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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        

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Rune 81
Eleventh lines, Set VI (Sonnets 71-84)

                         Rune 8l

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

     Do not so much as my poor name rehearse:
     My name be buried where my body is
     As the deathbed whereon it must expire.
  The coward conquest of a wretch’s knife
     Possessing or pursuing no delight,
     So all my best is dressing old words new,
     Those children nursed, delivered from thy brain.
In other’s works thou dost but mend the style
     And found it in thy cheek; he can afford
     Ore. Being wracked, I am a worthless boot.
     An’ tongues-to-be your being shall rehearse,
12 Thou, truly fair, wert truly sympathized:
     Fore, I impair not beauty being mute,
     And such a counterpart shall fame his wit.
6) So all (in a line with “medical” puns) puns on “Sue Hall,” wife of a physician; 9) found = create, mold; cheek = voice, foundry mold; he = thy cheek; wracked = tortured; boot = remedy, compensation (pun: torture device); 11) An (Q And) = If (archaic); rehearse = reiterate (see 1); 12) sympathized = represented fairly; 13 Fore (Q For) implies “As a dead writer, not a ‘tongue-to-be’”; 14) And such a counterpart puns, e.g.,“Anne S., you see, has owned her part”; counterpart = a future “tongue” (see 11); the word is also a crude body-part pun, and such in Q is a vulgar eyepun because s looks like f; his = beauty’s (see 13); shall fame his wit puns, “S. Hall, famous wit” (see 6, with “medical” materials in 7).

     81. Such A Counterpart

     After my death, do not even say my pitiful name;
     let it be buried where my body is
     on the deathbed where it must die.
  4 The reluctant product of a wretch’s surgery
     that neither enjoys nor seeks any pleasure,
     the best I can write comes out as old words newly dressed,
     children delivered by section from your brain, and then attended to.
  8 In the writings of another, merely by controlling the style, you
     inspire it with your handsome face, shaping it with your lips; that writer has the means of getting
     separate raw material. A creature wracked, I am a worthless remedy, no booty, a molding chamber that only tortures.
     Anyway, assuming that unknown future voices praise your life so that it’s openly recast,
12 you, truly fair, will have been sympathetically portrayed.
     As the long-gone writer, now dead, I do not impair beauty by staying mute,
     and some future, counterpart voice shall spread the fame of my friend’s wit—or beauty’s, or maybe even his own.


          Typically, the “conflict” here is tongue-in-cheek wit: Will, a “mute” (13), pits himself against some “other” (8), a “counterpart” (14) who may in fact be Will himself, in the role of Runeman, working against the interests of Will the public poet. Also typically, many other figurative details here allude to the double-composition process itself.

          This rune interweaves imagery about dramatic recitation, surgery, and “founding.”

          Figures suggesting stage performance include “rehearse” (1, 11); “dressing [‘addressing’ and ‘costuming’] old words new” (6); “delivery” (7); “works” and “style” (8); “thy cheek” (9), implying oratory and stage rouge; “sympathized” (12); “mute” (13); and “counterpart” (14) as “understudy” and “role.” “Expire” (3) links with “cheek” while hinting at a melodramatic stage death. “Rehearse” puns twice on “re-entomb” and thus clusters with “buried,” “body,” “deathbed,” and “expire” (2-3).

           The strained analogy of surgery and section birth (4-7) represents a perverse delivery—from “thy (th’ high) brain”—of word-children that are then “nursed,” and “dressed,” the last implying bandages. Strained body-part puns include “de-livered” (7), “tongue stop” (11), “cunt or part” (14), and “pursuing node, lights” (5). Augmenting other imagery about outrageous surgery are “mend” (8), “wracked” (10), and “impair” (13). “Tongues-to-be” (11) might be crying newborns. Birth (see 4-7) and “expiring” (see 1-3) are contrastive analogs for what is happening to each new rune, which Will buries in the very process that he uses to bring it to life.

          The image of a foundry, starting with “works” (8), accumulates in such details as “found” (9); “cheek” (9), either as bellows or as a part of a flask (OED 1650); “Ore” (10); “racked” (10) as “stored on shelves”; and “tongs, too, by your benches all are here” (11). Lines 8-9 picture the friend’s “cheeks” (a suggestive term for body parts) as a mold that gives “others’ works” proper shape. (An “oather” is a sworn coterie member.) The troublesome metaphor “being wracked, I am a worthless boot (boat?)” links with imagery about “founding” because a boot is an instrument of torture in which a part of the victim is enclosed--like an object being pressed in a mold. The pun “worthless booty” meanwhile echoes “coward conquest" (4).

          Wit about the Runegame includes the pun “Minim [i.e., a penned or printed stroke] be buried where my bawdy is” (2). “Counter-part” (14) puns on “half a numbers scheme.”

          Some jokes seem aimed at Thomas Thorpe, Will’s known printing agent, who (I deduce) helped the poet execute his scheme by overseeing the printing of Q. Examples include these: “Rack, Tommy [Q t ) I am a], worthless bawdy, / And tongues-to-be your bench shall rear, see; Tho. T, rule this [Q ys, with y = archaic thorn = th] air weird truly... (..., true lies)” (12). “Rack” implies “hang printed sheets on racks”; “rule” means “arrange in straight lines”; and an “air” is a poem.

          As usual, wit about Will’s family in Stratford inheres in the letterstring codelines. A play about the dead son, Hamnet, occurs as “O’er, being wracked, eye Ham, a worthless body” (10). The echoic lines that bracket this pun—“stale Anne, sound it in thy cheek” (8-9) and “ worthless, bawdy Anne tongues ‘To be’…” (10-11)—link with “rehearse” (11) to insinuate a flickering instance in which the poet’s wife mouths Hamlet’s lines. The pun “My Annie may (...enemy) be buried where my body is”(2)—that is, “...back in Stratford”—is a truism.

          Several puns suggest a preoccupation with Susannah Hall, Will’s daughter: e.g., “Sue Hall my Bess [i.e., the granddaughter, Elizabeth?] is dressing” (6) and, terminally, “S. Hall is a ‘miss-wit (’” (14). Susannah, plausibly “Sue,” the wife of a well-educated physician, was according to tradition Will’s favorite. Here the puns “Sue Hall, my best...” (6) and “...S. Hall, famous wit”(14) support that view. Around 1606-1609, the textual focus on surgery and delivery would plausibly have had both Sue and Dr. John Hall in mind.

          The punning joke “Eye Southy deathbed: W., Harry, O knight, must expire this hour” (3-4) seems aimed at Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton, Will’s only known patron.

Sample Puns

          1) Don, O, t’ some you just may be a whore in a merry hearse; Dough-knot is O mucky, seamy, poor; foam you chase may be whore
          1-2) pouring aye, merry simony may be buried; name rare see: My name!
          2) My Annie may be buried where my body is; Minim, a babe, you’re aye dour, maybe odious; read Minim; W.H. a rheumy body is
          2-3) my beau diocese that, eyed, be dour; my bawdy “I-sauce” the teeth bit
          3) W., Harry, O knight muffed, ex-pirate (expired); W.H., a rune, aye Tom used t’ hex [...X— i.e., eradicate] peer; adieu, rune, it must expire
          3-4) peer, taste our dick, un-quaffed
          4) This Howard, conquest of a wretch’s knife; cue, east of a rude sea; see Howard sunk, west of a rude cheese knife (…cheesy knave)
          4-5) This our deacon quaffed, O-sewer, teaches nice pussies sin, joy, or pure swinging o’ delight
          5-6) Pussy, ass, sing o’ our pure Sue, engine o’ delight, Sue Hall, my best…; jets o’ alum befit ass-duress; note Eli jets oil, maybe sties’ dressing
          6) Sue Hall may be Shakespeare’s duress (…may be sties dressing); …dress in gold old words new
          6-7) duress, angel-war, Dis knew, though siege ill drain your fit [i.e.,stanza]; nude; word sinewed O-vigil, drain your fit
          7) see cauldron your Shakespeare delivered from thy brain; formed he a B-rune (...Berowne)
          7-8) Hebron eying, oathers were kissed; fetch ill drain, nurse did liver deformed hie, bearing an odorous work; siege ill terrain in your fit, delve hard—Dis, Rome, Tiber, eye Nine others
          8) thistle
          8-9) Another ass were kissed, how does taboo, Tommy, end the ass-tilling sounded in thy cheek? the style, Anne found it; Anne descended; t’ mend theft ill, Anne found eternity
          9-10) tinty, cheeky, see Anne—a sword o’er being wrack’d; …afford her…jam (ham, Ham); see Anne, ass whored; kiss Anne’s farter (father)
        10) Arsy being, wrack Tom, a worthless body; racket; racked llama wore th’ lass
        10-11) a worthless bow (beau), tainted hound, gas to be; jam a whore, th’ lass bawdy, Anne, dead, O you inch (you ingest); tan Dido inches to bier           
        11) Anne tongues “To be”; bare being, S. Hall rears; tup Europe; stubbier be inches Hall rears
        11-12) S. Hall rare see, thou, truly fair, wert truly sympathized
        12) The outer Phyllis hairy were, T.T., or you lie, ass
        12-13) some pity Zed [i.e., “Z”] if O-rhyme pair not; …if faux-rhyme appear not; pity Zed for impairing ode
        13) Fore “I” impair not, be inch muddy
        13-14) T.T., realize impetus, deform peer, knot-bawdy being mute, and f--k a counterpart; …being mutant; tanned, f--ker counterpart follows Amos: Wyatt
        14) Anne defuses “O,” you enter, part ass, awl Same-as-wit; Anne f--k, eye cunt, her part false, amiss; S. Hall, famous wit (wight); S. Hall, same as Sue, eyed; foul is Amos-wit; S. Hall is ame, high, sweet; f--k (suck) a count, rip hard; End-f--ks interpret S.Hall’s ami sweet; S. Hall is a “miss-wit”

Acrostic Wit

          Inherent in the downward acrostic code—DM A TP STIAOAT FA—are such potential readings as these: “Dim, eye type, state [a printer’s term?] fey”; “Damned P.S.: Titus [F = S, conventionally, because the lower-case forms look alike] eye”; “Dimity postscript, tidy [tight], fey […see, say]”; “Damn aid, P. S., tied fey”; “Damn 8 pissed aye, 8 (…Iota) fey”; and “D’ maid (...mate) pissed aye....” “Fey” (adj.) means “weak” or “doomed.”

          The upward acrostic code—AFTAOAIT SPT A MD—can be read, e.g., “After Wit S., pity M.D.,” “After[wards], Wyatt’s pity omit (...hummed; ...emit),” “Aft a white (...wide) ass, pity M.D.,” “A state asp damned,” “Estates, pity M.D.” “Halved a wide ass, pity M.D.,” “Estate spied aye M.D.,” and “Ass tight [F=S], speedy M.D.” (Wyatt is a 16th century English sonneteer, Will’s forerunner. The medical wit is likely to have in mind Will’s son-in-law, Dr. John Hall of Stratford.)

           The down/up “hairpin”code suggests, e.g., “Damned P.S.—tidy, fey—of Titus pity hymned.” “Titus” may link the Q texts with the King James Bible translation project, a possibility that many other details in Q encourage, as does Psalm 46. But TAOAIT-S also encodes “Tidy S.” and “tight-ass.” The near-palindrome TAOAIT/TIAOAT also signifies “tide” and “tied.” Suitably, …AFT (reversed) occurs aft in the downward codestring as one sees it in the runic text. “Postscript” wit is appropriate in this “afterthought” mini-text, the acrostic. Bodily emissions here include PS and SPT, each a bit like an ocean TIAOAT. SPTAMD may encode “sputum’d.”

           Other readings of the hairpin include the variant “Dammèd piss-tide, sea aft, aye awaits. Pity M.D.”

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