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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 I, Runes 1-14: Texts and Comments
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2003, All Rights Reserved        

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Rune 14:
Fourteenth lines, Set I (Sonnets 1-14)

                          Rune 14

     To eat the world’s due, by the grave and thee,
     And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold,
     Die single—and thine image dies with thee
 4  Which usèd lives, th’ executor to be:
     Leese but their show; their substance still lives sweet.
     To be death’s conquest and make worms thine heir—
     Unlooked on, diced unless thou get a son—
 8  Sings this to thee: Thou single wilt prove none,
     That on himself such murd’rous shame commits!
     That beauty still may live in thine or thee,
     Thou shouldst print more, not let that copy die.
12 Save breed to brave him when he takes thee hence.
     You had a father. Let your son say so.
     Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date.
      Glosses: 1) eat = taste; due = recompense; To eat puns on 2-8—i.e., 28, the number of sonnets and runes now being wrapped up in Set I; 2) see...blood warm = feel anger; 5) Leese = Lose; their (ambig.) = death’s and your, the world’s (see 1); pun: “th’ heir”; 7) diced (Q diest) = punningly, cut up into little pieces; also, “[thou] diest!”; get = beget; 10) That = So that; 11) copy = pattern, text source; 12) to brave him = to face death (see 6), to ennoble your son (see 13).

     14. “Print More,” Not “Let That Copy Die”

     To stomach the inevitable human outcome—given your mortality—
     and have your blood boil just when you feel death’s chill,
     die unmarried and alone, and your visible self dies with you,
  4 a self that, properly engaged, survives to administer your estate:
     Lose only the outward trappings of your mortal life; the essence—“th’ heir-substance”—\can survive handsomely.
     To become death’s victim and leave worms your inheritors—
     dying unnoticed, cut to bits without an heir—
  8 follow this line: Singly, nunlike, you’ll end up nothing, with no heir to prove your will,
      a man who commits suicide if not heinous self-abuse.

     In order that beauty can go on living in your offspring and thus in you,
     you should duplicate your image so that the pattern—beauty’s textbook—lives on.
12 Keep the race going as a way of offering resistance to death when he comes for you.
     You had a father. Give your son a chance to say he had one, too.
     Your unmitigated death would write an epitaph for truth and beauty.


        These reassembled end-lines from Sonnets 1-14 recap the theme of Set I: The beautiful auditor should sire offspring. Puns in this address suggest that Susannah Shakespeare Hall, plausibly “Sue,” is a primary muse: “Thou shouldst print more, not let that copy die, / Sue. Breed. Too-brave Hamnet eggs thee hence. / You had a father, let your son say so. / Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date ” (11-14). As elsewhere, the listener may also be a man—or Q itself, which, “dyed [i.e., inked, printed] singly,” will bury half its texts.

        Belatedly by four centuries, we follow Will’s directive here as we “print more,” reviving the Sonnets’ mirror “image” (3), the Runes, which until now have lain in Q as “dead copy” (cf. 11).

          Concurrently the pun “Print More, [don’t] let that copy die” (11), perhaps aimed at Will’s printing agent Thomas Thorpe, reminds us that Will’s 3-pp. collaborative portion of the Play of Sir Thomas More—whose ms. houses our only full handwriting sample—had still not been published in 1609 (see E.M.Thompson’s Shakespeare’s Handwriting, Clarendon, 1916).

           This poem about oncoming death mixes jargon about printing and wills with musical terms and puns: “graven ditty,” “To-whit,” and “ground [= bass]” (1); “dye” (3, 7, 11); “dicing glee endeth” (3); “Leaf” (5); “Sings this [text] to thee” (8); “the tony missal see” (9); “Saw [a saying] be read, too [...bred two]” (12); and “a fatter ledger sounds aye” (13). What the poem “sings” (8-14) is like a warning anthem, and “doom and date” (14) are like epitaphs for Truth and Beauty--a linked couple loosely parallel to the coarse Runes and “prettier” Sonnets.

           Both the first and last lines pun on 28, the total number of texts in Set I, now ending: “To eate...” in line 1 puns “2-8.” Line 14 puns “The end is truth’s, and [em]bodies ‘Deux [i.e., 2] meaned [i.e., signified, portended] 8’.” Line 1 also puns “2-8, the world’s 2 x 8...” and “[No.] 28 [i.e., the 28th text in Set I] the world’s due, a bitty graven ditty,” varied as “ rune [rown, round] did [dyed] he.” A “bi-thick rune” decodes as an “overlaid puzzle”—i.e., Sonnets/Runes. Since “yt” in line 1 seems to encode “8,” the acrostic codeline may also spell out 2 (TV = TU) and 8 (YT). The full codeline, TA DWL TV STTT S YT, suggests “Tie dual: 2 stat. [cf. L. statum, ‘at once’] is 8.” The 28 Sonnets/Runes in Set I, linked doublets, are a “tie dual.”

          One pun in line 8 is “Thetis [Achilles’ mother] in glee willed th’ [p = th] Rune 1.” (Lines 1 and 8 both pun on “rune.”) Other coy wit about the Runegame occurs amid talk of printing and documents, of not “proofing” and of things “diced.” “Dicing,” checked patterns on gameboards and bindings, is germane to an acrostic game that uses “rows.”

          Incidental wit about food starts with “To eat...” (1) and ends with “” (14), a sweet (cf. 5) not usually diced (cf. 7) or wilted (8). The text salts away other puns including “thick, raw viand” (1), “Leaf, butter—food here [fodder],” (5), and “m’ whore noodle et” (11). Plays about war include “see thy bloody war” and “army win” (2); death in single combat (3, 8); “conquest”; “war ms.” (6); “murderous shame” (9); “brave” (12); “fey foe” (13); and “doom and date” (14).

          Amid concern about death, “saving breed,” and Father and Son, a play on “Hamnet”—Will’s only son (d. 1596)—in Q’s him, when he t… (12) puns, “Ham, we need a kiss.” (Sue, Ham, and Judy recur as shorts for Will’s children’s names.) Q’s fhow,their (5) puns on “father.”

           Likely wit about Southy (i.e., Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton) includes the initial alignments Saue.../You.../Thy (12-14) and S/V/T/L/Wh…(8-4, cf. “Subtle W.H.”); nautical plays including “jettison sinks this” (7-8) and “prow none” (8) may joke about his naval background. Routine plays occur on “nun” (8), masturbation (e.g., 8, 9), “wilt,” “die,” and “Moor.” Q’s such (e.g., 9) is always a bawdy eyepun. The pun “merde rows” (9) likens Q’s lines to dunghills. (Merd is also an English word.)

Sample Puns

          1) To eate = 2-8 = 28 (…poems in Set I ); due, deux, two; Twat t’ you, Earl; thick, raw Anne
          1-2) by the ground (bitty gerund), the end see…; 28 [poems] the world’s due, by thee graven, dense (…bitty, graven thin, see thy “B” lewd were mewn); “To[m]ea[s]e Thewor[ip]” t’ you, by thee ground (suggesting Thorpe should “grind” the type bits and change letters to encode his name)
           2) Anne, seethy, bloody, warm; End “feet” aye be lewd
           2-3) fitted [stanza’d], see Old Days…; army, W., Hen., thou fieldest it, see Old Days, England, thy name aged aye is with thee
           3) Dies (Dice) England 3-4 Annie, Magi dice, witty Witch
           4) Witch Wife; you turd; Southy, “X” Hecate, whore to be 4-5 Witch whiffed loo’s texts, “veto’r” to police bawdier show; still [quiet] loo’s sweet “To be” (see 12)
           5) Leaf; bawdier father-substance still lives sweet; loo’s Swede; loose ass witty; th’ air (etc.)
           5-6) Anne see, still loose is Widow Betty [Anne Elizabeth?]
           6) To bed; To Betty’s cunt queues ten, to make you whore, miss; To Bede, aye the sun-kissed Anne may queue, our misty Anne
           6-7) I rune 7 low-key (look, ye), dawn dies to you unless thou get a sun
           7-8) ton less thou jettison, sink, Southy is towed
           8-9) Sings this to thee th’ house-angel, Will t’ prow nun, that…shame commits
           9) That O-nymph, elf, f--k merd-rows; m’ hurt arouse, S., Ham., see Ham it is (Ham’et S.)
        10) Th’ hot beauty still may live in th’ high North [cf. Hotspur]
        11) The Household Dust-Parent, M’ Whore, Anne, owed leaded copy; Anne ought let that copy die; Hat.-coop pity
        12) Sober Ed., to B-row aim, when He takes thee hence; hymn, Ham (cf. Hamlet, Hamnet); broma [a ship-worm]; Sue, breed two broma, Nate I kiss (knight aches)
        12-13) Sue H. had a father, let…
        13) suns eye, O
        13-14) on asses’ oath ye end
        14) I stirred his end; aye sturdy is Anne, thin-dic’d; Anne Bawdy-ass; deux/Dieu mandate; m’ Anne died; bawdy Sodom end date; bawdy ass demanded 8; antidote

Acrostic Wit

          The downward acrostic codeline—TADW LT VS TT TS YT—suggests such decodings, e.g., as “Today let us T.T. tease yet,” “Tight-willed verse to T.T. sighed,” “Tad willed t’ use titties wide (white),” “T’ A.D.-well dusty ’tis yet,” “T’ a duel? (T’ O’Donnell?) To Southy? Decide,” and “Tad [snippet of text] will two, Shakespeare, T.T. cite.”

           The upward codeline—TYS TT TS VTL WDA T—suggests, e.g., “Teased T.T. Sue till wedded,” “’Tasty T.T., subtle, waited,” “Teased, T.T.’s vital, wet 8 [inches],” “Tea—yes, tea, tea, tea—Sue diluted,” “Teased T.T. Southy lauded (…Sue deluded),” “’Tie ass, T.T., t’ subtle, wet 8,” “Tasty T.T. Sue t’ Hall [Hell] wedded,” “’Tis titties, subtle, weighted (wedded),” “Tasty teas victual wedded,” and “Tad [fragment] willed to Southy sight.”

          Readings in either direction (like the initial ones above for the downward code) might focus on the T.T. of Q’s frontmatter, Thomas Thorpe, Will’s printing agent. The upward code, e.g., suggests “Thos. T., T.T., is vital, wedded (...utile, witty T.)” The letterstring YT encodes “witty,” “wide,” “white,” and Wyatt, Will’s sonneteering predecessor.

       End of Set I
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