Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets

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 10
Return to the Index of Set I

Rune 9:
Ninth lines, Set I (Sonnets 1-14)

                         Rune 9

     Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament,
     How much more praise deserved thy beauty’s use!
     Thou art thy mother’s glass, and she in thee;
 4  For having traffic with thyself alone,
     Then were not summer’s distillation left.
     Ten times thyself were happier than thou art.
     But when? From highmost pitch, with wary car,
 8  Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
     Look. What an unthrift in the world doth spend!
     O change thy thought, that I may change my mind!
     Let those whom nature hath not made for store!
12 Then of thy beauty do I question make:
     Who lets so fair a house fall to decay?
     But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive.
     Glosses: 2) use: i.e., for procreation; 7) wary plays also on “weary,”“wiry” (see string in 8); 11) Let = Leave; store = cautious frugality;

      9. A Fall from Highmost Pitch

     I say to you who are now young and most beautiful that
     properly applying your beauty would merit far more praise than your beauty itself merits.
     You have your mother’s face;
wherever you might be alone and self-engaged,
     summer’s distilled essence would be present—though it would not be perpetuated.
     Ten of you would be better than the one of you—and might also cheer you up.
     But when will you multiply? Moving down, as it were, from a lofty point on the scale and steadied in a graceful duet by a cautious vehicle,
  8 notice how two sweet strings sidling up to each other to create harmony (just the way these texts and subtexts intertwine)
     might look. What a world-class waster I see!
     Oh, change your attitude, so I can say I’m wrong!
     Escape those who are naturally improvident!
12 Then, on the subject of your beauty, let me pose a question:
     Who lets so handsome a house fall into ruin?
     Only your eyes answer my question.


          This rune has us guessing about whether the person who from Will’s angle should be more farsighted and less dissolute is Southy, Sue, or someone else. The play “How much more praise deserved thy beauty, Susie” (2) and the deeper pun “My main delight—thou, Sue, whom nature hath not made for store (history)” (10-11) both suggest that the “world’s fresh ornament” (1) is the poet’s older daughter; but “Sue” puns on “So” and thus on Southy, who is much the easier to imagine as a decaying house (13). Both the “mirror” section (3-4) and the “husbanding” conceit (8) are ambiguous about gender. The listener does seem effeminate or vain or both (3-5), with improvident friends who are bad influences (11). A backhanded compliment (4-5) suggests that his self-love wastes essences that might be better used in “husbandry” (8) to rear a brood (6) that would keep his “house” (13) intact and thriving.

           Combining interrogatives with exhortation and observation, the tone of the lyric modulates between shrillness and restraint. Brief (7-8) but emphatic is the conceit of two musical strings “husbanding” each other in a gracefully descending duet; the scenario foils the listener’s solo “fall to decay” and is also objectifies the sonnet/rune duet—with erotic innuendo.
  “Highmost pitch” (7) even suggests a roof (with a tarlike covering) on a house that may “fall to decay” (13).

           More conventional figures based on economics and trade form another image cluster: e.g., “use” (2); “having traffic” (4); “unthrift” and “spend” (9); “change,” twice (10); “Let,” “made for store” (11); and such puns as “mint” (1) “fee” (3), “leased,” and “till” (5). A latent sequence of figures about clothing and dress—congruent with a concern about “art” (1, 3, 6) and “ornament” (1)—includes “wear knot” (5), “change my mend” (10) and “suffer a hose fall” (13). The convergence of “traffic” and “car” (4, 7) feels disturbingly modern.

           Masturbation wit (4-5) links with deprecating jokes that the auditor is “womanlike” (3); produces no “essence” (5); needs “ten times” more than he has (6); is like a listing vehicle “going downhill” (7); and is “falling to decay” (13). The “eyes” that prove the erection to be sagging (14) may be, jokingly, testicles, relaxed in a “down” position. Earlier, the play “Moor-praise” (2, cf. “Moor pee raise/raze”) touches on an old joke about race and endowment. Also innuendo-laden are “fresh ornament” (1), “beauty’s use/vise” (2), “spend” (9), and unnatural “non-storage” (11).

           Like others, this rune may be read as the poet’s address to his own composition, with himself the “unthrift” whose architectonic project “falls to decay” even as he erects it. Images about mirrors, trafficking with oneself, and the complementary strains of a duet elaborate this discussion. Since “world” (1, 9) suggests The Globe, one detects self-references in “the world’s fresh ornament” and “an unthrift in The World dust penned.” Other puns (below) may point to the profligate behavior of Nate Field, the boy actor. Tone and real facts are both hard to determine.

Sample Puns

           1) The hooded art know, th’ ewe, earl’s fresh “horn” amend; Thou that art Nate, world’s [The Globe’s] fresh ornament
           1-2) Thou, that art naughty, world’s fresh ornament, / How much More [the unpublished play by Shakespeare and others] praise deserved; a man, Thos. More, praise deserved
           2) Home you see, a moor appears…; deferred, desert; wife, vice, verse
           2-3) thy beauty, Sue, see, thou art thy mother’s glass, Anne S.
           3) T’ Howard hymn oathers laughing chantey [1869, cf. F. chantes]; T’ Howard thy mother’s sick laugh ends
           3-4) Anne S., hiney fore, having traffic with thyself, awl wan; Nate F.
           4) Four; traffic note car (7); this elf, all wan
           4-5) (masturbatory); Nathan were Nate F.
           5) Tee! Henry runed, fume immersed eyes, dilation left; laughed; leaf’d; least
           6) Ten times thyself we rape, peer; thin thou art; We rape ired Hen. (tee!), Howard; also “penis-size” wit
           6-7) Happier thee, Nate, O you art Beauty in form high-most
           7) Butt-wen—form high, moist peak; witty, we wreck, err; weary, wiry; wit very sour; M’ ark, how wan; Shakespeare ring’s witty husband to another [rune]; …to an oather
           7-8) (homoerotic); seer may wreck you
           8-9) Anne ought her loo quit, a nun there I fit; oather, Luke you hate
           9) into you, Earl, dust’s penned; into you Earl dost spend
           9-10) Doc hinged it
         10) Ouch! [Huge] Anne jetted how Judith aye (I) may change; that I may change my “M-end” (Row M, line 13, ends in “decay”); that “I,” my edge, Anne “jimmy,” mend
         10-11) that huge titty Hat-I-may see hang, my mind delighteth; my main delight—thou, Sue [So = Southy], whom nature hath not made for history; Hath., Anne—oat [swain] made for history; Hath-not-maid is our story (history)
         11) Homme Nate, you’re Wrath [in a morality?], not maid
         12) Tennis typed you; Thence thy bawdy, Doc, you ass, shun ma[t]e
         13) Who lets so fair a huss S. Hall, too, decay? Howl, Anne [et] S., foe sour, a hussy, offal, toad easy
         14) Butt formed hiney, ass, make [mate], an “O” letched, a wry ewe (Eve); But from thine “Eies!” make an “O”); Thin “I” is making “O” alleged error

Acrostic Wit

          The downward emphatic lettercode—THT FTT B M LOLT WB—suggests such gamy possibilities as “That fit [i.e., stanza] be m’ lulled web,” “…my lull-to-be [cf. ‘lullaby’],” “Thought fit be m’ lull: ‘To be…’,” “Thought of T.T., B.M. lulled web,” and “That fit be mellowed web.” With B = 8, the code suggests “That fit B.M. (...fated hymn) lulled wight.”

           The upward reverse acrostic—BWT LOL M BTT FTHT—allows such readings as “Beauty, lull hymn, bitty, fitted [i.e., stanza’d],” “Bawdy hell, old hymn bitty, fitted,” “Beauty, lull him: Be T.T. fitted,” and “Bawdy lull may be T.T.’s thought [F=S].”

Proceed to Rune 10
Return to the Index of Set I
Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets