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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 140
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Rune 139
Thirteenth lines, Set X (Sonnets 127-140)

                     Rune 139

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

     Yet so they mourn, becoming of their woe,
     Since saucy Jacks so happy are in this;
     All this the world well knows, yet none knows well.
 4  And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare:
     In nothing art thou black, save in thy deeds.
     Then will I swear Beauty herself is black,
     And yet thou will’t; for I, being pent in thee,
 8  Hymn have I lost—thou hast both him and me.
     Let no unkind, no fair beseechers kill;
     Make but my name thy love, and love that still.
     In things right true my heart and eyes have erred;
12 Therefore I lie. With her (and she with me
     Yet) do not so. But sense I am ne’er slain
     That I may not be so, nor thou belied.
     Glosses: 1) they, their: these pronouns point ahead to saucy Jacks (in 2)—i.e., tearful upstarts (and a joke about ejaculation); puns: “Wyatt [the sonneteer], Southy [Will’s patron, Southampton] mourn...”; 2) pun: “Sin see, sauce ejects soppy, a run(e) t’ hiss”; 3) awl, well, knows are sexual puns; well puns on Will; 4) pun: “my low ass rear” (etc.); 5) nothing is a pudendal pun; thou art black suggests “in mourning garb” (see 1); 6) will, a namepun, reiterates well in 3, I in 4 (etc.), will’t in 7, me in 8, and my name in 10; 7) fore-I: a phallic pun, with yet (1, 4, 7, 13) punning on “white,” “wide,” and Wyatt; 8) Hymn (Q Him) puns on Ham, the poet’s dead son, Hamnet; 7-8) a rhymed couplet; 9) beseechers: petitioners, rhetoricians; 10) Make but puns, “Mate, butt, inscribed..,” “...body,” “...bawdy”; 9-10) another rhymed couplet; 11) things right true, minim’d... puns, “penises at right angles” and “things rigid tear you,” with puns on “hard” and phallic “I’s” (or testicular “eyes”) reinforcing the wit;12) her points to Beauty (6), thy love (10); With her embeds the phallic pun “wither”; pun: “Th’ hairy ‘fore-I’ lie, withering, t’ show a theme; 13) sense (Q since): perceive, detect (imper. v.); 14) puns: phallic “I,” “bellied.”

     139. Saucy Jacks

     They go on, garbed in black and posturing that way, suiting their mournful condition,
     because cocky Johns enjoy such ostentatious weeping so much,
     advertising their condition to the world, however superficially.
  4 Even so, by heaven, I think my love just as rare:
     You’re colorfully arrayed, dark only in your deeds.
     That leads me to swear that Beauty herself is black
     and that you intend to keep her in mourning. As for me, a writer penned in you who are the focal subject of this cycle of verses,
  8 I’ve lost my song: You’ve captured him, and me.
     Don’t let any good-looking, wrongly-motivated courtiers argue me to death;
     make just my name, Will, your beloved, and go on loving it.
     My sentiment and vision have misapprehended truth;
12 that explains why I misrepresent things. About your love (your love is with me
     still), don’t falsify. (I speak the truth on that subject.) If you just understand that I can never be destroyed,
     you make it so that I cannot be, and so that you yourself can’t be lied about or deceived by falsehoods.


          Deciding what “saucy Jacks” means (see 2) is one rusty key to unlocking the various meanings that lie hidden in Rune 139. As usual in Q’s gamy texts—in the visible Sonnets and especially in the hidden Runes—Will’s key phrase is ambiguous and suggestive. At bottom the poem is a phallic tour de force in which insistent sexual bawdry intervenes and distracts.

           A reader who tries to find some plausible, more polite or “serious” scenario that will make sense of the text may hear in Will’s rather unflattering plea to his unnamed friend a vague comment on their friendship. The poem features an ironic compliment—“In nothing art thou black, save in thy deeds” (5)—and a prominent mea culpa (11). Though “rare” (4), the friend hangs out with “saucy Jacks” (2) who, at best, seem like posturing courtiers affecting sentimental tears, drama queens so shallow that “none knows [them] well” (3). At worst, “saucy Jacks” may mean prissy ejaculators who might not “know a well [i.e., in Renaissance parlance, a vagina]” if they saw one beckoning.

           I propose that “she” (12)—everywhere in Q—is mainly Will’s conceit for the Q texts themselves, his mss. or “mysteries.” She may also mean Beauty (6), another likely intimate, and (concurrently) “thy [i.e., the unnamed auditor’s] love” (10). The relationship of this Dark Lady to the poet and his male friend stays cloudy in all of its various textual manifestations, in Sonnets and in Runes.

           Will’s insistent phallic humor can’t be glossed over. The opening line, e.g., puns, “White, sooty—m’ horn be coming oft, higher. Whoa!” Similarly groin-focused bawdry thrives on such puns as “Things right true” (11), a conventional Renaissance play on “right-angled penises,” and “Butt-sin see: I am in arse lain” (13). Reinforcing such “low” wit are rampant puns including those listed below in the line glosses: e.g., phallic “I”; wide (in Q’s yet); “sauce ejects, soppier ‘I’ notice” (2); and routine Renaissance puns such as “awl” and “thing” for penis, “well” and “no-thing” for vagina, and “know” for copulate. Even the poet’s usual namepuns (well, will, wilt, me, my name) encode plays on “well” and on “will” as sexual drive.

           Crafty echoic and contrastive diction that tightens the poetic texture includes “In this” and “All this” (2, 3); “saucy” and “rare,” both suggesting hot meat (2, 4); “Saucy” (2) and “salve” (5); “Lie” (12) and “belied” (14); “the world” (3) and “by heaven” (4); “swear” (6) and “things…true” (11); “deeds” (5) and “will(s)”; “none,” “nothing,” “no” (twice), “not” (twice), “ne’er,” and “nor” (3-14); and “kill” (9) and “slain” (13), endwords linked to mourning. Two rhymed couplets occur (7-8, 9-10), and other endings show echoic sounds.

           “Jack” (2), among its many meanings, suggests John Hall, Will’s son-in-law. Another “family” pun runs, “Anne, yet thou will ’t: For I being pent in thee, / Him [Ham] have I lost…” (7-8)—where Ham suggests Hamnet, the couple’s dead son. Another pun goes, “John thinks airy Judy rheumy: Heart and eye showered…” (11), where Judy is the poet’s daughter Judith.

          One complex pun surely aimed at Will’s own Dr. Jack—his son-in-law John Hall—is this: “Scene see saucy: Jack is soppy, our John: Th’ eisell [i.e., vinegar] let us t’ you hurl; dew’ll nose widen, one knows well...” (2-3). (Eisell was acrid smelling and had medicinal properties.) The letterstring code for this complex buried message is this: Sin ce sausie Iacke s sohappy are in th is,Al lth is t hew orl dw ell knowes yet n one knowes well...

           A striking letterstring play in 13-14 encodes “See Ham eerie, slained [sic] Hamnet be a son, or Thorpe lied. ” Here ...I may not be so, n... (14) lines out “Hamnet be son” and Thorpe means Will’s known printing agent.

           A representative “low” joke about Anne Hathaway Shakespeare’s obesity (and Will’s “remedy” for it) occurs as this deeply buried pun: “None know we swell Anne-diet by Heavy Anne eating come yellow. Ass rare, Anne, nothing art thou, belly-sick saint...” (3-5). (Code: none kno we swell, An dyet by heaue n Ithin kem yloue as rare, In nothing art thou bl a cke saueint....)

          One favorite jot-and-tittle joke of mine in Q about Anne’s weight is the closing one here: “I am nearest Anne that I may note beef on our Tubby Lady” (13-14). Overlaid in this terminal letterstring code is an alternate pun: “Th’ Hat-I-may, ( Anne odd, be fon [i.e., silly] whore, Double-Wide!” The anachronistic “white trash” joke is a bonus here for moderns to enjoy. The Runes have the capability of reinventing themselves.

           The pun “T’ Harry S., whore, I lie” (12) is typical of the simpler kind of joke that Will aimed at Harry Southampton, a.k.a. Henry Wriothesley, the poet’s only known patron, a man often proposed as the handsome Friend of the Q texts. Harry is the “Southy” in so they (1).

Sample Puns

          1) Yet is O-theme our nib’s omen; Ye et Sue, th’ “eye” moor nigh be coming oft, hairy woe; neigh; Whoa! Yet Southy, m’ horn be coming oft, Harry W., O
          1-2) …t’ harass John; John, go: Stairways eye in see-saw; inches ’t Harry whizzing see; in ghosty arousing, see feces, kiss, soppy Peer John, this
          2) foe—happy, errant—hies; His inch, saucy ass, kiss, fop, eye peer, eye knights
          2-3) foe, appear aye in thistle; appearing, th’ eisell lettuce to you hurled; aye Jack is so apparent, his awl t’ hiss; kiss foe apparent, eye Saul (salty ass); eye salty Southy, W., earl; pay Aaron thy salty ass; a pie errant—high, salty ass; arraigned, eye Saul; apparent is all this t’ you; Jack is fey parent, eye his awl; Sin see, saucy Isaac is soppy, I rune (ruin) his awl; …eye jackass soppy, a rune t’ hiss; soppier (soapier) “I” into his hole
          3) Althea’s to you whore; t’ Hugh, earl welliking, owe seeding wand (owe Satan wan; we sate nun-kin, O, we swell); sight no neck (nick) in O; Awled, eye Southy, W., Earl W.
          3-4) nun (none) knows well Anne died (diet); nun-nose will indite “By heaven!”; in aching O, we, swelling, died; We swell Anne-diet by Heavy Anne eating come (…comey louse; …camel of Assyrian; …camel of Asser, Iranian oat…); wassail ended
          4) Handy Wyatt: By Hugh-John eye th’ ink, mellow Asser eye in an ode; …came why loose her hair; Anne died by heavy knight, in came yellow ass rare (rearing)
          5) In no-thing, hard, thou be Jack, fon thy deeds; John, in oath, injured the hobbly acts (opal ax, opal ass…) of Auntie
          5-6) O, thou black savant, hide Ed’s thin will, leaf-wear bawdier sell; hobbly, sick, sainted Ed’s thin, will ice wear (Well, I swear); If Auntie, dead, is thin, Will is wiry (weary, wary)
          6) Thin Willy S. (Willis), weary, bawdy, hears elves be jacking
          6-7) Jack, indict (indite) Howell, t’ soar aye; Thin Will eye, Furry Body herself is Black Anne; see Isabella seek Ande’d hole (antidote)
          7-8) thou willed syrupy inch penned in the hymn; wilt, fore-“I,” being penned in theme heavily, oft; be inch (bench [cf. “settle” in acrostic]) painting the Himalayas; fore-“I” being pent in thee, him heavy love, T.T.
          8) Himalayas T.T. housed; thou hast both ham and millet (meal); Ham have I lost, thou halved both Ham and me; thou halved both hymn, Anne-dome [wisdom, cf. “dame”]
          8-9) T.T. housed bawdy Hymen, dame, Lady nun; Helen [L-et = L-an(d)], nun kind; Hell-Anne know you in kind, nose, eye, a rib, befeature skill (nose hairy be, features kill); thou hast bottom-end malady in O; Bottom and Emilia tend Owen, kind Dane, oaf Harry (kin, din of Harry)
          9) Indian over Bessie, cherry-ass (curious) kill; of Harry be f--ker-skill
          9-10) kill my ache, Bottom; Let in O, unkind, nosy rib-f--kers kill make- [mate-]butt
        10) M’ ache, butt-minim; minimed hell (hill) of Anne, deluded (diluted) still; eluded
        10-11) minim Italian deluded ass tilling th’ inches
        11) John thinks right true my art, Anne-eyes have erred
        11-12) hard handy shared the hairy ass; merdy Anne eye, Shottery sorrel, yea, with her; Anne dies, half heard (hard; have her, Ed.), therefore I lie with her…; Harry, sorry, ill, uterine, deaf
        12) really wittier Andes hued hymn
        12-13) …hued meadow; eye lewder Andes, witty my Edo in ode; shitty mead don owed foe; Anne S. hued hymn, why Ann [= et], dough-knot’s O, butt-offense, eye m’ Annie, arse laying
        13) butt-sin see, I am in [Ste.] Ursula; Ursula I knighted; in ode, fop you’d see in Siam; Ye Edo in ode’s obit see; sense iamb in ear slain (in hearse lain); fine Siam near is lain
        13-14) Auntie Hat., eye Maenad, be fon; John, Siam in a wrestling thought eye; Yet do notice, O, body of John, Simon eerie, slanted aye; Helen t’ Hat-I-may (aye may) not be foe; North, O, you be lady; Hat-I-may note, Bess, O, north o’ you; T’ Hat. “I” may not be foe, nor thou “belle-‘I’d’ [i.e.,beautifully hung]”; I a manor, victual I needed aye; I am an heiress lying t’ Hat; eye a minor, sly Nate
         14) North, O, you bellied; eye Mayan ode, be fon; be fon our Tubby Lady; …our Double-Wide

Acrostic Wit

          As a routinely crafty game element, the downward acrostic code here—YSAAI TAHLMIT YT—encourages such decodings as “Isaiah, Talmuded.” (Talmud could be inflected [OED].) Other variants include “Ye say Talmud yet,” “Ye sight a limit wide,” “Ye sight Almighty T [i.e., Tau, the Cross],” “Ye see idol mighty, ( T.) Wyatt,” “Ye Southy [i.e., Will’s patron, Southampton] limited,” “Ye settle [i.e., bench] emptied,” “Isaiah, tall, mated!” “Why subtle, empty tea?” and “Ye see aye a tale mated [suggesting the linked Sonnets/Runes].”

          The upward codeTYTIML HAT IAASY—admits such readings as “Tight eye m’ lady easy,” “Tied I m’ laddie, I say,” “Tidy m’ laddie’s ‘Y’,” “Tidy my lattice. Why?” “T.T., eye m’ hell, Hat-a-sigh,” “Tid(e)y melody eye: Sea,” “Tidy Himmel had Isaiah,” “To yet eye m’ hell, hate Isaiah,” and “T., yet eye m’ laity, aye easy.” (In Q, “TT” always suggests Will’s known printing agent, Thomas Thorpe.)

           The down/up hairpin codeline suggests, e.g., “Ye see ideal mated item, lady (laddie) easy” and “Isaiah, Talmud…yet tight aye my lady’s ‘Y’.” Pictographic wit, insistent in Q and especially in the capitalized acrostics, routinely employs Y as groin and I as phallus.

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