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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 VI, Runes 71-84: Texts and Comments
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2003, All Rights Reserved        

Proceed to Rune 74
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Rune 73
Third lines, Set VI (Sonnets 71-84)

                         Rune 73

     (Third lines, Set VI: Sonnets 71-84)

     Give warning to the world that I am fled.
     After my death, dear love, forget me quite
     Upon those boughs which shake against the cold.
 4  My life hath in this line some interest,
      And for the peace of you, I hold such strife.
     Why with the time do I not glance aside?
     The vacant leaves thy mind’s imprint will bear,
 8  As every alien pen hath got my use;
     But now my gracious numbers are decayed,
     And in the praise thereof. Spends all his might,
     From hence your memory death cannot take.
12 The dedicated words which writers use
     I found, or thought I found, you did exceed;
     In whose confine immurèd is the store?
     Glosses: 3) shake and against (“a gay Anne Shakespeare [st = the family name cipher])” are namepuns; 4) this line points back to line 3, with its puns about the poet’s life; life puns on leaf, i.e., page or sheet; 7) leaves echoes life in 4.

     73. Vacant Leaves

     Notify the world that I have departed;
     after my death, dear love, completely forget about me,
     a shivering leaf on limbs enraged by winter.
  4 I have a personal interest in this approach,
     as do you, and your contentment justifies my struggle.
     Why do I not look elsewhere, and quit all this, as most people today would?
     The empty pages (and trite conceits about fall) will bear the imprint of your mind anyway,
  8 because every other writer, however inept, follows my lead;
     but now my own graceful verse has deteriorated—
     and in the very act of praising your mind. Exerting all his strength,
     death cannot take your memory from this text.
12 The dedicated words that writers use,
     and the ideas I have discovered have not measured up to you, I found.
     In what writer’s treasury are adequate words and thoughts?


          Like others in Set VI, this rune imagines the poet’s death, instructs the muse in a proper detachment toward it, tries to rationalize the activity at hand, and finally evaluates the mixed effectiveness of the poems; the relatively new element here (from Sonnets 78, 82) is the idea that rival poets, however derivative in manner, will serve to keep the friend’s memory alive, and that the poet is like them in finding words inadequate. A tone of self-pity—or mock self-pity, in a playful context—colors the text.

           The flurry of dedications to Southampton by other writers after his royal pardon on May 16,1603, may be partly what Will has in mind when he remarks that “every alien pen hath got my use” (line 8; cf. Akrigg 134-47). But such puns as “you, wry, alien pen...,” “a sewery, alien pen...,” and “Aye serial, eye Anne-pen, Hath.-jot, my wife bawdy know...” are mock complaints referring to the sub-rosa Runes project that drains the poet’s energies and controls his output.

          The seasonal figure devolving from Sonnet 73 (line 3 here) signals a skimpy cluster of organic imagery. Because the deceased poet will be like a last, dead leaf on a cold bough (3), “fled” (1) implies “fallen”; “quite” (2) puns on “quiet”; “this line” (3) puns on “this limb”; “hold” (5) suggests “hang on”; and “hold such strife” (5) echoes “shake against [the cold].” “Vacant leaves” (7) restates the conceit, though its main meaning is “empty pages”—and thus “unread runes.” Later phrases vaguely suggest leaves and fall or winter (9, 10, 14).

           Some words and puns also suggest money: “Give,” “interest,” “the piece of you I hold,” “mine’s imprint,” “a lien,” and “spends all his mite.” The “economic” diction in line 4 particularly calls attention to a lexical pattern including some puns: e.g., dear (2); piece, hold (5); “same th’ [= p] rent” (7); “a lien” (8); Spends, mite (10); take (11); use (12); exceed (13); and store (14).

           Figures about writing include “imprint,” “pen,” “numbers,” and “dedicated words which writers use”—and less overt plays including “this line” (4) as a reference to line 3 (where the nameplay “shake” is part of the coy wit); the pun“‘migratious’ [i.e., migratory] numbers…decayed” (9); and the conceit of a walled “storehouse” (14).

           The italicized “Alien” focuses a vaguely military motif: cf. “I am fled,” “shake against thee,” “this line,” “the peace,” “such strife,” “lance aside,” “bear,” “all his might,” and the walled arsenal of 14. Too, “Alien” overlays subtextual wit (cf. below) about far-flung locales.   

           The poem’s pair of parenthetically enclosed elements may comprise one or more mini-runes with independently contrived wit. For example, Q’s (deare loue) in 2 puns“cedar low,” perhaps meant to suggest a weeping tree in the act of committing the pathetic fallacy by responding the poet’s death (see 2) while also anticipating the image of “boughs shaking against the cold” in 3—and with “My leaf...” in 4 continuing the tree-wit. Traditionally the cedar has symbolized strong faith, consecration, and renewal of life, so perhaps the pun is consciously functional in the poet’s admonition in 2 not to mourn his own passing. The pun “cedar love” may also be a phallic joke, linked with an (orgasmic) “death.”

           Later, Q’s (or thought I found) in 13 puns, e.g., “Core-thought I sound,” perhaps meaning, “I reiterate a ‘core’idea [i.e., something centrally buried].” This second parenthetical element encodes “core” and links with “X-seed” (ending the line), perhaps punning on the notion of a “seminal element in the acrostic.” (The pun “you die, dick’s seed in hose” also occurs in 13-14.) Together these two parenthetical elements may yield, e.g., “Cedar low, core-thought, aye sound (...I found = I establish).”

           Eventually I hope to post a link on this site that explores the possibility of authorized parenthetical runes. Meanwhile.....

Sample Puns

           1) Hurled, t’ Hat. I am of lead (fled); tot you hurled at Amos
           1-2) Thomas led a stormy death; the atomies let a fitter, meated history loose; eye a miss, Lady Esther
           2) the seed aerial of our jet meek you eyed; Ariel; a real officer get me; mid heath, satyr, Lucifer jet; evil ass, argot make you aye (…meek you eye)
           2-3) equity you be unto Hosea, bogus witch; dear, loyal sergeant meek, you eyed a pun
           3) W.H. eyes fake Aegean, stich [i.e., line, verse] old; A pun thou see boss [i.e., embellish] W.H.; Sue; shake [a namepun]; Witch Shake., a gay Anne Shakespeare; cag [offend] ye Anne Shakespeare, thick, old
           3-4) this old Mylae see, hating thy Salinas (saline ass) homme, John; anus T.T. heckled my leaf, hating this line foamy (this line’s omen)
           4-5) soam [i.e., horse tackle] enters, tanned, ass earthy
           4-6) foe me inters, tanned, farty pieces you’ll f--k, strife witty that I may do
           5) eye hole t’ f--k, Shakespeare arise; farty; pisses; f--ks tear eyes; forty pieces; pisses; diffuse
           5-6) if you Chester eye, sweet, (Swede-)hid, hid eye meadow
           6) Tommy do eye; do I not glans ease?
           6-8) Edo [i.e., Tokyo] eye nautical, and see aye if I did heavy scent (cant) leave, Southy my Indies (Andes) imprint will bare, a sewery ally, Nippon hath got my wife
           7-8) Willobie errs, every ally, Nippon, hath God; Hymen’s imprint Will bears; ear; Harry; hairy; thy mind’s imprint Will bear, aye, Surrey
           8) A Surrey ally Nippon hath; Ass, every alien pen “Hath.” jot, my wife; Eye Sue reeling [the italics in Alien “reel”]
           8-9) a sewery A-line paineth God, muse bawdy
           9) Bawdy, now my Grey shows numb arse aye red (hairy, decayed); t’ know my Greece, Jews an umber Sardis aid; But know Wm.; But now my gray shows an homme bare is our our dick-aid; malgré [i.e., despite] shows
           9-10) arid, see aye Dane din; see aye Dan die in the barest ether of penned solace, my jet; Bawdy gnome [i.e., saying] egregious an homme bares, hard, easy, deigned I in the peer’s ether; see, aid Anne-din, the brays thereof
         10) spends Hall his mite; allies midget
         10-11) midget form, Hen, see, you’re “mammaried”
         11) Anne ought ache; Edith’s a knot to ache; from Hen, serum moor; your memo. radiates a knotty ache
         11-12) Anne ought take tea heady
         12) The dead I see hated, words…; T. edits hated words witch-writers use; Dick eyed adieu; the dead I sated, warty ass, W.H., I see you ride her ass
         12-13) W.H., I see you writer’s wife eye, sound; fief, O, you end
         12-14) witch, writer’s wife, I found…you died exceeding W.H.
         13) court haughty, I fondle you; I censor thought; duty I’d exceed
         13-14) eyes on deluded hex, see Ed; X-heeding [listening to the acrostics], hoof see
         14) John, W.H., O, season fine aye merd is t’ history; I knew whose cunt fine immured is t’ history; immured is the Shakespeare whore; O, fecund, assy name you read, eye Southy-story

Acrostic Wit

          The downward acrostic code—GA VM AWT A B AF[= S]T II—suggests, e.g., Gay vim ought (Gay mode...) aye be aft, too,” “Game o’ wit abased I aye,” “Game odd abased eyes,” “Gome odd eye, beast, too,” “Jew Mighty be a fit hell,” “Jew might be aye Southy,” “Gome, awe Titus [B=8] too,” and “Gamut [a low G note] eye, bass, too (…abased eyes).”

           The upward (reverse) codeline—II TF A BAT WAM VAG—may be read, e.g., to mean, “Too tough eye-bait, ‘William,’ vague,” “‘Too tough,’ aye bayed William huge,” “Too tough a bat William wag [phallic],” “To tough eye bade womb vague,” “Toad, fey bat-womb vague,” and “T.T. [= 2T], evade Wm. vague.”

           The down/up hairpin codeline suggests, e.g., “Game odd, eye-based for [= IIII] tough eye. Bat, William, wage” and “Game ode, A/B, a fit [stanza] for tough eye, bade William, vague.” Adding the initial “n” in 14 (which starts with In...) to the codeline yields nIIT F…, perhaps wit about Nate Field, the boy actor in Will’s company: e.g., “Nate F. aye be a tome vague,” “Nate F., obey Tom, wag,” and “…obeyed Wm.: ‘Fetch!’ (…vague).”

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