Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets

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 60
Return to the Index of Set V

Rune 59
Third lines, Set V (Sonnets 57-70)

                         Rune 59

     (Third lines, Set V: Sonnets 57-70)

     I have no precious time at all to spend
     Or at your hand th’ account of hours to crave
     Which, laboring for invention, bear amiss,
 4  Each changing place with that which goes before.
     Dost thou desire my slumbers should be broken,
     And for this sin there is no remedy?
     When hours have drained his blood and filled his brow,
 8  When sometime lofty towers I see downrazed,
     How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
     And needy Nothing, trimm’d in jollity
     That sin by him advantage should achieve?
12 Before these bastard signs of fair were born,
     All tongues, the voice of fools, give thee that end:
     The ornament of beauty is suspéct.
     Glosses: 3) puns: “Witch,” “bear/bare a ms.”; 7) hours puns on whores; his suggests rage’s, beauty’s (9), the poet’s, and Christ’s (from contextual clues); 10) needy Nothing = the runic poem, a stillborn “bastard” (with pudendal wit); 12-13) born and give are past and/or subjunctive verbs

     59. Lofty Towers Downrazed

     I have no precious time at all to waste
     or to spend craving a first-hand account of how you pass the hours in your day,
     hours in which I work to be inventive but produce only flawed offspring,
  4 each one interchangeable with the one just before it.
     Do you want me to go sleepless
     to a point where my situation is hopeless?
     When time has drained a body’s blood and filled the head,
  8 when sometimes I see ambitious erections razed, extravagant projects undermined,
     how, against such madness, can a plausible case be made jointly (in these coeval texts) by beauty
     and by this poor, inconsequential offspring, dressed to look gay
     so that his faulty nature is rationalized and makes headway?
12 Before such bastard displays of outward good looks were created,
     every foolish voice publicized yours, badly:
     Trying to decorate beauty is a questionable endeavor.


          Like many conventional apologies and mea culpas in the runic texts of Q, this complaint about the persona’s frustration over his “labor” and “offspring” belies real accomplishment. Will’s interest in the topic of birth is likely a part of his grandfatherly interest in his own new granddaughter, born in 1608. A key pun (3) reminds us, that—like her poet-father—Susanna has “born a miss.”

           The dominant “offspring” metaphor—consistent with the Christian truism that children are “born in sin”—begins at “laboring…, bear amiss [ms.]” (3). We hear about Will’s “sin” (6) and find that any child of his is a poor orphan (6, 10-12), a bastard offspring, a poor copy of handsomeness (12). We get hints about nightly crying (9), red-facedness (7), and changes in the brat’s mood (10). Jokes about the child’s “end” or his (?) “ornament of beauty”—his “lofty tower downrazed”—intersperse the comedy. (The Tower and “rival poets” lines [8, 13] suggest Southy as a main auditor.) But “needy No-thing” (10) and “bear/bare a miss” suggest the contrary idea that the “bastard” is a girl—in which case “beauty” would have, or need, no “ornament” (14).

           A concurrent masturbatory joke opens with the puns “I have no precious time à tail to spend” (1) and “at your hand” (2). The next lines joke about an unskilled hand at work (3) and about successive strokes or interchanging hands (4), about being kept up nights by the “sin without remedy,” and about “draining his blood.” The ambiguous “he” (5-7) facilitates the phallic wit, which becomes blatant in the line about “sometime-lofty towers” that are “downrazed” (8)—with the overlaid pun “I seed.” “This rage” (9) thus epitomizes autoeroticism, and “needy Nothing trimm’d in jollity”—perhaps pudendal—may describe a small, happy phallus, the terminal “ornament of beauty” (14) that is “suspect” because it’s a “sinner.” “Needy” puns on “Kneady”; “trimm’d” suggests “cut short”; “All tongues…give thee that end” implies oral sex; and “Fore, this fin” (6) is fishy, too. “Dost thou desire my slumber’s fold be broken” (5)—a pun about counting sheep—suggests penetration in a crevice. “Mice lumber” is a neat kenning for “small penis.” Wen (“protuberance”), “low sty,” and “foamtime” (8) add witty texture.

           The oxymoron “downraised” (8) suggests both burial and “rearing” children. The closing pun “Isus pecked (pissed)” partakes of sacrilegious bawdry that colors other elements. Connections between “acrostics” and the Cross (as implements of torture) may help explain recurring “biblical” wit in Q.

Sample Puns

          1) I halve an “O,” precious time [meter]; I have no peer; a tale to spin; eye metal to spend
          1-2) S. penned “O,” read you our handy account
          2) Orator Anne, thick cunt; O reader, handy cunt of whores to crave; crow; C-row; zero; you into forest to crow; Tower handy th’ S.-count offers; a boring foreign wind I own; bury a ms.
          2-3) our stoker, W.H., I see
          3) Witch, laboring for invention, bear amiss; a ms.; Pyramus
          3-4) a ream I siege; bury m’ ass-itch, see “hanging place” witty Hat.-witch goes before; Jew-ass be sore
          4) play’s witty; police, witty t’ Hat.; Sue eyed Hittite
          5) Dusty; Dost thou defy rheumy slumbers; a firm wife lumbaris should be broken; old baby rock, Anne
          5-6) Canaan deserts sin; If Hall (Ass-holed) be B-row keen, Anne farts finite
          6) Harry S. know remedy; Anne; Anne farts seen, there (th’ air) is no remedy; Fore this senator I snore; Harry, eye snow
          6-7) this sin, the reason our Medea W.H. inures, half drained his blood
          7) W., Hen., whores have drained his blood; Anne filled [filed, suggesting changing letter shapes in the type tray] his B-Row; should Rhine die? die, Sibyl odd and defiled; our Shottery ends, bloody and defiled
          7-8) Anne S., ill, dies; his B-rune, sometime lofty, towers
          8) summit; omit Himalayas t’ eye towers; Tower is, I see, downrazed; W., Hen., foamed aye, mellow, fit, ate whores; is he down her ass, Ed.? 9 Howard hits, rages
          9-10) rage, asshole bawdy, hold apple, ending Eden; lea Andean, Eden, owe
          9-11) S. Hall, beauty holed, aye plain, denied John “O”—th’ inch trimmed in jollity that sin by him advantage should achieve
        10) Nothing [pudendal]; join jet rhyme-din, jolly t’ eye; eye Medean jollity
        10-11) eye midden [i.e., dunghill], Io-elated Hat. is in; elate that Finn, buy him advantage
        11) fin [phallic]; hymn odd, wan, t’ ages faulty; Ham’et, wan t’ ages, old, dead, see high
        12) Be sore; B4 [a gameboard position in the Q Game]; hard fig, in ass of fire we’re boring; heavy bastard is Anne S.; hard, fine saucer were borne; hard sickness
        12-13) signs of fair Europe or Nile t’ own
        13) tongues [bawdy]; fowls, souls, fools; Sue, you lass; All tongues…Judith attend (Hall tongues…Judith at end); eye Cecil, ass
        14) Thorn o’ men, tough be, haughty; Th’ horn o’ man, tough beauty (bawdy, body); Thor enemy end ; Jew, the thought end: The ornament? Host, bawdy Jesus, pissed

Acrostic Wit

          The downward (and visually most emphatic) acrostic codeline—I OWE DAW WHAT BAT—is particularly convincing as an authorized contrivance because the letters coalesce into recognizable lexical forms. The letterstring, typically ambiguous, yields such potential readings as these: “I owe daw [i.e., simpleton] white bait [as opposed, say, to the black of printed characters],” “Io, widow, I debate,” “I owe daw wheat bait,” “I owe widow Hat.[a] bite (bat [phallic]),” “I owed [i.e., admitted] aye, weight (...weighty) be Hat.,” “Eye ode, ode-bait,” “…ode odd be had,” “Jawed, aught [anything] be ate,” “Judith [code IOWEDAWWHAT] bide,” “Judith be 8 (…bayed),” “Judith, 8 [B=8], 8,” “Judy, 8+8+8 [in February 1609, Judith was 24],” “Judy weighed 88,” and “Judy witty bayed” (cf. puns Rune 59.13). The opening letterstring elements also suggest“Judah.”

          The upward codeline—TA BTA HW WADE WO I—suggests, e.g., “T’ Betty, you aid woe aye,” “T’ Betty, you, adieu. Why?” “To beat a hue, a dew, owe I [masturbatory],” “Tee! Bitty, you weighed VV [10 pounds?]. Why?” “Tidy [B=8] Hugh, aid woe,” “‘To be,’ to H.W. weighty woe.”

           The down/up code suggests, e.g., “Judah we debate a bit: Await woe I,” “...I bet I await woe aye,” “Judy weighed Betty, Betty weighed 1001,” and “Judith bayed ‘To be’ to you. Adieu.” (Various subtextual scenarios in Q depict Judy as an unskilled musical or theatrical performer childishly seeking attention.)

          The codeline plays not only on the Will’s younger daughter’s name (Judith) but also on his wife’s. As an anagram (which I tend to avoid getting into unless the instance is insistent), the down letterstring houses AWW [a typographic variant of ANN] HAT... as well as the phonic components of Hathaway, HAT-OWE-I. Forms of the encoded joke include “I, O, wed Anne Hat-body” and “...Anne Hat-bait”; “Tin-wit, Anne Hat...”; and “I owed [i.e., acknowledged] awe: What a body!” The derogatory linkage of Anne with BAT is an insinuation that transcends time.

Proceed to Rune 60
Return to the Index of Set V
Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets