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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 VII, Runes 85-98: Texts and Comments
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2003, All Rights Reserved        

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Rune 86
Second lines, Sonnets 85-98 (Set VII)

                         Rune 86

     (Second lines, Set VII: Sonnets 85-98)

     While comments of your praise, richly compiled,
     Bound for the prize of all-too-precious you,
     And, like enough, thou knowest thy estimate
 4  And place my merit in the eye of scorn;
     And I will comment úpon that offence
     Now while the world is bent my deeds to cross,
     Some in their wealth, some in their bodies’ force:
For term of life thou art assurèd mine,
     Like a deceivèd husband; so loves face
     That do not do the thing they most do show—
     Which like a canker. In the fragrant rose,
12 Some say, thy Grace is youth and gentle sport;
     From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year
     When proud, pied April dressed in all his trim.
2) Bound for = Aimed at (in the “bound” form of a book); 3) And (with And in 4) = Both (OED 1520, a Latinism); like = likely; 5) will is a namepun (see While in 1); And I will puns “Handy Will”; Q vpon plays on “weapon” (with offence) and may pun on “a pun” (OED 1662); 6) the line suggests, “People keep trying to find acrostics in my works (and get diverted doing so)”; 7) Some refers both to the world (i.e., people) and my deeds (see 6); 9) face (v.) = appear, dissemble, confront each other; 11) like (v.) = enjoy; fragrant rose suggests “beautiful art,” punning, “pungent rows [of text]”; 12) gentle sport is a “nautical” pun, “genitals’ port”; 13) From puns Fair Homme (like a ship’s name); and 14) Q pide (i.e., pied) = dappled.

     86. Bound for the Prize

     While treatises praising you—elaborately compiled
     and bound—have aimed at winning you, a much-too-valuable prize,
     and while it’s likely that you know your own worth, have already reached your decision about me,
  4 and regard my evaluation of you--and also, perhaps, my own merit—with scorn;
     and while I, Will, comment upon my offensive action and your judgment of it
     now while the world is intent on thwarting my efforts,
     some using their wealth, some their physical force or personal attractiveness:
  8 In this situation you are guaranteed to stay mine for life,
     the way a wife always keeps a deceived husband—the way lovers put on appearances
     when they are not doing what they appear to be,
     acting covertly, enjoying secret infection that is like the canker in the rose. In artful beauty—analogous to the rose’s, and seen in these rows,
12 some say—your Grace is a young, sportive gentleperson;
     from you emanates pleasure like that of the passing season
     when April, proud and variegated, has dressed in all his colorful garb.   


         Will’s defensive “comments” (1, 5) assume, rhetorically, that the unnamed auditor/friend/muse views the poet’s efforts and worth negatively (3-4). Thus the poet takes the “offense” (5) to argue that the relationship he seeks, albeit flawed, must “assuredly” endure. As a “deceiver” (9) in control, Will praises the friend’s beauty as youthful but evanescent (12-14). “Your praise, richly compiled” (1) ties the first conceit to the final one—spring “dressed in all his trim.”

          Identifying the “fragrant Rose [Rows]” (11) with Will’s flawed verses helps to explain the “canker” (11). The suspended syntax of the opening (1-7) is typically riddlic.

         The words “comments,” “praise,” “compiled,” and “bound” (1-2) link to sketch out the metaphor of an elaborate book directed at the patron reader. “M’ hymn writ (read, ‘errored’)” (pun, 4) is an appositive, and “eye of scorn” (vaguely nautical) pictures the friend’s contemptuous reaction (4). “Offense” (5) suggests “flawed work,” “initiative to gain your favor,” and “your offense in rejecting it.” “My deeds” (6) again names the book. “Pleasure of the…year” (13) suggests a book of hours and days. “Art, assurèd mine” (8) is a glancing appositive that means “my written storehouse, most definitely authorized.”

          Some of the humor is about acrostics, and “cross” (6) suggests a game of “rows.” “The world is bent my deeds to cross” (6) shows hovered-over readers intent on finding flaws and inflicting retribution. Here overlaid puns suggest “crossing t’s,” “crossed” eyes, and playing an acrostic game. The statement in 6, then, puns, “Everybody is trying to find acrostics in my works” and “Hunting acrostics in my works throws everybody off and crosses them up.” The figure of acrostic “rows” is initiated in “my deed stows rows” (6) and pursued in “the fragrant Rose [Rows]” (11).

          Prominent among the nautical terms and puns that sprinkle the text are “Bound for...” (2), “azure domain” (8), “fleeting” (13), and “dressed in all his trim” (14). A “bent world” (6) suggests a arced globe. Travel puns include “peer, I see (...icy,) airy Chile’s implied, bound for” (1-2) and “eye Chile keys, anchor in these” (11). The crafty pseudo-nautical texture, I believe, is aimed at Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton, who had naval experience; he is Will’s only known patron and has been often proposed as the mysterious “Mr. W. H.” (his initials backwards) mentioned on Q’s dedication page, signed by “T.T.” One pun of several asks, “Is Homme Southy gray? See his youth end genital sport (...genitals’ port)” (12). “Rose” (11), I propose, plays on “Wriothesley” (pronounced something like “Roseley”).

          Concurrent puns in this nautical/Southy cluster include “Fair Homme [a ship’s name], the heady pleasure of the fleet in gear” (13); “As Homme Southy, gray seas you’d end, gentle is port” (12); “you raise the fleet in gyre [= round, rune]” (13); and “W.H., eye Chile, key I see (...icy), anchor in this rigor and row!” (11). (“Icy” and “Chile/chilly” are interactive puns.) The closing pun “...Adrift, John Hall hissed, ‘Army!” depicts Will’s son-in-law, another intended auditor of Q’s buried wit, demeaning Will’s naval emphases. The implicit scenario in Will’s head, I propose, shows a playfully jealous tug-of-war between two of his principal coterie auditors, Southy and Dr. Hall.

          Adding textural coherence are echoic pairs like praise/prize and Bound/bent and the initial repetition of And (3-5) and Some (7, 12). The initial words While/Which/When link the opening and the close. Three initial Ands (3-5) and a link between And (see Anne, Will’s wife) and will (5) seem calculated, in a text that hinges on the figure of a “deceived husband” (9) and opens with a pun on “Will.” Family-based puns include these: “th’ price o’ S. Hall, too precious, you handle, eye kin...” (2-3); “Anne doubles my merit in the eye of scorn; Handy Will see” (4-5); and “Handy Will, come and tup Auntie [a pet in-house name for Annie?], tough end see” (5).

          Other puns include these: “your praise, richly compiled, bound to soar t’ Hebrew’s Eve” (1-2), a mild sacrilege comparing Q to the Bible and the auditor to God; and “And I, Will, comment upon th’ tossing scene o’ Will, the World eyes be into my deeds” ( 5-6), where the Globe is in mind. “Fleeting gear” (13)—see “fleet inch-gear”—puns on “fast sexual equipment.” Puns also seem calculated to engage Thomas Thorpe, Will’s known printing agent, the “T.T.” of Q’s dedicatory and title pages: e.g., “And, like enough thou knows(t) T., Thos., Tommy T., / and place my hymn he writ (...hymn ‘errored’; merd) in the eye of scorn” (3-4).

          This and hundreds of other puns in Q suggest that Will and Thorpe struck a printing deal whereby the poet would finish Q and Thorpe would see it through the printing stages, maintaining Will’s erratic forms jot-and-tittle.

Sample Puns:

          1) wry Chile’s implied; soft your praise “rich Lyceum” pealed; reach Lyceum, pilot; Pilate; Will sea, omen’d, saucier, appears; Welcome, men; W.H. I lick (like); Willy, come in, ass is soft; fewer; sewer, peer-ass, richly come-piled; pierce our itch, lie; men,’tis hosier, pee raise
          1-2) Willkommen t’ asses, your peers, richly compiled, Bundes earthy; richly, come [semen] piled, bound forth; …bound to soar t’ Hebrew’s Eve
          2) Hebrew’s Eve call Tupper (…called upon her Scheisse loo); Bound, 40 peers oaf called; wry Zeus called, “O, peers, sizzle!”; opera shows loo; fecal, too, Paris Jews’ loo; th’ prize o’ S. Hall; awful; oval; offal; the price of Hall too precious; ewe           3) eye Cain, O, you jet enough (a gnoff), T.T.; Anne—dull aye, kin huge, thick—knows T.T., highest “I”-mate
          3-4) now Phidias t’ mate Anne peals; if Tom attend lays, mime he read in this score
          4) Anne dapples (doubles) my merit in the eye of scorn; merit India’s scorn (corn); ride in the ass’s core, neigh; my writing this is corny
          4-5) horny Anne dwells; in Deus’ scorn, Anne, die
          5) And eye “Willkommen II” [cf. 1]; Handy Will, come and tup Auntie tough; come in, tup on the tough ends; Anne [End] duel—comment upon (a pun) that offense; “V,” pointed “O,” fancy; I will commit a pun [cf. wrenched accents in 5]
          5-6) th’ tossing scene o’ Will, The World eyes; tupping, that Oven see, and oil; sin see, Noel t’ hue; tup on the docents in oil; the docents Anne oiled
          6) you, earl, die spent; Dis be end; Now, W.H., I let you hurl (earl), Dis-bent; Dis bent my deeds to zero; cross suggests acrostics
          6-7) to grow, sesame I inter; my deeds took Rizzy’s omen t’ Harry W.; the world disband ’mid Ed’s talk
          7) mintier, we’ll this homme inter; …bawdy source; foaming, hairy bodies f--k (fork); fomenter be odious force; Mentor
          7-8) Minotaur body suffers forty arms; bawdy ass of whore see fart, hear missile
          8) Farty army oft lies t’ Howard, a few red (ready) men; azured mine [cf. “sea”]
          8-9) As you’re Adam, anally I get saved; Of Leicester taste, furry demon lick; t’ Howard afford (as you ready) m’ Annie; like a deceived husband, foe loose face
          9) end fool offices aye
          9-10) Sue, loo sufficed Hat.; saved husband’s olive ass faced Hat., “winnowed” doughty thing, the “I” moist”
        10-11) th’ “I” moist “O” f--k, hell-like; Th’ ate dough-knot, doughty thing, th’ eye moist does hugely kiss
        11) eye Chile, key is anchor
        11-12) Witch-like, ascend, carrying this rag-rune t’ Rizzy’s home; Anne arose, so Messiah’d hie
        11-14) Witch-like, aye, see Anne careened [i.e., turned over like a boat for caulking], ever eye grained rows [like planks], as Homme Southy, gray seas you’d end, gentle is port (genitals’ port), Fair Homme, the pleasure of the fleet in gear: W., Hen., prowed, peed ape-rill, dressed aye in awl, his trim (his t’ rim)
        12) “Hie, Grey,” says you, then dig in t’ laugh
        12-13) if port is Rome, th’ tip’ll ease you
        13) Fair Homme [a ship’s name]; middy Theophilus, you raise the fleet; ashore of this late injury, W.H.; row, middy, Tybalt’s your east, he’s leading ye rowing; the fleeting urine peer out-peed
        13-14) gay rune—proud, petty—eye
        14) John Hall hissed, “Army!” [contrast the naval diction]; real cedar stein eye, Leicester meal (male); hissed rhyme; history hymn; see Dresden, eye Leicester, Himmel

Acrostic Wit

          The downward form of the lefthand emphatic acrostic code—W B AAAN S F LT WS FW [w/ F=S, conventionally, because lower-case f and s looked alike in Q]—suggests, e.g., “Weapons felt W.S. few,” “Weapon is felt [with] saw-teeth [= pictographic Ws] few,” “Weapons of lead W.S. saw,” “Wipe anus, flit, wise few,” “Wipe anus slit, wise of you,” “Wipe Anne’s faulty ‘W’ [breasts = Wen = pudendum, ass] as if ten [VV],” “Wibbons flit, W. S. f[l]ew [tongue-tied].” and “W. be Anne’s fool t’ wise few.”

          The reverse (upward) codeline—WFS WT L FSN A A ABW—encodes such potential meanings, e.g., as these: “Wives wed love sin, eye a boy,” “Wife Sue t’ hell, of sin above,” “Wife’s wit’ll fasten up W.,” and “wise wit’ll fasten a bow.”

           The SW and WS letterstrings play on “Sue” (Will’s daughter’s name) and the poet’s initials. The string AAAN S focuses the “WT” directly on the poet’s wife, with an overlaid pun on “anus.”

           The down/up “hairpin” form of the codeline may be read as a quick sketch of Will’s wedding: e.g., “W.-banns, fleetwise, few (...felt wise few), Wife S. waddles (, laughs), Annie, [and a] beau (...boy; I eye a boy).”

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