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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        

Proceed to Rune 90
Return to the Index of Set VII

Rune 89
Fifth lines, Sonnets 85-98 (Set VII)

                         Rune 89

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

     I think good thoughts, whilst other write good words;
     Was it his spirit, by spirits taught to write?
     For how do I hold thee but by thy granting,
 4  With mine own weakness being best acquainted?
     Thou canst not, love, disgrace me half so ill;
     Ah, do not, when my heart hath ’scaped this sorrow,
     And every humor hath his adjunct pleasure.
 8  Then need I not to fear the worst of wrongs,
     For there can live no hatred in thine eye;
     They rightly do inherit heaven’s graces.
     That tongue that tells the story of thy days
As on the finger of a thronèd queen—
     And yet this time removed—was summer’s time,
     Yet nor the lays of birds nor the sweet smell.
     Glosses: 1) I... other suggests the “two poets” of Q, authors of Sonnets and Runes; 2) it (ambig.) = the “other,” punning “oather” (i.e., sworn coterie member); 3) For puns on “Fore”; 6) heart puns on “art”; 7) humor suggests mood, whim, temperament; 9-10) the disagreement in number between thine eye and They finds a playful explanation in Q’s tediously routine pun “They/Th’ eye,” and in the fuller one “They rightly do…” = “Th’ eye, rightly deux [i.e., ‘two’]...”; Q’s spelling their (for “there”) in 9 puns on “th’ heir” and thus anticipates “inherit” in 10; 12) thronèd queen puns on “th’ runèd queue-end” (i.e.,“...line-end”); 14) nor...nor = neither...nor; lays puns on lace; birds puns on “Bard S.”

    89. This Time Removed

     I think good thoughts about you, while some other poet writes such things down skillfully.
     Is that because that other writer had an inspired imagination?
     I can capture you only if you grant me the privilege,
  4 given my own limitations, which I know better than anybody.
     You can’t disgrace me, my love, half as much as I shame myself.
     Ah, please don’t put me to shame later when my heart (and art) has survived this project, with all its rhetorical problems,
     and when my evolving moods can all have their compensatory pleasures. (Just now, every expressive sonnet here has its shadowy companion, a witty rune.)
  8 I know that I don’t need to fear the worst spites at that later time,
     for malevolence or disdain cannot survive in your eye(s),
     the rightful heirs not only of beauty but also of godlike forgiveness.
     That tongue that here tells the story of your days
12 with the same reverent homage that kissing a monarch’s ring would show, and in the same emphatic way that a ring on a queen’s finger makes its statement—
     and that at the same time articulates this record, in soto voce metrics, of private activities of the here and now—was like summertime (and spoke in an “adder’s” meter)
     but was missing the songs of birds and the fragrance of the season.


          The opening reference to an “other” whose skills surpass Will’s (1-2) leads to a series of self-demeaning compliments praising the listener’s tolerance (3), kindness (8-9), beauty (10), and majesty (12) and anticipating a time when this hard cycle is complete so that pleasure can replace pain (6-8). The story-telling “tongue” (11) seems equivalent to the “other,” so that the poem’s compliments (e.g., 2, 11-14) may really be self-praise. The suggestive figure of a “tongue… / As on the finger of a thronèd queen” delineates the poet in the reverent posture of kissing a monarch’s ring. This striking conceit for Will himself as court minstrel seems to suggest a gay theatrical world. The gender of the listening muse—identified with “Queen”—remains unspecified.

          Noting that Will, as rune-writer, is his own “other” voice keeps us from taking the “rival poet” literally—and points to the question “Was I this spirit…?” (2), a pun on “…speare.” A basic paradox is that Will, who says he is only capable of thought (1), is actually the “other” poet whose poem we’re reading. Thinker, talker (the story-telling “tongue”), and writer—all are Will.

          Further puns, deducible from many recurrences in Q, amplify the self-focused play on Will’s name. “Other” puns on “oather” as “an oath-bound coterie member,” privy to the Runes, and on “ode-r,” ode-writer. Whilst (1) puns on “Will Shakespeare” because ft as printed in Q is a pictograph showing “long s” dangling and “shaking” a spear-like t (as it were) by the handle. (Likewise, Canst [Q5] allows “See Anne Shakespeare.”) Will’s latent name-wit may also lurk in “…th’ hideous / Ass = …S = …Shakespeare” (11-12) and “Bard S.” (14).
         Words and puns about writing include “singer,” “summer’s time” (punning on “adder/metricist’s meter”), and “lays” (14). Metaphorically, any rune is an “adjunct pleasure” (7), is “time [i.e., meter] removed” (13), and is “this sorrow [furrow]” (6). “Every humor” (7) implies manifold wit, and the pun “Ye eyed inner the lays of Bard S.” (14) means what it says. The “ring” itself is may stand as a conceit for a “round” (and thus a rune), a sparkling status symbol, here with bawdy overtones.

          The pun “the row [i.e., line] ‘Nate, Queen Anne, died’—this, Tommy [Thorpe] removed” (12-13) makes joking sense as a reference to Nate Field, a boy actor in Shakespeare’s company, taking the queenly role of Anne in Richard III, and also to Thomas Thorpe, Will’s known printing agent—who, I deduce, was in on his game and helped him execute it when Q was printed as a book.

          The figure of “summer” (13-14), which seems to waft up suddenly, finds amplification in “thy days” (11), the pun “A sun” (12), “time,” and the suggestion of birds and fragrance; also anticipating this image are “good thoughts” (1), “adjunct pleasure” (7), and “heaven’s graces” (10). Similarly, forecasting the phrase “thronèd queen” (12) are “by thy granting” and “mine own weakness” (3-4), implying a master-servant relationship. Other word clusters show latent coherence: e.g., weakness/disgrace/ill/sorrow/wrongs/hatred. Several sound-related pairings—e.g., ill/smell (5, 14), graces/days (10-11)—compensate somewhat for missing rhyme.

          Additional puns that help to make sense of this playful text include “For/Fore” (3); “heart/ art” (6); “th’ runèd queue-end [i.e., ‘…line-end’]” (12); and “lays/lace” (14). “Humor” (7) suggests mood, whim, and temperament. A disagreement in number between “thine eye” (9) and “They” (10) finds a playful explanation in Q’s tediously routine pun “They/Th’ eye,” and in the fuller one “They rightly do…” = “Th’ eye, rightly deux [i.e., ‘two’]…” (10).

           Q’s spelling their (for “there”) puns on “th’ heir” and thus anticipates “inherit” (9-10).

Sample Pun

          1) Eye th’ Inca god, haughty, swift, tottery (odory); Eye th’ ink; Will Shakespeare, oather, right good, wordy is
          1-2) O, the rude god words [articulates] wayside hiss
          2) Was it his S’speare eyed? S’speare, stout Tory, eyed; Waysides of pirate; his spire, eyed (“I’d”) beef, pirates (pirouettes)—taut, torrid
          3) Foe rude, wild; t’ Hebe you’d bid Hickory Anne t’ inch; Forehead old, the beauty bitty, grunting; the butt by th’ edge ran; bitty G-rune tinge; Furrowed isle did abut bitty gray ending
          3-4) grant John Judith, mine own, weak, an ass, being best (beast-)acunted
          4) t’ hymn owe new ache
          4-5) take you Anne t’ Eddie, how’s (house) Anne Shakespeare; an ass, being beefsteak, waned
          5) Toucans ten at sea-level die of grass meal, see soil; see Lady of Grey, Semele’s foe ill
          5-6) foil Adonai to win my heart; see me, Hall, Cecil, Adonai, too; soil Adonai, too, in merd; house see, Anne Shakespeare (knot clouded) is greasy, my Half-so-ill, a dough-knot
          6) Merdy Hat. escaped thy ass’s error
          6-7) windy Eve rumor Hath. hissed; W., Hen., m’ “Y” hard hath escaped, this furrow endeavor, Y-humor, Hath’s adjunct pleasure (pee-leisure)
          7) And every hue Moor hath; Anne, Every-Humor Hath-his-A, dunked pleasure; his adieu nicked pleasure; handy arroyo, Moor hates a dune
          7-8) Th’ [=p=thorn] leafure thin need I not to fear
          8) Thin, needy knot does earth worst of wrongs; …to ferret you (ewe) or stow serons [bales of exotic cargo]; serrate (seriate) you;
          8-9) O, Sue wrongs forty ears, Anne’ll even owe
          9) Fartier, see Anne living, odored end, hiney eye; Foe, red hearse eye; Fart heresy eye, in Livy know hatred aye (…no hatred eye); sin; Seine; canal; in Lavinia tear, dint hiney
          9-10) notary, dint hineyed Harry        
        10) Th’ eye, right lid, O, in Harry it heaven graces; Th’ “I” rightly do enter it, heavy Anne ass graces
        10-11) T’ Harry I jet, Lido inherit, heavy in ice, gray seas t’ Hat.; duenna awry, tunes’ graces t’ Hat. tongued; seize that on Judy, Atlas—thief, tory, oft hidious (off t’ Hades)
        11-12) Heaven’s gray seas the tone, Judy, Hat. tells the story of thy days; Jew that tells the history; the story of thy days, a son, the singer of a throned Queen; O, roasty day, season
        12) Oft hideous, ascend his inch (his injurious “I”); a saint-hiss injures a thronèd queen; a son this anger o’ father owned; th’ sangria’s attar owe
        12-13) thorough, Nate [Field, the boy actor?] Queen Anne died, this time a remedy was foam; fate runèd Queen Anne, yet this time remote
        13) this time [meter], rhyme, ode, was Summer’s [= Numbers Man, poet] time; indites time removed [composes missing metrics]; Tommy [Thorpe] removed waste o’ hymn, mere steam
        13-14) immersed, eye m’ Eden, earthy lays of Bard S., an earthy, ass-witty smell; foam, arsed “I” meaty, in her; Tommy et North, lay soft, be irred designer (...dissenter)
        14) yet North lies; enter the sweet female; Yet North lay, soft Bard S. North’s witty female

Acrostic Wit

          The downward emphatic acrostic—IW FWT A AT F TT AAY—encodes such possibilities as these: “I whiff witty [weedy] 8 of T.T. aye,” “Eye wife, wedded, fat aye,” “You feud [foot] eyed of T.T. aye,” and “Eye wife witty, a tough titty,” “I, W.S. witty [F=S], teased aye.”

          The upward (reverse) code—YAAT TF TAAT WF WI—may be read, e.g., to mean “Get tough, tight wife. Why?” “Y’ate tuft, ate wife pudendum [pictographic W=Wen, a swelling] aye,” “Ye, T.T., have tidy wife. Why?” “Ye titty-fat ate, whiff ‘Y’ [crotch],” and “Hiatus [F=S] t’ hate whiff. Why?”

          Fit 8 (phallic) may also allude to the up-coming Set VIII, with its special problems. A fit is a stanza and thus, by extension, an organizational unit in a verse project. The letterstring TT here elsewhere suggests Thomas Thorpe, Will’s printing agent, signer of Q’s frontmatter (as “T.T.”).

Proceed to Rune 90
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