Set I, Runes 1-14: Texts and Comments
Fourth lines, Set I (Sonnets 1-14)
His tender heir might bear his memory,
Will be a tottered weed of small worth held;
Thou dost beguile the world. Unbless some mother
4 And, being frank, she lends to those are free
And that unfair which fairly doth excel
With beautys treasure, ere it be self-killed
Serving with looks his sacred majesty
8 Or else, receivst with pleasure thine annoy.
The world will wail thee like a makeless wife,
But that thou none lovst is most evident!
Thou mayst call thine, when thou from youth convertest
12 Andsable curls or silvered oer with white
And your sweet semblance to some other give
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons quality.
Glosses: 2) Will = the poet; tottered weed = shaky weed, ragged garment; 4) frank = open, generous; free = available; 5) with phallic overtones in the line; 9) makeless = matchless, mateless; 12) hinting at pubic hair covered with ejaculate.
With his tender heir or tender
airsuch bare mitesto keep alive his memory,
Will (see 2) in his attack-dog posture, Rune 4 is
a shrill, bawdy variant on the marry and increase theme that
governs Set I. Imagining that his own life might pass unremembered (1-2),
the poet harangues his beguiling friend (3-14), whose thoughtless
behavior shows no regard for self-perpetuation or for others. (This friend
parallels the real-life Earl of Southampton of the 1590s.) Whatever the
friend does in his roles with women, it seems, the world may
lament his passing anyway (3-9)—unless he converts.
In a quiet close, Will envisions another possibility: By maturing
and procreating, the friend might live to see his children partake of
lifes variety (13-14). Even in this most hopeful scenario, negatives
His 10 [a phallic joke], dear Hairy (hairy), might bare his memory;
mite bare; mammary; Haste in, dear hermit, Paris, my Moor
The downward acrostic codeline—HW TAAWSOT BTA AO—suggests such readings as, e.g., “H.W. tossed Betty, I owe [admit],” “You taws owed [acknowledged], bitty...,” “Each widow’s ‘O’ tupped I aye, O,” and “Wet ‘O’ is hot, bitty, I owe.”
The upward reverse codeline—OAATB TO SW AATWH—encodes such potentialities as “Weighty be to Sue, Hathaway,” Weighty be two: Sue, Hathaway “Oat be to Sue 8, W [= IN = John] H[all],” “O, to be to sweet [W.H. =] John Hall,” “White bit o’ sweet W.H.,” “Oat, beets weighed W.H.,” “Wyatt bid ‘O’s adieu,” “Wyatt, bitty ‘O’s,’ swayed W.H.”
WH in Q, familiar as a component of Q’s cryptic dedication signed
“T.T.,” suggests concurrently Anne Hathaway (with W = IN
= Anne), John Hall (with W = IN = John), and (as has been previously
suggested) Henry Wriothesley, the third earl of Southampton (with the
earl’s initials reversed); the last possibility is reinforced here
by the pun on “Southy,” a diminutive of Southampton that recurs
in Q (e.g., as So thy...). One reading of the codeline here,
then, is “Ode be to Southy, W.H.” Other readings are “Weighty
bit o’ Sweet Anne H.” and “Weighty, bitty ‘O’
[i.e., round, rune] swayed Anne H.” The opening letterstring OAAT
also encodes “Await...., ” “Witty...,”and Wyatt.
Thus, “Wyatt be Thos., Wyatt—which? [...witch]” is a
further concurrency here that coterie decipherers might have detected.
Link: Rune 1 as an
Easy Sample Text