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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        

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Rune 31
Third lines, Set III (Sonnets 29-42)

                          Rune 31

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

     And, trouble-deaf heaven, with my bootless cries
     I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought
     (And there reigns love, and all love’s loving parts)
 4  And shalt by fortune once more resurvey,
     Kissing with golden face the meadows green
     To let base clouds o’ertake me in my way.
     Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun;
 8  So shall those blots that do with me remain.
     So I—made lame by fortunes, dearest—spite
     Thine own sweet argument, too excellent.
     What can mine own praise to mine own self bring?
12 No love, my love, that thou mayst true love call.
     Thy beauty, and thy years, full well befits;
     That she hath thee is of my wailing chief.
      Glosses: 1) bootless = unprofitable; cries puns on “series,” suggesting the Q cycle; 3) there = in heaven (see 1); 14) she ambiguously suggests heaven (see 1-3), love (see 12), beauty, a “full well” (see 13), and Anne Hathaway, whose name lurks as a pun in 14: “That ‘she,’ Hath-thee-aye, is of my way-ling chief.” Q’s cheefe (14) puns visually, e.g., on “cheese” and “...heavy.”

  31. Bootless Cries

     Now in lame and hobbling meter I address without results a heaven deaf to complaints,
     lamenting the fact that I don’t have many things I’ve wanted
     (and the fact that love and all its aspects reign only in heaven and not here on earth)—
  4 things that, as fortune wills it, I shall consider again
     when I embrace green meadows with a sunlit face
     if only to have gloomy clouds overtake me on my way later on.
     Just as clouds and eclipses blot out both moon and sun,
  8 these blotted verses—in effect my trip companions—obscure and mar a heavenly subject.
     Thus, my dear, as a victim of circumstances hobbling along barefoot I abuse and frustrate
     the attractive case that you yourself, a paragon, are able to make on your own.
     What personal reward can this buried tribute to you bring me? What good would it do if I cast myself in a more favorable light than I do in this self-berating text?
12 Certainly not any love, my love, that you would call true love.
     Your beauty is perfect for your age and this era. A poet would need a lot of ink to capture it. It might be better for a poet to save his ink. With your looks and youth, you are made for sexual fulfillment with a woman.
     The main thing I wail about is that you are not mine but rather belong to heaven, or love, or beauty—or are under some other kind of feminine control that remains unstated here.


          Here in Set III, Will’s lament about his own difficulties as poet continues, only slightly refocusing his earlier interest (in Set II) in the ability or inability of the Q texts to capture beauty. This prayer-like apostrophe—which might be trivialized with the modern title “My Way” (see 6; pun 14)—uses two main image clusters, one about a barefoot walking trip (a lowly man’s pilgrimage), the other about things heavenly and base. Both clusters include diction about “lacking” and about having or gaining.

           An auxiliary motif links words about writing and music (or cacophony). The familiar idea here is that, while Will’s muse is ideal, the poet’s “footed” progress toward him is botched. “Bootless” (1) is about meter—which has “feet" and can thus be “lame” (9). Restating “my bootless cries [...series]” (1) are “What can [my]…praise…bring?” (11) and “my wailing” (14). As an instrument of torture a “boot” isn’t needed, for there’s already wailing enough (see 1, 14).

          Because any verse “argument” (10) is flawed, keeping a “full [ink]well” (13) might be preferable to “these blots” (8), this half-articulated Q project, Sonnets and Runes. The buried conceit that “there [i.e., above, in heaven] reigns… all love’s loving parts [i.e., harmony]” (3) implies that music-filled heaven is a place “deaf to trouble” (1) and thus contrastive with earth. The “progress” of the put-upon speaker parallels the forward motion of his “blotted” texts, which are like travel companions (8). Loosely meteorological words about “heaven” form an atmospheric list of “base” (6) negatives—clouds, eclipses, blots, and “windy” sighs. Because heaven (1, 3) is the repository of love—and of the friend, light, beauty, and everything inaccessible—a vaguely platonic theme allows the ambiguous “she” (14), a recurring fixture in Q, to suggest beauty. By possessing the friend, “she” becomes the speaker’s antagonist.

          The pun “I, maid lame” (9) triggers a variant conceit in which the hobbling poet is female—distressed, deprived, barefoot, crying, sighing, wailing, and jealous (14) of another girlfriend. The persona misses the “thing” she sought (2)—amidst puns on “man-Y,” phallic “I’s,” and “awl, love’s loving part [is]” (3). The poet as “Well” is now pudendal, a female with a “crying handkerchief” (see “wailing ‘chief,” 14). A cruder hint is that “stains” and “blots” mean menstrual discharges (see the pun on “menses” in Rune 29.1).

          Misogyny also colors the “Hathaway” linepun “That she hath thee is of my wailing chief” (14), where an endpun on “Jesus” arcs, full-circle, toward “trouble-deaf heaven” (1) and probably jokes about Anne’s religiosity, her vocal piety. (Other puns reinforce this one on that topic.) Plays about Meres and Greene—one Will’s anthologizer, the other his critic—occur in 4-5. Greene had called Will “an upstart crow,” so “cries,” “wailing” (1, 14) and “call” (12, cf. “caw”) surely amplify the allusion to him. Spin-off animal puns may include “jack” (2, l = i = j), “python" (9-10), “mule,” and “lynxes” (14).

          The puns on “Jack” and “m’ Annie” in 2 allow various “family” jokes (with Jack = John) including crude humor, combined with “thing” as phallic (which plays against “parts” in 3). The puns “Sue, S. Hall” (8) and “Sue I made,” playing on “maid” (9), are of a similar order. In Q, both “many” (e.g., 2) and “mine” (11) always play on “m’ Annie,” as do “And” (Anne) and “can” (see Anne). The letterstring ...hatd o wi th mere m aine, / S oI,m a dela meby... (8) encodes, e.g., “Hat-o-way, the mare (...mere), m’ Annie S., home aye, daily maybe....”

          “Mine owne” (11, twice) may also pun on “Minoan” and thus allude to ancient Crete, and thus to something labyrinthian like the Runes: e.g., “What can Minoan [i.e., arcane] praise to Minoans’ elf [i.e., the poet] bring?”

          Q’s form ...ce more re-suruay: / Kissing... (4) puns, e.g., “see m’ whore furry [Surrey] / kissing.” Other letterstring allusions include “Tybalt eye...” (Thy beautie..., 13), with “rue local Tybalt aye...” (12-13) a punning letterstring variant.

           “Well” in Q (e.g., 13) always suggests “inkwell” and “Will,” with pudendal overtones: “well” was a joking Renaissance term for “woman.” “See ludus [L. game, sport, fooling around] o’ertake me” lurks as a pun in 6.

Sample Puns

          1) lad; deaf, heavy Anne; laugh, cry, ass; series; serious; Anne, dead rubble, defend, witty hymn; why?
          1-2) jack off m’ Annie, a thing I sought (fought, f--ked)
          2) Jack of many-a-thing
          2-3) I seek (aye sick) awesome “I,” Nate-inch I saw jetting
          3) Anne dead, Harry reigns, loaned “awl” love’s loving part [i]s; oven’d awl loose, lowing [de]parts
          3-4) loo in jeopardy is, in default, pisser
          4) furry; fury; Q more re-f cf. Meres, the poet’s advocate/editor; Anne, S. Hall, debase our tune
          4-5) two in yon Seymour resurrect f---ing; Meres you rake; …your fake (f--k) I sing; m’ whore resurrects f---ing
          5) Kissing witty Joe leaden f--ked him, adieu, Ass Greene
          5-6) see themed “O” as Greene told it—base, loud ass [L. ludus] o’ertake, my enemy
          6) howled be a Cecil ode; Tolled be aye Cecil
          6-7) loud sortie, aye, came, enemy was loud
          7) …in me was low descent; Claude sinned; descend, dick, lips stain; See ludus, end see, ellipses, Shakespeare [= st], Anne both, moon and sun; th’ money ends soon… [cont. overtly in 8]
          8) Sue, S. Hall, thou see below (blow); witty m’ rhyme; witty mer-man; Dowdy Mere (Mary), m’ Annie
          8-9) Witty mere-main (mer-man) saw I; With Miriam, Annie saw I; Mary m’ Annie saw—aye, Magdalene; maybe fart you in ass; pity
          9) Swami [Hindu] aid; Made lame by 40, you Nestor’s tough pig hit (…fit ass pitied); Sue I made; dear Shakespeare’s pied; airy fits [stanzas] pity; by sword you an ass dress
          9-10) satyr Shakespeare spied, th’ Anne onus
        10) tar, Jew, mended axle-end
        10-11) Annie own, Swede or Jew, man, T.T., ox, see Helen too
        11) Hat. see, Anne, mine own peeress to mine; ptomaine [OED 1880, from Greek for “corpse”]; too, mine onus; W., Hat see, enemy new, in a precis’d omen o’ wind
        11-12) see Anne (Seen), mine own Peeress Ptomaine owns leaf-bearing knoll; see elf bearing an olive, milord
        12) mellow that home I fit t’ rule, O you call (see Hall); loo fecal
        12-13) true love, see Hall, thy beauty; Anne, thy ear’s full, well beefy ’tis
        13) Thy beauty, Anne, thy years full well befits; heiress; hairy ass
        13-14) Full well (Fuel) befits it, Hat. shitteth! Eee! Eye soft mule-inch, Jeez!
        14) That “she” Hath-thee-I” is oft mewling, “Cheese” (“Jesus!”); …mulling [grinding to powder] cheese; mule-inch see, heavy; That “she” hath the “I” soft, “muling” (mule-inch) Jesus

Acrostic Wit

          The presence of TT in the emphatic acrostic sequence of capital letters suggests wit aimed at Thomas Thorpe, Will’s known printing agent and (I propose) his collaborator in executing the elaborate Game that the Q texts represent. (Because Thorpe himself signs the Q dedication page “T.T.,” that letterstring is a more convincing form of the name than would otherwise be the case.

          The string TT always carries the concurrent suggestions of “titty” (or “tiddy”) and the hint of a titter—“Tee! Tee!”

          “Medical” jokes in the codeline that would have appealed to Will’s son-in-law, Dr. John Hall, include plays on “ache” (AIAAK), “cyst” (CSST), “diseased” (TCSST), “wen” (WN), “windy” (WNTT), “nude” (upward (NWT), and “sciatica” (upward SSCTKAAIA)—the last, like the runes, “a pain in the rear end.”
           The downward acrostic codeline—AIAAK TCSST WN TT—suggests such readings as these: “Ache, diseased wen, titty,” “‘I’ gets asses tonight,” “Aye, aye, a cat ceases t’ win T.T.,” “Ache diseases (...deceases) twenty,” and “I ache t’ see asses twenty (…ass’s twin, T.T.).”

          The upward (reverse) code–TT NWT S SCTKAAIA—suggests, e.g., “T.T. knew ’tis ‘sciatica’,” “T’ ten wits ascetic eye ‘I’ aye,” “Titty Anne wets, sect, aye I eye A[nne],” and “T.T. nude is ‘sect-y’ [cf. sexy].”

          The up/down acrostic—AIAAK, TCSST WNTT / TT NW T SSCTKAAIA—may be a playful curse aimed at Thorpe: e.g., “Ache, diseased, windy T. T., new t’ [...knew ‘tis] sciatica” and “...nude ass’s sciatica I eye aye.”

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