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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 129
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Rune 128
Second lines, Set X (Sonnets 127-140)

                         Rune 128

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

     Whore if it were, it bore not Beauty’s name
     Upon that Blessed Wood whose motion—Zounds!—
     Is loosed in action, and, till action, lust.
 4  Coral is far more red than her lips, red
     As those whose beauties proudly make them cruel,
     Knowing thy heart. Torment me with disdain
     For that deep wound it gives, my friend—and me,
 8  And I, myself, am mortgaged to thy will,
     And Will to boot, and Will in overplus.
     Swear to thy blind fool that I was thy Will
     That they behold and see not what they see.
12 I do believe her, though I know she lies.
     That thy unkindness lays upon my heart,
     My tongue-tied patience, with too much disdain.
     Glosses: 1) Whore (Q Or) puns on Oar, O’er; 2) Zounds (Q sounds) = the oath “His [Christ’s] Wounds!” 3) Is loosed (Q lust) puns, “I sluiced” (i.e., let flow); 4) red is a pun about lip-reading the mute “mistress”; 6) heart puns routinely on art, hard (phallic); 11) they (pun: th’ eye) = the speaker’s three “selves” (see 8); 13) heart puns on art (see 6); 14) tongue-tied points back to l. 4; and with...disdain echoes 6.

     128. Lips Seldom Read

     Whether you call her Whore or not, it wasn’t Beauty I saw
     upon that Cross whose effects—mortal wounds inflicted on Innocence—
     happen after conscious initiative and which, prior to action, are physical desires not acted upon;
  4 her lips—far less “read” than the coral reefs under the sea—are of the color
     favored by creatures made cruel by pride in their own beauty
     and familiarity with your heart. Torture me with disregard,
     my friend, of a sort that wounds me deeply—and me,
  8 myself, and I still remain obliged to do your will,
     and Will to boot, and Will in overabundance.
     Swear to this blind fool (or to Cupid or to some blind fool reading this) that I was your Will
     and that the sum total of all my selves’ visual faculties cannot be trusted for accuracy.
12 I accept what the perverse creature says, though I know she lies.
     My heart (and my art), burdened by your cruel lack of sympathy
     and excessive disdain, experiences mute tediousness that tries my patience.


          In this knotty text punsterized by a cluster of “Will” nameplays (8-10), the “female” is the recurring, handy conceit for the Q project itself—a tormenting, perversely cruel companion full of beauty and bawdy (1-5). The pun about “reading her lips” (4) and the complex play “I do be-leaf her” (12)—with a glancing, prurient joke about Eve—help sketch the equation “Mss. = Mistress = Mysteries = Runes.” Will berates his “other” muse, the absent, unnamed friend, for equally cruel inattention (5). The poet also wonders what future readers (as in 11) will find in his “mss.”

          The latency “Is this a dag-Or?” may help explain the abrupt opening—“Ore? [Metal?] If it were…,” a figure relevant to a “deep wound” (7)—with the closing pun “Dies Dane” epitomizing Hamlet. Similarly, “wood whose motion sounds” rustles like Birnam Wood moving to Dunsinane; “Moor-gagged” (8) describes Desdemona; and “Swear, toothy blind fool…” (10) may suggest Gloucester’s renunciation of the world (Lear 4.6). Given such allusions, the initial “O’er? If it were, it bore not beauty’s name” may gesture toward Will’s whole oeuvre—the “unread mss.” (cf. 4) not yet into print and thus still missed and likely undervalued by those who “behold [onstage], and see not [in print] what they see.”

         Since “Blessed Wood” is an epithet for The Cross, “whose motion sounds…” means “the noises of crucifixion,” with “Zounds”—“His Wounds”—a sacrilegious pun. Self-servingly, Will represents himself as a silent Suffering Servant, using such words as “cruel” (5); “torment,” “disdain” (6, 14); “deep wound” (7); “mortgaged” (8) as “committed to pay a debt”; the idea of “blind” onlookers (11); “I do believe”(12); and other words in the couplet—”unkindness,” “heart,” and “patience.”

         The motif of silence, in this unheard lyric, links “I…am more [Moor-]gagged” (8) with “my tongue-tied patience” (14). Like Will’s “mouth,” some “eyes” here are also inoperative (10-11).

          “Medical” wit clusters “torment,” “deep wound,” blindness,” “patients,” “cure-all,” “bore” (suggesting a drill, trepan), “she lies,” “red,” “sounds,” and the body parts lips, heart, and tongue.

          An opening pun on “oar” triggers a funny phallic scenario about “hose motion” and labia.

Sample Puns

          1) O’er [suggesting “runer,” coterie writer or reader]; Arisèd W., Harry, I’d bore in; eyed be whore; it be oar not; bawdy ass; Beauty’s enemy; tease in a map; Erased we are aye; eye taper in ode; O, Tybalt, eye his name
          2) A pun thought blessed (…that [row] B laughed, wood [i.e., crazy]); Blessed Wood suggests Christ’s Cross; blest doo-doo see, m’ ocean sounds (motion is hounds); Zounds
          2-3) W.H., ho! sea-motion, sounds I sluiced; Sicily’s ten eye Satan and did ill aye; John, sound Cecil, you fit in ass
          3) act Ionian, dead, ill; Anne did ill action, lust
          3-4) till I seed, anal you stick your awl, asses are more red
          4) See Urals’ far moor; Hall is farmer, retainer; Cure Hall is far more read; cure-all…red; Coral I suffer, moored; Moor, read Hen. here, lips (laps) red
          4-5) t’ Hen, earl, I piss red as th’ hose who’ve bawdy ass prowed; in hare-lip is reddest hoof (…is ready stuff you see); the gnarly pisser dazed hose
          5) Eye Southy’s ewe, whose bawdy ass prowed Limey; my kid Ham sea rule; see boat aye is prowed, Limey; As t’ O, fuse bawdy eye
          5-6) Limey, get hammock, Harvey’ll know; delay may get ’em sere, you’ll know in jetty hard torment; sir, you’ll lick an O, inched here; you Lincoln owe
          6) An “O” winged, high art, torment my wit; die, fat Annie; in jet, y’ hard whore may end my wit heady; hard torment mewed Dis; Sore that Deep-Wounded Jew, His misery end; Fart hated abounded; I use misery; hearty whore meant mutatis t’ end
          6-7) aye fat Annie farted (if Dane farted), deep wound it gives my friend and me; Jew’s ms., rune; m’ F-rune dandy
          7-8) May’s rain dandy may end; I use ms., rune, tant amunter [cf. tantamount] myself, amour; miss [suggesting “prostitute”], ruined Anne, damn Anne, die, myself am mortgaged to thy will; wounded Jew is my serene Dan-demon
          8) Handy missal a Moor (amour) gagged toothy Will; our gag did owe t’ you ill
          8-9) you, island-dwelled, OO [= see] boat, and will aye an oar; Ann t’ Willy newer peals
        10) Sewer-toad ye be; Swarthy be line, deviled, haughty; Tybalt eye, end soledad; end foul Anne [et] Hathaway Southy will; Tybalt insult
        10-11) eight Jews t’ hell, they Tybalt eye and see not; you eye Southy, Will’d Hathaway behold and see not 10 [=vv] Hathaways
        10-12) vestaled Hathaway behold—Anne (end) divine, O twatty Fido
        11) be holed Anne dizzy, no twat they see; behold dandy synod, weighty see
        11-12) see not W.H., eye T.T., hayseed opal; Fido be Lear
        12) I deux “be-leave” here; thou jack in O’s; I do believe (be-leave) hard Huguenots—hell, yes!
        12-13) Thou, Jack, know felicity
        13) Tee! Hath-Y-V, in kindness, lay supine, merdy; art; silly ass, you pawn merd
        13-14) here Tommy, tongue-tied, bayed
        14) witty O-muse hid his Dane; deaf Dane; die, fat Annie; why, Th., Thomas, hid one fit [i.e., stanza] aye; Midden [i.e., dunghill], jetty deep attains witty Tom; eye tomb; witty Tom you see, hideous, dying; My town jet I debate aye, in sooth; Thomas hid eyes, dying; musy, deaf Diane

Acrostic Wit

          The downward acrostic codeline—OVIC AK FAAST ITM—may encode such messages as these: “Office, ache of assed [fey Shakespeare] item,” “104 [V+IC = 5+99] or 106 [6+100] Acts esteem [F=S],” “O, vie, seek feisty Tom (team, time),” “O ‘V’ [crotch] I seek [eye, sick], fast item,” “O, six see a key, vast (faced) item,” “House a key, fey state item,” “O, Vic I kissed, assed item,” “…fast I’d hymn,” “O, wick [pudendal or anal, phallic] ache of assed item,” “O 6 [suggesting, e.g., orifice + 6 (inches)] seek, sauced item,” “’06 see—a key (aqui), fey Shakespeare item,” and “O’ physic, faced item.”

          The upward (reverse) codeline—M TIT SAAF KAC IVO—suggests, e.g., “My tidy, safe case avow,” “Empty its half case avow,” “M’ titty, ass, aye eye, f--k a safe ‘O’,” “My tight ass eye aye, f--k ass, eye ‘V’ [pictographic groin], ‘O’ [pictographic orifice],” “Empty it is aye: A f--k, a sigh, woe,” and/or “My Titus eye, have key aye, see 1:50 [chapter, verse].”

Proceed to Rune 129
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