Set I, Runes 1-14: Texts and Comments
Third lines, Set I (Sonnets 1-14)
But as the riper should by time decease,
Thy youths proud liveryso gazed on now,
Whos freshrepair if now thou not renewest.
4 Natures bequest gives nothing, but doth lend,
Will play the tyrants to the very same.
Make sweet (some vial) treasure thou, some place
Doth homage to his new-appearing sight.
8 Why lovst thou that which thou receivst not gladly?
Ah, if thou issueless shalt hap to die!
Grant, if thou wilt, thou art belovd of many,
And that fresh blood which youngly thou bestowst.
12 When I behold the violet past prime,
Against this coming end you should prepare
But not to tell of good or evil luck.
Glosses: 2) livery = uniform, flaunted badge (with phallic overtones and a pun on liver, a body part); 3) repair (subjunctive) = may depart; 6) Make (sb.) = Mate, Companion (ME); 7) his = youths (see 2); 14) not to tell of (elliptical) = its unclear whether you will have....
3. Make Sweet Some Vial
Exactly as what is ripest will naturally die in time,
so the showy display of your youth, now so admired,
now so fresh, will slip away unless you renew itand thus yourselfnow.
4 Nature grants nothing permanently, only makes loans,
and, like tyrants, will confiscate the very things it lends out.
If you find a sweet mate to treasurea receptacle for your treasurethen some site
is set to pay homage to youths reappearance.
8 Why do you so readily overvalue what youve not even been given to keep?
Think of what would happen if you should die childless!
Admit, if you will, that many love you (even if you wilt, flowerlike, that will be true)
and that they will also love any new blood your vigor bestows.
12 As I contemplate a wilting violet,
I say to you that you should prepare for the oncoming fate it depicts,
though one cannot predict what kind of luck youll have. (You shouldnt reproduce just to melodramatizeto brag or complain about your sexual exploits.)
have noted, Sonnets 1-14 (i.e., Set I in Qs hidden structure)
deal with marriage and increase. Thus that topic inevitably
colors this and other of the 14 runes in Set I that recycle the same 196
lines. I deduce that Will wrote or revised the low-numbered sonnets ca.
1605-09 and thought of them (and of Q itself) partly as an epithalamion
honoring his daughter Susannahs marriage in June 1607 to Dr. John
Hall, a Stratford physician. (The birth of Elizabeth,Wills first
granddaughter, is recorded 21 February 1608.) After 1600, John and Susannah
Hall seem the likeliest master/mistress of my passion
(Sonnet 20.2), their increase being very much in the poets
In another sense, the storage vial for the friends treasure is Wills own body of poems, his verse scheme for making the friend live on. The poet’s decision not to prognosticate (14) partly reflects his ignorance of whether his own scheme for insuring the handsome friend’s future will work—whether anyone will find and restore it.
The vagueness of his (7), referring to youth and the hoped-for son, lets line 7 suggest The Nativity. Imagery of growth (1, 3, 4, 10-12) intertwines with details about life and death, youth and age, fortune and time. Diction about wealth includes bequest gives nothing, but doth lend, treasure, receivst, Grant, and bestowst. Comments about nobility and lineage include the pun some palace / Doth homage.
Anne occurs in Grunt. If thou wilt, thou art beloved of m
Annie (10). In Q, violet puns on vile Anne,
since et is a latinate And. Thus we also hear the
vile Anne, past prime.
hap (9), coming end (13), and good or evil
luck (14) echo each other. The last line puns Bawdy knot,
total of good or evil, you seek.
the riper fold, bitty “eye” may disease; Beauties there appear:
[…eye, peer,] S. Hall.; Debate aye “Medics” (1663);
Debit I Medicis; timid asses; Betty I made cease
the downward acrostic codeline—BTWN WM D WAG A WAB—the
B may represent phonic 8. The codeline suggests such
encodings as, e.g., “Bedouin [desert Arab, gypsy (ME)] William’d
wag [i.e., move a body part to and fro on] you up (apt, ape),” Bedouin,
Wm. de Wag, await (with Wag [OED 1584] meaning habitual
joker), “Bedouin whim, dewy age, a wipe,” “Between
William deux [two]—a Jew, ape,” “Be too new
M.D., we go up (we jab),” “Be twin Wm.’d weigh: Jew,
ape,” “Bedouin Wm., dog-Jew I be,” “Bedouin whim
do a Jew up [cf. The Crucifixion],” and “Bedouin Wm., d’
wag, O, I be!”
The upward codeline—BAWA GAWD M WN WTB—“Boy! God, my wen [cf. archaic W, suggesting ass or protuberance] wet be,” “Be we God, mewn [cooped up] wit be,” Bow, a good mewn wit be,” “Bow a God-hymn, W., new to be,” “Boy, a God-damn wen, wet (wit) be,” “Boy, a Jew-diamond (Damon), wet be,” “Bow aye, God-damn you, new ‘To be’,” “Boy—aye God-damn you—knew ‘To be’ (…nude be, …newt be),” “Be Yahweh God, man wight be,” Bog odd, mewn [confined, whined] wit be, Bow: A God. . . , Bog, autumn, [&] wine wet be, and “Bog awed….” The School of Night was accused of the sacrilege of reversing “God” to spell “dog.”
Each of the four Ws in the codeline is, of course, WMs initial, linked throughout Q with archaic W, Wen.
potentialities lie in the down/up and up/down “hairpin”
variants of the codeline.