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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 50
Eighth lines, Set IV (Sonnets 43-56)

                         Rune 50

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

     When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so?
     As soon as think, the place where he would be
     Sinks down to death, oppressed with melancholy,
 4  And says, “In him, their fair, appearance lies
     And in his thoughts of love doth share a part.”
     Art left, the prey of every vulgar thief,
     Shall reasons find. Of settled gravity,
 8  His rider loved not speed: Being made from thee,
     In wingèd speed no motion shall I know
     Or captain. Jewels in the carconet,
     And you in Grecian ’tires are painted new
12 When summers’ breath their maskèd buds discloses,
     The living record of your memory,
     The spirit of love, with a perpetual dullness.
     Glosses: 1) unseeing eyes = e.g., those of future readers and/or of contemporaries outside the coterie circle; 2) he = thy shade (see 1); 4) their refers to unseeing eyes (see 1); fair (sb.); 8) His rider suggests “Art’s writer/rider,” the poet; see Rune 49, which pictures the poet astride Helen’s head, spurring the spots that would be her (rouged) cheeks; made = carried; 10) carconet = jeweled necklace; 11) tires = attire, garments; 12) maskèd buds suggest naked body parts; 14) spirit puns on “spurt” and “...speare”: e.g., “The spurt o’ slow wit a peer paid you, ‘awl’ dulling ass.”—with plays on “peed,” “pet,” “ladle,” and “little.”

     50. Settled Gravity

     When will still unborn readers see your misty image shine bright?
     The very thought pulls the locale of that event
     into the shady realm of death and oppressive melancholy
  4 but also conveys the truth that such ideal handsomeness belongs to all eyes and contains the possibility of its own future reappearance
     and that such physical beauty is complementary to a handsome man’s ideas about love.
     Art being my recourse and medium (though it becomes common property and gets stolen),
     I’ll use it to clarify some relationships between looks and ideas. A man of “settled gravity,”
  8 this writer—a rider astride art—did not go in for speed: Being carried away from you,
     a Pegasus-mounted poet, I’ll never really even experience movement
     nor be in charge of its direction. A few jewels in the fancy necklace,
     and you are painted anew in Grecian garments
12 when the winds of future summers bring forth hidden buds, discreetly nascent images—
     still-living mementos of you,
     love’s spirit, but always monotonous, never as vivid or as sharply “pointed” as real men are.


          Coherence of a sort emerges if we read the rune as Will’s downbeat reverie about how his art is working to perpetuate the friend’s existence and to control the views that future readers have of the friend. Mutability—the inevitability of change—and the limits (and basic insincerity) of art are serious themes that help account for the speaker’s “melancholy” close.

          The main figurative device here varied a conventional classical allusion: As a “rider/writer” of art mounted on Pegasus, the poet experiences, paradoxically, both “winged speed” and motionlessness (8-10). Will’s ironic, self-denigrating epithet for himself, a man “of settled gravity,” paints various images—middle age, the settling dust stirred up by a mount, a thrown rider (like the mythological Bellerophon) trying to maintain his dignity. (A reader named Graves especially enjoys the pun in “gravity.”) The phrase also ironically describes the “unsettled levity” of the “settled” (i.e., sunken) Runes. The pun “Settled G-row, eyed aye” uses an ABC alternative to name line 7—i.e., Row G—where the term hides. “Sinks down to earth…” (3) prefigures the phrase, while “no motion shall I know” (9) and “perpetual dullness” (14) echo it.

           “Gravity” also links with “reasoning” (7) and thus with “As soon as think” (2) and “his thoughts of love” (5). (The rune vaguely sketches the image of a judge—foiled by “every vulgar thief”—so that “no motion shall I know” has a legal meaning.) As a “settled, grave” man, moving but standing still, Will contrasts with the artful figure of his friend in Grecian garb, gaudily bedecked with jewels, though the friend’s sunken “shade” (see 3) is also, in effect, gravely settled. The poet’s comment about being “made from thee” suggests, among other meanings, that he is “cut of the same mold.”

           Such linked elements show how carefully Will chose his diction and conceived of his figures.

           Still, the rune is not grave, nor is it “settled” in the sense of being inarguable. The phrases “his rider” and “winged speed” (without “motion”) are both full of “Grecian” bawdry. Suggestive, too, are the “masked buds [butts]” that appear (when the toga blows open?) as the “spirit [spurt] of love, with a perpetual dullness” (14). (“Spirit” puns on “spearhead” and is also a joking nameplay on “…spear.”) “Jewels” and “carconet” (10) have bawdy implications, too, the first in the sense of “family jewels,” and the second as a pun on the order of “see [sea-] arse honed” and “sour cone et.”

          The nautical pun “this pirate of love” (14) is perhaps aimed at Southampton, Will’s only known patron, who had some sea experience; the phrase echoes “every vulgar thief” (6). Differently, “tires” (11) has the sense “tearing of flesh” in falconry, a meaning that elaborates “painted [panted] new.” “Masked buds” puns on “masked birds.”

          Beside the “...speare” play in 14, the text is rampant with potential nameplays that various coterie readers might have picked up on. “When” (e.g., 1, 12) and “where” (2) in Q always play on the mysterious “W.H.” of the title page, often identified with Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton, Will’s patron: “When” puns on “W., Hen.” and “where” on “W., Harry.” Concurrently (I propose), any Wh... also plays on “IN H.,” a cipher for both “John Hall” and “Anne Hathaway,” Will’s son-in-law and wife. Further “in” in Q (e.g., 4, 5) plays on both “John” and “Anne,” and “And” (e.g., 4, 5, 11) may encode “Anne.” “Would” (e.g., 2) automatically encodes “IN. [=Jn.] Hall,” and “Shall” (e.g., 7, 9) may mean “S[usanna] Hall,” Will’s daughter.

           Many other forms playfully suggest “Anne”: e.g., “captaine,” “Grecian,” and even “carconet” [ = ...and = ...Anne]). “Hamnet, heir,” naming Will’s dead son, lies encoded, e.g., in “him their” (4). Thus line 4 may pun, e.g., “Anne says, ‘John, Ham[n]et, heir, is air; up here [i.e., in her head], Anne silly is.” Alternately, the line puns, “Anne S. aye is in hymn, th’ air fair [th’ heifer]; a pear [-shaped person?], Anne silly is.” Similarly, lines 7-8 joke, “S[ue] Hall raves on, sighing, deaf, attled, grave (I tease her...).” And lines 10-11 pun, “Our kept (capped) Annie wells in the cargo net, undoing Grecian [at]tires....” Son-in-law John Hall might have enjoyed such latent wit.

           Since any “S” sound in Q puns both on “ass” and on the poet’s family initial, and since f’s and s’s tend to interchange in Q, tedious family jokes proliferate. Line 12 ends, e.g., “...see low S’s,” and 14 runs, “The speare-it [Th’ ‘S’ appeared...] o’ slow wit—a perpetual, dull Anne S.”

           Line 2 puns, e.g., “Avon S.,” “a fon [foolish] ass...,” “Avon aye stinketh happily, sewery wold [i.e., rolling uplands] be,” and “Avon aye is th’ inked, helpless, weird abyss” (2-3). Lines 6-7 pun, “Artless T.T., help raise every vulgar thesis...,” a jibe likely aimed at Thomas Thorpe, Will’s known printing agent, whose initials appear on Q’s title page. (See acrostic wit, below.)

Sample Puns

          1) W.H. in town, see, John, gusty is Hades, Hen’s foe; We in town see inches, this Hades hiney is foe; unseeing, eye Southy’s head; she defines ass; Southy fey deafens Sue
          1-2) see In. [John], gusty shade, shine so as son
          2) aye is th’ inked apple a sewer hued; Eye Sue, niece (nice), then get helpless, W.H, ere you old be; in kitty plays W.H.; the play-sewer; W.H., heir he would be; th’ ink dapples W.H.
          2-3) W.H. [as John Hall] ruled Bessie, end t’ kiss, downy tot; W., Harry., you old beast
          3) “O” pressed [Round, printed]; Sin kissed “O” when today th’ “O” appearest, witty mélange holy; sin kissed Owen to death; Himmel (hymn, Hell), Anne see, holy; the opera is two-eyed hymn; m’ élan see holy
          3-4) wit, Himalayas holy and fey (in fay) see in hymn, th’ air fair—a pair, and silly
          4) Andes eye; Anne S. aye is in hymn, th’ air is airy (there is Harry); hairy; appear Anne, see lies; fay is in Ham’et, heir S.          
          4-5) silly is Indian (Andean) hiss, T., huge heights O’s laud
          5) ’tis awful Ovid, o’ this air a part; Anne, John’s (Engine’s) thoughts of love doth she aye rip; oaths hear; oath is here a party; Is Harry a bard?
          5-6) Fair ape-art hard left thee prey of every vulgar thief
          6) raise you a revel, jarred, heavy
          6-7) A riddle fit thee praise, your evil guards S. Hall
          7) S. Hall raise onus, end of it, leisure aye witty; S. Hall reasons, “Is India’s set lead, gravity?”
          7-8) Is India’s set leger [i.e., trifling, hocus-pocus], odious; odious writer loved knot’s petty being; Son S. sinned, oft let gravities—wry, dear—low
          8) high “serrator” (serrature) low (lo) denotes “peed” being
          8-9) maid formed Hen. W. in jet of pee; writer lowed knots, peed B-inch (i.e., the B-row), made form thin, winged, speeding o’ motion
          9) “John, John [= W = IN], John,” jets, peed in emotion; S. Hall enough; John-wench, Ed’s peed gnome owed I; in mode, “I” wants Hall, I know
        10) Our capped (kept) Annie wells in the cargo neat, enduring; saint, hiss ergo and et
        10-11) this arse o’ knight, enduring greasy Anne, tires her
        11) you wince, homme; sire panted in ewe; Undoing Grecian [at]tires, I repented in you; Anne, you in Grecian tires are painted new; Anne, you win; in gray shined ire, a serpent, Eden, ewe (Ed [editor] anew); a rape Anne did
        12) W.H. in some arse breathed heir; buds difficile of S.; W., Hen S., immerses buried head, Hermes could be you, Dis discloses; a début Dis discloses; Whence Homer, separated, hairy, masked, bawdy? Sad is Clovis; sedes see, low
        12-13) W., Hen.’s homme-arse breathed here, masked butt, ass, discloses the living record of your memory; officed Hell, avenger see, or doff your memory
        13) T’ Helen jeer; The loo injury sore (…see, o’er); do fire memory; O, fie, O, you ream a Moor; core desire; T’ hell, Avenger see
        13-14) Helen, jerk our dossier (dozer, doser) “mammaried”; you rhymed (rimmed) amour, jetty spirit of love; cord o’ fire may m’ whorey thief pyre, aye tough, lewd, happy
        14) This appeared, “O” slow (slough); This pirate offal (awful) “O” viewed aye, perpetual, dull; you “awled” dull, in ass; Thief, pirate, Oslo viewed a parapet, vile, dull knave; happier paid, you’ll dull an ass (a knife)

Acrostic Wit

         The downward acrostic codeline—WA SA A A SHIOAWTT—has insistent scatology in its letterstring SHIOAWTT. The full codeline suggests, e.g., these readings: “We say, ‘Shit!’” “Was I aye a shoat (shit)?” “Why is ass out?” “We sigh a shout,” “Wise (Why is) ass haughty [?],” “We see a shoat,” “Wise ass haughty,” “Was I aye a show, T.T.,” “We say, ‘Eye, ass, high ode’,” “We say aye, ‘Ash [aesc, Æ], Iota [= AEI, a cry of pain],” and “Was Isaiah witty?” or “Was I aye ‘Ash, Iota’?” The last asks, “Did I amount to anything?”

         The upward (reverse) codeline—TT WAOIH SAAASAW—encodes an insistent form of “see-saw” (code SAAA SAW) and may mean, e.g., “T.T. [= Thos. Thorpe, Will’s known printing agent], woes I aye saw,” “T.T. wise I saw,” “T.T. weighs ‘Esau’,” “T.T., we ‘see-saw’,”“T.T. weighs aye ‘Esau’,” “‘T’ twice [= T.T.], I eye Esau,” “To two I owe see-saw,” “T.T., oasis awe,” and “Ditty weigh, O, I say a saw [a saying].”

         “Twice I saw” means, in one sense, “I repeat ‘sayings’”—with “one saw” up, the other, down. Thus the lefthand acrostic is like a see-saw.

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