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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        

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

                         Rune 48

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

     How would thy shadow’s form form happy show
     Upon the farthest earth! Removed from thee,
     In tender embassy of love to thee
 4  (A closet never pierced with crystal eyes)
     And to the painted banquet, bids my heart
     Most worthy comfort—now my greatest grief;
     And, scarcely greet, me with that sun thine eye
 8  Plods duly on, to bear that weight in me
     When swift extremity can seem but slow,
     Since “seldom coming,” in the long year set,
     Is poorly imitated after you
12 As the perfumèd tincture of thee. Roses
     And broils root out the work of masonry,
     Thy hungry eyes, ev’n till they wink with fullness!
     Glosses: 1) How would puns on Howard, likely a topical in-group reference; 8) duly puns on “dully,” and weight, on “wait”; 10) the long year (...langeur, ...longer) set may be a playful rubric for Set IV, or for Set VIII (which is longer by one line than all the rest); 13) broils = conflicts, confused tumults; 14) Thy hungry eyes... puns “Thy hungry ass...” and “Thigh-hung, awry, eyes, even, ‘tilty’...,” suggesting testicles; is till they wink a prescient pun on “tiddlywink” (OED 1870)?

      48. Hungry Eyes: A Closet Never Pierced

     What an entertaining display your reflected image and this verse it inspires would make
     anywhere! Remote from you
     on a genial mission of love to you—
  4 a closet never penetrated by sharp eyes—
     and your envisioned banquet, my heart is invited
     by the lure of an ultimate solace that is now my greatest grief;
     then, hardly acknowledged—and inexorably as the sun, a conceit for your own eye too, but for its brightness rather than for its regular motion—I
  8 plod routinely, dully, dutifully onward, carrying that weight of grief inside
     in a situation where even extreme speed can only seem slow,
     because your record of infrequently “coming”—always set for some distant date—
     could no more be imitated
12 than your aromatic essence. Both roses
     and struggles—emblems for the two kinds of texts here—might (and apparently do) in effect dislodge the stonework in your fortress, digging
     at your eyes (or other parts) there in your private banquet room until those eyes respond with amazement, even tears, at the cornucopic spectacle!


          The mock-antagonistic tone in Rune 48, new in Set IV, smacks of fliting, good-natured verbal abuse akin to what would still today be called a roast.

         Here Will imagines the absent friend viewing the Q texts and having his “eyes” worked over by the paradoxical contents of the Runes. The interest in “eyes” and in the future reception of these laboriously contrived poems links this complaint to its siblings in the set. Another theme is Will’s isolation during his labors.

          The poem dramatizes the lonely writer imagining his friend as aloof and “feasting.” Will views his own weighty, plodding composition project (8) as an “embassy of love” (3) by which he might eventually join “the painted banquet” (5)—something like The Last Supper—or the “happy show” (1) that he imagines is going on where the friend is. Meanwhile, the friend is uncommunicative, as if in a fortress (4, 13-14), and shows Will scant hospitality (7). The poet is forced (as the conceit goes) to take the offensive. The friend, or where he is, is windowless—without “crystal eyes.” To make the friend “see” and to allow the poet to gain access to his “closet,” Will will need to dislodge stones in his facade—with “roses” (12) or “broils” (warlike conflicts; 13) that stand for the contraries of sweetness or antagonism, of Sonnets or Runes.

          An initial acrostic play encodes the name Wickham, a town four miles from Titchfield, the seat of the Earl of Southampton, Will’s only known patron. This placename pun points to Southy as a primary auditor here. (Traditionally, Southampton has been a principal candidate for the Handsome Young Man role in the Sonnets; here we can imagine him as one main reader/player in the coterie.) The play HVI[C]AM... interlinks at right angles with another “maplike” reference, “Upon the farthest earth removed from thee” (2). (Throughout Q, substantive links are common between the wit of the acrostics and of the texts themselves.)

          Southy would also have been likely to take the pun in 1 on “Howard” (How would...) personally: Lord Howard of Effingham was a guardian of the young Southampton, and Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton, may have been Southampton’s accuser in the treason case that sent him ca. 1601-03 to The Tower. One pun runs, “Howard thy shadow’s form is, or maybe foe: A pun, these arts, to hear...” (1-2).

         Such inconclusive topical plays accumulate in Q to help us generate hypothetical meanings and biographical scenarios. Though the personal mysteries of the Q texts remain, the Runes do now let us glimpse unguarded minutiae from Will’s great mind that until now have stayed hidden. As privileged readers of the Runes, we do indeed now “pierce” Will’s “closet...with crystal eyes” and feast at his “painted banquet” with “hungry eyes...that wink with fullness.”

          Ironically, with his “Most worthy comfort now [his] greatest grief” (6), Will’s love mission shifts into attack gear. The grotesque closing conceit suggests gouging out eyeballs (or other orbic parts)—with “Removed from thee” (2) and “pierced” (4) describing painful assault. (Another sense is that the reader must assail the fortress and pierce the wall to gain the friend’s image—and that that may be impossible.)

          Phallically suggestive puns lurk in “seldom come” and other phrasing, such as “perfumed tincture,” and “root out.” “Eyes” (possibly testicular) that “wink with fullness” (14) link with the phrases “great weight” (8) and “swift [or ‘slow’] extremity” (9), perhaps referring to the friend’s “eye”—or phallic “I.”

          One latent play about Anne seems poignant: “A closet never pierced, with crystal eyes, / Anne to the painted banquet bids my heart [, hard]” (4-5). Read differently, the lines may show Anne frigid—“a closet never pierced with crystal ‘I’s’”—and Will “hard.”

          Line 8 encodes “Anne Hathaway” as et [= and = Anne] hatwaigh. The line allows the decodings “Plautus dull ye owe [i.e., admit] to bare Anne Hathaway t’ enemy [ end me],” and “Plods dully on to bier Anne Hathaway....” The connection between Anne’s name and “weight” is one of many hints in Q that Anne, the mother of twins, was obese. “Anne Hat., weighty enemy” is a latent epithet. The pun “Anne [= in], the long year, is Anne [= et]” (10) offers one tiny key to Will’s namecode system.

          Will’s lines, I think, also hide ambiguous “names” for the 11 sets in his Q scheme. Here one pun in 10 is, e.g., “Sin see! Is ill doom coming in ‘The Long Year Set’?” Perhaps this name applies to Set IV, the one in progress, and is a topical allusion.

         “The longer set” is concurrently an apt name for Set VIII, which is “longer” because Sonnet 99, which opens it, has an aberrant “extra” line—a game element generating another layer of duplicity.

Sample Puns

         1) How would this Hades-form form happy show? Sore me, happy foe! wood [crazy] thy shit, O, we suffer; Howard, this Hades forms o’er me; dose; adieu, Asser [i.e., King Alfred’s biographer] ms., o’er (whore); aye does Asser my form happy show; adios
         1-2) ms. o’ Rome happy shows a pun; Monsieur Maybe, ye fop, on this earth is turd (I stirred); foe-weapon, this art heftier, th’ air moved
         2-3) Upon the farty Shakespeare earth removed, Sir (emit hee!), midden [i.e., dunghill] to end a realm; removed from thee, John, tend our hymn, be assy, o’ slough; Oslo; Assize, lowed oath
         3) base, eye awful Ovid ode
         4) See [lefthand parenthesis = C] a closet never pierced…; a clovèd, newer pear; neuer rune [reversed]; Pear Shakespeare [st], with Christ, Hall eyes [cf. Anne’s corpulence and piety]; peer; see Oslo fade
         4-5) cry if Italy’s ended; eyes tally sent to thee
         5) Anne, toothy, panted, “Banquet bits, my hearty!”
         4-6) With crystal, eisell, undo the pain, to Ed be ankh, bitty, smeared, most worthy comfort
         6) Moist, warty consort, an “O,” my Greatest Grease; Greece; a gnome
         6-7) homme-fart gnomy greets Greece, ends eerily; Grey, fiend, scarcely greet
         7) In discourse, leisure Tommy witty thought fon thine “I”; Anne-scars ledgered, muted: Hat’s un-tiny; Anne scarce leisured me with that sun, th’ Anne-eye; that son
         7-8) that finite hiney plow; sunny thine apple load
         8) Plautus dull, John, too, appeared, Hath-a-weight enemy; Plautus, dull John—tup “eared” Hathaway, jet enemy; Plods dully on, two-bearded Hathaway, hitting me; Hathaway I name; Dis; lion; bear
         8-9) “I” name, W.H., a nephew’s extremity
         9) wen swift, extra meaty, see Anne-seam, butt, flow
         9-10) butt flows, inches ill dome, see homme engine, the long “Y” Harry’s et
       10) Sin see! Is ill doom coming in “The Long Year Set”? [naming Set IV?];…in the longer set [naming Set VIII, with its “extra” line?]; seldom coming in the long jersey (a nightgown?); engine; Jersey, it is poor; inching, the long year of ’08
       10-11) ye are fetus, poor, limited, Ed 11 eye spore, Limey; Eli emitted, “Ed’s t’ rue”; eyes poor limited Ed as t’ rows (ruse, rose) [cf. Roses in 12]
       10-12) John, the long year of ’08 is poor, Limey, dated after use
       11-12) a fit aroused helper, Sue, maiden see, terse t’ Harry
       12) Ass the peer is; you midden see
       12-13) oft Row F is A and B—or else R; see Tower of the Wriothes. and débris lesser
       13) Anne broils root—out, tea!
       13-14) root out York awesome, a sun red, high; whore, kiss m’ ass, honor it; my son, write ye “Hungary,” I swoon till th’ eye wink with fullness; T.T., you our kiss (keys) may, fon, write
       14) I swindle the eye; eyes wound, ill; th’ eye “W” (“IN”) seek—witty fool, an ass; eye seven; Sue; Eve; Lethe; ink; fool, knave; Thy hungry “I’s” even dildo-ing sick, witty fool in ass [dildo 1585-95, Random House (not OED)]; T’ Hungary I swoon, dildo in sick wit, his ulna is assy; thy hungry ass, even dildo in, sick with fullness; dildo-inch queued full in ass; sullying ass

Acrostic Wit

         The acrostic codeline is always ambiguous when any initial element in any line is a lefthand parenthesis mark. This mark not only displaces the initial capital letter by one position—should one use it in sequence? tag it on the end?—and which as the mark ( can itself suggest C, I, and/or L. Further C = See = Sea, etc.

         The downward codeline—HVI (AM APWS I A AT [A?]— has the eyecatching letterstrings MAP and W.S. Decodings include, e.g., “You aye [Heavy...] see a map W. S. eyed,” “Hussy my pussy ate,” and “Wickham eye, th’ [= p = archaic thorn] ‘W’ city.” (Southy’s family name was Wriothesley.) Other readings include these: “Heavy see A.M. abuse—I aye 8 [inches] eye,” “…I aye ate ‘I’,” “Heavy, I see a mob; W.S., I eye 80,” “Heavy ‘I’ came, a pussy I ate aye,” “Heavy I came, apewise, I eye 8 aye,” “Hugh I see, a map, wizard aye,” “Huchown (Hugh-John) japes [tricks], eyed aye [M=NI],” “Wickham abuse [apse] I eyed aye,” and “Wickham, a poor (phew!) city.” (See Akrigg 145: Wickham was four miles from Tichfield, Southampton’s seat. Huchown [Hugh-John, I suggest] is the name of a poet of Chaucer’s era who used to be much discussed, as in the Cambridge literary histories.) Another reading: “Wickham, a Percy, I’d eye.”

          The upward (reverse) codeline—[A]TAAI SW PA MA(I VH—suggests, e.g., “Eighty eye Sue, Pa massive,” “80 eye sweep o’ Massey, witch,” “A day eye, ass wipe, A.M. itch (age, ‘edge,’ ache) heavy,” “…swab A.M. ‘edge’ heavy,” and “…swab I m’ sieve.”Other readings include these: “Tease with a massive edge (...a massive HA!)” and “To eye a super-maze, eye ‘V’ [a pictographic groin].” The terminus of this code suggests these potentialities: “forage” [IV= 4 + H], May 5, H as “ladder,” “pay me 104.” Massey (I suggest) may possibly be the Mr. Massey whom Chaucer’s student Hoccleve mention—and may also be somehow identifiable with the lost poet Huchown.    

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