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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 IX, Runes 113-126: Texts and Comments 
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2003, All Rights Reserved        

Proceed to Rune 118
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Rune 117
Fifth lines, Set IX (Sonnets 113-126)

                         Rune 117

     (Fifth lines, Set IX: Sonnets 113-126)

     For it no form delivers to the heart
     To make of monsters and things indigest—
     But reckoning time, who’s millioned accidents;
 4  O no, it is an ever-fixèd mark
     That I have frequent been with unknown minds.
     Ev’n so, being full of your near-cloying sweetness,
     What wretched errors hath my heart committed!
 8  For if you were by my unkindness shaken
     Fore, why should others? False, adulterate eyes,
     O’er at the least, so long as brain and heart,
     Our dates are brief, and therefore we admire.
12 No, it was builded far from accident.
     Have I not seen dwellers on form and favor
     (If Nature sovereign) mysteries over-wrack?
     Glosses: 1) For it puns, “Fart,” “If art...,”; heart puns on art; 3) But = Merely; reckoning = marking, plodding through serially; 6) ...sweetness echoes things indigest in 2; 8) unkindness echoes monsters (2), things “of another kind”; 9) others puns on “oathers,” i.e., coterie members; 10) brain and heart echo minds (5), heart (1, 7); 11) dates echoes time in 3; admire = marvel, astonish; 12) No, it echoes it in 1 and O no, it in 4; builded reinforces make in 2 and dwellers in 13; it in 12, implying the entire Quarto structure, also points back to my unkindness in 8; 13) form (echoing 1) and favor suggest external appearance (shape) and positive recognition; 14) over-wrack = overthrow, torture excessively, wreck (see shaken in 8, contrast builded in 12); compare “wreak” (give vent to).

     117. Far from Accident

     Now, it brings nothing stable or substantial to the heart
     to dwell on grotesque creations and on things unassimilated and chaotic—
     that’s merely marking time, with its millions of trivial and disorganized occurrences.
  4 Quite conversely, it is as an indelible and permanent point of reference
     that I have associated with unnamed future readers and thinkers.
     Even so, my friend, being full of your nearly-cloying sweetness,
     my heart has committed frightful errors!
  8 For even if you were affronted, were shaken by my monstrous behavior
     in times past, why should anybody else go through that? Inaccurate and unfaithful onlookers,
     finished shortly, lasting only as long as the brain and heart,
     we have only brief lives, and therefore we gaze with wonder—and also try to impress others.
12 No, this structure was not formed accidentally. Far from it.
     Have I not envisioned readers who dwell on things formal and attractive
     (if the order of things persists as it has) overthrowing the mysteries?


          This strong, appealing poem offers Will’s ironic aesthetic and discusses his medial position between the absent muse, whom he has “shaken with unkindness” (8), and the “unknown minds” (5) of “others” (9), future coterie players (or “oathers,” sworn into the brotherhood, so to speak) like us who by “dwell[ing] on form and favor” (13)—structure and substance—will “overthrow the mysteries.”

          Dichotomizing order and disorder, head and heart, the text implies that the torturous conceits of Will’s lines are both “monstrous” and “unkind” and consciously crafted to be so (12): Any reader is put over the wrack as victim of Will’s “sovereign mysteries”—the grotesque “Mistress” endemic in the Q texts. The poet’s disavowal of “monstrous” activities is ironic, his mea culpa and “repentance” are playfully hypocritical, and his proud view of himself as an “ever-fixed mark” (4) is an oblique admission of his shiftiness. In professing formlessness, Will is in the process of showing the opposite true.

           Conceits in the poem cluster about the poles of order and chaos, a dichotomy roughly analogous to mind and heart, permanence and mutability. Architectural terms reinforce the motif of order, while some of the “disorderly ” words (accident[s], shaken, wrack/wreck) imply tearing down.

          Imagery about time (3-4, 10-11) operates. By mixing tenses, using the present perfect (5, 13) for what one takes to be conditional or future situations, Will portrays the future as already a foregone thing.

          Plays about “building” link with those about composition—e.g., “reckoning time” (4) as “counting meter” and “ever-fixed mark” (4) as “indelible writing”—and about “art” (cf. puns 1, 7, 10). “Indigest” (2) introduces a gastronomic motif that includes such puns on “Butter, sickening thyme” (3) and “dates” (11). Because Will’ “dates are brief,” the body parts “brain and heart” seem like elongated edibles (10-11).

          “Indie-jest” may pun on “a joke in India ink” (cf. OED 1665). “Mon-ft-ers” is a complex, ironic pun implying “Shakespeare’s fits [stanzas], my own mono-errors.” “My own fit [i.e., stanza, stanzaic] errors” is a play concurrently compressed in the term. ”“Soueraine misteres…” (14) embeds “Sue or Anne mysteries (…, Mistress]).”

Sample Puns

          1) Fart know, our metal, averse to the art; Fart nose-harm delivers…; toothy art; Forehead in O, somedeal averse…
          1-3) the hard-on, Jack’s monster, scent, inches—aye, and dick—fit butt
          2) To make Eastminster, send thy inches; kiss mine ass, fit arse, and thing is in; tears end things indigo
          2-3) Tommy, casement arising, did hinges eye in dick of Tybalt; Tommy, kiss Monster Ass (Monsteress, monstrous) Anne—things indigest, butter, sickening Tommy; sandy gust be you
          3) see kin in jet amuse
          3-4) Butt or ass ken, inched, eye muse, my line decadent
          3-5) decadents, O, notice Anne, ever-sexed, m’ Ark’d Hathaway; W.H., O, see million decadent sonnets, eye newer six Ed marketed
          4) aye sane verse I X’d [i.e., erased, acrosticized], My Ark; eye Seine; notice an Eve re-sexed
          4-5) Edom ark, th’ cheese [t = c]; marketed I half
          5) I, half-assed, reckoned bonny wit unknown; hoof; hose; teases reek, windy be
          5-6) with unknown men, design of O being solacer, …sweetness; in ear; eye nude Hun now in my Indies (…undies; in men descends); I have free cunt been with unknown men, deceiving Sue; deceiving, sobbing, full, O-sewer in ear seal
          6) Y’ Honor, see lowing Jesuit, an ass
          6-7) loin Jesuit nice weighed; towered (turd) shit, a rose, hath merdy come, “I’d” Ed; Anne swat
          7) hid errors shat hymn, ye heard; dear roars shat merdy comet; shittim [wood] hard (heart) see omitted; shit-high, m’ yard’s emitted; wretched errors Hath-my-heart committed; hath Mardi come?
          7-8) t’ differ aye, few were by mankind, knaves aching
          8) shaken a nameplay
          8-9) Fore-“I,” fore-beam y’ve in kindness shaken; fore-wise, hold oathers’ saucy, adulterate “I’s”; see Shake., never wise
          8-10) in forest old, doughtier is fall, settled radius orate
          9) Fore, whiff holed oathers… ; Fore, W.H. (yes, Hall, dote), Harry’s false, adulterate “I” is
          9-10) adult erratas o’ riddle eased; a dull turd (tirrit [i.e., tirade]) is o’er at the left to say; false, adult rat, eyesore, ate Thyestes [l = I]
          9-11) t’ rate ease o’ riddle hefty, follow inches barren, and heartier datas are breezing (O, you read 8 sour)
        10) long a suborned art; Orate th’ leaf; Sue long a sub-rune endured  
        10-12) tardy (tee!), Cerberus ended Hereford, marine oat
        11) a sour breeze, Anne, t’ her for weedy mire
        11-12) eying debtor’s O rude, mire naughty, was bile dead, sour?
        11-13) Our debt, sir, be reasoned, therefore we add m’ rune owed; eye Rune O, it was by a lady—“Desire of Rome,” a seedy end heavy
        12-13) In ode was bile, dead forest, Rome, accidie, Anne tough, John, oat seen; notice builded source, Rome, accidie ending; Ed, sorcerer, “O my God!” ending; accidie in Devon
        13) Heaven, oat see knead Will; Heavy knot of Annie’d well resound of army and desire; veinèd scene, dull ears
        13-14) veinèd Essene dollars (dolors) own, sir, mean disfavors; O, inform Anne deaf of our “iffy” nature; Anne dies, aver eyes innate, you erase foreign Anne, mistress, our wrack; risen 8, your “Caesar,” Anne masters; resonate your suffering, mystery; Will leers on farm endeavors; rise, innate Urals, over Rhine
        14) Eye Scene VIII: your suffering mistress over wrack; senate; synod; If Nate (knight, night, Annie terse) you erase for Annie (any), my stories, O, you wreck; see Sue arraign mister, Sue rue rake (Sue arouse, kill); Sovereign Mister S.

Acrostic Wit

          The emphatic downward codeline—FT BOTE WF FOON HI—can be decoded in ways illustrated by these samples: “Fit [i.e., stanza] bawdy whiff, fon [i.e., crazy] aye,” “Fit body whiff, foe nigh,” “Fit Body whiff On High [sacrilege],” “If it be ode, whiff fon high,” “Fit, bawdy wife, fon aye,” and “Of ‘To be,’ oat, whiff fon aye.” Fon seems likely to be allied to “fun” (v. to cheat, hoax 1685); and cf. “fon” (a fool 1595; v. to be foolish 1570; adj. silly 1538).

          The upward (reverse) codeline—IHNOOFF WE TOB TF—suggests, e.g., “Eye an oaf, wet ‘O’ be tough,” “An oaf we tup tough,” “I know, ff [double forte], widow be tough,” “Enough of ‘Wet “O” be tough’,” “Enough, we topped f,” “Eye gnoff [boor, lout] we tupped f,” and/or “Eye no feud o’ Betty’s [F=S].”

          The up/down hairpin suggests, e.g., “Anus (A knave [F=S]) we tupped. Fit, bawdy wife fon, hie!”

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