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 57
Proceed to the Index of Set V
Return to the Index of Set IV
Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets

Rune 56
Fourteenth lines, Set IV (Sonnets 43-56)

                     Rune 56

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

     And, nights’ bright days when dreams do show thee me
     But heavy tears, badges of either’s woe,
     I send them back again, and straight grow sad,
 4  And my heart’s right, their inward love of heart,
     Awakes my heart to heart’s and eye’s delight—
     For truth, proves thievish for a prize so dear.
     Since, why to love I can allege no cause;
 8  My grief lies onward, and my joy behind.
     Towards thee I’ll run and give him leave to go,
     Being had to triumph, being lacked to hope
     But you like none, none you. For constant heart
12 When that shall vade, by verse distills your truth:
     You live in this and dwell in lovers’ eyes,
     Makes’ summers—welcome thrice, more wished, more rare.
     Glosses: 1) show thee me = show thee to me; 2) either’s = nights’ or days’, your or my; 3) them (ambig.) suggests tears, badges (2), dreams, nights’...days (1); 4) right = prerogative (pun: “art’s right,” “hard’s rigid, [up]right” [phallic, echoing straight in 3]); their = my dreams’ (1), tears (2); 6) the subject of proves (a phallic pun on “prows”) is heart’s right (in 4); 9) him (a pun on “hymn”) = grief, joy (see 8); 11) But = Only that; 12) vade = depart, fade; by verse puns on “bi-verse,” i.e., the bifurcated Sonnets/Runes cycle; 14) Makes’ summers puns on “Mates’ ‘Summer S.’”—i.e., “Coterie peers’ Adder/Numbers man/Metricist Shakespeare,” with welcome punning on Will...; pun: “...thrice (...their eyes) more rouged, more rare,” suggesting red meat, with jokes about a hot summer, reddened eyes, phallic “I’s,” Moors, and stereotypes about phallic size.

     56. A Prize So Dear

     Now, the nights that are brightened when I see you in dreams
     being only crying sessions advertising our problems and those that days and nights bring,
     I reject my dreams, order my tears back where they came from, and instantly grow sad,
  after which my heart’s prerogative, the deep feeling shown in my dreams and tears,
     reawakens it to a beloved, appealing sight—
     in fact, shows itself thievishly anxious for that dear prize.
     Later, I can’t explain why anyone would love;
  8 only grief is ahead of me, and my happiness is past.
     I’ll run toward you and let sorrow or joy go whatever way it will;
     I’ll feel victory when I’m yours, and, when I’m still nobody’s, I’ll hope
     that your affections stay singularly uncommitted. In the interest of constancy,
12 when everything I’m talking about fades away, your reality is still crystallizing in verse.
     You go on living in this poem and dwell in lovers’ eyes
     and in the summers of bosom friends and lovers—and are thus thrice welcomed but still more wished for, the more cherished, a prize even rarer than before.


          These 14 end-lines in Set IV comprise a rather formal address to the unnamed friend, with mid-line caesuras and aphoristic lines. The poem relies heavily on syntactic parallels and contrasts. Woe and goe rhyme (2, 9). Two lines end in heart, a recurring term (4, 5, 11) that in Q always puns on “art—and on “hard,” with bawdy innuendo.

          As is typical in Q’s Runegame, textual meaning here hinges on ambiguous pronoun reference, unmarked possessives, vague syntax including unclear order and subject/verb linkages, archaic terms, and, of course, puns.

          Read as a lyric statement, the text deals more with the listening friend’s immortality, a main topic in Set II, than with the question of the Runes’ reception—a dominant concern here in Set IV. “Vision” and the poet’s current emotional state continue as subjects.

           The “competition” metaphor is sharpest in 6-10, with details like prize, onward and behind, I’ll run, and triumph. As a runner or athlete in pursuit, Will anticipates at best a paradoxical victory. Complementary details, vaguely suggesting Greek races, include bright (buried) days and show (1); badges of woe (...of ‘Whoa!’)—the witty obverse of victory laurels (2); send them back and straight (3); “rite” (pun 4); delight (5); constant heart (11), suggesting stamina; vade (12) as a latinized “depart, fade”; and welcome (14), hinting at a finish-line triumph.

           First and last, details show hidden care. Lines 1-3 suggest a tiny drama in which figures “shown in” for an audience get promptly ushered out, with “badges” leading one to picture liveried servants. The motif of coming-and-going continues in the metaphor of the footrace, and the figures “vade” and “welcome” finally reinforce that concept. The verbs “live” and “dwell” (13)—anticipated in “inward love of heart” (4)—contrast with the idea of being sent away.

           Though Sonnets editors have without compunction emended Q’s “by verse” (12) to “my verse,” the authorized form works here in the runic texture, with “truth” the subject of the statement. The newly understood meaning of the pun “bi-verse”—as “doubly composed poetry, with Sonnets and Runes overlaid”—dictates that we always try to respect Will’s own diction, as does the fact of jot-and-tittle authorization that we are just now confirming by the indirect method of detecting why so many details in Q look “wrong.”

           The variety of puns latent in Will’s letterstring code include, e.g., these: “Anne denied, separated, I swooned a ream sad, O’s ‘you-theme’” (1); “Eye fiend, theme basic: A gay Anne (...H., Anne) eye in this tirrit [i.e., fit of temper] gross, odd” (3); “Saddened, m’ art serrated air inward” (i.e., “cut the hidden poem in two”) and “fattened my hard t’ serrate Harry [= Henry Wriothesley, Southampton, Will’s known patron?] inward, low” (3-4); “Towards the isle, ruin, ditch aye you Hamlet owe [recognize]...” (9); “Being good taught wry homme fibbing...”; “being lazy, get up” (10); and “You livened hiss and did well in low verses” (13). (See below for other puns in the letterstring code.)

           Line 14 seems rich with enigmatic topical allusions. Since it’s well known that anthologizer Francis Meres praised Shakespeare effusively in Palladis Tamia (1598), the string ...mers... may allude to Meres; perhaps the pun “My kiss-o’-Meres welcome, thrice more wished, more rare” refers to Meres’ three-pronged praise of Will’s work in the genres of tragedy, comedy, and lyric poetry. The reiterated more concurrently may allude to Will’s Moor, Othello, and/or to the unfinished Play of Sir Thomas More, an enigmatic collaboration that scholars say Will had a hand in. (An expert has authenticated three pages in Will’s cramped script as our only surviving textual writing sample.)

           “Welcome thrice” in its textual context (13-14) suggests more directly the speaker’s three “dwellings”: 1) this poem, 2) lovers’ eyes, and 3) mates’ summers. The last phrase is a fine economy, suggesting summer love in all its varieties. “Makes” as “Mates” (a common Renaissance meaning) suggests lovers and peers, including reader/players in the coterie brotherhood. The word “wish’d” puns on “wifed,” “whiffed,” and the name “Wi. Sh.” As usual, “S,” Will’s initial, and “ass” interchange.

         Though I’m not sure exactly what Q’s peculiar form “Sómers” encodes, it points to a pun on homme—perhaps “My Kiss-Ass Homme Meres.” The initial acrostic WYM (12-14), the last in the Set, plays on “Wm.,” a kind of signature, so the capital “S.” must stand for “Shakespeare,” especially because “Summer’s” means “The poet’s” (in the role of an “adder” or a “metricist”). “Soam” (ME) meant “horse-load,” while “soamers” puns “some arse.”

         Manifold variants of what 14 encodes include one possiblereading in which tedious wit hinges on the unpronounced “s” that makes homme (Fr. “man”) plural: e.g., “Hommes (a key S): Homme errs, wills ‘hommes,’ their eyes amorous hid m’ ‘O’ rare, airy (...rear awry).”

           The closing play in welcome on “Will” also links with the acrostic ...WYM (12-14).

Sample Puns

          1) Anne denied separated ass; Aswan; knights; deny jetties buried (be right); daze; dreary ms., do show theme; swoon; swan dreams
          1-2) reams do show thee, maybe, uterus bad, Jesus aid her; Swan dear amassed Ovid hymn bawdy, heavy t’ arras; windy reams do shit hymn bawdy; do show bawdy theme, butt, uterus, bad jest Ovid hears
           2) Beauty you eye; edge soft eye there, Swiss ended embassy; you et arse, bade Jesus eat her ass! Whoa!
           2-3) Sue offended him; arse-badges, Ovid-ears whiff, end o’ hymn
           3) Ascendeth Ham, back again; Back, aye, gay Annie, Anne Shakespeare right gross, odd; quay gain and dusty reed grow
           3-4) fatten my hard t’ serrate there, inward, low
           4) Handy merd is ready t’ hear; Anne demured (dimmer); th’ Rhine were Toulouse here
           5) Awake is my art, toward (too hard) sandy saddle I get (jet); Awake, summered turd, sandy, eye’s delight
           4-6) Sir, I jet here—inward, low, a fart awakes my art, to hearts’ and eyes’ delight, fart rude. Approves the wife fore-up-rise so dear.
           5-6) a light fart Ruth professed
           6-7) whore apprise, ass odorous and sweaty
           7) eye Seine (Cannes), Hall, edge know; sweet olives anal edge; “Y” to love (too low)
           7-8) I see an awl-edge nauseous, meager, evil; see aye knowledge, know cause o’ my grief; eye canal at Genoa’s awesome edge-reef; easy Sin see (Scenes, Sense), W.H., ye too low aye see Anne, allege no cause (all edge, no sauce); Icy Anne, Hall allege no cough (nauseous)
           8) My grace lie sonward, Anne my joy behind
           8-9) My grave Eleison, wording dim (damage be ended)
           9) Two words, the “ill rune” and “Jew hymn” leave toga; in end, give Hamlet “O”
           9-10) Jabbing God taught rhyme, fibbing; Job inched to triumph; give hymn-leaf to Job—injured, tawdry homme
         10) tawdry homme Phoebe inched, jacked; Jew; jewel
         10-11) tup bawdy ewe, lick a nun, forecunt Shakespeare entered (interred)
         12) W., Hen., thought S. Hall witty. Bi-versed, I still sour truth; …eye steals our truth
         12-13) aver saddest “till” is your turdy (dirty) ewe, living t’ hiss, handy well
         13) You livened hissing duel in low verses
         13-14) You’ll events hiss, handy well anal, our size, my kisses immerse, welcome, their ass moor whiffed; in hell our Sesame kiss (key is somewheres)
         14) My kisses o’ Meres welcome, thrice more wished… [cf. F. Meres’ effusive praise of S. in Palladis Tamia (1598)]; thrice m’ whore wifed Moor rare; Will’s “O” meatier I see; roofed mortar [eyepun]; Will saw meteor icy, moor, why? Icy moor you eye, shitty moor airier; swill come; Elysium, there I summer whiffed

Acrostic Wit

          Acrostic readings typically accumulate, some inherent if F = S (conventionally, because lower-case f and s look alike) and B = 8. The downward acrostic codeline—ABIAAFSMTBBWYM—suggests, e.g., “Abbie I have, Semite baby. [signed] Wm.,” “A bay of smut be bum,” “Abase [F=S] his hymn, tup Wm.,” “Hideous empty baby, Wm.,” “Eighty asses empty bomb,” “Abbie eyes summit, baby whim,” “Abysses empty hated [B=8, F=S] Wm.,” and “Abbess’s hymn to hated Wm.”

          The acrostic play on “BIAA[F=S]S” (2-7)—suggesting“bias,” punning “beef-ass”—may point to diagonal alignments in a full-text acrostic letter grid, an arrangement I’ve not explored. The suggestion might just be a red-herring lead.

         The upward reverse—MY WBB TM S FAAIBA—encodes such potential readings as these: “My web, Tom, is soppy [F=S],” “My webby tome is fey, aye I bay (…is seedy),” “My webby tomes fade [B=8] aye,” “My web bitty, ms. fey, aye eye, B.A.,” “My web, Thos., evade aye,” “My weapy tomes fade (...sight, sigh, sate) aye,” “Mew baby, Tom, ass of Abbie,” “My wen be bitty, my ass fey, aye I bay (I obey),” and “Mute be Tom’s society.”

         In a code where WYM insistently suggests “Wm.,” the string TM (“Tom”) to Will probably stood for Thomas Thorpe, Wm.’s known printing agent, the T.T. of the title page, and TMS signified “Thos.

      End of Set IV
Proceed to Rune 57
Proceed to the Index of Set V
Return to the Index of Set IV
Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets