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 VIII, Runes 99-112: Texts and Comments
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2003, All Rights Reserved        

             
Proceed to Rune 106
Return to the Index of Set VIII

Rune 105A,
Seventh lines in Set VIII (Sonnets 99-112)
Rune 105B, Eighth line in Sonnet 99
and Seventh lines in Sonnets 100-112


                        Rune 105A

     (Seventh lines, Set VIII: Sonnets 99-112)

     “And buds of marjoram had stol’n thy hair”—
     Sing to the ear that, doth thy lays. Esteem
     Beauty no pencil, beauty’s truth to lay
 4  As Philomel in summer’s front doth sing.
     That overgoes my blunt invention quite,
     Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burned;
     Therefore my verse to constancy confined
 8  I see their antique pen would have expressed.
     Incertainties now crown themselves, assured;
     Counting no old thing old, thou mine, I thine,
     Just to the time, not with the time exchanged,
12 These blenches gave my heart another youth
     To what it works in—like the dyer’s hand,
     None else to me, nor I to none alive.
__________
     Glosses: 1) marjoram is an aromatic herb; 2) the line may be a consciously “bad” one (see the apology in 5); 3) lay = publish, praise (in a “lay” or song); 4) Philomel = the nightingale (poetic); 5) That = Such beauty or singing; 8) I see = ...that I recognize; their = thy lays’ (see l. 2), implying classical (i.e., antique) authors’; antique puns routinely in Q on antic; 11) Just = Appropriate; not...exchanged = not anachronistic or passé; 12) blenches = side-glances, tricks (see “blanches,” whitenings).


                        Rune 105B
(8th line, Sonnet 99, + 7th lines, Sonnets 100-112)

     The roses fearfully on thorns did stand,
     Sing to the ear that doth thy lays, “Esteem
     Beauty no pencil, beauty’s truth to lay
 4  As Philomel in summer’s front doth sing.”
     That overgoes my blunt invention quite,
     Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burned;
     Therefore my verse to constancy confined
 8  I see their antique pen would have expressed.
     Incertainties now crown themselves, assured;
     Counting no old thing old, thou mine, I thine,
     Just to the time, not with the time exchanged,
12 These blenches gave my heart another youth
     To what it works in—like the dyer’s hand,
     None else to me, nor I to none alive.
__________
     Glosses: 1-2) stand, / Sing = stand and sing...; 3) lay = publish, praise (in a “lay” or song); 4) Philomel = the nightingale (poetic); 5) That = Such beauty or singing; 8) I see = ...that I recognize; their = thy lays’ (see l. 2), implying classical (i.e., antique) authors’; antique puns routinely in Q on antic; 11) Just = Appropriate; not...exchanged = not anachronistic or passé; 12) blenches = side-glances, tricks (see “blanches,” whitenings).


     105A. The Dyer’s Hand (I)

     “Now, sweet spices stole their fragrance from your hair”—
     these songs of yours sing such trite figures as that (in such convoluted syntax) for ears to hear! Notice how
     beauty is no instrument for heralding its own truth
  4 in the way that the nightingale (again I’m pressed for a figure) heralds the coming of summer.
     Such beauty and expressiveness go far beyond my dull skill,
     the fragrances of three springs having been consumed by three hot summers.
     Therefore my verse has limited itself to the immutable truth
  8 that the models of old songs and classic writers lead one to express.
     Though uncertainties now threaten to rule, regal self-assurance gains control:
     Measuring no basic, traditional thing as outdated; recognizing that we’re still each other’s;
     staying timely, metrically straightforward, and never outmoded, these things that are purely of the moment—
12 these blank pages filled with backward looking, playful views and with tricks to whiten the subject’s face—have given my heart new vigor
     to carry out its task in this context, just like the hand in the dyer’s vat,
     working alone, hidden and silent, totally self-absorbed.


      105B. The Dyer’s Hand (II)


     The roses—perched precariously above thorns, knowing their own beauty cannot turn itself into verses, reticent to offend a poet who can do so for them—stood up and
     sang in the ear of this poet who makes your verses, “Regard
     natural beauty as inadequate to record in poetry its own lovely reality
  4 in the way that the nightingale sings out to announce the start of summer.”
     Such facility goes far beyond my own dull skill—and in fact I’ve already almost exhausted my range here as a poet,
     three hot summers having consumed the fragrances of the last three springs.
     Therefore my verse has limited itself to the unchanging quality
  8 that in my opinion is seeking expression in nature’s beauty—and in classic poems.
     Uncertainties may now threaten to rule, but the fearful roses may rest easier, for my own self-assurance gains regal control:
     Measuring no basic or traditional thing as outdated, noting that you and I still belong to each other,
     staying timely and metrically accurate, not finding themselves discarded for modern modes,
12 these diverting glances—full of various sorts of playful tricks, bleachings, and white outs—have given my heart (and art) new vigor
     to carry out its task in this context, just like the hand in the dyer’s vat (another colorful medium),
     working alone, hidden and silent, totally preoccupied and self-absorbed.


Comments: 105A

          Given how hard it is to express the friend’s nature, Will—beauty’s “singer” (2-3)—chooses a “classic” approach. He illustrates his own “blunt invention” with strained conceits (1, 4, 6) and irregular lines (2, 3) before settling on “constancy” and the traditional (but “antic”) techniques of an “antique pen” (8, 10-11) so as to avoid “Incertainties” (9) and energize his efforts.

           The powerful primal figure of the “dyer’s hand” in the dye suggests “ink” and objectifies the poet’s isolated self-preoccupation as he pursues his project; the pun “dire sand” comments on the swift passage of time (see 6)—in a tantalizing line that seems a clue about dating the Q texts.

          “Incertainties” that Will “rejects” include aromas (1, 6) and the incorporeal song of a bird (4), as well as trite conceits, standard poeticisms (1, 4), and halting lines. He associates the antique mode with “constancy” (7) and links it with such details as “expressed” (8), “crown[ed],” “assured” (9), “just” (11), “work” (13), “None else” (14), and “old thing” (10)—but also, oxymoronically, with “youth” (12) and “alive” (14).

          Figures for Will’verse (7) include “s[o]ng” and “lay(s)” (2, 3, 4), “pencil” (3), “invention” (5), and “blenches” (12), the last suggesting “backward” glances, inconstancies (see 7, 9), tricks, blemishes, and blank pages. “Blunt” (5) suggests a dull pen; “antic pen wood” (8) puns on “crazy, playful writer”; “no pencil” (3) suggests “invisible writing” and puns “know th’ ancile [i.e., tutelary shield, a conceit I’ve found elsewhere for letterstring codelines that “cover” multiple meanings].” Puns about writing include “half expressed” (8); “X-pressed” as “acrostic printed”; “incertainties know, see round” (9); “counting” (10); “Just to the time” (11, suggesting “strict in meter”); and “None’ll see tome inner, eyed o[f] none alive” (14).

           Initial acrostic plays suggest Southampton, “Southy”—C /I /The (10-12, downward) and C/I/T/T/T/Tha (10-5, upward).

           Scents—gaseous things—dominate 1 and 6 and link with the pun “over[head] goes my ballooned invention quiet” (5), an epithet for the Runes (balloon OED 1634, from It. ballone).  

          
This variant has some good features that 105B lacks, including topical links between “marjoram” (105A.1) and “perfumes” (6) and among “hair,” “blenches,” and a vat of dye.

Comments: 105B

         Rune 105 is a strong poem, and 105B seems to me the superior textual variant.

         As in 105A, the opening here illustrates the truth that nature may be better than the poet at conveying its own beauty. The B text opens more vividly and gains paradoxical wit—because “beauty” here indeed becomes its own “pencil” and “lays” is own truth, forcing the poet back to “constancy,” to timelessness rather than nature in any concrete form. Bracketed by colorful singing “roses” (1) and the liquid “dye” of the poet’s vat (13-14), this animated text stays in the mind and generates an absorbing image of the poet at work.

          Nonetheless, 105B loses some good features, including the association that the other variant establishes between marjoram (105A.1) and April perfumes (6) and between stol’n (105A.1) and to constancy confined (7)—since a theft implies inconstancy.

          Alternately, the “message” of 105B.2-4 might come from the poet’s own lips, making the rose’s song to him abstract, and having him put its moral into his own words.          

         Will again seems to be addressing his beautiful muse (2, 10), as in 105A and in many if not most texts elsewhere in Q. Because beauty is not a good publicist for itself (1-4) and catching this friend’s beauty is hard, Will—as beauty’s “singer” (2-3)—settles on a conservative approach. He illustrates his own “blunt invention” with strained or cliched poetic figures (1, 4, 6) and irregular lines (2, 3) before settling on “constancy” (7) and the traditional (but “antic”) techniques of an “antique pen” (8, 10-11). Thus he avoids “Incertainties” (9) and re-energizes his efforts.

           As in the A variant, the powerful figure here of the silent “dyer’s hand” at work—in dye (13-14) that suggests ink—objectifies the poet’s self-preoccupied isolation as he pursues his hard project. The concurrent pun “dire sand” (13) comments on the swift passage of time, as does line 6—a vague, tantalizing reference that seems to house autobiographical clues. “Dire sand,” especially in the context of the obliterated Runes, may also suggests the destructive power of erasure.

          “Incertainties” that Will purports to reject in both variants include not only trite figures and lame lines but also aromas (1, 6) and a bird’s song (4). Terms for his own verse (7) include “s[o]ng,” “lay(s),” “pencil,” “invention” (2-5), and “blenches” (12). The last word means side glances and tricks (OED) but, as “blanches,” also denotes “whitenings” (contrast “a vat of dye”) and thus empty pages. “Blunt” (5), a pun on “blonde,” implies a dull pen, and “no pencil” (3) suggests “hidden writing.”

           Other puns about the Runes include “half expressed” (8), “…see rune, th’ hymn of elves” (9), and “None’ll see tome inner, eyed o’ none alive” (14). “Roses standing on thorns” (1) also stand for the symbiotic Sonnets/Runes. (In Q, “rose” always puns on “rows” as “lines of text.”) Other organic puns include “dyed fit- [stanza-]end” (1) and “lacy stem” (2). One witty “blench” here is that a thorn (see 1) might be “what …works in …the dyer’s hand” (13).
         
           “Lay” (2, 3) and “Philomel” (4) are poetic forms for “song/to sing” and “nightingale.” “Their” (8) points back remotely to “roses” and “thy lays” (1-2) while implying ancient authors, with antique/antic an automatic pun in Q.

          Ambiguities in 9 allow overlaid readings that help effect transition into the closing sestet. Book-ended by colorful singing “roses” (1) and the “dye” of the poet’s vat (13-14), this thorny text stays in the mind for its absorbing image of Will at work.


Sample Puns

105A

          1) Handy butt soft Major rammed; Anne débuted, Sue summery roamed, fiddling there; Anne-debit’s awesome; Aye Nate, butt soft, m’ Harry, our homme, had stolen
          1-2) to hell, nadir, sin jetted here; A-row made Shakespeare old, Nate high, Harry singed; eye deft old knight harassing toothy seer; Why Harry’s ingot o’ the ear [i.e., earring] that doth th’ high laces [i.e., ruff] team?

105B

          1) Tarots easier fool John; Th’ Row F is ass-earful yon (John); thorns [archaic “th” characters]; Row 6 (i.e.,Row F) has two y’s = thorns]; dyed; the rough ass Circe’ll lie on, the horny ass; lions the horns did stain
          1-2) on thorny ass didst I, in Dis [the capital of the Inferno] inch to th’ earth a tad (...I did)

105A and 105B

          2) Sing, toothy Harry, t’ Hat, doughty lays; tot herded Atlas’s team
          2-3) my body eye in open cell, beauteous turd hid, Olé! ass-team be you t’ eye in open field; thy lacy “stem” bawdy no pencil be; in “O,” pencil bee
          3-4) rude Italy eye, ass
          4) Ass, feel o’ male in ass; feel o’ m’ hell-lines
          4-5) Summer [i.e., Metricist] S. surroundeth, sin jetted o’er Jews; mer surroundeth singed Hat.; avenge th’ Tower, ghost, my blond John
          5) The Tower Ghost, my blond invention quiet [suggesting Southampton; Hamlet, Sr.]; over[head] goes my balloon’d invention quiet
          5-6) you eye tether, ape wry, leper, some sin (scene) there
          6) Th’ rape, our ill—parse you ms., John; th’ red Eve in ass burned; tunes be earned; perfume scent, Harry hot; hot aye, Venus burned; peers, you miss interior tunes
          6-7) your Nate (knight) t’ Harry’s whore may veer
          7) Tee! Harry’s whore, my V, arse, took; my verse to Son Shakespeare, Anne, seize on, find; two cunts tan, sea-son, find (sinned, send, scent); tokens tan see, yes, unsigned; O, rhymey verse, toucan fit, Anne seize
          7-8) toucan, sit and seize Anne’s end, icy t’ Harry; T’ Harry S. or my Vere is Edo constant, season find icy
          8) eye satyr antique; eye quip, newelled [suggesting a “woody” post] half express; Eye “feetier,” antic pen wood [suggesting a crazy writer], half-expressed; you penult[…imate] half express
          8-9) eye quip, new/old, half-expressed incertainties
          9) John certain is: Know John [W=IN], see rowne, the Massey leaves half-heard; Insert Auntie S. in ochre rune; eye snow, see runed hymns, elves half heard; John, sir, tint I (certain t’ eye) snow; Insert Auntie S., now see Row N, Anne [et], Ham S, hell we see suffered
          9-10) the missal, you ass, aver, deacon (Dagon) tinging O, holding gold hominy aye
        10) Cunt, engine o’ old, dead angel (angle)
        10-11) old hominy eaten eye you; Oldham (old home) Annie eyed in Age (edge = margin) of T.T.; m’ Annie eye, tiniest tot had I, minnow, tow-headed (to wit, hid)
        11) Witty Tommy exchanged the sable inches, gave my art another youth; Lust, loosed, juiced, Jew-assed; knot witty; mix changed
        11-12) my X [= cross] see, hanged thief blanches, jaw may hurt
        12) Jew; my art; as gome, ye are tan; ass, gummier tenet hear
        12-13) my hard Anne, oather, you’d hit; youth-twat, it works John like the dyer’s hand, an anal, fit “O”
        13) Twatted whore kissing liked; in hell eye Kyd, E. Dyer [d. 1607]
        13-14) twat I tore, kissing, kicked headier ass, handy nun, elf tome; E. Dyer shan’t know knell of Tommy, nor I; handy nun’ll see tome, Henry too, anon; meaner “I” to none, awl I you (ewe);
        14) meaner “I” to none, awl I you (ewe); None’ll see, too, minaret, O none alive; to minor Eton (Eden), wan, olive; Anne, orating, won olive; In O’Neill see Tommy, know written “O’Neill” aye


Acrostic Wit

105A

        The emphatic downward codeline—AS BATTTI ICI TT N—suggests such readings as these: “As Betty, eye kitten,” “A spot I sit in,” “As bait I cite [line] 10,” “A spate deciding,” “A sub-attack attend,” “A sub-étiquette t’ end,” “As bait, T.T., eye Satan,” “I spot T.T., too, sitting,” “As bait, T.T. teased 10,” “Ass-bat, T.T. teased 10 [inches],” “A sabbatic eye, T.T., end,” “A sabbaticate end,” and “Elizabeth [Assy-Betty] Catherine [Cate’n]” (the granddaughter’s name?).

          The codestring CITTN seems insistent here, as in 105A. As usual, the superfluity of TT wit suggests that the poet has his printing agent, Thomas Thorpe, in mind.

          The upward codelineNTT I CIIT TT A BSA—might mean, e.g., “Indicate T.T., a B.S. eye (a titty, aye busy),” “End ticket [tacit] T.T. apes aye,” “An etiquette, aye busy,” “Knight [Night, Nate] I cite [sight], T.T., aye be icy,” “Knight, eye City topsy,” “Nate eye, seedy, topsy,” and “And T.T. aye cite Absey [ABC’s].”

           The down-and-up code suggests, e.g., “Aye is Betty a-sitting, enticed, aye busy (eye Bessie).” The up/down codeline suggests “Knight I sight, a busy ass, batty Satan.”

105B

          The downward acrostic codeline—TS BAT TT I I CITTN—encodes, e.g., “’Tis bait: eye aye Satan.”

           Acrostic plays suggest not only Thomas Thorpe but also “Southy”—C /I /The (10-12) and C/I/I/T/T/Tha (10-5, upward)—i.e., Will’s patron, Southampton, whose recorded imprisonment in The Tower may be the subject of a quietly allusive pun and jibe: “‘The Tower,’ goes my blunt invention quiet” (5). (“The Tower ghost, my blonde [i.e., pale] invention quiet” varies this pun, making it seem to allude to Hamlet.)

          Other readings of this codeline include these samples: “‘’Tis Betty,’ I sigh t’ ten,” “T’ Sabbaths attend,” “’Tis bait, T.T., t’ eyesight end,” “’Tis bad, T.T., t’ eye Satan,” “Tee! ‘Sabbatic’ eyed 10,” “Tea Sabbatic attend [I’d end],” “T’ spite T.T., eye Satan [eyesight end],” and “’Tis Sabbatic Satan.”

          The upward reverse of the 105B codeline—N TT I CIIT TT A BST—suggests, e.g., “Night [Knight, Nate] teased T.T., a beast [abyssed],” “Entity I sight, I be Shakespeare,” “Knight, taste T.T., abyssed,” “Knight, taste titty, a bust [...abused, aye bussed, aye best, abyssed],” “Knotty seed, T.T., I pissed,” “Knight [Night], eye City t’ eye best [beast],” “In T.T. I shit, I pissed,” “Naughty, shitty, tup [top] Shakespeare [Saint],” and “Knight, aye shitty, tap Shakespeare.”

           The down/up hairpin suggests, e.g., “T’ Sabbatic Eden, T.T. I sight, a beast” and/or “…titty I sight, a bust.”


             
Proceed to Rune 106
Return to the Index of Set VIII
Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets