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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 48
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Rune 47
Fifth lines, Set IV (Sonnets 43-56)

                         Rune 47

     (Fifth lines, Set IV: Sonnets 43-56)

     Then, thou whose shadow shadows doth make bright
     Know matter—then, although my foot did stand
     Fore. When these quicker elements are gone,
 4  My heart doth plead that thou in him dost lie.
     With my love’s picture, then, my eye doth feast.
     But thou to whom my jewels trifles are,
     Against that time when thou shalt strangely pass
 8  The beast that bears me, tired with my woe,
     O, what excuse will my poor beast then find?
     Therefore are feasts so solemn and so rare.
     Describe Adonis, and the counterfeit—
12 The canker blooms—have full as deep a die.
     When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
     So, love, be thou, although today thou fill.
     Glosses: 1) thou = the friend or unknown future decipherer; 2) Know (Q No) also puns on “No”; foot suggests “metrical unit,” verses; 3) When...gone suggests, “When I'm dead and the witty Runes are lost,” with quicker pointing back to foot in 2; the pun “Foreign tease” points to wasteful war in 13; 4) heart puns on “art,” and him, on “hymn”; 5) the picture may be a miniature (see jewels in 6, and see line note to Rune 51.5); 7) Against = Anticipating, Looking toward; 8) woe puns on “Whoa!”; 12) die: also, dye; 14) pun: “So-low beetle, toad odd eye, tough, ill.”

     47. Of Feasts and Beasts

     Later, you who illuminate these shadows despite your absence and your hypothetical reality
     may come to understand these chimeric subtexts—later, although my life and verse partook
     of former times. When all these livelier parts of myself are gone,
  4 I still feel that you rest in my heart and therefore my art; the concept of some understanding reader, at least, is implicit in my work.
     Thus my eye can feast on this small painted likeness of my love and imagine the perpetuation of that image then as well as now.
     But you who regard my jewels as inconsequential games—
     anticipating the time to come when you have an odd encounter with
  8 the beast that carries me here, worn out from my troubles and haltings—
     O, what explanation will that beast reveal then for me or himself or for what we’re about?
     Now you see why times of feasting my eye on your image are so serious and precious.
     Try to create a real “Adonis,” an artful representation, and the counterfeits
12 (as blighted blossoms to roses) may appear as deeply etched and as bright.
     When wasteful war overturns statues,
     my love, you will still be beloved but will already have suffered your demise, and even my monument to you have been destroyed, although now you fill up your day and mine.


          This rune about art advances two recurring topics in Set IV: “eyes” and the reception of the Q texts. Here, textual coherence—if one can call it that—depends partly on puns like “Whoa!” (8) and “dye” (l2) and on the echoic play in “feast[s]” (5, l0) and “beast” (8, 9). Divergent figures merge to make plausible drama if we imagine Will, the speaking persona, astride a plodding ass (as in the familiar picture of Chaucer, or like Christ entering Jerusalem), looking at a miniature “counterfeit” of the friend while imagining us future readers.

          “Feasting” and “riding a beast” are both figurative equivalents of writing—with Q itself being like a clumsy pilgrimage. “Strangely pass” (7) shows how well the poet could anticipate our present encounter with his comic, lumbering creature. “Foot” (2) and “quicker elements” (3) link with this “beast” scenario, as does the pun “count our feet” (11).

           The opening line, about “shadows,” introduces serious subjects: reality and illusion; inspiration in art; the paradox of playful entertainment in a dark, mutable world; and the uncertain eventual reception that Will foresees for his cycle. Images in the sestet (i.e., 9-14) suggest portraits and statues, both of which confuse the real and the fake: Line 13 implies statuary rather openly, while “as deep a die” (12) suggests cast metalwork. “Canker” (12) may mean “rust,” and “although my foot did stand” (2) anticipates the image of overturned statues that have lost their footing (13-14). Q’s italics connect “Adonis” and “Statues” to adumbrate a handsome cast image. “My love’s picture” (5) galvanizes all the figures about painting.

           We imagine the poet, like a customary Hamlet, with a pendant miniature held close, a “feast” for the eyes linked with “my jewels” (6), “rare” (10), “counterfeit,” and “dye” (11-12). (A possible pun about Nicholas Hilliard, the miniaturist, lies in Rune 46.9, adjacent to this text, and one can imagine the topical linkage in Will’s head.) The friend’s picture here also links with the idea of chiaroscuro, the visual play of light and dark (see 1), and with other phrasing, including “him” who “lies” (4) and “these quicker elements” (3). If the muse’s portrait is a feast for Will’s eye, so a sonnet or rune of his is for us. The rune ends on a pun relevant to “feasting”—“…today thou fill,” while “rare” (10) hints at meat.

           Coterie bawdry surely lies in “thou in him dost lie” (4) and in figures of rare feasts, jewels, and a tired ass. Scatology emerges because the poet “feasts” on his “love’s picture” (5, perhaps also “loo’s pitcher”; OED shows “loo” as a later derivation, but connected to Fr. lieu, “place”) and speaks of losing “quicker elements” and of having the addressee “strangely pass” (3, 7).

           The repute of Southampton (Will’s known patron, Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton, plausibly “Southy” in the Q game) as an artistic subject may link Southy with such plays as “with my loose-pictured Hen. my ‘I’ doth feast”(5) to make us imagine him as “muse” here. Some unidentified “friend,” in any case, is as usual on the poet’s mind.

           Will’s apostrophe to this unnamed muse also imagines in broader terms a hypothetical reader/player illuminating shadowy materials_and thus may have “us” in mind, modern recompositors and decoders. The vagueness in “thou” (especially 1, 7, 14)—which can mean the muse/friend, the poem, Will himself, or any recompositor or reader—links in this text with functional vagueness about tense and time.

           Gamy puns in the lettercode text include, e.g., these: “...shadowy ass doth my key, buried, know [ ‘O,’ i.e., in the round = rune]” (1-2); “buried gnome-adder,” playing on a “sly numbers man” who writes maxims, a metricist (2); “No matter thin, all Tommy’s [i.e., Thomas Thorpe’s, Will’s printing agent’s?] ode did stand” (2); “Merd (i.e., dung) o’ th’ belated Tom does tell ye witty [wet] my loo is, pissed, uretha in my eye...” (4-5); “Hathaway” [code hat thou i] in hymn dost lie” (4) and “polite Hathaway named Ovid lewd” (4-5); “A gay Anne Shakespeare that Tommy joined, househol’d, strange, lithe [lieth] as th’ beast, Hat...” (7-8, with st = the Shakespeare name cipher, an S. seeming to hold a spear-like t by the handle; with w = IN = phonic “john/join”; and with p = th, archaic “thorn”); “..full is S. Hall’s tete, oui, Sue...(...wee sewered urn)” (13); “our S. Hall is tight, you assert, urn so low” (13-14); and “Celibate Hall, thou jetty ode eye t’ house ill” (14). And see just below.

Sample Puns

          1) use shit of Hades house; T’ Hen, thou hooves had; fadest; Brigitte; bridged; douse Hades; my quay (key) be right (buried)
          1-2) my key be written; we said, “O, Tommy, keep writing o’ my turd anal,” Tommy’s ode did stand
          2) Gnome-adder [i.e., “numbers man” writing maxims]; gnome ate (no mate) tartan Hall; thin awl; annulled; home—yes, oat (ye saw it)—did stand; Thomas ought die, deaf t’ Anne
          2-3) …Dis t’ Anne deferring
          3) Foreign thief, quake, Earl; I seek a real man t’ sire; aye sick, real men desire John; when the “f--k you” I see, carol amend, Sir John
          4) Merd; heart, art, hard; my hearty oath pleaded, “Hathaway” in hymn dost lie; I named hostile ye
          5) Wit timeless pissed you, redden my eye; Witty my loo’s big turd; With my loo’s pictured Hen my eye doth feast; Witty, my love’s bastard; enemy eyed oath of East
          6) to W.H., homme (home), Mitchell (my “jewel,” mule) stares
          6-7) eisell [i.e., vinegar] sour again fitted Tommy, W.H.; Butt out, O, W. H., whom my jewel is t’ rifle, sire (fair, sour); to home my Jew, else, travels, a region state had I, immune t’ house; my “jewels” trifles are against Hat., Aii me!
          7) time meter; W.H.; S. Hall; household, ’tis our angel Libbie’s
          8) Hat. be a résumé, tired wit; airy summit eye, redoubt
          8-9) Th’ beast-titty Hat. bares me, tired with mute X’s; Hat. be our summit airy, dewy—theme you’d excuse
          9) see you fuel, maybe ore; O, W. H., a text—see you Sue ill, my poor Bess too thin find; sinned, send
          9-10) rib of T.T. hence in death eerie soars East
        10) The razor airy saved his foe; T’ Harry S., O, rare sauce ’tis, sauce o’ lemon and so rare
        10-11) …and desserts see ripe; Anne so reared ass, see ’er “I” be add-on
        11) scribe, A.D. 1 ascent—the count errs, [A.D.] 8; adieu, Auntie, cunt errs, et [= Anne]
        12) This Anne-cur be-looms half-full; aye sad, peed I
        12-13) This Anne, cur below Monsieur Ass Hall, ass deep adieu
        13) W., Hen., wasteful were; fool were S. Hall; full o’ air is Hall’s tete ; you, Sue, virtue earn (urn); Turnus; S. Hall has tied you, sewer t’ urn; W.H., new eye Shakespeare’s vulva
        13-14) arise, Hall, stat [L. statum, at once (medical?)], use overture, neigh, so Jove be thou. S. Hall estate use, overturn Sue
        14) Celibate Hall, thou jet aye t’ house ill; “Sue,” low Beth howled, “how you jet. O, day thou fill!” Hall hued ode aye; Judy died, house ill; So low Beth howled how Judy ought eat offal; …thou, Judith, “O” [rune] you fill (use ill); you jet ’OO, date hovel

Acrostic Wit

          The downward acrostic codeline—TN F M WBAT O TDTWS—suggests, e.g., “Ten femmes wipe 8 [inches] o’ Titus,” “T’ end forte, muted [F=8] ode died. W.S.,” “T’ knife mewed [F=8], eye tot dead. W.S.,” and “Tense m’ web, & [= et, Anne] odious (...odd, dead, wise).”

          Acrostic wit here is keyed partly to the “numeric” elements TN, AT, and TW (i.e., 10, 8, and 2), with B an eyepun on 8 and with several Roman numeral elements (e.g., M, VV, D). Numeric ecodings include, e.g., “Ten of 1018 hate ode dead. W. S.”

          The upward reverse of this codeline—SWT DT O TAB WM F NT—encodes such potentialities as these: “Swede[i.e., T.T.?] did ode obey, Wm.-fiend,” “Swede did owe taboo(?)-hymn finite,” “Suited tot, a bum (B.M.) find,” “Sue dead taught a beau hymn faint,” “Sue did, taut, a bum find,” “Suited, taut, a bum faint,” and “Sue tad [i.e., Elizabeth Hall] taught AB[Cs]…, whim of Auntie [i.e., Anne].”

          The letterstring SWT suggests “Swede,” frequently allied in Q with T.T. (the printing agent Thomas Thorpe) and suggesting the physical type of a redhead with ruddy complexion. With B = 8, the upward codeline suggests “Swede [i.e., Thorpe] did ode aid, William is in it.”

Proceed to Rune 48
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