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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        

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Rune 68
Twelfth lines, Set V (Sonnets 57-70)

                          Rune 68

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

Save where you are (how happy!) you make those
     Yourself to pardon of self-doing crime—
      Or whether revolution be, the same
 4  (And nothing) stands but for his scythe to mow.
     To play the watchman ever for thy sake,
     Self so self-loving, were iniquity.
     My sweet love’s beauty, though my lover’s life
 8  That time will come and take. My love away,  
      O’er, who his spoil or beauty can forbid?
     And captive Good, attending Captain Ill,
     And proud of many, lives upon his gains,
12 Robbing no old to dress his beauty new.
     To thy fair flower add th’ rank smell of weeds
     To tie up, envy evermore enlarged!
4) his = revolution’s (alluding to time, “revolving” daily); 7) lover’s = lover is (punning on “lower S.-leaf,” the runic page); 8) time (always a pun on Tommy, suggesting Thomas Thorpe) puns on “(my own) meter,” these verses; 9) O’er (Q Or) suggests “Dead, his life over,” punning on “Oar” (phallically suggestive) and Whore; 10) captive Good and Captain Ill are, jokingly, the poet and his unnamed auditor/friend; 11) many = many gains, punning on “my Annie”; 13) flower puns on “flow-er” (a body-part pun that also suggests penman); weeds, suggesting funereal garb, puns on “witty ass” and “Witty S.”

     68. Weeds for Captain Ill

     Everywhere except where you are (a happy exception!) you make men
     forgive you for wrongs that they imagine and dwell on or that you really inflicted.
     The process is as inevitably as—wherever the earth turns or rebellions happen—
  4 time’s mowing everything and everybody down, each in turn, so that nothing lasts.
     For me to keep on in the role of your attentive watchman,
     given your vanity and self-centeredness, would be sinful.
     My sweet love is beautiful; however, my lover is life
  8 that time will come and take. My love not being here,
     who can deny the hold of his beauty or reject the ruin it brings? And who can stop my spoiling his appearance in these lines with odd adornments?
     Thus, I in the role of Captain Good, standing by the bier of Captain Ill,
     proud of many gains—my own, my friend’s—and still flourishing because of both,
12 decide to adorn his beauty in figurative garments never worn by anyone dead before:
     To your fair rose, let’s add the rank smell of weeds, adorning you thus in funeral garb
     and lacing you and death up in it, thereby expanding admiration infinitely for us both. (Tying weeds onto your “flow-er” would make it bigger for all eternity.)


          The wit of this sarcastic, friend-berating knot depicts the poet’s primary auditor, “Captain Ill” (10), as a handsome, self-occupied manipulator who puts Will and others in positions of apology (2) and watchfulness (5) without assuring them anything in return. The friend’s virtue, his “beauty” (7, 9, 13)—always a pun in Q on “bawdy” and “body”—links with “his spoil” (9) because it is corrupting and cannot last (7-8ff.). Will vengefully asserts his independence by penning a conceit that sketches the friend’s death (and the poet’s own fulfilled survival) and that awards “weeds” as a funeral tribute (10-14). Puns occur on death as orgasm and on “weeds” as funereal clothes.

        Adding “the rank smell of weeds” to the friend’s bouquet is an apt figure for the Rune’s perversion of a friendly tribute by figuratively effecting the friend’s “death.”

           By contrast, the poet represents himself as a “captive Good” (10) whose “self-doing crime” (2) may be obsequious attentiveness. As “watchman” he has been enthralled. As survivor he will be “no robber” (12) but will live upon honest gains, including handsome originality. In the fine print, however, he is himself proud (11), spiteful, self-loving, (6) and envious (14). In fact, both the epithets “self so self-loving” (6) and “envy evermore enlarged” (14) ambiguously describe not only the friend but also the poet. Even the “self-doing crime” (2) becomes finally Will’s figurative act of murdering the friend, a crime the poet rationalizes. (The friend is doubly “murdered” because the report of his “death” is buried in these buried Runes.)

           The poem, as usual in Q, is heavy with sexual wit and especially with phallic bawdry, which is implicit in “self-doing crime,” “self-loving,” “revolution” (suggesting “turning around”), “his scythe to mow,” “come and take my love,” and so on. It’s unclear whether the friend needs phallic enhancement or already elicits “envy” for being overendowed (see 12). Such cultivated ambiguities color the poem with low wit.

           In any case, Will identifies the auditor with time, mowing down everything with “his scythe” (3-4), suitably phallic. (The “no-thing” that that scythe cuts down [4] is a routine Renaissance pudendal pun.) The poet “plays the watch man” (5), and, like a cat, has “many lives” (11).

           The overlaid puns “To type newer (never) More enlarged” and “Tho. Thorpe never More enlarged” (14) seem to berate T.T. for not printing the More ms. that Will is known to have worked on. (T.T., whose initials appear on the title and dedicatory pages of Q, is known to be Thomas Thorpe, Will’s printing agent. In Shakespeare’s Handwriting [Oxford, 1916], Sir Edward M. Thompson has argued convincingly that three pages in the More ms. are our only surviving textual sample of the poet’s cramped hand.). Moor, with “enlarged,” is also a stereotypical joke about blacks and phallic size.

           Other puns in the rune may also have “T.T.” in mind as the poet’s “ed[itor],” and some of these may link Will’s wife with Thorpe—deducibly the necessary collaborator who helped Will see the Q project into print, jot-and-tittle. Examples of such wit include these puns: “Slave t’ Hat., Tommy will come and take my love away” (7-8); “To tup anew [an ewe] you err, my whoring, large ed[itor?]” (14); and “Ed. is to tie up [type] Annie, evermore enlarged” (13-14). The last is one of hundreds of throwaway jokes in Q about Anne’s corpulence. Will’s term gaines (11) always puns on “gay Annie S.” Here one full line pun is “Anne—deep, rude oaf, m’ Annie loose (a pun) hies, gay Anne S.” (11). “Loose weapon hies” and “lives upon ice” are variant puns. (And see below.)

           A joke about Geo. Eld, in whose shop Q was printed, may lie in “ whoring George [E], ed.” (14).

           Grimmer family wit lurks in the terms “Fair flower” and “rank weeds” (13-14), which parallel not only Will’s Sonnets and Runes but also his other set of twins, Judith and Hamnet, the girl living, the boy, dead. Will, I propose, would have seen that his Sonnets memorialized the living daughter, his Runes, the buried son. Wit about Will’s other daughter and her husband, Sue and John Hall, occurs in the pun “Sue, John [= w = IN = Jn.] H., ’ere you are, how happy you make th’ O’s [= rounds, runes]” (1). On one level, I deduce, Q is an epithalamion group celebrating the Halls’ 1607 marriage in Stratford, with Sue and John the “master/mistress” of the poet’s “passion” (see Sonnet 20.2, where an eyepun on “halved” occurs). The early texts about “marriage and increase,” and especially Set I (Sonnets and Runes 1-14), make particular sense in this context.

           “Soft, W., Harry, you are; how happy you make th’ hose” (1) may be a sexual joke residually aimed at Henry Wriothesley, the third earl of Southampton, often proposed as the mysterious “Mr. W.H.” of Q’s dedication. The phallic humor links with “self-doing crime” (2).

Sample Puns

          1) Sour ewe eye; Saw W.H. error; Sir, a robe you may get, hose; Sue, John [W = IN], Harry; Is Hugh-John here? Sour, Europe B.M. ached; How happy you make a thief
          1-2) a row, a poem eye, Cato’s, you wrestle; see your cell, set apart enough; ached hosier’s elf atop our don’s ass—elf-doing crime
          2) hard-on, of self-doing crime; tup hardens ass; see rhyme, with fame (3) a half-rhyme; see leaf, do in jest rhyme; our don’s cell, Phaedo (Fido) eye
          3) “O”-rooter ruled aye on Betty’s ham; O rude Harry, faulty, I own bitty fame; N.B. Edith’s ami (ame, aim)
          3-4) O, rude Harvey old, I own be the simian don; simian Dan owed inches t’ Anne; Betty ass amend, no-thing stands; bitty as a man, th’ “no-thing” stands; Anne No-Thing Shakespeare ends beau thesaurus
          4-5) forest (ass) sayeth “Tom” audibly t’ you aye; homo, to Plato I teach my newer farty f--k; widow (wet “O”) Plato adage may never fart; sorrow’s feet hit homo; forty have aches; thesaurus sayeth to multiply
          5) Doubly to you I teach manners; To plate, huge menu errs o’er this
          5-6) For this, a kiss, elf is awful fellow (fallow, Selah); Two plight—you, edge-man, you’re forty, ass aches
          6) Cell see, fossil-fellow in Jewry eying equity, my Swede, loose beau Ty. Th[orpe]; Sue; foe; false love-inch were in aye (eye); W., Harry
          6-7) see low injury, John, I quit y’ ms. witty, lose beauty, theme y’ love—arse-lies (arse-life); My feudal office bawdy, th’ “O” huge “8” hell evaded Tommy; huge Himalayas leave (lie fetid t’ eye); thou my liver sliced; slave t’ Hat., Tommy, welcome Anne, take my love away; my lover is Levite Hath-i-may [with m an inverted w].
          8) T’ Hath-i-may, Will come, Anne, Take-my-love-away [cf. “bookends” T’hat…away, with “And” central]; eye mule’s omen; antique (antic) Emilia weigh; mean, dead (mended), a camel, O, you eye
          9) Arouse pole, our bawdy cancer bed; Who hisses, “Pole or bawdy Seine forbid?”; see Anne’s orbit (whore-bit, Arbeit); spoil our boutique and sorbet
          9-10) O, Rizzy’s spoiler bawdy see, Anne S., our bed, handicapped
        10) In Dick apt, I’ve goaded end-inches; Handicapped eye of God attend; I’ve goaded Anne dying
        10-11) God attending Capet aye in hell
        11) I in Dipper Ode o’ simony live as a bonny, suckin’ ass; Livy (Levi) is up on high; Anne parrots many, lives upon “I second’s”; a pun eyes Janus
        12) Robin know; O, you lady odorous hiss; old, tottery ass; Robin Hood tawdry face; Robbing Anne halted her ease; Ralph is bawdy anew
        12-13) His Body y’ knew, Titus errs; Robing an old, tawdry ass hies Beauty anew, toothy, sour, slurred, the rank smell of weeds
        13) lurid heron seek; odd th’ rune, seek Ishmael a few
        13-14) seek female of Swede-ass To. Thorpe (to tie up) in fire, m’ O-rune large ed[it]; seek Semele’s weighty ass
        14) To tie up Annie, evermore enlarged; To type [i.e., epitomize] envy, ewe or Moor enlarged (anal argued, anal our jet); evermore enlarged ed[itor]; To type new ye veer, more enlarged; Moor enlarged; Doughty Eve, pen your Morn Large; more anal argot

Acrostic Wit

           The downward acrostic codeline—SYOAT S M T OA ARTT—may mean, e.g., “Sweet is S., empty o’ art,” “Sweet is my tart (hymn turdy),” “Sweet ass, empty Howard,” “Sighed is m’ tort (hymn t’ ’er titty),” “Side is (Swede’s, Southy’s, Site’s) empty o’ art,” “Sweet sum t’ awe, arty,” “Sight his mighty art,” “Cite empty whore, T.T.,” and/or “Ass you’d smite, hard.”

          The letterstring code SYOAT suggests both “Southy” and “Swede,” the first shorthand for Southampton (Will’s only known patron), the second recurrently allied in Q’s buried wit with “T.T.” The letterstring TOAARTT is scatological but also reads, e.g., “too hard,” “to art,” and “tart.”

          The upward codeTT RAAOT MS T AOYS—suggests, e.g., “Titty riot, Miss taste,” “Tirret [i.e., Tirade] missed eyes,” “Trade ms., tease,” “…hymn’s toys,” “T.T. read ms.-tease (toys),” “T.T. row, Tom’s toys,” “T.T. erred, misty eye is,” and “Tear at m’ stays [i.e., bone supports, a nice kenning for the acrostics].”

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