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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 V, Runes 57-70: Texts and Comments 
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2003, All Rights Reserved        

Proceed to Rune 59
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Rune 58
Second lines, Set V (Sonnets 57-70)

                         Rune 58
(Second lines, Set V: Sonnets 57-70)

     Upon the hours and times of your desire
     I should, in thought, control your times of pleasure;    
     Hath been before.... How are our brains beguiled!
 4  So do our minutes hasten to their end,
     My heavy eyelids to the weary night,
     And all my soul, and all my every part,
     With time’s injurious hand crushed and o’erworn—
The rich, proud cost of outworn, buried age.
     But sad mortality o’ersways their power
     As two behold desert a beggar born
     And with his presence grace impiety
12 When beauty lived and died. As flowers do now,
     Want nothing that the thought of hearts can mend;
     For slander’s mark was ever yet the fair.
   Glosses: 2) should puns on S. Hall; 3) Hath-been before suggests “Hath-away”; 4) So dour minutes... puns “dour written notes”; 6) note bawy puns on “end,” “awl,” and “part”; 9) But = Only (ironic); 10) two (ambiguous) = you and I, eyes, etc.; beggar = this rune (which “borrows” lines from the Sonnets and is an “outcast”); 12) flowers is a “musical” pun on “slurs”; 13) Want (as “miss” or “expect”) is ambiguously contradictory.

     58. A Beggar Born

     Whenever you may be in the right mood
     I’d like to direct the activity of your mind during leisure—by using my imagination and wit,
     as has happened formerly…. How our minds are mesmerized!
  4 With such pastimes our minutes rush toward oblivion, their destiny;
     my heavy eyelids hurry toward sleepless night;
     and all my soul, every part of me,
     is overburdened and crushed by the hurtful hand of time—
 the splendid price we pay for living long enough to put the past behind us.
     Nothing more nor less than sad mortality overcomes our faculties
     as two (a pair of eyes, you and I) see a poor, bereft beggar born here in these lines
     to grace with his presence an indecorous secular scene
where beauty lived and died in verse. Act the way flowers always have,
     needing nothing that affectionate human concern can supply.
     It is always natural for beauty to be the target of maliciousness.


          Rune 58 emerges as the string of 14 second lines in Set V, Sonnets 57-70. While none of the 154 Sonnets in Q has ever been heard before to comment on the poet’s struggles with double composition—and on how the Q project itself makes “sins” inevitable—that topic is now insistent, and not just in the Runes. The opening of Sonnet 66, “Tired with all these…,” for example, now means much more to us than it did before. And “Those parts…the world’s eye doth view” (Sonnet 69.1) now must mean “the Sonnets—not the Runes.”

           This particular text can be read as a complaint addressing the unnamed friend in which Will’s reverie (1-3) is interrupted by recognition of the mutable human condition (2-8); the sestet embeds a conceit (and rhetoric in general) that veers ambiguously toward bittersweet optimism. Beauty, a “beggar,” is a naked Cupid figure; the term is also a figure for the runic poem itself, which has to borrow lines from the visible sonnets to be born and which lives and dies in front of two (eyes, on-lookers) but which, like flowers, has no durable life—being created in a form that instantly self-destructs. “The thought of hearts” (13) echoes 1-2 and refers to Will’s heartfelt concern but also suggests Cupid.

           The vaguely paranoid last line reinforces our notion that the friendship and activity in which the poet desires to “control…times of pleasure” (2) is “impious” (11) for being an illicit passion. “Slander’s mark” (14) also echoes “time’s...hand” (7)—both inflicting damage on “the fair.”

           Among such echoic patterns that add texture and coherence are many terms about time. Too, the word “thought”—repeated early and late (2, 13)—allies with “our brains” (3) and contrasts (throughout) with “feelings.” “O’erworn" (7) has echoes in “outworn” (8), “o’ersways” (9), and the pun “wear-y” (5). A clothing motif lurks in these wear/worn words and in “fold” (puns 2, 6), “sew” (4), “mend” (13), “hue” (5), “dyed” (12), “rich…cost” (8)—and in codeline plays on “habit” and “hue” (see below). Two pairs of end rhymes also joke about clothes (o’erworn/mend) and nakedness (born/end). “Smirk” (pun 14) encodes an “attribute of a neat dresser” (OED).

           The pun “our baroness (barren ass) bejeweled” (3) jokes about testicles. Elsewhere in Q, “begild’d” may mean “yellowed with infantile feces”; here a “beggar born” who is “loo’d” and “dyed” (11-12) varies that scatological joke.

           The play “four Flanders marks” (14) amplifies “economic” images such as “whores in debt” (1), “our centimes afford” (1), “rich…cost” (8), “beggar” (10), “wit’s three cents” (11, p = th), “Want nothing” (13), and “poor” (9). A mini-pattern of imagery about gaming includes “roll your times of pleasure” (2), “injurious hand” (7), and “hearts can mend” (13).

Sample Puns

          1) A pun, th’ whore’s Anne; ascended; “the horse undid” amazes you (I may suffer); you, poor knight, our centimes offer defer
          1-2) desire assaulting thought; fire assholed in th’ “O”
          2) Eisell; Eye S. Hall; cunt-roll; Awful din, th’ “O” huge, t’ cunt-roll your times of pleasure; counter holier times; lay Artemis owes
          3) Hath. be Annie, base whore, whore, whore, barren ass big, wild; beef; O rare arbor eye: an ass big; our Orb, rune, is bejeweled; guild [i.e., coterie]; our brain is pickled (speckled)
          3-4) rains beguile De Soto; De Soto, our man, you eye; bejeweled, solder my knight’s half tin, taut, airy end
          4) Sotto, ermine you eye,’tis halved in two; to thee I runed; so dour my nuts (knots, naughts)
          4-5) Harry in demity is tawdry; in daughter-end, my heavy “I” I’d stow; our B-runes be Jew-led, so dour, minute, shaved           
          5) Midas taught you, “ear-y” knight; Move ye eyed, stout Harry, knight [cf. chess]; t’ Hugh (you) a rune I jet; my hideous daughter-whine I jet; a Rhiney jet
          5-6) negating Ptolemy is Oval Anne, Ptolemy, Eve, repartee (rip hard); Hairy Knight, Anne awl, my foul Anne
          5-7) I Tyndale missal eye and dull my very Bard-wit
          6) Hall; missal; Anne, all my soul, Anne, all my every part; handle my sullen’d awl…
          7) W.-item is in your eyes; Uriah’s hand; eye May sonorous; you shan’t see her used and dour; Shanty (chantey) cherished Anne          
Tan dowry were Nate, rich, proud; Witty times [metrical] John juries and cherished; end o’ row ornate (hornèd), rich, proud, coughed off
          8) T’ Harry icy Hebrew’d cause devout war in a buried age; outworn be your wry adage
          8-9) our neighbor eyed you, tough, odd Moor tall
          9) but is Adam o’er-tall; bawdy, eye Sodom; is Worcester poor? tie our (dear) Schwester poor; Beauty’s atom (Adam) or tall “I” tires (towers), wasteth heir-power [phallic]
          9-10) Tower’s ways, t’ Harry poor, a stubbled desert, aye, bigger; power aye is toppled, deferred
        10) assert a bugger be horny; a stubby hole did fart; egg; herb; a pitcher be horn
        10-11) A beggar be horny Anne, wet is brave end, see
        11-12) witty is Paris in cigarro’s impiety; End with Hesperus and see grassy hymn, piety, wind-beauty livid and dyed
        12) Anne died—ass lower, sad “O” enough; aye slurs [verbal; musical] do know; beauty lived in Dido’s ass; end Titus slurs; bodily; indict; err, Satan owe
        12-13) flow-er, sad Onan, t’ “no-thing” thought, that haughty oaf, hard as Cain
        13) Wan; No-thing’d Hat.…—hard scan, m’ end; artist, see Anne
        13-14) O farts, “See Anne, men, divorce’ll end her as m’ raucous Eve, riotous, airy”; Thetis’ hearty ass see and amend
        14) Fore is land, Arse, m’ ark, was ever yet this airy (aery); ever yet th’ S., Harry; “Four Flanders marks”—you read this, Harry; riotous air (heir); dear is Mark 10, a sewer, yet heavier; cue aye serrates Harry; Dearest Marcus; thievery

Acrostic wit

         In the visible downward acrostic codeline—VIHS [=F] MA WT BAAWWF[=S]—the capital letters “f” and “s” may merge, conventionally, because the lower-case printed forms looked alike in Will’s day. With that interchange working, the codeline suggests, e.g., such readings as these: “Whiff m’ witty beef,” “Vice may wit boss [i.e., decorate...with knots?],” and “Why is my wit (my ode) bouffa [i.e., comic]?” Other readings include “Wife m’ haughty boss [protuberance, etc.],” “Wife, m’ witty beef” (a reference to Anne’s obesity?), “Vice [Squeeze] m’ ode: Baaaa…,” “Vice mode [i.e., scheme of sounds, musical scale] be off…,” “Wise mode bows [musical],” and “Wise, Mighty—Be Off!”

           The upward (reverse) codeline—FW WAABT WAM S HIV—may be read to mean, e.g., “Few habit [sets of clothes?] Wm. S. have,” “Few, webbed, Wm.’s hive,” “Few wiped Wm.’s hue,” “Foe aped Wm.-show (…hue; …‘ladder fore’ = initial vertical acrostic),” “ Fitting [VV= 10] way be t’ Wm. S. ever [IV=4],” and “…t’ Wm.’s heifer [suggesting Anne].” The “dateline” interpretations “Feb. 7 [= T?] whams you,” “Feb. 7, 10:00 A.M, show,” and “Feb., 2:00 a.m., show” are typically inconclusive and non-exclusive. Numeric readings such as “Few, 8, 7, 10 [= VV], eye m’ five [S=F +HIV]” suggest themselves at every turn to an experienced player of the runecodes.

           The up/down string encodes “If Rabbett [in a tongue-tied form ], Wm. shivers (is ever ass), my wed boy-wife,” “Few Rabbett, Wm., shew, some odd boy-wife,” and the like, possible jokes about the King James Bible translator William Rabbett, one candidate for the role of instigator of the Psalm 46 wit playing on Will’s name.

           Other suggestions in the codeline are “habit,” “shivers” (code SHIVVIHS), “buff”—and “Shiva.”

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