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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 III, Runes 29-42: Texts and Comments 
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2003, All Rights Reserved        

Proceed to Rune 31
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Rune 30
Second lines, Set III (Sonnets 29-42)

                         Rune 30

     (Second lines, Set III: Sonnets 29-42)

     I all alone beweep my outcast state;
     I summon up remembrance of things past
     Which I, by lacking, have supposèd dead
 4  When that churl death my bones with dust shall cover,
     Flatter the mountaintops with sovereign eye,
     And make me travel forth without my cloak.
     Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud,
 8  Although our undivided loves are one.
     To see his active child do deeds of youth
     While thou dost breathe—that pour’st into my verse.
     When thou art all the better part of me,
12 What hast thou then more than thou hadst before
     When I am sometime absent from thy heart?
     And yet it may be said I loved her dearly.
     Glosses: 1) outcast state suggests discarded texts in Q (the Runes), absence from the family in Stratford; 2) past puns on paste (i.e., imitations, things stuck together); 4) churl = boorish miser; 5) Flatter = Delude (and thus Dominate), punning on “Flatten”; 5-6) sovereign eye, / And make puns, “sovereign aye, Anne, make [= mate]”; 6) cloak suggests a (dusty) bodily covering (see 4); 9) his (ambig.) = death’s (see 4), my verse’s (see 10); 11) all suggests Hall, Will’s son-in-law, heir, and father of a granddaughter (see 9); 13) heart = art (a routine pun); 14) her = your heart/art (see 13), suggesting both Susanna Hall and the Halls’ daughter, Elizabeth.

      30. My Outcast State

     All alone I cry over my isolation, and over the loss of these printer’s discards, as
     like a conjurer, I call up memories from what in the future will be the past, reconstituting this old art, reassembling things
     that I imagined would get lost, perhaps partly from my own deficiencies,
  4 whenever that boorish miser death might cover my bones with dust,
     winking at the high places of the world with a kingly look that levels arrogance
     and making—I think of Anne, my “make”—me set out with no other cloak than dust.
     Life’s beauties have their downsides, poets go on using these as conceits, and my sweet rows and airs have sub rosa counterparts that are thorny or murky,
  8 but our love is a pure and singular entity.
     To see death’s now-living child perform youthful feats
     while you still live—that fountain feeds my poems, that breath inspires them.
     When you yourself become almost all of what is left of me,
12 I wonder whether you will have any more then than what you had before—or have now
     at a time when I am sometimes absent from your heart, and from this superficial art of roses and fountains that is your serious tribute.
     At any rate, it may be said that I loved your heart—and this art—fervently, and at a cost.


          In this lament the “outcast” (1) persona works alone on his arcane project to “re-member” his recollections. An old, synthetic art gives new life to his love, albeit in buried form, even while he is “absent” from the heart (13) he pays tribute to, that “better part” (11) of himself. By vaguely shifting his tense the poet strains to unify past and present with a future when his own death (4-6, 11) leaves only the poems intact, expressing true love through their paradoxes and “mixed” character (cf. 7). “Outcast state” laments these “discarded texts” that we are now helping Will to “re-member.” If Q’s sonnets are like “roses” and “silver fountains,” the prickly, murky runes are the “thorns” and “mud” (7). Still, Will’s love is “undivided” (8), with no “more” (12) to add. “Things paste” (2), Q’s texts are nonetheless whole and seamless.

          The image of an “outcast state (1)—a condition and realm—recurs in 6, as death forces the poet to “travel forth” naked, and in 13, where he is “sometime absent.” Even alive Will is an alien from the realm of the auditor’s heart (13), and Will’s own aging (4ff.) foils the auditor’s youth (9). Dissociation and disparity find contrasts in “re-membrance” (1) and “our undivided loves” (8).

          The poem toys with the image of Cupid or a putto as a urinating fountain statue, with phallic jokes encouraging the conceit. Clues comes in the lines about seeing an “active child do[ing] deeds of youth” that “pour into my verse” (9-10) and in such puns as “the better [bitter] part” (11); “out-cast” (protruding, suggesting statuary); “awl, a wand, be wee pee, modest aye” (1); “wen that sea hurled” (4); “things pissed” (2); “foam on up” (2); “foam-time” (13); and “absent form, your hard” (13). Because the auditor is Cupid-like, being “absent from your heart” (13) sniggers at being “present” in some other chamber. Jokes about “dust”—foils to all those about water—are somewhat more overt: e.g., “Dust” will cover the poet’s “bones” (4) and perhaps be his only raiment (6). Mountains that are “flatter(ed)” may be jokingly leveled to dust. And the “dost” that “pours” into the poems (10) suggests dusty tomes. Will in fact anticipates a time when the runes are the dry bones (4) of literary archeology.

           Amid much “Anne-wit”—e.g., initial VV as “flatter mountaintops,” sagging breasts—the pun “Wit sour, Annie, / Anne, make [mate,] me travel forth without my cloak” (5-6) alludes to the poet’s estrangement from family and Stratford, in a situation that has involved no divorce (see 8).

Sample Puns

           1) J. [= I.] Hall, all [Hall] wan; outcast state may be a printing term (suggesting the cast-off Runes); it also has phallic innuendo
           1-2) I “awl” alone, I foam on up [masturbatory]; is titty foaming?
           2) new peer, m’ hymn be rune (barren) ceased (seized); summon add up in meter; remembrance reincorporation (of the runes); things [phallic]; oft “hinge” is puffed; things paste [hinting at the idea of “regluing the subtexts”]
           3) Witch; you (ewe-) “pussied” Ed.; Which “I” by jacking halves?
           4) W., Hen., that churl [cf. Earl]; …that’s her, Lady Hath., maybe once witty; bonus [L.]; witty dust of Hall, cower
           4-5) Widow Shakespeare [= st], S. Hall, cower flat (cf. our slattered [slovenly] hymn)
           5) Flatter the mount Anne tops: Wide is our Annie, aye; eye Nate (knight), O, piss with foreign “I” [with the next line about Will’s nakedness]; Is lay a turd-hymn hounding Anne [= et]?
           6) Anne, make [mate]; Anne [made] me travel forth without my cloak; see low ache
           6-8) my silly ochre (ogre) office, haughty horn, sends ill verse onto Annie S., muddled, huge whore
           7) Roses cf. rows of text; Rough ass halved, horny is Anne S., ill or sound, Anne S. mute (moot)           
           7-8) Anne S. muddle th’ “O”; huge “O,” you rune divided; love’s a rune
           8) Old Hugh or John [Massey?]; Old Hugh, our undivided love serene (looser Annie)
           8-9) a runed office active; Dedalus, airy one (a rune), tough he is, active child, do deeds of youth
           9) To Sue I say; Too, see his ass; active, see hill, Dido dead, “O” sigheth
         10) dust; Hat. poor Shakespeare [= st] in tome (tomb) aver, see
         10-13) W.H.…         
W. H. endured all; Howard; Hall; bitter part; a riddle
         12) thin thou hid Shakespeare [= st] pisser
         12-13) th’ enema reddened, how odd of it—be sore, W.H.; W. H., a name sometime absent from thy heart (art, …th’ yard); W.H., in I am, foamy, Tommy aye be faint from the Y-hurt…
         13-14) …from the wiry 10 [inch] diet; W., Hen, I am foe mete aye, maybe offends Rome thy hard, tanned Y; fair homme, thy hardened, wide (white) “I”; Rome, thy art ended, it may be fatal (Ovid heard eerily)
         14) Indict (Anne died) I Tommy beside ill Ovid, heard eerily; Tommy, besaddle Ovid

Acrostic Wit

          The downward emphatic codelineIIWW FARAT WWWWA—insists that we hear “FARAT-wit” in it: Readings include, e.g., “Jew, fart away,” “You fart. Why?” “Jew of [Mt.] Ararat (arid) weigh [evaluate],” “Jew fart farty [= 40, 8 x V] eye,” “Jehovah erred. Why?” Jehovah hard (art) 40 eye,” “Jehovah arid weigh,” “Jehovah heard 40 ‘Aaai!’” and “22—ferret—40 eye [= 62].”

           The upward codeline—AWWWWTARAFWWII—suggests, e.g., such readings as “Odd array (Ode awry) few eye aye,” “A witty error of W.—Will,” “Eye farty [= 8 x V], teary fuel,” “Oder [ode-maker] have you, Will,” “Odor half you will [intend],” “Awe, terror few will,” “Odorous Will [F=S], ” “Eye...Taurus Will [with the VV forms as a charging bull’s horns, lowered?]”and “Ought error fuel?”

           Both the down/up hairpin codeline—i.e., IIWW FARAT WWWWAAWWWWTARAFWWII—and the up/down string—i.e., AWWWWTARAFWWIIIIWW FARAT WWWWA—house a palindromic TWWWWAAWWWWT, suggesting “twat” (along with “toad,” “taught,” “taut,” and “to wit”). One reading of the first form of the codeline is “You (I.,W...,) fire at 40—aye, 40—[and] tar a few,” with each V in the mid-lineWs = 5. The latter codeline might mean, e.g., “Aye witty arrows we fired away.”

           The possibility that “Taurus” may be encoded here is intriguing, with Will’s insistently reiterated initial doubling as lowered pairs of horns on a bull). Will’s birthdate was not long before April 26, when it was recorded in Stratford records; “Taurus” (the sign for those born 4/20-5/20), if that term is operating here in a conscious way, would establishe the timeframe for his actual birthday as 4/20-26. (April 23rd is, of course, traditional.)

           The codestring also encourages number plays, encoding puns on TW (i.e., 2), AT (i.e., 8), and “error.” The “numerals” (Vs and Is) add up to 62, with “60” in V’s, at a point where 2 x 30 (poems) occur, with the upcoming 31 “doubling” to 62. “I all alone beweep my outcast state” (line 1) sets a context in which September 1608—the time of Mary Arden Shakespeare’s death at age 62—or soon thereafter comes to mind as a composition (or revision) date. But the numbers typically admit various constructions.

           The anachronistic tendency
for the codestring WWII to suggest “World War II” to moderns exemplifies how the acrostic codelines gain lives of their own, wholly independent of authorial intentions. The author, in manipulating the codelines, would have understood this gamy capacity of the game itself to compound meanings that reader/players would find. That fact, however, does not undercut the fact that Will as author manipulated the acrostic letterstrings to encode various meanings in them. The AVON in the Rune 1 acrostic is a good clue reassuring us that wily authorization is at work—or at least that he wants us to think so.

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