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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 93
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Rune 92
Eighth lines, Sonnets 85-98 (Set VII)

                         Rune 92

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

     In polished form of well-refinèd pen
     Giving him aid, my verse astonishèd;
     And so my patent back again is swerving
That thou, in losing me, shall win much glory.
     I will acquaintance strangle and look strange
     To linger out a purposed overthrow.
     All these I better in one general best;
 8  Then that which on thy humor doth depend
     Is writ in moods and frowns and wrinkles strange—
     Others, but stewards of their excellence,
     Naming thy name. Blesses an ill report
12 To truths translated and for true things deemed
     Like widowed wombs: After their lords’ decease
     Or from their proud lap, pluck them where they grew.
1) line pun: “In th’ [p = thorn, th] hole I shit forms well-refined, thin”; 2) him aid puns on hymn..., Hamnet, Hamlet; 3) patent = claim on this (runic) method; 4) shall suggests S[ue] Hall, Will’s daughter, with the line suggesting her marriage or Will’s death; 4) pun: John [= in], loving my S. Hall 5) I will...and puns,“I, Will, a ‘quaint’ Anne see...Anne”; 6) ...d overthrow puns “dour th’ row,” i.e., “the verse line is gloomy” (because it has no bad jokes?); 7) phallic puns include “Awl,” “‘I’ bitter,” etc.; 8) puns include Thin, witch hunt, high humor, and “merd [excrement]...deepened”; 9) frowns and wrinkles strange puns on “S-rowns and tricks...”; 10) Others puns on “Oathers” (i.e., sworn coterie members); 11) report is the subject of Blesses (v. intr.); 12) true things suggests plumb, erect penises; 14) puns include Ore, Whore, and “prow’d” (i.e.,sporting a frontal projection).

     92. Wrinkles Strange, My Patent Swerving Back

     Subtly polished formal structures
     honoring somebody whom I don’t name here, my verse attracted attention and caused shock;
     thus my unique method (and claim on him) completes another cycle, makes its rounds
  4 so the reader here, in my absence, can struggle to recover wonders, maybe even gain fame.
     I, Will, will act as if I don’t know you
     to accomplish, in the long run, my proposed coup.
     By this superior strategem of mine I’ll give things my best shot, getting better as I go.
 8 Thus my writings, which solicit your favor and rely heavily your moods,
     are set down to appear as posturings, scowlings, tricks, strange wrinkles of the brow—
     while other writers, mere passive caretakers whose only excellence is yours,
     are free to name you. Happy results can come from an unpromising-looking communique
12 when it’s decoded—showing its higher import—and is declared worthy of true things
     just the way the wombs of widows can reverse apparent negatives: After their masters die,
     you’ll find “prowed laps”—sites where their lords were expansive—ripe for plucking.


          Though military figures color Will’s description and rationalization of his “patented” runic method, the final analogy between the Q texts and belatedly “fruitful” wombs (11-14) seems more vital. Will’s thesis is that he’s biding his time, consciously distancing himself from his friend and using indirect means by which his verse will eventually accomplish its purpose.

          Overt details about writing (cf. 1, 2, 3, 8-9, 11) link with coy glances and puns such as “re-signèd pen” (1); “hymn aid”; “swerving” (3, cf. “cursive” and “cyclical”); “dour th’ row [line]” (6); “wrinkles strange” (9, cf. “odd tricks”); “two truths translated” (12); and the play in “pluck” (14) on quills. “Others” (10) seems to mean the writers who more openly praise the muse, but the word also points to Will’s Sonnets and puns on “oathers” as sworn members of the coterie.

          The cluster of military figures includes “losing” and “win much glory” (4); “linger out a[n]…overthrow” (6), and the phrase centered around “general” (7). Ancillary “military” details include “polished form” (1, suggesting “man in armor”); “Giving him aid” (2); “foe”; “my patent…is swerving” (3), making the Runes seem like a newfangled war-engine; “strangle” and “look strange” (5), implying intrigue; “deep-end” (8), which—in a “siege”—might mean “moat”; “surrounds and rank less strange” (9); “an ill report” (11), perhaps of a loss; and “lords[’] decease” (13).

          Because “General Beast” puns on generative and bestial matters, the poem’s last conceit suggests a number of riotously comic activities: widows trying to revive the dead members of their lords, or cutting them off, or indulging in self-stimulation, or plucking pubic hairs, or enjoying their newfound sexual liberation. Line 12, speaking of the “wombs” as “for true things deemed,” puns on “made for rightly-plumbed members.” And the end-word “grew” (14) seems to apply to “true things,” a routine phallicism. Sexual humor begins in line 1 with puns on “well” and “pen.” In fact, the whole poem seems on one level to be an exercise in phallic joking. The unnamed subject of 8-9, e.g., is penis-like, with “moods” and “wrinkles strange.”

          Two lines end with strange (5, 9). The endwords pen, depend, excellence, deemed, and decease have interrelationships of sound or sense, as do glory, overthrow, and grew.

Sample Puns

          1) Eye Napoli’s oar naval, reef, aye knee-deep; In th’ hole I shit forms well-refinéd, peein’; In poly-shit, soar; rough, eye Nate peein’; In Pole I shit; sore knave Will refined; in Polish’d foreign offal, reason deepen; forne appears to have an altered typepiece, n for m
          1-2) Ed, pen June, gay May dim; deep in Jew, inch ’im
          2) amid Mersey, Afton I fit; Jew-inch; Give John gem (Jimmy); die (dye) m’ verse; hymn-aid; High Maid; I made; Hamnet; Hamlet; I damn ye, verses; a stone I shat
          2-3) Afton eye, shitty and foamy; Afton is hid, Andes home ye patent; back again, eye Sue...
          3) attend packaging aye, as few rune; again Jesu is erring
          3-4) Anne dies, “O” may be at end (my pee attend); “…in th’ back, a gay anus foreign God had,” thou in loo sing; back again, eye Sue, a rune, Judy, T.T., Hugh-John loving me, S. Hall, John [w], John [in]
          4) That hue John loving, Miss Hall win, homme, huge glory
          4-5) measle, wen, muck glow real
          4-6) O, realist, cunt eye in Sister Anne, gland looks teary and jet
          5) I, Will, a “quaint” Anne see stir; ten see Strand, glen, dale, hocus range; I, Will, a-cunting, see Shakespeare or England look strange; wrangle, end Luke, history eye in jet
          5-6) Loo kiss, deranged; jet’ll injure ode, a purposed overthrow; dour th’ row
          6) Toll injured a pure, puffed, whored row; rout a porpoise dour
          6-7) dour th’ royalty, fey, bitter, eying one general; avert Row A, let his 1 be [with the I typebit altered to 1]
          7) Awl; thief; “I” bitter; I know Annie, General Beast; I, an engineer, Hall best [i.e., defeat in combat]; eye an engineer awl beast
          7-8) None eye Goneril, beast t’ Hen., t’ Hat.; aye an engine a reel befitteth
          8) Th’ two, Hugh-John, they humored odd head (ode hid), penned eyes’ written moods and Dis-rounds and wrinkles strange; Thin; high humor; Witch Auntie you murdered, heady pain
          8-9) merd ought deepen, Dis-written moods and ass-runes (F-rowns [cf. forte, fart, f--k])
          9) eye sewered enema descend; in moot, sandy Pharaoh you nest and wrinkle; nascent ink
          9-10) Anne wrinkles, Shakespeare rune-jotter is, but [i.e., only] Shakespeare you heard, softer excellence
        10) Oathers butt ass toward ass, oft (of tarry) hairy excellence
        10-11) eye rex, see Helen’s name in jet, high in a maple; hard, soft, Harry excelling, see an homme-inch
        11) in a Ming [vase?], thy enemy be less seasonal; ...seasonal repartee; ...enema..., suggesting “your excrement stinks less ripely in a fancy chamber”
        11-12) maple season I’ll report to tear you t’ history inflated
        12) runes laid Dan, desert rude in jest; runes slayed Dan; fart, Ruth, in jest
        12-13) Farty, rooting set, emit liquid ode, woe, maybe ass’s turd; Lick wide-O’d wombs; Like wide-O’d wombs, aye stirred (ass-turd) Harry, Lord S., disease
        13-14) Caesar of Rome t’ Harry prowed; cue eyed, owe dumb asses, turdier lords, dicks, whores, roamed here; softer th’ eerie Lourdes disease—or is Rome there, proud
        14) Oar, O’er, Ore, Whore; fair homme; omit Harry; prowed [phallic]; theme, W., Harry, th’ eye grew; G-row; hedgerow; riddle, apple, you seek them where they grew; seek th’ merdy G-row; here thick row; herb rude lap; Luke-theme W.H. heard, he grew [suggesting “Hebrew”]

Acrostic Wit

          The emphatic downward acrostic codeline—I GATITAT[h] IONT LO—as usual encodes ambiguous meanings. Possibilities include these: “I ‘Judith’ joined low [silently],” “Eye gay teat, a tie-on t[oo] low [t’ lo(ve)?],” “Eye Judith at joint low,” “Eye Judith, John, till ‘O’,” “‘I’ jetted aye shunned, low,” “Agitation t’ low [i.e., neigh],” “Agitated John t’ low,” “I get it—a shun t’ low,” “Eye get it, a shunt low,” “Agitate a ‘shunt’ [cf. ‘cunt’] low,”and “…a taint low.”

          The upward (revese) code—OLT NOITATIT AG I—can be read, e.g., to mean, “Old notated age eye,” “Howl denote, a tight edge [knife] eye,” “Old Noah-tide eyed, edgy,” “Old knight—80—I tag (...take) aye,” “Holed Knight eye, tight eyed a guy [angled rope (phallic)],” and/or “Hold, Nate, a titty, a guy.”

          Such insistently meaningful letterstrings as OLT  NOIT and IGATITAT...ION—suggesting, e.g., “Old Knight” and “Agitation” (complete with an agitated stutter)—imply careful, authorized manipulation. The former instance exemplifies many such strings that seem, almost magically, to let us hear pronunciations of the Era vocalized.

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