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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 83
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Rune 82
Twelfth lines, Set VI (Sonnets 71-84)

                           Rune 82
     (Twelfth lines, Set VI: Sonnets 71-84)

     But let your love even with my life decay
     And live no more to shame nor me nor you,
     Consumed with that which it was nourished by,
 4  Too base of thee to be rememberèd.
     Save what is had, or must from you be took,
     Spending again what is already spent
     To make a new acquaintance of thy mind.
 8  And arts with thy sweet graces gracèd be—
     No praise to thee, but what in thee doth live,
     He of tall building and of goodly pride—
     When all the breathers of this world are dead,
12 In true plain words by thy true-telling friend
     (When others would give life and bring a tomb)
     Making his style admirèd everywhere.
     Glosses: 2) nor/nor = neither/nor; 12) by also suggests “buy,” i.e., acquire with effort (ME).

     82. He of Tall Building

     When I die, just let your love for me die
     so that it no longer lives to shame either of us,
     consumed with the physical life that once nourished it,
  4 a thing too worthless for you to think about further.
     Hold onto what you have at that point, or you will lose it,
     reinvesting what you once spent on our love
     in an effort to renew an acquaintance with your intellect.
  8 Thereafter the arts will be visited and enriched by your most pleasant attributes—
     no thanks to yourself, but to what thrives eternally under the influence of your spirit,
     an ambitious builder, a man of strong pride—
     even after all the talkers die off, and in fact until the end of time,
12 with the straightforward words of your always-forthright friend
     (being unlike those of others who offer you memorial tributes that are as empty as tombs)
      having qualities of style that are, and will be, universally admired.


          This satisfying lyric seems likely to emerge from the Runes as a favorite. Like its set-peers, it focuses on the Q project and its future—exchanging self-deprecation for a tone of “goodly pride” (10). Given his stylistic leanings toward obfuscation, Will’s irony in line 12 is absolute. One upshot of the poem is to encourage any auditor to cultivate the mental and aesthetic senses by studying the hard poems that the Master Builder, under the influence of his muse, is erecting.

           The architectural metaphor of adaptive restoration seems apt, given our role here, and the texture of the poem is heavy with references to economic activity and buildings. The main verbs are imperative—let, live, save, be graced, even buy (pun, 12); in fact, the rune might be called “A Lesson in the Economics of Aesthetics.” “Tall building” (10) makes the architectural figure overt, and “everywhere” (14) fits well because such a building can be seen from all around. “Let” and “decay” (1) suggest, perhaps, rental property; “re-membered” (4) puns on “re-built”; and “Spending again what is already spent” (6) means partly that we are “saving” old materials here as we become “acquainted” with the poet’s “arts” (cf. 5-8). Other diction about economics and business includes “save,” “had,” “took” (5), “a gain” (6), “make” (7), “making” (14), “buy” (12), “give,” “bring” (13), and the acrostic letterstring ACTS (suggesting “accounts”). “True telling” means accurate counting, and “style” (14) means architectural manner and decoration. “True plain words” and “true telling [reckoning]” (12) finally foil the details about decay, shame, and baseness (1-3).

           Amplifying the idea of building is a play on “stick/stich [i.e., line, row]” in the acrostic codeline. (See below.)

           “Too base of thee to be re-membered” (4) seems to denigrate the dis-membered runic texts, and the directive “Save what is had” may mean that an auditor should read the overt Sonnets rather than straining the mind with any “new acquaintance” (7) the Runes would represent. (The pun “Save what I shat...” is concurrent.) ”“Tall building and…goodly pride” (10) decodes disparagingly as “Tower of Babel.” The “tomb/tome” play is routine in Q: The Runes themselves, both entombed and entomed, fit Will’s description of things that may lie lifeless and lost forever (13). By hinting at real, “windy” rival poets—the other “breathers of this world” (11) who offer “life, and bring a tomb (…tome)” (13)—the rune makes us imagine Southampton, “shamed” but much patronized, as auditor (cf. Akrigg 280).

           The “breathers of this world” (11)—like the Big Bad Wolf—might “blow your house down.”

Sample Puns

          1) Butt; But Hell-Anne (Helen) [et = and]; your loin, witty malaise decaying; your low venue [assault] eyed; witty, mellow, fey dick eye
          1-2) witty my livid Seine; item yellow, said candle, eye, venom o’ red, tough Hamnet; eye (witty, mellow) F. de Sandell, I’ve no Moor (more) to shame knot (an oat, an ode)
          2) Anne, live no more; In loo know more to fame knot; know Moor tough; End, live no more, tough Hamnet—me nor you
          2-3) O, famine, autumn (Ottoman), Norse, once you met with; Menorah see on summit witty
          3) the twitch eye twice in your wry shit; Cunt fumed with thought, witch it was nourished by
          3-4) bit o’ base Eve t’ heed: “O,” bare member red
          4) “To be,” aye seizes thee to be remembered; beef
          4-5) off the top (of the tup), hairy ma’am bred Southy, shitter mused
          5) Southy shit, O removed form, you bit hook; Save W.H. aye t’ shit; Saw W.H.; shitter must from you (ewe) be took; muff’d; adore, musty ass, Rome
          6) Ass penned engaging newt, eisell red ye’ve penned; nude “I” is already spent; His pen t’ engage Annie What-I-say, awl ready (red “Y”) is penned
          6-7) of pen T.T. ought ache anew, as quaint Anne seized him
          7) take a new ass, cunt, t’ Anne; Anne seized Hymen
          7-8) ofttime in Dane, darts widowed Swede (few); Indian (Andean) arts witty…graced be; witty thief Waite graces Grey; oft Hymen deigned our tease witty
          8) egresses gray see
          9) Anne apprised ode; Know, peer, ass toothy—but [merely] what in thee doth live; be you twat (taut, taught); end had oath alive; heady o’ th’ loo; peers taut, Hebe, you, twat, eye; W.H., eye tainted oath
          9-10) doth Livy heave (hiss) at all (Hall)?
        10) Heaved Hall; He of tall-built inch, Anne-O’s goodly pride [a phallic self-congratulation?]; Gandolf good liberate; John (engine) does good labor aye
        10-11) end of God, liberate W.H.; peer, eye duenna, lady bared t’ her ass; peer eyed W.H. and Hall, the buried hearses t’ hiss
peer eyed W., Hen. awl, the breeder soft, high, swirled, aye ready (reedy), odd—in true, plain words, bitty
        11) eye there Hostias, world, our editing t’ rue, plain words spited
        12) plain words betide rude Helen
        12-13) is rien, duenna there?
        12-14) by the yet-rude hell-inch is rune twinned here, ass, woody [i.e., knotty, crazy] jewel eye, fiend, baring a tome, making his style admired everywhere
        13) wood, Jewless Anne—débris in jet; old Joel eye, fiend-baring Adam (atom)
        13-14) eye Tom be May-King, his style admired; …B.M. aching his ass; …his ass is t’ lady (laddie) mirrored; eye Tom be my Khan, Genghis [an anagram]; W., Hen., oather, is woody Jew, living to be ringed homme
        14) Making jests ill, odd, miry, very “tin-ear” [W=VV=10]; his style admired every W., Harry [every crotch hairy, with W = pictographic crotches]; lady mirrored Eve rare; eye ready, Vere you hear

Acrostic Wit

          The visually emphatic downward codeline—BAC TS ST AN H WIWM—is particularly intriguing, especially for juxtaposing forms of Satan and William. Potential readings include these: “Back [Baked]! ’Tis Satany William,” “Big [Bag] ’tis, St. Anne-womb,” “Be Acts Satan-whim,” “B…A…C…: ’Tis St. Anne whim.” Iconographically, St. Anne was often shown teaching her daughter Mary (Jesus’ mother) to read; the joke here is that Anne “whimsically” screws up the alphabetic order.

           The concurrent upward codeline—MWIWHN A TS STCAB—contains such potential encryptions as these: “Him wound, aye, ‘tis scab [conflating ‘Saint-scab’ as an anagram],” “Minutes t’ sop,” “Hymen innate is saint-scab,” “Mewed [Cooped up] asses t’ see A/B [alternate forms in Q],” “Mew [i.e., Coop up] you innate ass, saint; see ape,” “Mew you innate asses t’ gape,” and “Mew I W.H., Nate—ass [&] saint, see, A [&] B.” The endpun “stich up” (STC AB) suggests the upward form of the acrostic codeline, since a stich is a line or row, punnning on stick. A stick, of course, is a suitable building implement for a man “of tall building and of goodly period.” (Because period suggests sentence, it also suggests row or line.)

          One reading of the down/up hairpin codeline is this: “Back ’tis Satany William. Mewn, I tease, stick up [suggesting ‘with an erection’].” Paraphrased, the message reads, “Devilish William is back again. Locked up here in the Runes, randy as ever, I use an upward acrostic to tease you.”

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