile, eye Cato write forms holy (hollow) in ode here. …furetie-l
i keto write forme,S hallwilli n ot her (133.8-9)
Th’ “Hat.-music” hath a farmer-pleasing sound.
Th at Mu∫icke
hath a farremore pleafing found: (136.4)
Lo(w), you eye seamy Finn, and headier virtue hate. Lo
u ei s my finne, andt hydeare vertue hate, (141.2)
Dais, hurting ass, [wi]ll amend jabbering. …dehis heart
in ƒ l amin g brand, (142.14)
Anne, to enlighten the cows, tup London asses, aye seek Whitehall…
And to inlighten thee gaueeyes tob lindn effe,. I fick withall
The atomie (The atom, aye…) is tough t’ hew [cf. “split”].
I’ll wait. This shall I ne’er know, but live in doubt
atthoum a if thaue t hyW ill, Yet this ∫hal I nere know but
liue in doubt, I hate (153.4-5)
While it seems
presumptuous, even to me, for an American non-specialist—a
mid-Southerner to boot, with Tennessee/Arkansas nasality buried deep in
his genetic code—to be trying to recreate encoded patterns of British
dialectal speech from four centuries back, it’s fascinating to think
that the poet’s phonic codes sometimes allow us all access to pronunciation
patterns, much as rhymes in earlier verse sometimes do. The acrostic code
in 105A allows one example of how this might work: AS BAT TT II CIITN.
Hearing, e.g., in this codeline “A Sabbath to Satan” or “As
bait, T.T., aye eye Satan” establishes an phonic equivalency between
“CIITN” and “Satan.” Further, BATTTII as “Betty”
and IITN as “Eden” suggest other articulated forms, much the
way “keto” (above, in 133) can encode “Cato.”
As aother example of how an
authorized letterstring might encode Will’s own pronunciation, imagine
the end-letter sequence of Rune 84, n hg sy deeyyn dee,
as code for “in edge see Diane die (…dying day)”—with
“edge” a reference to the righthand “edgecode”
itself. Other readings include “An ‘X’ wide eye ye handy,”
“In hex ye die windy,” and “In hedges ye’d eye
A Primer on Playing the Runegame
Working backhandedly, I’ve
concluded from my long hassle with the Runes that the formulas that a
Rune poet learned, the runic patterns and paradigms, would predictably
have comprised such components as these, some of them useful for burying
or encoding materials—and thus, to the reader/player, for rediscovering
them—and others functional to give the buried features their challenging,
playful, dazzling character:
Some Routine Characteristics
of the Runes
1. Respect for
order and sequence of elements in an overt text.
2. Respect for
parallelism of elements in an overt text.
3. Employment of
visually emphatic elements in an overt text.
4. Employment of
of elements based on the items in 1-4 above, and analysis of those
regroupings for those same features.
flexible and playful uses of alphabetic and numeric codes, as phonic
and pictographic symbols.
7. Wit always straining
after new conceits, but, concurrently…
8. Recycling conventional
figures and allusions, especially those about the runic game itself
(e.g., “O,” “rune” or “round,”
“knot,” “rows,” “aegis line”)
and clustered conceits about such topics as military activity, naval
activity, legal activity, gardening and growing things, seasonal
change, and the whole range of Biblical and classical subjects.
and spin-off logic that pushes coherence to the breaking point.
10. Employment of materials
and attitudes betraying bawdry, profanity, sacrilege, disrespect
for the conventional, irreducibility, and other perversions of normalcy
appropriate to a world turned upside down, concurrent with…
11. Mystical piety that
acknowledged God’s omniscience as the only really capable
Reader of the Runes (and admitting any other writer or reader’s
limitations) and that depended somewhat on the mystical symbols
of traditional numerology; as time wore on, secular attitudes came
to dominate what in earlier years may have been genuine piety and
12. The use of puns, the
more extreme the better, with overlays of serious and non-serious
matter the norm.
13. Secondary employment of
aspects of incidental word games—such as anagrams, acrostics,
or palindromes—and of any and all the rhetorical and poetic
devices and figures of speech known to writers since the lost, bardic
Trying to reduce
a runic text to paraphrasable meaning and thus make sure that
some real, authorized composition exists at all, a player has to make
many judgments about significance and must try to discount whatever seems
peripheral, at least for the time being. This, in effect, is the centripetal
force of the Game’s activity, its center-focused drive toward order
and stability. Diametrical is the centrifugal pull toward disintegration,
where puns run rampant and bring pleasure in themselves at the expense
of the integrated whole—or so it seems. This activity, enjoying
all the diffused, authorized distractions that bestrew Will’s lines,
is the other side—the far side—of a reader/player’s
endeavor; here spectrums of puns range from predictably conventional to
ludicrous and babbling, and add-on acrostic and “gameboard”
aspects that hinge on deciphering alphabetic codelines move us far from
“reading” poetry in the conventional sense of that phrase,
even though reading a poem is also a process of decoding an alphabetic
codeline—and even though Will blurs the line totally in Q so that
each wordstring (or line) also becomes concurrently a letterstring (or
code) with multiple “readings” allowed by the author’s
manipulation of it and by the potentialities inherent in the phonic/alphabetic
code used in Shakespeare’s English. Knowing when to stop (or for
that matter when and where to start) is a puzzling part of this open-ended
enjoyment of the infinitely various texture.
In short, playing the
Runegame pushes us in two opposite directions. Conventionally minded readers
may be more comfortable with “reductive” readings. Working
in the other direction brings to mind modern “deconstructionism,”
analysis of a text by which one “proves” the lack of any central
meaning at all and shows, rather, its confusingly divergent implications.
Readers should note that
this book does not deconstruct the Sonnets, except to the extent
that the author himself did: Practically speaking, Will did his own deconstruction
job on the Runes—in the same act by which he set them to paper.
Thus the main act of this book is restorative. But readers who want to
“dissect” or “tear apart lines” (as my students
would say) to see what particular possibilities lie in them may do so.
In learning to hear the punning implications of the lines, we are, in
effect, relearning Renaissance skills at responding to concurrent meanings
and wordplay (see Booth xiv-xvi). Admittedly our former sense that the
Sonnets can be trusted to yield serious meaning will seem threatened if
we do this extensively.
block to progress in construing or deciphering a letterstring
or a whole text may occur because one is constantly asking, “Am
I hearing Shakespeare’s communication or am I ‘making this
up’?” The answer, of course, is “both.” If Will’s
mind were less capacious, we might often accuse ourselves of inappropriate
creativity, of overreaching. Experience with the game, however, leads
us farther and farther toward the conclusion that most “meanings”
in the code—if they aren’t anachronistic—are possibilities
that Will could well have toyed with.
My own rhetoric strains
its limits to try to sort out and systematize the various runic aspects
in Q that convey diverse kinds of meaning. I repeat that individual study
(and play) will be necessary for any full understanding of what I mean.
By diverse means the
Q lines slyly embed bawdry, scatology, irreligious wit, and family humor
of all sorts. Much of this occurs uniquely in the facsimile-line recompositions,
where puns, ambiguities, double entendres, and jokes are routinely achieved
by means of spellings, capitalization and italics, interchangeable alphabetic
characters, spacings, punctuations, and even altered alphabetic characters
in the printer’s font. To see and hear such wit, modern readers
will need not just to loosen up a good bit but in effect to retrain themselves
to recognize the possibilities in the English phonic code as Shakespeare
One who wishes
to cooperate with this baroque game must first imagine each letter-string
in Q as a phonic code set up to challenge “eye and ear.” (The
phrase occurs in the first rune I found, The Pearl Rune: “ear
and eye toiled, condemned.”) Learning to ignore preconceptions about
“correctness” or what the alphabetic characters stand for
or represent helps one play the game with fluency. It’s easy to
forget that meanings are conventional rather than phonically bound—that
in “power,” for example, a punster may see “pour,”
“poor,” “pee o’er,” or (if p=th) “th’
whore” or “th’ O-er” (i.e., the “rounder,”
rune-maker), “th’ oar,” “th’ ore,”
“th’ hour.” Some of this kind of punning humor in Q
will survive modern editing or spelling and may undergo no changes in
detail. For example, “…when the gracious light” (Rune
1.7) suffers no change if rendered in modern English and thus retains
the puns “…when the gray show’s light” or “…gray
shows light” or “…gray show [may] sleight.” (A
“gray show” may be a “misty entertainment,” and
“light” means both “revealed” and “lighthearted.”
Vaguely “subjunctive” or conditional verbs often contain a
sense of something hypothetical.) But other details “lose the pun”
if modernized. For example, the puns “lawyer,” “lower,”
and “Butler” in Q’s “…but loue you are”
(Rune 1.13) get lost in “…love you are”—while
“low viewer” and “lover” emerge. Suggestive spellings
in Q, and those allowing ambiguity of reference, include such overtly
attention-grabbing examples as “howers” for “hours”
(Rune 1.5) and “beautits” (Rune 4.6), the second a notorious
“error” in the Sonnets.
As a further example, the authentic
line “NO more bee greeu’d at that which thou ha∫t don’,”
(Sonnet 35.1) offers, much more readily than its edited form, such potential
puns as “No more be greedy, T.T.…”; “In [H]omer,
beggared…”; “An ‘O’ moor [dark], bigger…,”
a likely pudendal joke; “an amour bigger [beggar, bugger]”;
“…that which thou half-done (half'd one/wan),” a suitable
epithet for the Sonnets/Runes; and “‘Hat.’, witch, thou
half-ton.” Even the strange form “…don’,”
ending the line with an apostrophe that seems to replace a “missing
‘e’,” may be a small joke about something unfinished,
I’ve said that an important
guiding assumption here is that Will prepared Q for print and envisioned
its printed forms as the eventual bases for his Game. I have not studied
how his game would’ve worked in its hand-scripted forms. To the
extent that printed and scripted forms overlap, much wit would carry over
in both forms. (See Thompson for a sample of the likely forms in script.)
But some of Q’s wit is particularly crafted to be set in
type in precise forms that would’ve required Thorpe’s complicity.
Practical suggestions for decoding subtextual
puns and letterstring codes in Q
1. Use Q’s spellings, punctuations, letterforms, bobbles. Regard
“errors” as potential keys to authorized wit. Ignore word
divisions in construing letterstrings. Look at run-on letterstrings,
especially where runic lines connect, for possibly encoded puns. Remember
that the game is playful, not logical or sensible. As a coterie player,
go looking for bawdry, scatology, and other kinds of licentious wit.
Start hearing the common coordinating conjunctions as End, Butt, Fore
(i.e., frontal), O’er/Whore/Oar (with phallic suggestiveness),
’n her, ye et, and Sue/sow (as in “…wild oats”).
Look for what are now called Freudian symbols—awl, prow, oar,
eye, well, “thing” and “no-thing.”
2. Try to hear “Elizabethan”
pronunciations imaginatively—with modern British or Cockney
in mind. E.g., gun = “goon,” about = “a boot,”
making = “my king,” itch = each = age, pee = pay, my =
may, tea = “tay,” done = down = dune (roughly), laud =
loud, it = eat, and so on.
3. Remember interchangeable
letterpairs in the Renaissance: I and J, U and V, VV and W—with
the last four (U, V, VV, W) roughly equivalent. (Q’s recurring
giue encodes Jew, and vfe = wife, use, us, verse,
vice, wise, whiff, viz., oeuvre[s]).
4. Roughly, let A
= I = Eye = Aye.
5. Read S and F as
interchangeable when they occur as f [“long s”and
ƒ. I’ve concluded that within the coterie it must have
been conventional to make the F/S substitution “as needed,”
especially in the capital letter acrostic codes—even when the
S’s and F’s did not look similar. Q’s lookalike
s and ƒ generate hundreds of multiple sets of puns—e.g.,
soul/fowl/fool; fear/sear/seer/sere/Sir/sire; and increase / ink-grief
/ insure ease / incher, ease / “inch” [h]er ass / injuries.
Regard “F” as potentially the dynamic notation forte,
with FF and FFF as possibilities.
6. Note that alphabetic
characters may sound separately as phonic letters. For example, But
= BU+T = body, bawdy; here = hairy, Harry, or “each,
he err”; crime = see rhyme. ABCs may also represent
whole words: Aye, Bee, Sea, Day, He, If, Jay, Each, Aye, Jay, Quay
or Key, Hell or Ell, Hymn, In/Ann, Owe, Pay, Queue, Are/Err, Ass,
Tea, You/Ewe, …, Aches, Why/Way/Weigh, and Sea/Zed/Said.
7. Note that vowels
may be missing in the consonant frames of the code, so that (e.g.,)
BRING = bearing, be-ring, peering, bare inch, bare I inch, burying,
burying Jay, be air in (erring) jay, etc. Similarly, some consonants
(esp. H) may be dropped—e.g., art = heart = hurt = hard = phallic
8. In decodings,
allow the vaguely subjunctive “be,” as in Emily Dickinson’s
“Know I…what a billow be.” Let phonic “owe”
(code O, etc.) mean “acknowledge, recognize, admit [that something
is true].” Allow “eye” (code I, A, etc.) to mean
“look at, observe, ogle [something].” Such “verbs”
allow “syntactic” statements to grow from the subtext.
9. Become familiar
with such recurring terms as “fon” (silly), “wood”
(crazy), and “make” (mate). As a hypothesis, assume that
“loo” works as a euphemism for outhouse and thus a pointer
toward scatological wit (cf. lieux, “place”).
10. When a key word or
convincing pun occurs, look for an encoded syntactic context. 11.
Using the forms previously suggested for the names of major players
in Q, look for nameplays as keys to wit pointed their ways. Locate,
e.g., So, All, SHall, Hat., giue the, am not, Which,
Will, Hen., TT, etc. as keys to banter. Note puns on the names of
characters in Shakespeare’s plays, and puns suggesting The Globe—e.g.,
12. Remember that letters
in English (e.g., I, J, G, Y) typically represent divergent sounds
(cf. C in “cat” and “ace,” and “ou”
in “tough,” “cough,” “plough,”
and “through”). Also, let initial consonants, especially
voiced/voiceless pairs, interchange to represent closely related sounds
(e.g., B/P, D/T, F/V).
13. Be ready to hear foreign
terms and funny nonce words; let et=and=Anne.
14. Listen for “pronounced”
puns and double entendres—e.g., a tomb = a tome = at home =
item = atom; upon = a pun; Where = W + “hear”
= “Double you hear.”
15. Allow such visual interchanges
as B=8; S=5; b=6; W = IN; lefthand parenthesis mark = C or
flaccid phallus, righthand mark = “l” or I or flaccid
16. Acknowledge that, in
such a spirit, letters may be pictographs. As context warrants, let
O = round/rune, anus, pudendum, “eye,” testicle; V or
Y = groin; VV=fangs or sagging dugs; X = acrostic; H = “ladder”
(parallel vertical acrostic rows); I = phallus; J = hook; S = snake,
hiss; T = cross; colon = “spots”; exclamation point =
phallus meeting a tight pudendum; the digraph ft = Shakespeare
or Saint. An X may mean a null, or (as a verb) “to X out,”
17. When context warrants,
use letters as Roman numerals—esp. I, V, X, C, L, M.
18. Consider “runic”
plays on Thorn (archaic th) and Wen (archaic W = When = “wen”
= Will’s initial = a rising or protuberance, or “proud
19. For practice,
read “And fee the braue day funck in hidious night” as
“Anne deaf ate Hebrew’d Avon, seeking hid-Jew’s
naked…” (code An dƒ eet hebraued ayƒun
ckin hid ious nig-ht…) and go looking in Sonnets and
Runes to see what comes next. Listen for “eye peers,”
“eye Paris,” and “ape ears” in appears.
And for “knight” or “night” (cf. N-IG-HT,
N-I-GHT, etc.) read Aeneid, “naked,” “Annie head,”
“any God,” “nigh God,” “neigh, God,”
“nugget,” “negate,” “nigh gate,”
and “Anne I got (jet).”
all, the printed English alphabet with some 50-odd (capital and
lower-case) forms allows Will a maddeningly fluid medium for conveying
punning wit, and his licentious treatment of the code—very much
of his own day—permits especial flexibility and range. I believe
that editors have so far not proffered “f--k session” as a
pun in Q’s fucceffion, or “f--k” in Q’s
fuch. But Booth ventures such plays as “cunt-science”
in conscience and notes that “saucy jacks” (Sonnet
128) is sexually suggestive, and so on. It seems likely that the reluctance
of editors to go further than they have in pursuing bawdry has resulted
largely from their collective sense of decorum and politeness and their
unreadiness to stress low wit in distracting ways. (Booth dismisses Will’s
bawdry in Sonnet 128 as “a mere labor at cleverness.”)
forms in Q routinely facilitate his puns, and even a few examples may
suggest conscious manipulation for “low” effect. In Sonnet
59.4, a functional pun lies in “fecond” on “fecund”—just
after “laboring” and “beare amiffe.”
Similarly, witty little plays on “money” occur in Q’s
forms “The fad account of fore-bemoned mone”
(Sonnet 30.11, my emphasis) and “…prefent mone”
(Sonnet 149.8, an endword adjacent to “fpend”).
spellings “loue” (love) and “liue” (live)
generate “loo,” a scatological pointer that seems functional
in such lines from Rune 1 as “Loo-kin, thy glazen’d tail,
the face thou viewest / Unthrifty ‘looliness’[‘loo-lines’]…”
(3-4 ); “Loo-end [Loined], hairy end…” (7); “…deny
that thou bear’st loo [bare assed, lewd] to Annie” (10); “…this
loo seek, that ‘tails’ that I’m oathèd…”
(12); “…your cell is but[t] loo…” (13); and “pee,
loo seek” and “th’ [p = th] loo seek” (14, terminally).
The word “loo” may have originated colloquially as the euphemism
“place” (Webster’s 3rd suggests an origin from Fr lieux
d’aisance); one notes also that “lew” (now
dial Brit) meant “a place of shelter.” Other plays and
puns in the lines of Rune 1 amplify the poet’s “looly”
scatological wit: e.g., “fair-assed creatures,” “creasures,”
“farty wind-errs,” “addle” (OE stinking urine
or liquid filth; mire), “tars,” “doughy,”
“midden” (ME dunghill), and “I sit, force eerie/awry
[sight source hairy (sorcery)]…,” “I sit sore, fart,
O [fart ode odd]…” (9), etc.
Shakespeare would for sure
have called an outhouse a “jakes” (OED 1530, cf. jakkes, “Jack’s”),
so that the Q line “faufie Iackes fo
happy are in this” (Rune 128.13) admits such plays as “saucy
jakes—foe appear in this”; “…soppier
jaundice”; “…soppier, John to hiss”; “Foes,
eye jakes soppy, a rind th’ ass (error in this / a reign, thy ass
/ a rune this)”; and “saucy jakes soppy around us [horrendous?].”
The reader will recognize
that partly what is happening here is a tendency toward witty sound effect
and echoic diction that has often been remarked upon in the Sonnets and
other carefully crafted verses. Thus, in Sonnet 1.1, one hears “creatures”
play against “increase”; in Sonnet 2.1, one hears
“When” and “Winters” and the echoic play “shell
besiege,” suggesting aspects of combat; “Unthrifty”
anticipates “spend” in Sonnet 4.1; and so on. The kind of
puns that have generally not been heard include plays such as
“Wind, farty ‘winders’ shell, besiege thy ‘burrow’”;
“thy glassen’d tail, the face thou viewest”; “why,
dust thou [ha]st penned!”; “those whores that with genital
work did frame [didst ram]”; and “Oathèd you were yourself,
but lawyer.” These and other such plays are the kind of undignified
fiddle that emerge subtextually.
Collectively, puns can be strongly
tendentious and eventually impossible to discount, especially in a writer
who made an art of them. However, since single puns are almost always
inconclusive because they are susceptible of multiple readings—and
since many of the puns I explore are not only concurrent but contradictory—I
make no insistent case for the authority of any particular detail below
or elsewhere here, and instead offer the alternatives in the exploratory
spirit of the game, whose verses, in reductio ad absurdum fashion, suggests
meaning in dazzling, multifarious ways.
The letter-string puns I
excavate are more radical and rampant (if those conceits are
compatible) than the many puns typically suggested by explicators and
editors of the visible Sonnets. Thus an explicator who approaches the
Sonnets from the far side—whose main argument is that the Q lines
are, in a fundamental way, punning entertainment—is bound, I fear,
to appear foolish.
The examples below use the
14 lines in Rune 1 to suggest the capacity of all of Will’s
Q lines for inordinate punning. This approach loses continuous, run-on
wit but at least shows something of the cornucopic potentialities of any
set of Q lines. While the examples above start with a “reading”
and then give a code equivalent, those below start with a potential codeline
and give a reader practice in seeing how divergent “meaning”
emerges from it. Thus these are more typical of how the runes actually
work—taking an alphabetic/phonic letterstring and exploring it for
“whispered” meanings that are partly “encoded”
but also emerge because the code itself, construed flexibly, cooperates
to generate ambiguity.
ƒaireft creatures we defire increafe,
From fairest “creasures,” Weedy
From fairest “creasures” we’d
ease our “increase.”
From fair-assed Creator S. we desire inch-series.
Fair homme, fairest creature, is
witty siren’s rave.
ass, ’tis richer, sweet, afire…
Sour homme, sourest creature, Swede
[i.e., T.T.?], is our increase [as agent].
Of Rome is Harry S., ’tis right, you’re
swayed, Sire John (see our ass).
Form fairest see. Erasures we desire: Ink
Fair homme, fairest creature, sweet
siren, see, erase (…see her ass; see arras).
Fair homme hairy ass, ‘tis
red: Your sweetest ire-inch raise.
Swedes, eye rune-series (…sweetest Iran crave).
From serest creatures, weeds, eye rain (ruin,
rune), see reef.
Fair homme, fair-assed creature,
Swede [i.e., T.T.?], if our ink erase....
ƒortie Winters fhall befeige thy brow,
When “farty winders [i.e., things
wound up]” shell, besiege thy burrow…
Wind, farty wind, arse offal, besiege thy
Windsor, too, eye. Enter S. Hall, Bess,
eye jet Hebrew.
Wen—sore to enter ass—his awl
besieged high burrow (…Hebrew).
W., Hen. S., our twinned (tuned) arse shall
besiege thy burrow (…th’ Hebrew).
Wen, sore to enter, ass is. Hall, besiege
When fortune tears S. Hall, Bessie age thy
Wind for tune enters asses’ hell
by siege. The way? Burrow.
in thy glaffe and tell the ƒace thou veweft,
Loo-kin, thick lies Anne dead: Healthy is
ass thou viewest.
Luke, John, thy glees sent t’ hell
this ass, Tho’s T.
Luke, eye Anne, th’ ugly saint-tail,
thesis to have weaved.
Low cunty jellies see aye in detail t’
hiss, ass, t’ house Shakespeare [=ft, the name cipher].
Luke, eying th’ witch, laugh until
the face toast.
Luke joined Wycliffe and detailed his ass
t’ house tea.
louelineffe why doft thou fpend,
Unthrifty lowliness, why, dust thou [h]ast
Winter’s t’ ye lovely, nice,
ass, why does T.T. house paint [...hose pin...]?
Winter’s Tale howling, Ass W.H. widows
T.T., who uses pee-end.
Winter eye, still holiness white, oft t’
You in there eye style of lines wide. O’s
[Rounds, Runes], T.T., husband.
Unthrifty, lowly anus wide oft Thos. pained.
Unthrifty, lowly, an ass, why does T. T.
husband / those whores… [cont. 5]?
howers that with gentle worke did ƒrame,
Those whores that with genital work did
ass ram (died firm, did fry me)…
witty, gentle, workèd—I’d frame (…farm,
…witty gin tell [i.e., device reveal] where key died, Sir,
Thou see Harry Southy (tee!). Witty gentle
W., o’er kitty [cf. “pussy”], desire me.
Those who err state, “Wit gentle work
genital work did Fr. [father] o’ (owe) me.
Thou see “O,” worse-state [a
printing term?] wit…
Thos., your ass thawed with gently workèd,
Thos., sewer is thought wit. Gentle work died,
Sir, a midden [i.e., dunghill] … [cont. 6]
let not winters wragged hand deƒace,
T’ Hen, Lady Anne owed
winter’s Ragged Andy face.
T’ Hen, hell, Eden owed
windier surrogate, handy fece…
T’ Henley, 10 o’
2, enter, sewer eye, get handy sauce.
Thin, Lady Anne ought wind [her
way?] t’ her sewer again....
in the Orient when the gracious light.
Low in the whorey end, W.H. integers
I owe you—slight (slicked).
Loo-end, hairy end windy, gray, seize…
Loined Harry entwined, hickory shows,
Hen. th’ “gray show” ’s light [i.e., dim
(dour) entertainment’s gay (visible)].
Lo, in the “O” (runed,
windy) gray seas lie jet [i.e., black].
Lo, in the “O,” wry end
when the edge [knife], Horatio, you slight (sleight, slide).
Hell windier eye, entwined hickory shows
Low in th’ whore, I and twenty,
Low in theory, end windy, Grey, Cecil
Loin, th’ whore eye, and twenty
gray seas’ll I jet.
to heare, why hear’ft thou mufick fadly,
Music to Harry W. high hearest thou?
Music’s addle [“stinking liquid filth”]? Why?
Muse? Seek two: Harry, Harry S., [&]
T. T., whom you seek sadly (fatally).
Muse (Muff) I see, cat too, Harry.
Why, here’s T. T.—Thomas—aye sick, fatally!
Muff, I see (icy), kitty awry, Harry
S.… (…a wry Harry S.; airy, hairy ass)…
Muff I seek (sick), two hairy wires,
Him (Hymn) you seek, too, Harry, W.H.;
worse, T.T., whom you f--k fatally.
it ƒor ƒeare to wet a widdowes eye,
Is it force, Harry, to “wet
a widow’s eye”?
I sight “forest ‘ear’d’,”
to wit, a “widow’s eye” (…weedy sea, witty
Eyesight, force “ear”
[pudendal] to “wet a widow’s eye.”
I sight force eerie too (I sit, force
Harry to widow ideas aye).
Eyesight fore is hairy [i.e., lashed?]
to wet a widow’s eye
“I” [phallic] sight, force
hard. A weed (Awed; Odd), a wet (wide) “O” we see.
duet, a widow sigh…
I sight sorcerer, toad, odd dose eye.
fhame deny that thou bear’ft loue to any
For shame deny that thou bear’st
love to Annie!
For shame! That T. Thorpe arrest!
Fore is Ham’et, Annie, that
thou bearest [buriest]—love-twin. Why?
Fore [Firstborn?] is Ham’et,
Annie, that thou bearest low, twin. Why?
If o’er is Ham’et, a-nighted,
thou buriest low (law), too, Annie (lewd whinny).
Fore-shamed Annie (tee!), Hathaway
bare-assed, lewd. O, Annie! (O, Anne, why?)
For shame deny, Tho., T. Tho’p,
ear: Fit (if it) low’d o’ Annie.
Th. (titty; lispingly, “Kitty”), O you be, Harry S.
(hairy ass) t’ love.
Fore is a midden [dunghill] yet. Ha.
T. Th., O you be harassed, low…
“For shame deny th’ titty,
O,” you (bare-assed, lewd) whinny!
ƒaft as thou fhalt wane fo
ƒaft thou grow’ft,
A sophist ass, thou ass, halt, whinny!
Sophist thou grow’st (…jurist).
A soft-ass’d ass, Thos., halt,
whinny! Soft ass’d thou grow, Ass. (Tee!)
A sophist aye, Southy, fall to anus
of ass T.T., how gross. (Tee!)
As fast as thou, S. Hall, twin [i.e.,
Judith?] so fast thou grow’st!
As fast as thou, S. Hall, twin, so
fast thou grow'st
Hall to Anne, “So fast thou grow’st!”
I doe count the clock that tels the time,
W. H., Annie, doesn’t this lock
that tail? Southy, tie me! (Southy’d “I” me!)
Whinny too Count, the seal. O, seek
th’ tittle, Southy, t’ eye me.
When eye do count [i.e., measure]
this low, seek th’ “addle” [i.e., muck] t’
W., Hen., adieu. Count, this low
see: Kitty, t’ tell Southy, “Eye me.”
eyed a cunt, this low. See kitty tail [cf. “pussy”],
W.H. eye docent t’ heckle, O,
see cat had tail, ass, that I may [cont. 13] ode at you…
you were your felƒe,but loue you are
O, th’ Tower, your cell see,
but low you are (…lower).
Oathèd—you W., Harry,
O, Tho. Thor., sell, fee. [See] beauty
over (…but 1 whore).
O’ the two weary whores ’ll
see beauty o’er (…sea booty, O you are).
Ought (O, tee!) Hathaway rears (rear
ass,…). Hell see, but lower.
Elizabeth, love you are.
Oath adjure yourself, butt-low you
“O” thought: you weary
ƒron [(sic) cf. ƒrom] the ftars do I my iudgement
Not foreign, this tar [sailor?] sodomy,
huge men t’ pluck.
Nate F. runty star is. Dome [Wisdom;
The Globe] y’ judge, th’ loo seek.
Knot’s a rune: The stars, too,
image E’mund th’ lucky [plucky].
Not front, he’s t’ arse.
Sodomy-judge, amend (Amen’d) th’ luck.
Knot from the stars, dome [wisdom,
judgment] ye judge, mint pluck.
Knot from the stars (“domey,”
huge), meant t’ pluck.
Innate, [Not] form’d, he stirs:
Demiurge [(?) OED 1678] mend th’ luck [i.e., Fortune].
In ode Pharaoh, India-star’s
dome, you’d commend…
Notice rune… …eye-made
mint… …tars do eye, my huge men…
Inevitably, some anachronistic
puns will emerge—terms that for one reason or another Will
couldn’t have thought of. I’ve included in the index many
terms not recognized in OED as having currency in the Renaissance, terms
borrowed from other languages or of unknown origins. But I’ve tried,
as best I can, to cull items such as these examples: Silhouette (23.3)—though
the family name might have existed; wisteria (33.3); “dull my power
tie” (38.12); Tennessee (code TAAAAANSCE [62X]); paraffin (46.3);
Hadacol (51.2); Simonize (51.1); Kodak (74.3-4); Monet (83.1, perhaps
an extant name); sandwich (73.3-4); Niquil (77.13, 87.1); “Mouthèd
Graves” (76.7) as a reference to myself; Celsius (85.2); TNT, CBS
(91X); dynamite (93.5); Puget (118.1); “Eye Nazi foe” (125.3);
“bucked Tommy gun t’ end beauty” (125.7); Tommy gun
At first I thought “jalapeno”—in
the codestring Mr. W. H. ALL.HAPPINESSE. on the dedication
page—must be anachronistic, until I learned that jalap(a) (NL.)
is extant and once meant a purgative. Thus “Mr. John [=W=IN],
jalapa in ass…” (overlaid on “John Hall”)
makes a fairly convincing authorized joke with “medical” overtones.
Concurrently, the play “Misery: Hollow penis” occurs. Over
and over I’ve relearned that I must not underestimate Will’s
deviously inventive mind.
The real capacity
of the runes to generate, amid their chatter, coincidentally
“prophetic” forms helps me understand why such researchers
as Drosnin find what they take as superlogical portents buried in the
textual acrostics that they analyze. This aspect of “rune-magic”—lurking
amid heaped products that in varying measures are authorially generated—must
have appealed especially to a pre-rational age, when the bardic capabilities
of word-wielders were presumed and when it was in the best interests of
the bards themselves to have their consumers keep on buying that notion.
As I’ve said elsewhere, the convention that “only God can
read the runes” seems to’ve developed in the early runic coteries,
probably as a serious affirmation of faith during the medieval Age of
Faith. The idea still may make some sense by allowing us to postulate
a hypothetical omniscience superior to our own puny rationality in dealing
with overlaid complexities of meaning. Any rune, even the simplest Anglo-Saxon
riddle, is finally an unknowable microcosm.
A more pragmatic observation, perhaps,
is that subtextual coincidences and accidents in a coterie work do not
rule out subtextual intentionality and authorized craftiness,
even though the authorized and the accidental forms may admittedly be
hard, or even impossible, to tell apart.
Readers not particularly
interested in tediously punning aspects of the Runes—or
in abstuse philosophical theorizing—may prefer to focus on the more
overt senses of the lines, reading the runic texts rather much as they
might read the Sonnets—for sense, figurative and rhetorical features,
and wit—and trying to ignore intrusive playfulness if they can.
(The subtextual wit will intrude anyway, gradually educating an attentive
reader/player in the more “far-fetched” aspects of the Q project.
This process is essentially how I myself have proceeded.)
Readers with diametrical interests
who want to pursue the arcane minutiae of the Q texts can consult later
sections of this introduction, where some especially complex aspects of
Will’s Runegame are the topics.