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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 X, Runes 127-140: Texts and Comments 
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2004, All Rights Reserved        

Proceed to Rune 128
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Rune 127
First lines, Set X (Sonnets 127-140)

                        Rune 127

     (First lines, Set X: Sonnets 127-140)

     In the old age, black was not counted fair.
     How oft when thou, my music, music playest—
     Th’ expense of spirit in a waste of shame—
 4  My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun.
     Thou art as tyrannous, so, as thou art,
     Thine eyes I love, and they—as pitying me—
     Beshrew that heart that makes my heart to groan.
 8  So now I have confessed that he is thine:
     Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will ,
     If thy soul check thee that I come so near.
     Thou blind fool, love, what dost thou to mine eyes
12 When my love swears that she is made of truth?
     O, call not me to justify the wrong;
     Be wise as thou art cruel: Do not press.
     Glosses: 1) counted (a pudendal pun) suggests “metered”; 3) spirit (Q Spirit) is a namepun on “....speare”; waste puns on waist; shame puns visually on fame; 4) mistress’ eyes puns on “mystery-sighs” and on printed “mss. I’s”; nothing puns on the pudendum; sun puns on son; 5) so suggests Sue (i.e., Susanna, Will’s daughter); 7) Beshrew = Curse; heart puns on art (see 5, twice in both lines); 8) So (again) puns on Sue; he = my heart (see 7, 5); the line may joke that Dr. John Hall is “Sue’s”; 9) Whoever hath her wish puns, “Whore Hath-her-wi[fe],” with a nameplay on Will; hast puns on haste; 10) If = Even if; check = may rebuke (suggesting, “Checkmate!”); 11) mine eyes puns on “m’ Annie S.”; 12) made puns on maid; 13) justify is a printing term; 14) wise is an eyepun on wife; do not press suggests, “Don’t print [this]!”

     127. A Waste of Shame

     In times gone by, dark features were not thought attractive, black ink was not always beautifully metered, illuminated books were valued more highly than those in black ink, and halftones got omitted in the mathematics of musical scales.
     How often when you, my dark lyric, play music—
     expending spirit in this shameful waste—
  4 my mistress’ eyes (my mystery-sighs, my mss. “I’s”) seem antithetical to the sun—or Son.
     Dominant and unrelenting, you’re just as much the tyrant, so, just as you are,
     I love your vision, which (taking pity on me)
     curses that heart (or art) that makes mine lament.
  8 So, I’ve now admitted that my heart is yours:
     Whoever “hath her way,” you have your William,
     even if your soul rebukes you when I approach.
     Love, you blind fool, what are you doing to my eyes (or to the “I’s” on my pages)
12 when my mistress swears herself to be the whole truth?
     O, don't ask me to rationalize my errors—or to set them up in printed lines.
     Match your tyranny with wisdom: No pressure. No printed copies.


           Addressing his non-specific friend/muse—his “music” (2), “sun” (4), tormentor (7), and gaming opponent (10)—Will speaks anew of his “mistress,” the perverse poems (see the introduction to Set X). The first line, which “floats” (like Rune 1), hints about mutability, black ink, a swarthy “mistress,” and “counted” metrics; it also suggests that old mss. used illumination while Will’s modern text—scripted and printed—will be black and white. The first line, with a pudendal pun “counted fair” that makes us think “black [hair],” combines a bawdy joke about a swarthy, dark-eyed, or brunette woman with a pun on smooth metrics: “Black ink was metrically irregular a long time ago.” The last line returns us to the first, obliquely, in a pun about a woman doing her hair: “Be, wife, as thou art, crewel [i.e., curly, with ‘art crewel’ suggesting a thing decoratively twisted in a circular shape, a round or rune]; do not press [i.e., add waves to your hair, or flatten the curls, or add ‘wrinkles’ to the ms.].”

           The pun “X-pens”—acrostic or “ex-” writers, i.e., dead ones—and other plays about writing, printing, and “lyrics” occur.

           Phallic and pudendal plays on “I’s” and “no thing” (4) seem paradoxical, while the “Whoever Hath-er-way…Will: pun (9) points to Stratford. Q’s “Spirit” (3) is a “Shakespeare” namepun. “Sea rule: Do not [im]press [seamen]” (14) is a marine joke.

          The motif of music in the text accommodates such diction as “counted,” “music playest,” “mystery sighs,” “art,” “groan,” and “call (whistle).” Language about payment and money, suitable in a riddle about a printing deal, includes “counted fair,” “expense,” “waste,” “nothing,” “have,” “hath” and “halved,” “check,” and maybe “call” (OED 1790) and “press” (e.g., for payment). “Black” (see 1) suggests blindness, a motif developed in “eyes…nothing like the sun” (4), “eyes I love…and they…pitying” (6), and “Thou blind fool love, what dost thou to mine eyes?” “Black” also suggests the feathers of an “upstart crow,” an idea that may explain the pun “Is thy fowl checked?” (10)

           In line 1, Will may mean to recall Greene’s famous attack on him as an “upstart crow” and to suggest that, in more recent times, his stock has risen.

          Amidst many puns, the paradox “My mysteries are nothing, like the sun” (4) suggests the inconsequential character of earthly life and work, with “…the son [the Son]” seeming to denigrate Q in comparison to Hamnet, Christ, and/or John Hall.

 Sample Puns

          1) John, the old, I jab, Jack, weigh snot, cunted, sour; was not cunted, S., Harry; Joined Hall ditch black; John T. Hall dodge [i.e., trick] be, Jack was no deacon t’ Ed; In the hole, ditch black, queue eye; count head of hair
          1-2) I arose t’ W.H. in time
          2) Host W., Hen, thou, my muse, aye came; thou my muff, I come; W.H. in Tommy-muff aye came, you f--k, play Shakespeare [ft]; Sikh pillows Shakespeare
          2-3) my “V” [a pictographic groin] f--k, muse, f--k, play Shakespeare, th’ expense of [seminal] spirit in a waist of shame; Shakespeare, th’ X-pen [i.e., the dead acrostic writer] see; you seek plastic spin, seize spired “I”
          3) pain seizes pirate: I gnaw aft a waste of S., Ham[net] [adjacent to Sunne (4)]; eye new Hostias hymn
          3-4) maim ye my fit race
          4) Ma’am, my citrus aye is a rind; My hymn eye—stresses, a rune, ode in jelly; My mystery sighs are nothing like the sun (…this one); My mss.’ “I’s” [which are black and straight] are nothing like the sun [which is bright and round]; nothing [i.e., zero, “O,” pudendal]; sun son [suggesting Hamnet], Son [Christ]
          4-5) …are nothing like this unit overt
          4-6) in jellies eye Kate’s honeyed Howard, ass tyrannous, foe o’ Southy, a ready hiney-ass (anus)
          5) our testy, rhinoce[r]os’d Howard; arty stare Anne owes foes
          5-6) sauced, overt, thine eisell owe; T.T. heinous I loaned th’ asp
          6) lo, Antea is pitying me; Annie S. eye low
          6-7) T.T., why in game be shrewd?
          7) that art that makes merd to grow; “Bess” hear you, that heart that makes my heart to groan; Beast, shrew; t’ Hat., hear “T.T.”; hard Hath, Make [i.e., Mate] S.; G-row end; Tommy, kiss my hard toe
          7-8) Hat makes merd, to grow anise; Annie’s onus own; Annie saw novice-O incest that hissed
          8) Sue [cf. So., Southy], knave see, incest; he [suggesting Dr. John Hall, Sue’s husband] is thine
          8-9) th’ hiney wavered; eye newer hate; is T.T. attesting who our Hath-er-way is?
          9) Our Hath-er-wife’s to house T.T. whole; Whoever Hath-her-way [i.e., What’s-her-name Hathaway], fit [i.e., stanza] housed thy Will; whiffed, thou a stool eye; you rat here whiffed; eros, it housed thy Will
        10) Eye Southy’s hole; Eye fetus whole; I (“I”) fit his hole, see Hecate, that “I” come [i.e., ejaculate] so near; fowl, fool; I come saw in ear; Sue; fon [i.e., foolish], eerie
        10-11) Inert, hobbling, deaf, old, lewd dust— “How’do,” m’ Annie S.; heated, I see O-mason eared (erred), hobbling; mason eerie, double Indies’ olive wheat dusty
        11) fallow, white, does T.T. autumn eye?
        11-12) I swoon; lewd (white), dusty, th’ Ottoman eyes whine, mellow of wars (worsted Scheisse); Tommy nice, wine mellow is
        12) W., Hen., my love, swears that she is maid of truth; stat, Scheisse made oft Ruth; John animal office we arrested; fey is my aid; Hat. face made
        12-13) W., Hen., my love S. (ass), W., Harry S—that she is, my aid, host t’ root-hog, awl; you thistle note; dustier Utica, Hall, note
        13) O, see Hall, know Tommy T.; O, see, all, know Tommy T., O, justify [set in justified lines] the W-rune; O, see Hall not, Maid o’ Justice eyed you, rowing; meadows aye sight you, wrong; Hall, in autumn Edo eye
        14) Bessie aye is to Howard cruel; wife; Be wise-assed Howard cruel; See Row L, do not proof; Be wise-ass, thou art [cf. “Thorpe,” purposely “misspelled”], do not proof [press (i.e., print)], pref[…ace?]); Be-wife a Stuart cruel, leaden, ought peers fey; overt, see ruled O, knot appears

Acrostic Wit

          As usual in first-line runes in the sets, the visible downward (i.e., the down/down) acrostic codeline is a double-columned “ladder”: IHTM TT B SWIT WO B NOHYHHEOHF HHCE[.] Overall, the double-columned arrangement in these first-line runes (where the lines in Q show enlarged capitals plus secondary capitals that are emphat) permits more permutations that a single-line acrostic code does.

          The down/down codeline suggests such decodings as these samples: “Item: T.T. be Swede, wanna-be naive (in office),” “…T.T. hates [B=8] Wit Wyatt (Waite) in office,” “…hates wit, wight in office,” “…T.T. be Swede white…,” “Item be sweet woe, be naive f--k,” “Attempt a tub, sweet woe be Noah, heavy sea,” “Eye t’ empty tub, sweat wipe, Noah f--k,” and “Aye Tom, T.T., bays, ‘Why “To be,” no high f--k?’”

          The reverse of this same letterstring, i.e., the up/up codeline beginning at the bottom right of the ladder arrangement, is this: ECH HFHOE HHYHON BOWTI WS B TT MT HI[.] This code admits such readings as these: “Each fon bow-tie was bitty, empty,” “Each foe whined [B = phonic 8]. O, witty W.S. bade Tom T. hie,” “Edge fon, Bawdy W.S. bade Tom T. hie,” “Itch, heavy hiney, bawdy W.S.—butt m’ thigh,” “Edge of honed ‘O’ [i.e., round, rune] witty was bitty, mighty,” “…Bow to ass bitty, empty, high,” “…body-wise be T.T. empty (mythy),” “…Bawdy, wise, be Timothy [Biblical?],” “…Bawdy W.S. hate Timothy,” “Itch, heavy hiney, Beauty’s butt, empty, high,” “…bodies bawdy t’ empty hie,” “Easy, fon, bow to his butt, my thigh,” and “Each hyphen bodies bitty, empty ‘hy-’.”

          Four “hairpin” variants of the codeline (i.e., the two down/up codelines beginning, respectively, at the two different top hooks of the ladder, and the two up/down codelines beginning at the two different bottom feet of the ladder) allow alternates in which reader/players may attempt to find wit and meaning.

          Knowing exactly which codestrings “work,” and deciding to what extent the emerging “meanings” might be authorized—these are themselves elements of the poet’s runic game, one in which he always maintains the upper hand, especially because the alphabetic code itself conspires to generate accidental possibilities that merge with whatever encryptions might be consciously manipulated. Manipulation in some overt instances of the acrostics generates the expectation that other authorized instances exist, and the search is on.

Proceed to Rune 128
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