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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        

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Rune 131
Fifth lines, Set X (Sonnets 127-140)

                         Rune 131

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

     For since each hand hath put on nature’s power,
     Do I envy those Jacks that nimble leap,
     Enjoyed no sooner but despisèd straight?
 4  I have seen “roses damasked, red and white”—
     Yet, in good faith, some say that. Thee behold,
     And, truly not the morning sun of heaven,
     Me from myself thy cruel eye hath taken.
 8  But thou will’t not, nor he will not be free.
     Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacíous,
     Will will fulfill the treasure of thy love,
     If eyes corrupt by over-partial looks.
12 Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
     Tell me thou lov’st elsewhere; but, in my sight,
     If I might teach thee wit, better it were.
    Glosses: 1) each hand suggests “double composition” in the Q project; 1-3) suggesting both masturbation and a card game; 4) damasked = richly variegated, colored like a damask rose; 7) puns about Q: ms.-leaf, serial; 8) will puns on Will (with nameplays 7-10); 9) Wilt (also Will’t), suggesting “go flaccid,” with will punning on sexual drive; 12) she suggests thy love (see 10); 14) I puns on eye (see 4, 7, 11, etc.), with innuendo throughout the text about testicles and “I’s,” pictographically phallic.

     131. Over-Partial Looks

     Just because any and every writer has affected “naturalness,” now that I’m able to write two plausible poems at the same time
     do you think I envy those Johns that pop up
     and are praised only to be immediately despised and forgotten—like quickly wilting roses?
I’ve seen it all. I have seen artful roses artfully shimmering in variegated colors.
     Some poets still can write “roses damasked, red and white” without irony. One look at you
     and it’s not nature’s bright morning sun that shines
     but rather your own cruel eye that transports me from myself.
  8 But you don’t intend that I, Will, in such captivation, lose my freedom—which I love.
     If you wilt—like a rose—or if you, a generous man of capacious desires, agree to it,
     I, Will, will bring your love’s treasure to completion,
     whether or not your admirers make you vain, or my readers under-read or misread my texts.
12 In this situation, given your own vanity and the current level of affection you have for me, you may wrongly conclude that I am childish,
     and thus you may say you love “elsewhere”; but, as I see it,
     it would be better if I could talk you into something sensible. (Let me show you personally how these verses work, so you won’t take them as dashed-off and amateurish.


          Will crafts this work so that his listening muse, the unnamed “thou” of the poem, hears various compliments, complaints, advice, bawdy jokes, and puns. While the “hands” of 1-3 conventionally imply “rival poets” vying for the muse’s attention and enjoying their own minutes of fame, the opening joke also points to Will’s ability, as Sonnets/Runes poet, to write “ambidextrously,” composing two poems (or cycles) at once.

          Whoever “she” (12) is, the poet offers to “fulfill the treasure of [his muse’s] love” (10) by keeping the muse’s name alive, and—more directly—by instructing the muse (14), maybe in the Runes’ arcane methods. Syntactically, “she” in 12 points back to “thy love” (10). In Q, Will’s perverse “she” is, at least in one sense, always the “ms.” or “Mysteries” that Will and his muse share an interest in; as such “she” is fictive, a poetic construct. If she was also “real,” we do not know her name.

           Ironically, the name of the poet’s muse has also not survived. My own deduction is that Will’s obfuscation is intentional, maintaining privacy while allowing various living fellows to conclude that the poet was addressing them individually. We don’t know whether any muse(s) actually ever read the buried texts and played with the potentialities in them that the poet labored over so carefully as ostensible tribute and specially tailored private entertainment.

           Early lines in Rune 131 suggest the motifs of composing, card-playing, nature and art, and masturbation; other image clusters are about sight, flowers and sun, and buried treasure.

           Card-playing, e.g., fits such details as “hand” (1), “envy” (OED “seek a rival”), “jacks” (2), “straight” (3), “red and white” (4), “taken” (7), “roses” and “suns” that might decorate cards (4, 6, etc.), and—less directly—the mention of close oversight, good faith, “treasure,” and wit or its absence. “Be holed” (5) suggests “discarded,” and the pun “four ‘signs’ each hand” (1) suggests the four suits.

           Jokes about phallic activity include puns about “cruel ‘I’s,” “wiltings,” and “will-‘I’s” (i.e., phalluses). This pun is representative: “Wilt thou, hose. Willy S. large and spacious—Will—will fulfill that rift, your ‘O’ fit, high, low...” (9-10). Such sexual wit links suggestively with jokes about ambidexterity (1) and depressing brevity (3).

           Seemingly puerile namepuns extrapolated from the fifth lines of Sonnets 134-136 cluster here as insistent puns on Will (8-10) and his “large and spacious will” (9). “Will” in Renaissance parlance meant sexual drive or lust, and “wilt” (e.g., 9) means “go flaccid.”

           Here the Will-wit finds a mate in such puns as “Anne, truly not the morning sun of heaven, / Me from myself thy cruel eye Hath [sic] taken” (6-7). Here “eye-Hath-taken [with ‘taken’ = ‘away’]” suggests “eye Hath-away.” “Jack” (2) and John (easily encoded as “in,” a concurrent cipher for “Anne”) may play on Dr. John Hall, Will’s Stratford-based son-in-law.

           Letterstring puns in the typographic forms of the lines themselves—another of Q’s routine game elements—include here these sample potentialities:

           “ Nate (knight), your spire do I invite—hose, Jack’s, thought nimble, leap!” (1-2);
           “...Howard, Owen vied” (1-2), perhaps a topical play; “Do I envy Theseus kissed?” (2);
           “Theseus kissed Hat.[a routine cipher for Anne Hathaway] in a.m., belly up, annoyed...” (2);
           “Jack is t’ Hat. an humble, lapping-jawed nose (knave...) on her body, despised after 8:00” (2-3), maybe a ribbing aimed at Dr. John Hall;
           “Eighty have seen Rizzy’s damn ass get reddened, wide” (3-4), a routine kind of jibe aimed at Henry Wriothesley (pron. “Rizzley,” etc.), the 3rd earl of Southampton;
           “rosy as day, mesquit(a) [i.e., mosque] reddened” (4);
           “Row F [i.e., line 6] is dim as catarrh’d Anne” (4);
           “Eye half-seen rows [i.e., lines of text], damasked, ‘read’ and witty yet” (4-5); and
           “Wyatt [the early sonneteer?], John [Hall?] good evades ‘O’ [i.e., the round, the rune] messy, ‘thoughty,’ bold...” (5).

           (For fuller exploration of such possibilities, see below.)

           Much of such letterstring wit in the Q linestrings is bawdy, or would surely have been read as such by whatever in-group reader/players first saw it. Scatology lurks, e.g, in Q’s letterstring “...she thin...” (12). “Behold” (5) and “but” (e.g., 8, 13) are always suggestive. The final line, puns (in one of its forms), “If ‘I’ [a phallic pictograph] midget touch thee wet, better (...bitter ‘I’...) it were” (14). The opening of the poem puns, “Fore-fins itch. Ha!”

Sample Puns

          1) Forcing, see each end hath puta; Force inch; sedge; sage; itch aye in death, phew! you donate your ass poor; for finch handy, th’ puta
          1-2) in Nate (knight), your spire do I invite; Howard, Owen vied; whore, (our) duenna thou seize, kiss
          2) Do I envy Theseus?
          2-3) Jack is t’ Hat. an humble, lapping-jawed nose on her butt, despised after 8:00; t’ Hat., Ann, I’m Philippian joy; I’m belly-pain aye
          3) bawdy, I’ve pissed straight; aye, said (Iced, Acid) Shakespeare raged; I said “Shakespeare,” right?
          3-4) Eighty have seen Rizzy’s damn ass get red and wide; In Io, wide nose on her butt deaf, pissed Shakespeare riotous in her office (suggesting orifice) dim
          4) dim, a skater dandy; rosy as day, mesquit(a) [mosque] reddened; rows said a mosquito retained Wyatt; a musket reddened wight (Waite)
          4-5) Eye half-seen rows, damasked, “read” and witty yet; Row F is dim as catarrh’d Anne; masked, our dandy Wyatt’s waiting; reading Dwight, Wyatt, John goads aye t’ his home; goats; hied Wyatt in God’s eye
          5) Yet in God, faith of homme is aye that thee behold; be holed; foams eye; Yet John God evades; John good evades O messy
          5-6) fated Tybalt I ended; t’ Hat., Tybalt ended ruling autumn horn(y); if homme evaded thee, behold Anne; the bold Dan did rule
          6) “ruly” in autumn, whoring, eye inches enough; Ended really knotty hymn our Nine; horn [phallic] in Jesu knows heaven
          6-7) horn, inches enough, you in me form; you in hymn ever roam; In ms., Romish hell see, thick our veil; the Morning Son of Hugh-John, me, Fair Homme, myself; In ms., Rome missal, Southy’s relayed it, aching
          7) ms. Romey see leafed
          7-8) Know rule in ode: Be free; no ruling oat be free; fit, hickory laddie hit a keen butt, howled
          7-9) eye Hath. t’ ache in butt-hole tonight, Anne, oral, knotty beef ruled house o’ Will
          8-9) O, to be free will T.T. house you ill, his larking spate I owe; Knot be free-willed, t’ house you ill
          9) hoof; Wilt [i.e., go flaccid] thou, W.H.; Willy’s large Anne spacious; specious
          9-10) Who fuels large Anne, despite I.O.U’s? Will, Will…; I owe you swill, loo I’ll fulfill
        10) fool’s ill, that erasure of thy loo; Will will fulfill the treasure of thy loo filthy, trace your ass t’ hell; why level filthy trees you raze?
        10-11) you race t’ hill of Isis, seer you pet (…you put by our party, Hall looks t’ huss vainly, thinking that shit); oft Helios (Heloise) I seek; th’ treasure of thy loo efface; oft Aloeus is corrupt
        11) Isaiah is corrupt (by our partial looks); buyer; Isis see erupt; rue pit, buy our partial loo; by whore-part, eye Hall
        11-12) lo, Augustus vain, laid in kinked Hat.-shit—in case, mewn, jet [black]; whore-part eye, awl looks thus; “owe,” verb hard; hard eye Hall, Luke said
        12-13) shitting, kiss me, you inched element; Hen, kiss my young tail; Th’ huss “V” anal (venal) ye et, inky inch, that shitting quay’s my young tail; hound jet’ll maid hollow fit
        12-14) Hat., shitting, kiss my young tail, limit how low Shakespeare’ll see, where (weary, W., Harry, VV, hairy) butt-end my sight eyes
        13) thou, low Shakespeare-hell fury, butt in; you’d enemy fight; tail made hollow Shakespeare’ll see; maid hollow fiddles you, Harry, but in miss (ms.) I jet; see W., Harry, (hairy) butt in ms. (miss) I jet (aye, yet); meadow lost’ll few here bawdy name
        13-14) m’ Jesse jets image heady aye (hideous); few hear bawdy name if I jet icy midget; miss (ms.) I decimate
        14) Aye femme itched t’ itch the wit, bitter it were; I, Semite, touched you; wight bitter eyed W., Harry; witty Betty read “W., Harry”; aye Tibet turd we are; aye Tibet dirty were; icy midget touched you aye; eye Tibet, dirty, weary; touch the wet (weedy), bitter “I” (battery) to Harry (too hairy)

Acrostic Wit

          The downward acrostic codeline—FD I IY AMB WW ITTI—houses many self-consciously encouraged potentialities, as these samples illustrate: “Fit [stanza] eye, iamb witty,” “Of day I am be W[illiam’s] wit to eye,” “Of Dei [i.e., God] I am body,” “Fit [Fed] I aye am by William’s witty eye,” “Fit ‘I,’ iamb, be William’s witty ‘I’ [phallic],” “‘Of day’ (iamb) be witty aye,” “Seedy [F=S] iamb witty (…aye my body),” and thus “City, I aye am witty.”

          The TT letterstring in Q always suggests Thomas Thorpe, Will’s printing agent, who signed the frontmatter of Q as “T.T.”

          The upward (reverse) code—I TT IWW B MAYIID F—suggests, e.g., “Eyed too, be May ides,” “Eye two beam (B.M.) aids,” “I ‘To be’ made. S. [a signature],” “Aye, T.T., you be maid of…,” “Aye, T.T., you be mighty if…,” “…you be mighty F[--ker?],” “Aye, T.T. [Eye titty], you wipe [whip] Maid F,” and “…a tomato deaf (eye tomato days [daze]) [code 8-MAY-2-DF].”

          Suggesting the possibility of a “dateline” are MAY II (reversing AM); TIWW and DIIY (cf. to, day); and II-D (to-day). One reading is “12-08-May today is [F=S]”; another is “Aye, 28 May today is.”

          Such seemingly incomplete forms as “I ‘To be’ made of...” in the upward acrostic codeline suggest turnaround or hairpin encodings. The up/down hairpin suggests “Aye T.T., you be mighty effete, eye ye m’ beauty (body, bawdy),” “Aye, T.T., you be made of soda, yam (…maid, fatty-yam) body (…of seedy iamb bawdy),” “I, too, be made (maid) seedy, eye my body,” “Eye ‘To be,’ made ff [double forte], die, amid [B=8] bawdy,” and “…you be made of damn bawdy.”

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