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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 39
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Rune 38
Tenth lines, Set III (Sonnets 29-42)

                         Rune 38
     (Tenth lines, Set III: Sonnets 29-42)

     Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
     And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er,
     Hung with the trophies of “My lover’s gone!”
 4  Had my friend’s muse grown with this growing age!
     With all triumphant splendor on my brow,
     Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss.
     Thy adverse party is thy advocate;
 8  Least my bewailèd guilt should do thee shame.
     Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give
     Than those old nine which rhymers invocate,
     Were it not thy sour leisure gave sweet leave?
12 Although thou steal thee all my poverty,
     And chide thy beauty and thy straying youth
     And losing her, my friend hath found that loss.
      Glosses: 1) Q Haplye = Perchance; state = condition, estate, printed works; 4) ...muse = this poet, I; this...age = the Renaissance, my own aging; 8) Q Least = Least of all (eyepun: “leaft,” i.e., published); 10) Q Then = Than (a customary emendation in the Sonnets) = As, More than; old nine = the Muses, with a numeric gesture toward lines 1-9 in this text; 11) leave puns on “leaf,” page; 13) chide puns on “see hide,” i.e., “look at parchment” and “see hiding”; 14) her (ambig.) = beauty, youth (see 13), suggesting also the Dark Lady; my friend puns “ms., runed” (i.e., “runic text”) and on “...reigned,” “...ruined,” “misery end,” and “my ‘S.’ [ass] , wry end.”

      38. Trophies of Loss: Another Woe

     I happen to think about you and then about my own condition—my estate in Stratford, my isolation, my literary estate including the “state” of this eternally unpublished work—
     and gloomily repeat myself in this list of woes, from “wo-” to present “woe,”
     my loser’s trophies all proclaiming “My lover’s gone!”
  4 Would that my inspiration had matured in concert with my own years—and this great Age.
     Were I decorated with the laurels of great triumphs,
     my losses would still be realities, even if you changed your mind.
     Your estranged adversary, I also here argue your case;
  8 least of all should these guilty laments bring shame to you. (Published, they would do that.)
     As long as this crafty writer and these shadowy compositions convey content finer
     than what the nine muses whom poets always invoke can produce,
     isn’t it true that your sour manner not only has made my departure sweet but should also be said to have produced these “sugared” pages?
12 Even though you take my property, which is negligible, for yourself
     and nag and harp on lost beauty and straying youth
     and on losing one who is unnamed here, my friend has claimed that “ms.” for himself as he reads these texts, rediscovering all those other lost things, too, as fresh as ever.


          Rune 38 is another bemused complaint about Will’s “state” (perhaps a printing pun) and his “loss” (partly that of these buried texts). Like others of the 154 overt Sonnets and 154 buried Runes in Q, this number comments on the poet’s distance from his “lover” and “friend” (3-4), suggesting some real-life situation but also masking it thoroughly.

          After four centuries of puzzling over the Q lines as they function in the visible Sonnets, we’re used to thinking of this friend as some real younger man, perhaps even a homosexual lover. Few interpreters, I believe, have ever imagined that the Sonnet lines might be directly “about” Will’s family in Stratford, but critics have suggested that “And” in Q puns on “Anne.”

           Knowing that Q is intrinsically gamelike frees us up now to respond to insistent “family” puns. Like many other Q texts, Rune 38 has clues that encourage us to hear “thee” (1) as Anne, the absent wife. This reading—non-exclusive, as all readings of the Q texts must be—offers one path through the textual tangle.

           In this reading the “friend” may be Dr. John Hall, the poet’s son-in-law in Stratford, and not Southampton or some other oft-proposed candidate. The pun “my lover’s John Ha...” (3-4) points to Hall, but shifts between second and third person help make this rune, like all the others, an irreducible riddle.

           A good bit of wit and bawdry in the rune does make sense if “Anne” is the riddle’s “an-swer”—puns such as “Ha-plight in cunt,” “He plied [played} in cunt,” “Help lighten cunty Anne” (1); ”From wo- to woe” (2); “Thy adverse party” (7); and “Leased, my…guilt showed dowdy S.-home” (8). “My [es]state” (1) suggests home and family property, while line 3 adumbrates the Stratford house with a sign announcing the poet’s departure. The comic stuff in 11-14 sketches both a nagging wife whose “fore-leisure” once “gave sweet leave” and a son-in-law “friend” who’s inherited “poverty” while gaining a woman now lost to Will—Susanna, but also the Perverse Mistress whom Will and John will share when John visits the hidden texts.

           Trying to “find the loss []” (see 14), we go looking for clues and find a major one in the lefthand acrostic HAHHWTT[I]WTWAAA, an anagram and imperfect but insistent acrostic for “Hathaway.” (The “L” in the Bridgewater copy of Q [8] is, I think, filed to look like “I.” If so, Will’s known printing agent Thomas Thorpe is a likely perpetrator.) The pun “ms. state” (1), suggesting “mis-state” and “mistake,” may have this “I/L” interchange in mind.

           Even Will’s spelling of “Haplye…” (1)—encoding “Ha[p= antique “thorn” = th]-[I]-Y [pron. ‘Y’]e”—shows jot-and-tittle care, helping craft the pun “Ha-[thi]-Y, I think on thee, and then miss t’ hate, / Anne, Heavy Life Form….” (Much wit in the Runes insinuates that Anne is obese. “Y” probably approximates Will’s own pronunciation of “...way.”)

           Inuocate (10) starts the pun “John [= in = jn], you, O, see 8 / we writ not....” The more overt pun “my lover’s (…lawyer’s) John Ha...” (3-4) suggests different roles for the son-in-law—close friend (of whatever sort), eventual estate manager, executor.

          My paraphrase does not narrowly focus on the Stratford family, though it might.

          Many words and puns also suggest Will’s usual obsession with Q itself—these “trophies” of “loss [love]”—and with printing and rune-making. “We writ knot; this, our leisure, gave us witty leaf” (11) is typical. “Those old nine” (in line 10) points to the 9 verses just penned. Aduocate (7) puns, “Add you 0 [zero], see 8,” just before line 8 starts. Other puns about writing include “Thy odd verse ‘parti’ is” (7) and “see 8 [the next line] / leafed” (7-8). “End-loving Hermes runed [i.e., whispered], Hath. found that loss [...low hiss;’ atlas]” (14) is a play that ties the poem to the hermetic tradition (OED 1605, 1637), with its recondite, abstruse, and occult features.

           The variant “Were it knotty [We writ knot], four-leafure gave us witty leaf” (11) puns, I think, on “quarto pages” and about how Will plans to gloss over the large-paged folio arrangement when Q comes out in its smaller, quarto form. Meaningfully, this pun comes in line 11: Will’s buried numerological plan for Q originally would have required 11 oversized folio leaves, each housing 14 visible poems in a 4-4-4-2 arrangement on the folio leaf.

           The term “sweet lea[f]” also suggests “sugared sonnets,” Francis Meres’ now familiar term for whichever Q texts were already circulating among Will’s “private friends” by 1598.

           More than half the end-words here focus on negatives suggesting loss (6, 14)—while Aduocate and inuocate are echoic. Q’s form Whilst (9) always encodes “Will Shakespeare,” since (I argue) the st digraph (with “long s”) shows pictographically an “s” holding a dagger- or spearlike “t” and pictographically “shaking” it by the handle. Thus I call st the family name cipher.

          One gamier pun typifies what many of Q’s letterstring verses will yield attentive, open-minded players: “Aye, Southy [= Southampton, Will’s patron], a ducat leased my boweled, jeweled [guilty] asshole...” (7-8). Homophile wit underpins many of Q’s latent puns.

Sample Puns

          1) Applied high in cunty Anne, thin my state; Apply ink on thee; misty 8; ms.d 8 [cf. Sets IV-XI]; thin, muffed 8; Aye polite, incontent, enemy Shakespeare [st] ate; Apple ye eye, thin content, then misty ate; “Anne dead,” enemies state; Eye th’ ink on thee and th’ enemy state; Apple ye eyed in Chianti [place name]; Happily Ethan contenting Miss Titty
          2) Anne, heavy life-form, wood “O” (waddle o’er); Unduly is Rome wood; in dew aye lies Rome; wedded lore; tailor
          2-3) O-ring witty
          3) Hung, my lover’s “john”; Hun, Jew, eye; row-vice; John; witty theatre; tropes; mellow verse gone; Hun Judith ate raw; my lore’s gone; witty hetero-vice
          3-4) My lover’s John Ha. (dim, yessir!); rune’s muse
          4) Hat. misery ends, homme, you f--k her; G-rown you eyed; this hedgerow engage; Adam (yessir) I end; anew eye Thetis, growing aye (“I”); his groin gauge
          4-5) aye sick or owing a Jew, I’d Hall try; my faint splendor
          5) adultery, my faint, supple end (…hommes feign; ...fine); Wit Hall, triumphant ass, plundering my brow (B-Row, burrow)
          5-6) handy sup Leander on my broad, huge heath
          6) huge, though Europe end, ye dive, fiddle; loaf; love
          6-7) “O,” you jet whore penned, ye Anne [et] eye, hostile (half still), the lusty adverse party
          7) Theatre party aye Southy odd used; odd verse, parti-, eye, ass
          7-8) Cattle eased my bewailed guilt
          8) Laugh, Tommy; fit may be Will’d jewel to show laddie o’ this—a mule; S. Hall, doughty S., Ham; Leased; fame; fold           9) W.H. ill-fitted this; Will Shakespeare [st] thought this shadow doth f--k substance give; Thetis fey, dowdy, O this you see; Fido, widowed, f--ks you best (beast)
          9-10) seek Annie thin; Judy end thou see old; olden Annie, witch wry, aye m’ arse invoked; inuocate John, you hog ate         10) the awful Nine, you hitch (hedge) a rhyme
        10-11) Tower; Immerse John, f--k aye tarry; Harry, m’ arse, eye Newgate, were it not? Harry may our scene use aye t’ worry ten; old nine which rim arse (inch 8 we writ)
        11) sorely, eyes, you rage
        11-12) We write knotty (naughty) so you really sure Jews we’d level; Worried knot this whore leisure gave, sweet leave (leaf); thy Sue
        12) Hall, thou get housed aye, Lady Hall; my poverty Anne chided; Hall; awl’d huge, thou ass tilled, Hall—my power tie; jet housed Ely; Eli; lady heal; Thos. T.
        12-13) Steal Ptolemy power t’ ye
        13) Andes hid Tybalt, ye, in death, strange youth; In Dis [the capital of Dante’s Inferno] eye death; Anne see hid, Anne [et]. Hie, bawdy Anne
        13-14) ended history, aye, and Jew, O, you t’ handy loving
        14) “Andelusia and Jeremy’s wry end”—Hath. found that low, fey; Anne-loving Hermes runed, Hath. founded love (sounded low); Anne Loo-Finger, my friend, Hath-ass, O, you indebted love; O, you in death Hat. low see; germs; Anne, losing Jeremy, misery endeth; Anne, loving Jeremy, serene death found, hatless; this hound Hat. love; Atlas

Acrostic Wit

          As comments above suggest, the downward acrostic codeline—HAHHWTT LWT WAAA—may be an anagram for the name Hathaway. Additionally, the code may be interpreted to read, “Haughty, lewd way” (a nameplay on “Hathaway”), “Hath-‘Dull-wit’-way,” “Haughty lady weigh,” “Haughty lute weigh aye,” and “Howard’ll wed. Why?”

          The upward reverse codeline—AA A WT WLT TW HHAH—suggests such readings as these: “I, aye a wit, will [Will] T.T. [i.e., printing agent Thomas Thorpe] weigh,” “Adult weigh (way),” “Aye I aught willed t’ weigh (Willed away),” “I, aye a wit, whiled away,” “Ode willed t’ weigh,” “Ode will T.T. weigh,” and “‘Aye, aye’ (I eye aye…) a widow lady—why?”

          The down/up hairpin code—HAHHWT T LWT WAAAAA AWT WLT TWHHAH—suggests other potentialities: e.g., “Haughty, lewd, we ought wilt away” and “Hot, low twat will T. T. weigh [i.e., analyze, consider, evaluate].” The up/down hairpin—AA A WT WL T TW HHAHAA A WT WLT TW HHAH—suggests, e.g., “A witty Will taught a lewd way” and “Eye odd Will, too haughty, lewd. Why?” “I ode will [intend, bring into being intentionally]...” is another alternative.

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