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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        

Proceed to Rune 8
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Rune 7:
Seventh lines, Set I (Sonnets 1-14)

                         Rune 7

     Making a famine where abundance lies
     To say within thine own deep-sunken eyes,
     O’er who is he so fond, Will be the tomb?
 4  Profítless usurer, why do oft thou use
      Sap, check’d with frost and lusty leaves quite gone,     
      That’s for thyself to breed another thee?
     Yet mortal looks adore his beauty still.
 8  They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds
     When every private widow well may keep,
     Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate.
     If all were minded so, the times should cease,
12 And summers green. All girded up in sheaves,
     You “selve” again, after your self’s decease—
     Or fay with princes, if it shall go well.
     Glosses: 2) say = express; 3) who = whom; fond = doting, foolish; Will = the poet; 4) do oft (also dost); 7) his points back to who...? in 3, but gone in 5 puns on “John,” suggesting Will’s son-in-law, Dr. John Hall; 8) They = The eyes of mortals (see 7), punning on “Th’ eye”; 9) well (adj., sb.) = fit, a pudendum, an inkwell; 10) a quiet allusion to Xanthippe, who once emptied a pisspot on Socrates’ head; 14) fay = fit snugly; thus, Or fay with = “or else fit snugly with”; alternately, “O’er, say, with princes, if....”

     7. Of Leaves and Wells

     Creating little to consume in these buried texts, whereas an abundance lies
     within the depths of your eyes for a writer to express,
     who is this man whom Will is foolish enough over to become his tomb—or tome?
  4 Why, bankrupt lender, do you so often misuse
     the vital fluid—stopped cold as you are, with no heir, and even bereft of the “lusty leaves” that a better poet might generate—
     that’s for you to use to breed another likeness?
     (Nonetheless, mortals still look adoringly on that inactive beauty.)
  8 Admirers only gently criticize you, who resist and thwart
     the hoard of reclusive widows and scribblers keeping their “wells” fit     
     to try to raze that handsome head—and seat.
     If everybody chose to act as you do (or as they do), the times would end—or should—
12 and all our green summers. Sheaved in Will’s harvest of bound-up leaves,if not by virtue of your own productivity,
     you appear again here as yourself, after your demise,
     and may even find yourself niched in a snug little circle of princes, if my plan works.


          True to its set, this text encourages “increase” and, in particular, stresses the poet’s role in maintaining his friend’s post-mortem memory. If the poet is the friend’s “tomb” (3), the friend himself, envisioned after the “self’s decease” (13), seems corpselike, a “beauty still” who is now not “mortal” but is observed by mortals (7), a man with “deep sunken eyes” (2), one “check’d with frost” (5). “Beauteous roof” (10) may mean the friend’s face or mind but also suggests a gisant—a decorated tomb cover embossed with the friend’s recumbent effigy. “If all were men dead so…,” the poet puns. Since the poem’s “you” becomes “he” (7) in one instance, maybe the “corpse” is a separate character in the scenario.

           Scheming, scribbling women also people the stage. In any case, the poet shows the living friend fending them off (8-10)—“well keepers” in several senses—while typically failing to use his limited vital spirits to sire a child (4-6). Adoring mortals, nonetheless, will forgive the handsome corpse his failure to’ve reproduced, and he will “fit with princes” (14) because his noble fame will endure, especially in the verses we see here.

           From its opening pun (“Making [Mating] a femme, Annie”) onward, the rune seems interested in marriage—and seems to view it negatively. (Willobie His Avisa, somehow relevant here, purports to represent a “Constant wife.”) The routine Q eyepuns vsurer and vfe (4) encode “wife” and connect with “every private widow” (9) and the general idea that women besiege the friend, his “beauteous roof to ruinate.” The image of Xanthippe dumping a full pisspot over Socrates’ head is covert, with “ruinate” being a close anagram of “urinate” (see acrostic wit below) and concurrently a play on “Rune 8,” the one that comes up next in the sequence.

           Image clusters concern economics and horticulture. “Abundance” (1) and the suggestion of hoarding (1-2) prepare for the epithet “Profitless usurer” (4), while “keep” (9) and “ruinate” (10) suggest economic activity. The cluster of figures about fruitfulness and barrenness includes “famine,” “abundance” (1), “Sap,” “lusty leaves” (5), “breed” (6), “summer’s green…girded up in sheaves” (12), and details suggesting decline and dying.

           Elements that suggest runic composition include, e.g., “deep-sunken” (2); “tome / Profitless” (3-4); “lusty leaves, quite gone” (5); “girded up in sheaves” (12); and the plays on “rows” (10) and on “fit” as stanza (see 4, “th’ row fitless”). At bottom, “abundance” is analogous to the sonnets while “famine” stands for the runes. The friend”s “new selving” (13) is happening even now as the runes open up their tomblike content. A “summer’s green” (12) is a “metricist’s productivity or envy,” and “green” (12) signals likely wit about Will’s “envious” detractor Robert Greene.

           To “rune-ate” (see 10) suggests “to practice rune-writing, to prate on about runes, and to mess things up by doing so.”          

           Read differently, the opening apostrophe can be heard addressing readers like us as we experience “deep sunken eyes” (2) and unrewarded expenditure of effort (4).

Sample Puns

           1) Make inches, “I” m’ Annie, W., Harry, a bound Anne silly is; fey [doomed] mine; Anne sly is; Mate Anne gave “Amen!”
           2) fey [unlucky]; to fay [fit snugly]; To Southy, Nate (knight) in you neighed
           2-3) knight, piss, you ink a nice oar, W.H.; eye-sore
           3) Whore W.H. owes he’s “O-fon,” dual be that homme; Willobie
           3-4) the tome be profitless   
Th. (et Tom) be profitless usurer, why dost T.T. office sap, checked wit’s rows t’ end?
           4) Prosed lass, wife, rare widow o’ Shakespeare, thou use; verse; dust, dost, doffed
           5) Ass, ape checked wit’s rows t’ end lusty leaves; cf. “dotted with semen, and all out of anything to wipe with”; lusty loos quit John
           5-7) Jaunty Hat’s farty self tup, redden, oather, t’ heat my whore
           7) Yet m’ whore t’ Hall looks; Why Anne [et], m’ whore, t’ Hall looks; Hall, look sadder, hies beauty, Shakespeare ill
           8) Th’ eye deux/doux; they do butts wittily see hid; sweetly chideth who cunt-sounds?
           9-10) you rip rude widow-well (pudendal), my keep, seeking that beauteous roof (rose) to ruinate; W., Hen., Eve repaired, why dual make [mate] apiece?
         10) Seeking that beauteous row, see to Rune 8 [the next one down the list]; well chamberpot, alluding to Xanthippe, Socrates’ wife, who dumped a pisspot on his head
         11) If Hall were minded so…; Eye fall; Eisell [i.e., vinegar]; Aye S. Hall we reminded of oath; If Hall we reminded of oath [i.e., of marriage, in the runic coterie], that “I” (…that aye) Miss S. Hall’d cease
         12) Anne S.; Summers adder, numbers man, rune-poet, thus Summer S[hakespeare], …Ass; greene cf. Robert Greene’s famous attack on the poet; all, in Hall, John; Anne saw m’ arse Greene, all girded up in sheaves
         13) You fail, f--kin’ ass; You feel f--kin’ after your self’s decease; disease; You fail, seeking half-Tower
         13-14) seize Dick, a fierce “I,” witty peer-inches, “I” fits Hall-jowl (jewel)
         14) Our fate appearing seize, “I” fit; Horsy wit; One fit [1 stanza] shall go well; is it S. Hall, jewel?; if it’s Hall, go, Will; well pudendal

Acrostic Wit

          The downward acrostic codeM TOP STYT WS I A YO—suggests such decodings as “My top (Mt. top…) staid [unchanging], W.S. aye eye you,” “My top stayed wise, I owe [admit],” “Empty ‘up’ [the ‘up’ acrostic] sty t’ sigh, O,” “Empty ‘up’ staid was, I owe,” “Mighty ‘ups’ tidy, W.S., aye eye you,” “Hymn tups Tommy T., wise, I ‘I’ you,” and “My ‘To pee’ state [punning on ‘To be…’] we sigh, O.”

           The upward codeO YAI SWTY T SPOT M—suggests, e.g., “O, ye ‘I’ Southy t’ ‘spot’ him,” “O, yes, wit, ye tease poor Tom,” “O, yes, witty ’tis, pot-hymn (…Bottom),” “O, ye aye ‘I’ Sue, tight-ass bottom,” “O, ye sweet Y, ’tis bottom,” “O, ye aye [pur]sue Tommy T’s bottom.”

           MT (cf. “empty”) and POT are overlaid (see lines 8-9, and comments above).

           The hairpin (i.e., down/up and up/down) versions of the code have other potentialities.

Proceed to Rune 8
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