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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 50
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Rune 49
Seventh lines, Set IV (Sonnets 43-56)

                         Rune 49

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

     To the clear day, with thy much clearer light
     For nimble thought, can jump both sea and land
     My life—being made of four with two, all one!
 4  But the defendant doth that plea deny;
     Another time mine eye is my heart’s guest.
     Thou best of dearest, and mine only care,
     When love converted from the thing it was,
 8  As if by some instinct, the wretch did know
     Then should I spur, though mounted on the wind.
     Like stones of worth they thinly placèd are
     On Helen’s cheek: All art, of beauty set,
12 Hang on such thorns, and play as wantonly
     Nor Mars his sword nor wars. Quick fire shall burn
     Tomorrow: See again, and do not kill.
     Glosses: 3) four suggests the four elements, four limbs; two suggests eyes, Sonnets/Runes; My life puns on “My leaf” (i.e., page, spread), with four and two alluding to the folio spread arrangement in the Ur-text; 4) defendant (ambig.) point to the thee of 1 (the poet’s light-giver) and to mine eye (5) and love (7); 5-6) family namepuns: m’ Annie, Anne, m’ Anne; 6) care (paradoxical) = concern, burden; 8) wretch (ambig.) points to the defendant (4), love (7); 10) they = my spurs (implied), punning “th’ eye”; 12) such thorns (ambig.) suggests the poet’s “spurs” (see 9, where Then puns on Thin), Helen’s lashes, archaic thorn (the symbol th, similar to p, which is in the line); 12-13) i.e., “Neither Mars...nor wars play...”;13) Quick fire suggests the sun (see 1); 14) See puns on Sea (see 2); kill echoes defendant (see 4), suggesting that the auditor/friend has destructive force.

      49. Spurring Beauty On

1-3 I comprise four elements, have four limbs, depend on two eyes. I’m married but live alone, with four (right now) in my family. I can fly imaginatively toward an ideal condition if only your illumination makes my thoughts nimble. My leaf, a seamless whole despite its overt groups of four and two, also needs your light if it is to soar.
  4 But the unnamed one to whom I direct my suit denies my request for inspiring light.
     Again my vision finds itself left alone, dwelling with my own heart’s (and art’s) imaginings.
     Dearest dear friend—my only preoccupation—
     when my love changed from the lesser thing it used to be,
  8 that wretch knew, as if by some instinct
     that then I would ride, spurred, as if mounted on the wind
     astride ideal Beauty. Like valuable jewels my spurs (and Beauty’s eyes) are spaced
     apart on her cheeks, which the spurs redden. All art, mounted upon Beauty,
12 hang just as precariously—and threateningly. There is not as much reckless play wrought
     by the implements of war or by war itself as in the name of art. Quick temper, heated passion, and the light of inspiration will still be burning
     tomorrow. Think again, and don’t squelch my inspiration. Don’t kill our love. Don’t shoot me down on my highflying steed


          Congruent with the concern of Set IV for “eyes” and for “getting there,” this rune cultivates a raucous conceit: Going against his elemental material nature (1-2), Will proposes to make a “nimble leap” that becomes a ride on the wind (9). His abstract “mount” lets him imagine himself perched atop the head of a statue-like “Helen,” really Beauty herself, charging forward. Except for a legalistic aside to plead his case (4), the persona’s apostrophe to the friend begs for an inspiring light (1-3)—allied with fire (13)—so he can “see again” (14). Finally the implicitly unsympathetic “defendant” of the poem (4) seems to threaten murder (cf. “kill” [14]) by withholding what’s asked for. In this mixed motif, the rider/poet may also block sight (i.e., inspiration) if he digs his spurs into Helen’s cheeks or eyes (9-12). The “thorns” (12) suggest not only Will’s “spurs” but also

         Beauty’s lashes, “thinly placed” like valuable mounted gems, “layered” like the thin runic rows.
Tenuously, “Mars” is the foil—but both beauty and war are wantonly destructive. Finally the poet’s tone is that of ironic antagonism toward the absent friend. The self-berating image of a tiny man astride a colossal female figure, digging his spurs into her eye sockets and carving rouge-spots into her face—this ludicrous image undercuts everything except our awe at the cleverness.

         “Two alone” and the mention of “four” (3)—superficially the elements earth, water, air, fire—trigger a typically gnomic puzzle that alludes not only to quatrain/couplet divisions in sonnets but also to the page arrangement of the sets. Implicitly these “two” may be Will’s own eyes, or legs, or his eye and heart (5); himself and the auditor; sea and land; Helen and Mars; the two “spurs” (9-10); and/or Helen’s eyes. “My art’s guessed” (5) puns about such runic inexactness, while “Helen’s cheek” (11) and “Mar’s sword” (13) encode bawdy.

         The term “Art of Beauty set” (11) seems to provide a punning “set name,” encouraging the “naming of the sets” that I presume, playfully, to undertake. “Thorns”—alludes to archaic “th”—encourages us to hunt for “wens” (runic W’s), “et’s,” and other minuscule ciphers.

         Line 5 embeds a broad joke about a long, erect penis: “Another time mine ‘I’ is my heart’s guest.” Both “to the clear day” (1) and “Tomorrow see again” (14) point to the same sunrise, with “beauty set” (11) a conscious foil. “Defendant” (4) puns on “descend-ant,” the joke being that the poet, flying high, may be in for a fall.

Sample Puns

        1) Today, see Lear doughty, it amuses, Lear, earl, I jet ; To this hell err (to the cellar); ready, witty Thomases, leer; witty Hugh Massey see; Amos is Lehrer; thymus see
        2) Foreign homme bled (be led, lad). How? You jet see, and jump; see Anne jump both sea and land (this anal Anne); see a name, Peabody, Finland; name bloody Hugh t’ see
        2-3) inland my Elisa, being maid (made, mad)
        3) My leaf; a dose sour you eyed to wallow in; maid oft whored; forehead woolen
        3-4) doff our rude woolen beauty, deafened Anne
        4) Butt, head offend Anne; deplete Annie
        4-5) ha, tup Lady Annie—Anne o’ th’ Art (Hurt), I mean, Annie is my art’s gift (juice)
        5) nice May hurts jest
        5-6) m’ art’s Jew-fit (guessed, gussied), thou be fit of dearest tan demon, wan liquor
        6) Anne, mine only care (seer, cure)
        6-7) Thou beast, Ovid eerie, Satan, Demon, on a lazier ewe
        7) When Lucan were dead, is Rome the thing it was? W., Hen, low converted
        7-8) Ed, fair row meaty, th’ inch eye, ’twas aye safe by some instinct; converted form, the thing I’d use, a sieve!
        8) Asses, by foaming, stinked; the wretch died now
        8-9) foamy, in fit, in city, you, wretch die, Dick, now (in “O,” thin of hole)
        8-10) men stink, T.T., you, wretch did naughty in fold eye spur, red, huge, mount Dante (a don), windlike
        9) T’ Hen. S, how ladies (laddies) purred “Huge!” Thin S. Hall dies pure (spurty, pretty), th’ “O” mounted; Thin fold I spurt, huge, mounted; O, North wind        
        9-10) don’t you aye Nate like—fit one, soft, worthy? pretty, huge, Mount Eden, t’ you eye-nettle, I kissed once O swarthy; Dante windy, like F-tones of war
      10) O swarthy th’ “I’d” Henley plays satyr; cedar
      10-11) see Adare O’Neill in ass-cheek “awl” hard, oaf bawdy, fat; worthy, thin, lip-laced, a rune; that Edenly place, Darien, Hell ends, chuckle aye; jackal
      10-14) see, Ed., a renal end, ass cheek, awl hard, O, ass bawdy, fat, hang on, f--k th’ horny ass, and play, ass wanton lie in, or m’ arse high suffered inner war as quick fiery-ass hole burned, O, marrow’s itching handy O nautical; Tom, our Row C aging end “O” nautical 11 seek ye Cardiff [l=I]; cheek; kill art, oaf, bawdy set; Art of Beauty (Art’s [Heart’s] Beauty [Bawdy]) Set; O, in Helen Ezekiel hard oft be, odious thing, onus, you see it, horny ass; awl, hard of body-fat
      12) Hang on, f--k th’ horns, Anne
      13) Enter m’ arse his sword, inner-war’s quick fire shall burn (ass’ll be urn); Quick, sire S. Hall bairn; few our dinner-ware seek; no remorse I swore; in dapply ass wan, tunnel; rescue
      13-14) to m’ horror, see aging Anne; Tome
      14) dough-knot; keel; siege

Acrostic Wit

        The downward acrostic codeline—TF M BAT WATL OH N T—has TWAT a prominent letterstring feature and suggests such readings, e.g., as “T’ femme (Defame…) Betty, wet alone [waddle on]. Tee!” “Tough homme batty weighed ‘Lundi’,” “Tough m’ body (bawdy, bait), waddle, O, in it,” “T’ femme, body wight (Waite, White) loaned,” “T’ femme body, white loined,” “Tough hymn bawdy Wyatt loaned,” “Tough homme body, white loined (wight loaned),” “Tough m’ bait, wight…,” and “Tough (T.F.) may be twat-loined.”

        Waite, White, and Wyatt are potential topical references.

        With B=8, the codestring BA TW = 8A TW and suggests ’82, the poet’s marriage year; and with L = I, the code suggests “Tough hymn ‘82 atoned,” “Tough m’ 82, Weighty Hell Auntie.”  

       The upward (reverse) codeline—TN HOLTAWT A BM FT—featrues the string BM, suggesting scatology, and encodes such potential readings as these: “Ten halted a B.M. fit [i.e., a scatological stanza],” “T’ know laddie witty, I be homme fit (eye B.M. fit),” “To no lady witty I be muffed,” “10 (Hall taut) eye, B.M. fit,” “Tough m’ bait, weighty Helen. Tee!” “To know hole taut, eye bee muffed,” “Ten halt ode, a B.M. fit,”and “Tunnel taut a B.M. fit.”

Proceed to Rune 50
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