Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets

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 52
Return to the Index of Set IV
Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets

Rune 51
Ninth lines, Set IV (Sonnets 43-56)

                         Rune 5l

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

     How would, I say, mine eyes be blessèd made?
     But, ah, thought kills me that I am not thought
     (Until life’s composition be) recured.
 4  To side this, title is empanelèd,
     So, either by thy picture or my love,
     Thee have I not lock’d up in any chest.
     Against that time do I ensconce me here:
 8  The bloody spur cannot provoke him on,
     Then can no horse with my desire keep pace.
     So is the time that keeps you as my chest.
     Speak of the spring and foison of the year,
12 But for their virtue only is their show.
     ’Gainst death, and all oblivious enmity,
     Let this sad int’rim like the ocean be.
     Glosses: 2) that I am not thought puns, “...that Hamnet thought,” alluding to Will’s dead son; 3) recured = made whole again, recurrent; 4) To side this = “To skirt this problem,” with the whole line alluding to the position of the sonnet and/or the runic text on the set leaf: “To [the] side, this title [i.e., number, poem text] is empanelèd”; 5) pun: “Southy [i.e., Southampton], our bitty picture ormolu [OED 1765, from F. or moulu, ‘ground gold’]”; 8) him... (ambig.) points to horse (see 9) and to I am not (2) while punning on him on,/T (8-9), i.e., Hamnet, and on “hymn”; 11) foison = harvest time; and foison puns, “and saw I son,” “and so eye son,” “Anne, Sue, eye son”; 12) for their puns on “father,” “for (fore..., [i.e., early in the verse line]), th’ heir,” alluding to Hamnet; 14) int’rim suggests “interlude,” “entr’acte” (see show in 12).

     51. This Sad Interim

     I ask how I might view things happily.
     But, ah, the idea kills me that I am not seen as
     a whole recurrence—and won’t be until my life’s work as a writer is, with Sonnets and Runes reconciled.
  4 This matter aside, I’m posting a peripheral poem—this particular line sits in a high righthand position on the folio leaf where it enjoys breathing room—
     so that, since this title reveals both your ever-present image and my professed love for you,
     I haven’t really buried you in some chest.
     Anticipating future wholeness, I do conceal myself in this hidden poem:
  8 No bloody spur digging into a flank can move this hymn along,
     so it seems that the horse that bears me can never keep up with the pace of my passion.
     That’s how the time passes here, where you are my whole heart, my treasure.
     As to spring and harvest time, conventional analogies a poet might choose,
12 their virtue lies only in their showiness—which is antithetical to the privacy of this art.
     From death, meaninglessness, and all forgotten struggles in human history
     let this sad verse interlude distance us as an ocean would. (Like an infinite gathering of tears, the ocean is a more expansive conceit for my love than any seasonal figure.)


        This touching complaint recording the poet’s “sad interim” explores the alternatives of hiding the muse (and Will’s love for him) in a “chest” or of making both these public, like a picture or wall sconce. These sober musings about personal and universal loss prove prescient, given the real-time, four-century lag that has occurred before the “oblivious enmity” between public Sonnets and hidden Runes has been “recured” (3). The hidden “chest” here is an analog for the Runes, while the openly viewed picture parallels the visible Sonnets.

          Several puns encourage reading the rune more narrowly as a father’s elegy for Will’s young son, Hamnet, who died in 1596: e.g., “that Hamnet-thought you endless see, home, position bare, see you...” (2-3); “…th’ air [i.e., poem; archaic p = th] cannot provoke Hamnet [Q him on, / T] hence” (8-9); and “But father-virtue only eyes th’ heir show” (12), with for their punning “father” and “for [soar] th’ heir.” One pun may link Hamnet and Hamlet: “Let this sad [Late hiss said,] ‘Enter Hamlic [sic] to you’ scene be” (14). Since Hamnet was baptized in early February 1585, one date-pun may be relevant: “The bloody February scene ought provoke Hamnet hence; a Norse wit, Ham’t, sire, keep. Pace” (8-9). Foison (11) puns, e.g., “sow [saw] I son” and “so eye son.”

           Figures designating the hidden part of the poet’s “life’s [leaf’s] composition” (3) focus on “chest” (6, 10) as both storage box—an actor’s chest, a coffin—and heart or bosom.

           By contrast, the pun “O-scene” (14) points to a public performance in the “wooden ‘O’,” Will’s own term (Henry V. 13) for a round theatre such as The Globe. Thus the closing line may mean, “Let this sad entr’acte go public.” Then, the poet says, “my eyes would be blessed” (1), I would be “re-cured” and would “recur”—i.e., duplicate myself—and the Q texts would regain a state of wholeness (1-3). Other figures also imply public compositions: “Title…empanelèd” (4), e.g., suggests a tacked up broadside, while “ensconce” (7) may mean, contradictorily, either “hide protectively” or hang in open view. “Sconce” has other witty meanings that include the head itself—and thus sense or wit. Will may also be thinking of himself as astride either Pegasus (see Rune 46) or “beauty”s head” (see Rune 49) and thus “ensconced.”

           As main aspects of “life’s composition,” spring and “foison” (i.e., the harvest season) endure “oblivious enmity” (13)—“lost contrast”—and help explain Will’s concern with time (7, 10). The idea of “curing” meat (3) links chests with a harvest. “To side this title is empaneled” (4) and, later, “ensconce” (7) remark on the page position of Sonnet 46 (which sits on the Set IV spread atop the right-side panel of visible sonnet texts); the pun “this odd end-rhyme” (14) points to “…Annie chest” (6) / “…my chest” (10)--punning on “jest.”

           The first line and others illustrate the prolific punning that is universal in the Q lines, each a phonic / alphabetic / pictographic code susceptible to many readings. In line 1, “Howard” (How would...) has topical links to Southampton, Will’s known patron; the form “...(I say)...”—with its oddly italicized parentheses—puns on “Susie” (Will’s daughter Susanna?), “Isaiah,” and “Cecil”; and mine eyes puns “My Annie S.” “How would, Isaiah, m’ Annie S. be Blessed Maid?” is one of many decodings. Another (in 1-2) is “How would Susie, m’ Annie’s baby, laugh, dim-eyed beauty! Though tickles me.” Line 5 puns, “Southy [i.e., Southampton], our bitty picture ormolu.” And, in a sotto voce address to Will’s know printing agent Thomas Thorpe, lines 13-14 read, “Emend, idle T.T., hiss odd, [and] end our hymn like the ocean bay [= yelp].”

           Puns in 6-8 remark on Will’s fat wife: “The heavy Anne odd, locked up in Annie’s heft [and] age: Anne Shakespeare [= st], th’ ‘Hat.-i-may’ doughy, I ensconce, marry—the bloody ass, th’ hearse Anne....” One closing pun is, “Let hiss Satan, dreamlike, ‘Hideous Anne be’” (14).

            The acrostic (see below) seems “political.” (See below.)

Sample Puns

           1) Howard, I see ye, man; …sees a leman; How wood I say my neighs [knees] be, Blessed Maid; Isaiah; :my Annie S. be Blessed Maid? Simon; Simeon; How would Sesame in eyes be? “Iffy” (Daffy), m’ Annie’s baby, laughed; Hold dick easy, mine “I,” ass be blessed made; Ol’ Daisy, my nurse, be blessed made; m’ Annie eyes “babel” sediment
           1-2) How would Susie, m’ Annie’s baby, laugh, dim-eyed beauty
           2) Butt, “I’d,” huge (hawk, hog), tickles me; But a thought kills meated Hamnet; Hamnet thou get
           2-3) Dundee; done deal
           3) live, sick homme position, bury, cured; Untie leaves, Composition B recurred; composition bare, see, you read; Untie Livy, his composition bare assert; “Shun bears,” you read; see you red
           3-4) Until Livy’s composition be recorded off hide [i.e., vellum]…
           4) To fetus teat (dead), lass, imp, Anne led; berry cured tough hide; this title is imp-annulled [the line puns on its page position “in a side panel”: “To (the righthand) side (of the set leaf), this title is empaneled.”]
           4-5) any lad sweeter; add, Southy, our bitty picture ormolu; “O”—reamy, low 5 Sweeter, Betty picture, ormolu
           6) The half eye not, locked up in Annie’s heft
           6-7) Th’ heavy knot low seek t’ open, Annie’s hefty, aging state t’ eye (t’ “I”)
           7) eye meadow aye in fecund seam here; Hat.-i-may dough I ensconce, marry; see me, Harry
           7-8) hear Thebe-ludus pure, see a knot
           8) The below-Dis, perking; purse; Anne; pure sin; prow; oak; hawk; hog; hymn; oakum [“picked” by convicts]; hymen; Hamon; Amen
           8-9) The bloody February’s end (scene) ought provoke Hamnet hence
           9) row woke Hamnet, hence Anne, know hoarse wight Ham’et; Anne, no horse, with my desire keep pace
           9-10) Thence Anne, whore, few eyed Mighty Sire, key be Pace’s; Pace is wasted, emitted (...omitted)
         10) Sue, eye Southy, t’ eye me that keeps you; Keep Sue as Miss H.; keep Sesames hefty
         10-11) asthma-chest speaks of the spring (speaks [speech?] disappearing); my chest speak oft, hasp ringing, voicing oft hear; hefty is pee kissed, this peer inch ends; use my chest, ass, pay Kiev, this Bearing gun diffuse; speak, host, aspiring; ringing diffuse enough th’ ear
         11-12) Speak soft, hiss bearing, Anne, voicing oft hairy butt fartier
         12) Southy errs. How?
         12-13) we heard one Leicester show; Beauty sword, Howard, you only eye; Southy ire is (iris, heiress) huge; Beauty, father virtue only, eye Southy arse hug; F--king fitteth Anne, dull, oblivious, Amen; river tunnel ye eye
         12-14) Beauty’s sword here, weird, wan, lustier, f--king, fit death, end-all (an awl), “O” below eyes enemy, let his Satan trim (Satan’d rhyme, rim) lick the O; Livy, aye, O, you seem nigh
         13-14) thin dollop, Elysium in idol eddy suffered aye; Emend, idle T.T., hiss odd, end our hymn
         14) Let this sad interim like the “O” [suggesting The Globe] scene be; like hawk (hog, the oak) Anne be; Let this fade into rhyme; mélee jet hawk and bee; Latticèd, I Anne “trim” like the “O,” see Anne be; C, A, and B

Acrostic Wit

          The acrostic seems to focus at least partly on political wit. The downward codeline—HBVTS TA TT SS BGL—e.g., suggests such encodings as “Habits states speckle,” which translates, “Customs [and court finery] decorate and flavor kingdoms.” Other readings are these: “Hate [B= phonic 8] states speckle,” “Habit sainted (cf. st; stated) is subtle,” “Ladder bawdy is t’ T.T. s-s-subtle,” “Hated sty, T.T.-ass sate [B=8], gull,” “Itch butt? Stat, t’ asses, ‘pickle’,” “Habits tied asses speckle,” and “Hated Shakespeare [=ST] t’ T.T. is his beagle (pickle).” Encoded are other phallic plays on B=8, ATT, and asses [SS]. “Habits states speckle” translates, “Customs [and court finery] decorate and flavor kingdoms.”

          The upward (reverse) codeline—LG BS ST TAT S T VBH—may mean, e.g., “Large-piss Shakespeare taught ass ‘To be’,” “Large be asses, T.T., eye ‘test tube’,” “Large, Bess titty ate, stub,” “Legate [B=8], ass, saint taught Shakespeare verb ‘itch,” “Large B.S., Shakespeare taught saint verbiage,” “Large Bess [i.e., Eliz. I] Shakespeare taught (tied), Ass. (S.) to Bitch [pronounce the ‘H’],” and “Large Bess [&] Stated Ass [cf. James I, ‘instated’ as monarch, with S. the ‘Stuart’ initial], divide [T+V+8] Age [H].” (The codestring T-V-8 also suggests “deviate.”) The last reading, as a complex,deeply encoded post-Elizabethan political comment, verges on sedition but it typically unprovable as an intended comment. The Runes allowed Will and his coterie the chance for such banter, with impunity, in an era when speech was not free.

          “Habit” (down code HBVT) is a clue to “saint” (both ways). The code element ST ( = saint) is also a form of the conventional “Shakespeare cipher,” based on the lower-case digraph st, a pictograph in which “long s” effectively “shakes” a spear-like t, as it were, by the handle.

Proceed to Rune 52
Return to the Index of Set IV
Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets