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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 IV, Runes 43-56: Texts and Comments 
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2003, All Rights Reserved        

Proceed to Rune 45
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Rune 44
Second lines, Set IV (Sonnets 43-56)

                    Rune 44
     (Second lines, Set IV: Sonnets 43-56)

     For all, the day they view things unrespected,
     Injurious distance should not stop my way.
     Are both with thee, wherever I abide:
 4  How two divide the conquest of thy sight
     And each doth good turns now unto the other,
     Each trifle under truest bars to thrust
     When I shall see thee frown on my defects!
 8  When what I seek (my weary travel’s end)
     Of my dull bearer when from thee I speed
     Can bring him to his sweet up-lockèd treasure
     That millions of strange shadows on you tend
12 By that sweet ornament which truth doth give,
     Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme,
     Thy edge. Should blunter be, then, appetite?
     Glosses: 1) all = everybody; “Fore-awl” and things are phallic puns; For all puns “For Hall [Will’s son-in-law’s name]” and “Four-all,” i.e., “4-4” (echoing 44, the rune number); unrespected = not perceived or esteemed; 3) both suggests “eyes” (see they in 1), Sonnets/Runes; with thee puns on “witty,” I puns on “eye ”; 4) two (Q to) suggests “eyes” (see 1, 3); divide the conquest echoes the saw “divide and conquer”; 6) suggesting prisoners in adjacent cells (an analogy for Sonnets and Runes, which “share” linear resources); 9) my...bearer suggests “this ass-like, ‘neighing,’‘footed’ medium,” with Of my dull bearer punning, “Awesome idyll/idol be error”; 11) That = So that; tend = attend; 14) edge suggests knife, perimeter or margin, and trenchancy.

  44. Up-Lockèd Treasure

     Whenever readers see these texts, whose content they may have overlooked or undervalued,
      the limits of distance—and I do go pretty far here—should not stop me from coming across.
     Wherever I may be, you still have both eyes; and both sonnets and runes are still with you.
  4 Thus it is that two sets of texts divide (and conquer) your two eyes’ attention
     with each one of both pairs, in symbiosis, doing good turns for the other
     by shoving every tidbit back and forth under real bars like prisoners in adjacent cells helping each other out (the nose between your eyes is one “true” bar)
     just at the point when you frown on my flaws (and add even more “bars” to your face).
  8 When what I aim at (an end to my tedious advancement)
     and expect from this stupid ass I ride on—perversely it speeds away, not toward you—
     can help the creature arrive at the sweet locked-up treasure that is its goal
     so that those millions of overshadowing mysteries can wait on you
12 by means of true understanding, which has its own ornamental beauty,
     then princes will be forgotten long before the world forgets this powerful verse,
     your sharp weapon. (You’ll need it to divide things up truly.) Should the appetite for what’s here be any less keen than the knife itself?


          Roughly epitomized, Rune 44 argues without much angst that no problems between poet and reader should keep the interchange from occurring that we are now engaged in—and that the reader’s sharp “appetite” (14) for these “things unrespected” (1) is as strategic as the “sharpness” of the poet’s “powerful rhyme.” “Millions of strange shadows” (11) are both the poet’s future readers, vaguely envisioned, and the myriad images we now see in Will’s shadowy underworld.

           Figures of travel and incarceration mix in a rune that opens with a typical “name-that-pronoun” riddle whose apparent answer, “paired eyes,” continues the tedious “eye-wit” of Rune 43. The opening here allows various constructions because they may mean “eyes” while punning “th’ eye.” Will’s auditor may be either the muse or any future reader. Paradoxically, the poet seems to be traveling away from the auditor whom he watches and hopes to join (8-9); his “dull bearer” (9) is this ass-like, stumble-footed verse medium.

          Motific language about prison and crime is insistent: e.g., “Injurious” (2); “wherever I abide” (3); “under truest bars” (6), where the metaphor implies two adjacent criminals sharing “trifles”; “my defects” (7); “my bearer” (9), perhaps a warden bringing food; “up-lockèd” (10); and “Thy edge [knife] should blunter be” (l4), suggesting a weapon.

          Because the “bar” between any two eyes is literally a nose, the poem suggests the funny scenario of two eyes sharing sight-bits surreptitiously. By analogy, poet’s and reader’s eyes share “trifles” passed back and forth under “bars”—these parallel rows of text—while sonnets and runes share their bits “under bars” in sneaky fashion, too.

           Renaissance scholars, of course, recognize “thing” and “edge” as common phallic puns. Will has long been known for suggestive bawdry; the gamy, coterie subtexts of Q allow him freer play for bolder (though ironically less overt) sexual humor that might have appealed to a male coterie of reader/players.

           The opening pun “Four, all” puns on “Four, tied” or “4-4” (as in a sports match) and points to 44, the rune number; bawdily, the same phrase puns on “fore-awl” as phallus. Other routine phallic puns on eye/“I” and “thing” (e.g., in 1) allow the strained segue into the bawdry of the terms “sweet up-lockèd treasure” (10), “sweet ornament” (12), and “edge” (14). Line 14 puns, e.g., “Thy ‘edge’ should blonder [blunter] be, thin, aye petite,” and “Thy ‘edge’ should balloon [i.e., inflate] to err, beaten, aye, petted.” Q’s should (14) puns, as always, on “S-holed,” “ass-holed.”

           The whole poem, in fact, insinuates prison sex, with “bars” and “thrust” (6) gaining innuendo from the context. “Shadows” and other images in 11-12 suggest frail, foppish, or sycophantic courtiers (OED) with sexual preoccupations. The “eye” metaphor of 1-6 suggests paired testicles “thrusting under truest [i.e., rightly angled] bars.” Will’s “defects” (7), literally “shortcomings,” may in comic terms have to do with ejaculation and penile length.

           Some of the same bawdy details also aptly describe the defective split-celled composition itself, a “sweet up-lockèd treasure” with its “millions of strange shadows.” The joke in 9, “O’s [i.e., Round’s, Rune’s] middle be error...,” points back to lines 7-8, the “middle” of the rune.

           Line 10 opens with the pun “See Anne bearing Ham[n]et! Oh, he’s sweet, up-locked treasure!” (Will’s son Hamnet, a twin, died young. Anne’s having borne twins is congruent with the recurring wit in Q about her obesity.)

           Two lines (8, 11) end, suitably, with “...end.” Near-rhymes occur as abide, fight, speed, and appetite (3, 4, 9, 14). The pun “this powerful rhymed edge fouled (foiled) blunder be...” (13-14) suggests that such “rhyme-wit” is conscious, as does the ironic juxtaposition of “Thy edge...” (14) with “this powerful rhyme” (13). Given the inflexible scheme in Q that generates the runes, their “edges” always lack consistent rhyme schemes.

           The pun that opens line 7—“Whinnies—all see this rune...” and/or “Whinnies—all see this ruin ‘O’ [= round, rune] and muddy effects”—is like a hidden horse-laugh that links with other animal-wit in the acrostic codeline (see below). The language code seems to generate such beast-wit almost automatically, and I’ve it to be a component in the earlier runic games that I have explored, texts beginning with the OE Riddles of The Exeter Book.

Sample Puns

          1) Four, all [= “four, tied,” = 44, the rune number]; For Hall that eyed heavy wit, inches [i.e., bits of text] you in rest pieced; For a lady (laddie) diet, heavy ewe; So reality died; sun
          1-2) you aye wetting, son or ass pissed in your eyes
          2) Injurious Dis [the capital of hell in Dante’s Inferno] ten see, awful din; offal denotes top mew aye; stance ass-hole denotes
          2-3) John, I your justice t’ Anne’s S. Hall do not stop; m’ ewer bawdy, (body) witty, W., Harry, your “I” aye be eyed; eye Arabia; John, aye, you rise, dusty Anne see, S. Hall denotes “Tup my ware”
          3) A rib (twice); Witty, weary Eve-rib (ripe) eyed how to divide the son; Arab ode you eyed; Harry Europe eyed
          3-4) wry Abbie dowdy, odd, wedded he 4 two; fight; neck’s tough, this I jet; oft hiss I jet
          5) Anne ditched oath; th’ good Turnus nun taught hate; tot; oath, “oather”
          5-6) urns snow unto the oather itch, trifling dirt
          6) Each tear eye slender (slander) t’ rue; Philander Ed rue; Philander true Shakespeare be, arrested; bars, rust; dirty ruse t’ bare assed odor used W.H.
          7) W., Hen, eye fall [cf. NOV, an acrostic]; in eisell [i.e., vinegar], fetus rowing on, ’mid sects (mid-sex); frown on Midas acts; W., Hen., aye S. Hall, see this rown on my defects; enemy defects; see the F-Row [i.e., Row 6]; see this “rune-onomy”
          7-8) mid-feast, swoon, W.H.; mid-f--k t’ sway nude I seek, seamier I’d row a lass-end (Allison); swain 8 see [= c = lefthand parenthesis mark] miry travails; kiss; summary; mew a writer evil
          8-9) Doff, middle bare, err, W., Hen, of Rome
          9) error, whence Rome thief peed
          9-10) I’ve peed, can bring!
        10) See Anne bearing Jim; See Anne bearing Ham’et, O, his sweet uplocked treasure; few “double-O” see
        10-11) pillow seek, debtor, ease you thought, millions owes satyr in cheese
        11) That my lines (lions) of Shakespeare [st] range; son, you’d end? O Newton debated few
        11-12) doe sinewed end bitty, aye,’tis wee tournament
        12) Beth, Betty, bitty; witch; torn, a Man twitched, are you th’ Doughty Jew?
        12-14) Jew owes Princess S.Hall ode livid, his powerful rimmed “edge”, S. Hall th’ blunter be then, “eye” petite
        13) awful; offal; S. Hall; fall; ass-hole; lout lewd is poor fool; peer eying Cecil ought livid hiss; ludus, poor fool, rhyme; O, spare John, seize S. Hall
        13-14) peer Fuller, eye meaty edge
        14) T’ edge, ass, hold ballooned orb, thin, aye petite; Thy edge ass-holed blond tear, beaten (bed Hen.), aye petite (ape-teat, a pee tight); enter Bethany petite; an ape Ed. eyed

Acrostic Wit

        The downward acrostic codelineFIAHAEWWOCT BOT—suggests “F**ked body.” The string OCT, just after NOV (in Rune 43), looks like a gamy “date clue,” and OCT B OT puns visibly, e.g., on “Oct. 8, ‘07.” The letter W may encode VV = 5+5 = 10 = “attend.” Such flexibility in Will’s gamecode multiplies potentialities in every scrap of text, not just in the emphatic acrostic codelines. “Few attend [i.e., notice] Oct. 8, ‘07” is one codeline reading.

        Since lower-case f and “long s” merge in Q’s typeforms, capital F and S also tend, by habit, to merge in the Game; with F=S, [S]IAHAEWW suggests “Sue” and thus Susanna, Will’s daughter, as well as “pursue.” Potentialities include “Sue’s ‘tibia’d’” and “Sue’s tibia, tee!”—with the acrostic column a pictographic “bone.”

       Other readings of the downward code include these examples: “Few ‘Oct.’ bought,” “Fey hacked body,” “If I eye Hugh (hue, you), woe seat, body,” “Fey Hugh—woke, to boot,” “Fie, achèd body!” and “Few rocked de boat” [tongue-tied].

        The upward (reverse) codeline—TO BT COW WE A HAIF—suggests, e.g., such readings as “Tupped cow, waive,” “‘To be’ t’ cough,” “Too, bitty cow (Tupped cow) we eye, half (…aye have),” “‘Tobit’ cough (coif),” “Tobit see (O, W., we eye half),” and “28 to see, O wee, eye half.” Other approaches to decoding this line yield these options: “to bed, cough,” and “Tupped cow, Eve.”

        The codeline also plays on “oaf,” Tobit, “topped,” “tub,” “wife,” and “half.” With B=8, the code suggests “Titus...,” “Tidy cove,” and “Tight [To hate...], take a wife.” The codeline houses both a HAEWWOC—a hawk and/or hog—and a COW, the last linked to “ dull bearer whinnies (...when ass romped)” (in lines 6-7).

        Up/down readings (the codeline is TO BT COW WE A HAI F FIAHAEWWOCT B O T) yield “Sue’s tibia, titty, opt to cuff” and “Sue’s tibia to beat, cuff.” Dr. Hall might’ve smiled at the orthopedic joke, with its good-old-boy meaning: “Beat your wife. Let her bone be the weapon.” Cf. also “Sue woke t’ body tupped, cow-wise” and “Few woke t’ body-top t’ coif.”

       One up/down hairpin reading focuses on the opener, “To be...,” likely known as a set-piece by the time Will was finishing his Q texts: “‘To be...’—’tis a way I have f**ked 80 [B = phonic 8].” (Alternately, “...87 and 807.”) The (joking) sense here may be that the poet has used his notoriety as a word-wielder to satisfy a voracious sexual appetite. The pun in “To be” on B and the flexibility of that symbol in the code also seems to be part of the strained wit. Maneuvering a little rhymed couplet seems to be at work, too.

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