SSet I, Runes 1-14: Texts and Comments
Fifth lines, Set I (Sonnets 1-14)
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Then being asked where all thy beauty lies
(For where is she so fair whos uneared womb,
4 Then beauteous?)niggard, why dost thou abuse?
For never-resting Time leads Summer on
That use is not forbidden usury,
And having climbed the steep-up heavenly hill.
8 If the true concord of well-tunèd sounds,
The world will be thy widow, and still weep
For thou art so possessed with murderous hate!
Herein lives wisdom: Beauty and increase.
12 When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
So should that beauty which you hold in leaf
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell.
Glosses: 1) contracted = shriveled, betrothed; 3) whos uneared womb = who is unfruitful...; 4) niggard = miser; 6) use = maintenance for sexual purposes; usury = unlawful lending; 7) And = Nor is; Any more than...; 10) For = Because; 13) leaf (Q lease, with a long s, an eyepun on f); 14) Nor without Neither (arch.); minutes = time, records; tell (see tally, calculate).
5. Of Ears and Leaves
Reduced to admiring yourself in the mirror, betrothed to your own vivacious image,
and then being asked about the storehouse where all your beauty is bedded
(for who is so attractive as to be unfruitfu
4 and still beautiful?)you stingy miser, why do you practice such abuse?
For Time, always active like a true husband, leads Summer on.
That practice is not an abusive investment of assets
any more than having finally gotten up the rocky road to heaven might be.
8 If it concurs in the truth, singing its lament in unison,
the world will weep for you like an unfulfilled widow after you die
because your mad selfishness kills off a generation!
Wisdom lies in linking personal beauty with fruitfulness.
12 Just as I can perceive lofty growth here where pageless poems have no leaves,
even so should the beauty that is latent within you spring into leaf.
In no caseeven given my conceits or your floweringcan I tally up fortunes outcome in any short memorandum. Neither brevity nor fortunetelling is within my range.
Like others, this further text hidden in Set I advises the beautiful friend to “marry and increase” but doesn’t specify the auditor’s gender. The opening “Mirror, mirror…” situation (1-2ff.) seems to paint a “she” (3), but “The world will be thy widow” (9) implies a male listener, and this impression overrides the other. Will’s tone, often harshly critical, softens toward the end but remains skeptical.
The poem clusters figures about engagement, marriage, procreation, and widowhood with others about nature as fruitful or barren, and the two groups connect in the terms “un-eared womb” (3) and “barren trees” (12). Eventually the ideal of “leafing” suggests writing pages, a part of the conceit that the poet is a “Summer”—a number’s man, “adder,” or metricist who adds to his store by creating “leaves.” Will’s complaint “Nor can I [produce leaves]” means that the tedious runic composition process leaves nothing behind to show for itself. In the context of the poem’s main theme, time (always a pun on “meter”) is both the enemy (14) and the sponsor of productivity: Like an active husband, Time leads Summer over obstacles to create lyric harmony (7-8). “If” (8), an eyepun on “Is,” allows other syntactic readings.
Lurking in 1-4 is the wild conceit that the auditor is “all eyes” (1) and “earless” (i.e., lacking female genitalia) but concurrently womblike (3); “holding in” stretches out the joke that the friend is an unproductive womb—with the same figure a hidden analogue for Q’s unborn poems. “Still” (9), next to “widow,” hints at “stillborn,” and non-fruitful abuse (4) suggests masturbation, with reinforcing puns in such details as “that beauty which you hold” (13). The adjectives “Steep-up” (7) and “lofty” (12) are phallic, while “well-tuned” (8) is a pudendal pun. “Abuse” (4) and “use” (6) link as overt contrasts.
(4) prepares for the new figure, “usury”—illegal profiteering
by miserly types—and for the phrase “hold in” (13).
The poet’s charges against the friend as “criminal”
escalate from “usury” to “murder” (10); as a
“being asked,” he is like an interrogated felon who “lies”
(2). The legal term “contracted” (1) works—as “reduced
and shriveled”—to foil the notion of “increasing”
that’s explicit in 11 and general in the poem; as “engaged,”
the word prepares for the linked motifs of consummation (5-8) and widowhood
(9). The elements “contracted” (1) and “brief minutes”
(14) open and close the rune with legalisms—both implying
diminution and “commitment.” Lease (13) is an economic
and legal term that underscores the “loaned” and temporary
nature of beauty. Contrastive terms include “own by right”
(pun, 1) and “possessed” (10). The phrase “Herein
lives” (13) cultivates the same motif. Even the question about
“where all thy beauty lies” (2) seems a question about beauty’s
bedroom—and thus about real estate. The pun on “room”
in “womb” (3) amplifies the pattern.
The name of Anne’s hamlet, Shottery, lies deeply buried in the Q-string s hate,Herei (10-11), overlaid on scatological wit. Q’s “use” (6), looking like vfe, allows puns on “verse”and “wife” and also segues into a pun on “Anne H.” (7). “Why doost” (4) puns on “Widow Shakespeare,” with st in Q a routine family name pun that I’ve deduced—an s “shaking” a spear-like t as if by the handle. Thus 4 puns, e.g., “Thin, beauteous niggard, Widow [why do...] Shakespeare thou abuse[?]” Other family nameplays in 13 allow the pun “Sue, S. Hall, that beauty which you, Hall, John lease [...love, leave].”
Butt; Beauty, how cunt-racked (edit, hie, noun buried aye is); thine
own buried ass
The downward acrostic codeline—BT FT FT AIT FHWSN—suggests, e.g., “Beat [i.e., accent] fit/fit [i.e., stanza/stanza], 8 fusing [suggesting two quatrains?],” “8 [B = 8] to fit, fit 8 fusing,” “Be tough to fit 8, fusing [phallic],” “Betty fit ‘fit 8,’ fusing [...if you sin],” “Be tough to Fit 8 if you [H.W.] sin,” and “Be tough to fit 8 if H.W. is in.”
upward reverse—N SW HFTI AT FT FT B—encodes
such potentialities as, e.g., “In Sue (Ensue) hefty 8 fit fit
[i.e., an appropriate match] be,” “In Sue H[all] fit I’d
fit ‘fit 8’,”and “In ass, W.H. fit ‘I’,
8 fit fit be.”