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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 135
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Rune 134
Eighth lines, Set X (Sonnets 127-140)

                        Rune 134

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

     Beauty’s profaned (if not, lives in disgrace)
     At the woods’ boldness, by the blushing stand,
     On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
 4  Then (in the breath that from my mistress reeks,
     Although I swear it) to myself alone
     Doth half that glory—to the sober West
     A torment thrice, threefold thus to be crossed
 8  Under that bond that Him as fast doth bind,
     And in my Will no fair acceptance shine
     Among a number: One is reckoned none
     Whereto the judgment of my heart is tied
12 On both sides. Thus is simple truth suppressed,
     Is more. Then my o’er-pressed defense can bide
     No news, but health from their physicians know.
    Glosses: 1) Beauty’s: Q shows But is, punning “Butt is...,” “Body’s..., and “Bawdy ass...”; not puns on “knot,” a riddle like this text, which is “disgraced” in the sense that it is not publicly allowable, comes from the poet’s “Mss.” or “Mysteries” (see 4), and is asserted sotto voce so that the poet alone hears it (see 5); 2) woods may denote “crosses” (see 7); the: Q shows thee, triggering ambiguity; stand (also ambig.) = a raised platform, an ambush, with blushing stand = “bleeding platform,” “rosy cross,” a site of shame, Will’s torturous Acrostic game; 3) taker (ambig.) = recipient (of torture), punning on “tacker” (with tack = stain) and having many other meanings (see OED) including “annexer” or “joiner” (as Will is, joining Sonnets and Runes) and “nailer” (as Christ’s torturers were); mad puns ironically on “maid,” with the joke that a “wooden” ravishment makes the victim virginal; 3-4) Mad / then puns on “maiden” and “mating”; 4) Then (as phallic wit) puns on “Thin”; mistress = the usual conceit for “mss.,” “Mysteries,” i.e., the Q project; 6) halve (Q halfe) = divide, with “Beauty...doth divide...” the sense; glory may be ironic; 6) West = Western World; 7) the line suggests Christ’s Crucifixion between two thieves; 8) Him implies Christ, punning on “hymn” and “Ham[net],” Will’s son (him as puns, Ham S.); 12) Thus puns, “Th’ huss,” echoing Beauty “profaned”; 13) o’er-pressed is a printing pun (see suppressed in 12), also punning on “whore, pressed”; 14) their may point (but ungrammatically) to defense in 13, which sounds plural, thus suggesting defenses’ and perhaps meaning the two “buffering” thieves at the Crucifixion (see “On both sides...” in 12).


     134. Thus to be Crossed and Overpressed

     Beauty is profaned (or at least made to live in disgrace)
     by the brashness of the crosses adjacent to her crimson elevation,
     purposely planted to drive the victim crazy;
  4 then (in the reeking breath of my mistress, the voice of these subtexts,
     although I’m the one who swears it) with me alone
     Beauty halves her dubious distinction—to the Western World
     a triple torment, for three (maybe Beauty, Christ, and me? Or my “Mss.,” my friend, and me? Or Harry Southampton, Thomas Thorpe, and John Hall, three of my principal auditors?)—to be crucified that way, tortured and thwarted,
  8 bound with the same constraints that bind Him,
     and I having at my command no proper allegiance
     from any multitude: One man, Will, adds up to no one
     whose heart’s judgment reaches out
12 laterally with empathy. Thus simple truth is not only suppressed
     but actually subverted. Then my overextended self-defense can’t afford
     to wait for news, but hears reports from their doctors that my fellow-sufferers are getting along just fine.


          “Simple truth suppressed” (12) fits this pun-ridden text that is “o-er-pressed” (13) because it’s “overly intricate, printed,” and “pushed to carry a greater weight of meaning than it can handle.” The text is certainly riddlic, offering many possibilities for construing it.

          I confess that as I make such choices in the Runes I try not to go for the cheap shot, even when the text calls out loudly to be regarded as a bad joke. In this practice I follow the long precedent of editors of the visible Sonnets by our Greatest Punster. Insistent bawdry in every line of Q tells us he’s playing a “low game,” concurrently with the profound lyricism his linestrings can often encode.

           The likelihood of lost topical wit makes construing these Q texts even more challenging. Here in Rune 134, the opening lines house insistent bawdry about anal sex, a “torment thrice threefold.” The poet’s auditor, who seems to be an embarrassed victim, paradoxically “stands” to be “laid,” triggering a “mad” response in the “taker.” A text edited to focus on this scenario might start this way: “Butt is profaned, if not lives in disgrace, / At the wood’s boldness by thee. Blushing, stand— / On purpose laid—to make the taker mad. / (‘Thin,’ in the breath that from my Mistress reeks, / Although I swear it to myself alone.)” And so on.

           (“Thin” may be a “female” criticism of phallic equipment she’s observing at work—or the poet’s comment on his own bawdry, insubstantial and shallow.)

           My decision to read Q’s opening But is as “Beauty’s” and to hear “wood[s]” as a gesture toward the Cross (implied in 7) is one way of angling the text so that “higher” topics glint off its prismatic surfaces. This emendation parallels the routine changes that Sonnets editors make. While knowing that Q is a punny Game helps justify the decision not to be a literalist, knowing that Q is Will’s own jot-and-tittle text (and not an editorially garbled transcript) militates in the opposite direction, toward respecting every detail.

           Soberly regarded, the ambiguous scenario seems to be some kind of Crucifixion triptych, “A torment thrice, threefold thus to be crossed” (7), featuring three sufferers—perhaps Beauty (1), “Him” (8, suggesting both Christ and Will’s son, Hamnet), and Will himself (9). Just who stands in the middle is unclear. Conventionally Christ would be central on his “blushing stand” (2) or “rosy cross,” but here “…on both sides” (11-12) may depict Will stationed in the center, possibly with Sonnets and Runes to either side.

           Confusingly, Beauty “Doth halve that glory [of suffering with Christ?]” with Will, who may fill the “sober west” slot (6). Maybe Beauty is the more brilliant East. Like Christ’s two bracketing “felons,” Will “has no following” (9-10). “O’er-pressed” (13) implies not crucifixion but rather “pressing” as torment, while other details (8, 11) hint at ropes—as does the pun “can ’bide / no noose Beauty.” Line 14 may mean that the poet wants to hear only that both Beauty and Christ are alive and well. “Sober West” (6) encodes “saddened Christendom” (OED 1577).

           Amidst plays on printing, “O’er-pressed defense” may describe a published polemic that “suppresses simple truth” as a palimpsest does, by overlaying multiple, concurrent meanings. “Thus to be crossed” (7) puns on “torture” by acrostics. (The position 2B in the text—2nd line, 2nd element—is occupied by a “t,”which is indeed crossed. As Tau, the letter is emblematic of The Cross.) “A number” (10) is a verse text, and “on both sides” (12) suggests recto and verso, Sonnets and Runes. The pun “Knot, add half that glory to this upper weft” (5-6) plays on the “warp-and-woof” that intermeshes Runes with Sonnets in Q. The pun “weft” triggers a weaving motif—amplified by fold, crossed, bind, pressed, and on both sides.

           Lines 4-5 support the view that Will’s “mistress” speaks only in his voice and is therefore a conceit for his runic “Mysteries”—his “Mss.” Together with the muse/friend, this Mistress and the Poet form the well-known Triangle of the Sonnets that this text somehow alludes to.

           Line 14 may be about Will’s son-in-law, Dr. John Hall. It puns, e.g., “An onus bawdy, Hall this roamed, herpes eyed, John’s sick now (in ‘O’)” and “No news but, ‘Heal this row emptier, Physician, sick now’.” Lines 6-7 ask, “Does Hall see that gloried [hippocratic?] oath if ‘O’ [i.e., round/rune] be a ruse t’ aid our man T.Thr.?” Here “T.Thr.” suggests Thomas Thorpe, Will’s known printing agent, the “T.T.” of Q’s frontmatter.

           The “bond” that “Ham S. fast doth bind” (8) is death. A different sort of knotty familial pun occurs, e.g., as “Anne, in my will no S. heiress see, I pity Anne” or “…no S.-heir except Anne see…” (9).

           Technical aids to unity include legal terms such as stand, swear, crossed, bond, will, heir, reckon, and judgment; echoic pairs including suppressed / o’er-pressed (in 12, 13); and incidental rhymes.

Sample Puns

           1) Butt is peer-opened, “I,” “fin,” naughtily use, John; eye snot, loo, sin, disgrace; handy, eye synod (senate) Livy’s in, Dis gray see; definite hell ascends, gray see
           1-2) I, sick, raced t’ you
           2) wood’s suggests Dante’s “dark woods,” the Cross; blushing stand suggests “bleeding platform,” site of shame, Will’s torturous acrostic game; you see [= 00] Dis bold
           2-3) bitty, helpless inch, standing pure, pussy laid; the blue of inches t’ end, on purpose lady Tommy “catted” aye
           3) Tommy-cat hit a cur; the taker suggests any victim, Christ, the “tacker” (cf. “nailer,” with tack = stain); make mate; on Thorpe [p=th] owe Field; On Thorpe, “O,” sell it (felt), Tom-cat had a cur (sir) mad (sour maid); Lady Tummy-Ached Hat. eye
           3-4) that “acher,” maiden jaunty buried it
           4) Thin; T’ Hen., John, the buried thought from my mss. reeks
           4-5) my Mistress (mysteries) re-castled hugest, weird Tommy—cell see, all (awl) wan
           5) Alto [i.e., high] G’s worried Tommy; Although jest we aired, Tommy’s hell see; If W., Harry, eye T.T. (titty), O, my!
           5-6) Knot, halve that glory to this upper weft [see “warp-and-woof” in Sonnets/Runes]
           6) West [perhaps Sir Thomas West, panel member who investigated the Danvers brothers, involved with Southy in 1594]
           6-7) we stater [a coin], Mentor eye
           6-8) Does Hall see that gloried oath if “O” be ruse t’ aid our man T.T.? Here I see the result use obese, rough Ed, vender that bonded him assisted
           7) eye satyr, sold t’ huss; Toby “zeros” Ed; here I seed hairy ass; T.T. harassed Harry
           8) Ham. S. [that bond “death,” “marriage bond” (see 9)]; eye Thomas’ ass
           8-9) Theban dandy in my will; Assisted, oath binding John may well know
           9) Handy enemy, Will know, fair as a pet, aye in session; in ovary Aesop dances high
           9-10) fair ass apt, Anne see shine—a moon gain you, m’ baron, aye sir, see cunt anon; Handy enemy will nose Harry S. (hairy ass) apt and see his hiney among a number (a man/moon, gay and umber); I name un-gay an homme barren
         10) nun
         10-11) second din honor; (a numb…) an homme-burrow nicer echo, Indian O newer (an ewer) taught huge men tough merits t’ hide
         11) men toss merd, eye ass-tide; W., Harry, to the Judgment oft my heart (art, hard) is tied (I sty’d); tide; tough merd I stayed
         11-13) O, smear tasty, eyed on butt’s hide, ass t’ hew (assed hue) is sampled, rudest upper ass t’ eye some more
         12-13) th’ huss is Simple Truth—sup her ass,’tis m’ whore (more, moor)
         13) Eye some more th’ enemy o’ repressed, deaf Anne; o’er-pressed whore-pressed, over-circulated [printing; contrast truth suppressed (12)]
         13-14) see Anne biting on you; …on ewe’s butt—held (hell’d) heifer omit, Harry (here); in season biding (biting) on ewe ass, butt, healthy ass
         14) Physician, seek an O; physician, sick know; Known ewe’s butt healthy formed Harry; healthy S. (ass) roamed: here visit John’s kin, owe W.; Rome—there visit; in onus bawdy, Hall this roamed, herpes eyed, John’s sick now (in “O”)

Acrostic Wit

           The downward acrostic codeline—BAOTAD AVAAWOIN—suggests such readings as these: “Hated [B=8] Avon,” “Boated Avon,” “Bawdy, Odd Avon,” “Bawdy daw Owen,” “Betty, dau., aye a woe, John,” “Be 8 A.D. aye vain [a vein (to follow)],” “80 A.D. eye, aye wan,”“Bait odd eye you aye, awe own[i.e., admit],” “Bait ad ave [cf. ‘to greet’] wound,” “Bait adaugeo [to aggravate] John.”

         The upward (reverse) codeline—NIO WA AVADA TOAB—admits such decodings as “New aye, eye Veda to ape,” “Noah we evade, a tub,” “Anne 10 wedded, white [B=8],” “Know I evaded whip,” “Navidad white,” “…I have aided web,” “Navied, eye tub,” “Knave odd I tup (80 tup),” “Nate atop,” “Knight, 8 up (eye tup),” “Now I’ve added O ‘Up’,” “Now I evade 80, Up,” and “Navy [Knave], A.D. 80, ape.” “Node, atop” contradicts the position of the NIOWAAVAD...(i.e., node) that’s “at bottom.”

           The down/up hairpin reads, e.g., “Hated Avon now I evade, aye to ape,” “Be hated Avon Navy, add a tub,” “By 8 A.D., Avon knew I evaded web.”


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