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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 2:
Second lines, Set I (Sonnets 1-14)

                        Rune 2

     That thereby beauty’s rose might never die
     And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
     Now is the time that face should form another
 4  Upon thyself, thy beauty’s legacy
     The lovely gaze where every eye doth dwell.
     In thee thy summer, ere thou be distilled,
     Lifts up his burning head: Each under eye,
 8  Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy.
     That thou consum’st thyself in single life
     Who for thyself art so unprovident,
     In one of thine from that which thou depart’st
12 And see, the brave day sunk in hideous night,
     No longer yours, then you yourself here live,
     And yet: Methinks I have astronomy.
     Glosses: 1) rose puns on “rows [of text here]”; 2) thy beauty’s field = your face, your domain; 4) Upon thyself = Patterned after you; 9) That = Because, Given that (ME); also, “That thou consum’st—thyself—in...”; 11) one of thine = the poet, this (still-extant) poem; 11-12) that which.../...see = the visible world; 14) astronomy = cosmic control (implied by the context); pun: “Anne died, methinks. Eye half-assed rune. Oh, my!”

      2. Beauty’s Victory

     In order that beauty’s fairest rose (and these my entrenched “rows”) may never die—
     etching your handsome face, leaving gashes in the field of beauty you command—
     it’s time now for your salient front to form another
  4 modeled after you, perpetuating your beauty
     as a lovely sight that catches every eye.
     Your summer of beauty, its essence undiminished,
     raises its radiant head: Eying each other,
  8 fair ones don’t attack the fair, and happiness enjoys happiness.
     Given that you consume yourself in your unmarried years—
     you who are so little attentive to your own future—
     in the voice and through the action of one of your own men in this field you must leave
12 but can now still see, when the heroic day has sunk to terrible night
     and is lost to you, even then you yourself will still live on in these rows of text
     perpetually, as long as any reader reads this poem: It occurs to me that I control fates the way the stars are said to. I can make the eye of heaven stop at its zenith.


          In apostrophe the poet addresses the “unprovident” (10) friend who consumes himself “in single life” (9), reminds him of his mortality (11-13), and exhorts him to reproduce his own beauty through procreation—to form another face based on his own (3-4) so people can go on gazing in admiration. The friend will go on living “here” (13)—in the person of the offspring but also in this verse text; the “one of thine” (11) who will keep beauty alive may be the poet or any of his texts, as well as a “real” heir. Thus the poet can “make the sun stand still” (14), blocking the onset of night. (The last lines in Rune 1 partake of the late sonnets in Set I, where the theme moves progressively from the exhortation to “marry and increase” to that of “immortality through verse.”) Implicit is an allusion to the power of another word-magician who made the sun and moon stand still (Joshua 10: 12-13). A red-herring play on “Timothy” (14)—the “wrong book”—is concurrent.

          The idea of “forming another face upon yourself” is an analogue for the way the sonnets give birth to the runes—with much irony in the notion of dug trenches and beauty “sunk in hideous night” and in the idea that a “single leaf” (9) is bent on self-destruction. For here in the darkness the runes overcome “single-leafedness” and live on, with the poet fully in control. The pun “each under eye” (7)—meaning either “seen” or “beneath seeing”—describes both sonnets and runes.

          Though the poet/speaker and the improvident auditor are the only characters here, the unborn offspring (or unrestored rune) is a hypothetical possibility, and the natural force of mutability, along with the listener’s self-destruction, plays the antagonistic role. In some measure the speaker is also the listener’s antagonist—berating him and seeming to criticize his lifestyle (9-10).

         The listener might be female, but the broadly suggestive representation of “thy summer” (6) as “lifting up his burning head” implies a male auditor. One problem with this evidence is that “your summer” means “your numbers man”—your “adder,” metricist, poet. Moreover, the contextual lines (5-8) are full of phallic and homoerotic wit, with “burning head” and “under-eyes” suggesting phallus and testicles; humor about a “burning head” sunk in “hideous night/knight” (12) includes the suggestion of “losing a phallus” and (contradictorily) of comparing penis lengths (see no longer yours [13]). Thus the idea of a man “consumed in single life” (9) gains complicated possibilities, and uncertainties typically cloud the question of whom the poet addresses.

          Still, the phallic wit itself leads us back to imagining a male listener here.

          The dominant natural imagery is conventional and mixed: The friend’s beauty, the rose that might be uprooted (1-2), is a creature of sunlight and daytime, so night (12), emblem of death, is an enemy. The pun “rows” (1) rationalizes “trenches” (2). “Legacy” (2) gets immediately reiterated as ly gaze (Q 3). And “burning head” (7) anticipates “Astronomy” (14)—the latter term helping to encode the joke “…methinks I, half-assed, rune. O, my!” along with a play on “Meta-inks”—shared, concurrent, changed, or tagged-on printings.

Sample Puns

          1) beauty’s Rose, my Judy new-heard
          1-2) T’ Hat., t’ Harry, buy beauty’s rows, my jetting wordy end
          2-3) beauty’s Rose my jetting verdant digged (a peter inches in); Anne, die, giddy peter inches in thy beauty’s field, In “O” Southy’d eye (“I”) me; thy bawdy ass, Field (thy body’s field), knows that “I” meaty; in the bawdy ass Field, N., owes that I’m thought saucy
          3) that fey Cecil, disarming odor; S. Hall, deform Anne
          4-5) A pun: This’ll Southy be, odd—eye his legacy, the low legacy, W., Harry, you’re right—O, that well!
          5) the lowly, gay sewer you read
          6) John, that’s you, marry her (merrier), thou be Dis-tilled [i.e., hell-ploughed]; thy summer your “numbers man”; in Thetis you merried
          7) Lift Sue, piss, burning; burning head, under-eye (phallic)
          7-8) you endear aye sweet Sue
          8) with Sue, aye, the feuds were not
          8-9) enjoyed Hathaway, cunt’s home, Shakespeare, this elf
          9) single leaf [page]
        10) Heifer this elf—arty, fon [silly]—prowed end
        11) Eye nun often, sir, “O” meaty to which thou depart
        12) End see, the proud “I” sunk in hideous knight; In defeat, Hebrew dies, you Anne, see kin
        13-14) No longer yours [a phallic comparison], thin, ewe your ass’ll fear, living Y [crotch], Anne [= et]; Here live and die (dye) Timothy-inks
        14) And ye Tommy Th. inks eye, half-assed rune…; Anne died, methinks. Eye half-assed rune! O my! In dead (dyed) Meta-inks, eye half-assed rune… [meta-, Gr., suggests “in common, sharing, changed, tagged on”]; Anne died, Meta-Anne kiss I, half-assed, our own, O my; half-assed whore, “O gnomy”; I indite, “Timothy”

Acrostic Wit

          The downward acrostic codeT AN VTIL ST WI AN A—suggests, e.g., “Tan, vital Shakespeare-wine eye,” “T’ Anne victuals; t’ wine, I,” “T’ Anne, victuals twenty,” “T’ Anne, victuals twin aye,” “Tee! Anne, victuals’ twin, eye,” “Tan, vital is twin [cf. Judith, or the ‘dark’ runic companion here],” “T’ Anne wittols [contented cuckolds] wind [whine] aye,” “Tee! Anne-vitals [vital parts] twin eye [twenty],” “T’ Anne vital (utile) is twin aye,” “T’ a nut ill, Shakespeare, Wi., a neigh,” “Tan, vital ass t’ Iona,” “T’ [the] end you’d heal, St. W., Iona,” and “Ta’en victuals to Ioana.”

          The upward acrostic codeA NAIWT S L IT V NAT—suggests, e.g., “A naughty ass’ll eat you, knight,” “Eye knight-slit, V naughty,” “Eye Nate-slit, veined,” “Aye Nate slit, vein ate,” “‘Aye night’s lit,’ you neighed,” “A knight-slit you nighed,” “A knight slit you, an 8,” and “Anne eye (Annie), hued, slit, veined.”

          The down/up and up/down “hairpin” codes offer further possibilities for authorially manipulated wit.

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