Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets

Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets: A Restoration of the Runes
by Roy Neil Graves, Professor of English
The University of Tennessee at Martin

Set XI, Runes 141-154: Texts and Comments 
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2004, All Rights Reserved        

Proceed to Rune 142
Return to the Index of Set XI

Rune 141
First lines, Set XI (Sonnets 141-154)

                         Rune 141

     (First lines, Set XI: Sonnets 141-154)

     In faith I do not love thee; with mine eyes
     Love is my sin, and thy dear virtue, hate.
     Low as a careful housewife runs to catch
 4  Two loves, I have—of comfort and despair—
     Those lips that love’s own hand did make
     Poor soul, the center of my sinful earth:
     My love is as a fever longing still!
 8  O me! What eyes hath love put in my head!
     Canst thou, O cruel, say I love thee not?
     O, from what power hast thou this pow’rful might?
     Love is too young to know what conscience is:
12 In loving thee, thou know’st, I am forsworn
     Cupid, laid by his brand and fell asleep,
     The little love-god lying once asleep.
     Glosses: 1) mine eyes puns on “m’ Annie S.,” with and, hate, and hath in 2-13 being other namepuns on Anne Hathaway Shakespeare; 3) runs (Q runnes) puns on runes; catch is a related pun, since catch = round (OED 1601), and round/rune/O are punningly interchangeable; 4) have puns on halve (and I have on “eye half”), pointing to the bifurcation of visible Sonnets/hidden Runes; 5-6) puns: that low sound Anne did make, poor soul..., with make = mate; 8) What eyes... echoes mine eyes in 1 and puns on “Anne [= W = IN] Hathaway [code: hat-e-ye] Sha.”; hath love is an eyepun on Hathaway; 8-10) O = round/rune; thee not puns on “the knot,” suggesting riddle or rune; 9) Canst puns on “See Anne Shakespeare [st = the family name cipher]”; other puns: O = round, rune; thee not = the knot [i.e., the puzzle]; 10) might puns on mite/midget (see young in 10); 11) conscience echoes In faith in 1 and puns on “cunt-science”; 12) forsworn = perjured (see lying in 14); 13) brand = torch, mark (of infamy); 14) lying puns on “telling falsehoods” (see 12); once puns on “wands” (echoing brand in 13).

     141. Cupid Asleep

     I do not love you purely or conscientiously. I look on you and
     love you licentiously—and thus despise your dear virtue.
     As covertly as a discreet housewife darts between
  4 two lovers, I divide my time between sources both of comfort and despair—
     between two lips (analogues for these paired texts) that love’s own hand has created to make
     for me a poor substitute for a soul, a focal center for my sinful earth:
     My love is like an anguished fever that goes on burning!
  8 O me! Why do my love-driven eyes see what they see!
     Can you, O cruel beloved, my perverse rune-project, say I do not love you?
     O, what Power gives you such amazing dominance?
     Love is too young to understand absolute commitment.
12 My love for you, as you know, makes me act (in these poems) like a false-speaking
     Cupid who has fallen asleep, his love-torch laid aside—
     the little love-god lying asleep for once (and telling lies, in effect, even in his sleep).



          Rune 141 comprises in sequence the 14 first-lines in the last 14 sonnets in the Quarto cycle, i.e., Sonnets 141-154. These numbers make up Set XI, the last of eleven sets in the buried scheme and also the second set in succession dealing with the poet’s “Perverse Mistress,” his Dark Lady.

           Though it’s generally true, I propose, that the Dark Lady is a metaphoric equivalent to the poet’s “mss.” or “Mysteries,” Runes 141 and its sequel 142 don’t highlight this particular conceit. Overall, a dominant topic in Set XI is Will’s own self-imposed predicament—that of a writer whose every line is an elaborate double entendre struggling to encode disparate meanings concurrently. This topic recurs throughout Q.

           As a runic mea culpa, Rune 141 establishes a figurative dialectic. On the one hand is the “virtuous” friend (2), controlled by supernatural Power (10) and conscience (11) that both help him resist the speaker’s advances (2). A diametric figure is the libidinous, licentious, love-sick, “lying” (12) poet; Eros dominates his attraction to the friend, and, as speaker, he is like a “lying” Cupid (14). The “two lips” made by love (5) to become the focal center in the speaker’s life (5) are a complex conceit suggesting multiple ideas: e.g., “labia”; the friend’s lips (or other orifices), objects of affection that bring both grief and pleasure (4); and the poet’s own lips, which may stand for his bifurcated rhetoric (in Sonnets/Runes), for his “poor soul” (6), and also for the two outside figures he talks about, his friend/auditor and mistress/text.

           Will’s insistence that he is “forsworn” (i.e., perjured, 12) and, like Cupid, is “lying” (14) is slippery. “I do not love thee with mine eyes” (1) means partly that, in his physical absence from the friend, his lips express his affection instead. He also “lies” because he speaks irrational doubletalk. He is a “lover asleep” because (in the Runes, at least) he has no voice—but, paradoxically, still “lies.” He is childish (“too young to know what conscience is”) because he babbles, as if feverish (7). (Sonnets editor Stephen Booth in his Yale UP edition notes the conventional pun “cunt-science” in conscience.) The “brand”—vaguely, a flaming arrow—that Cupid “lays by” (13) is the poet’s pen, with phallic innuendo.

           The puns “two loaves I halve” (4) and “wise runes two catch two loves” (4-5) add texture to Will’s figurative bifurcation. Q’s spelling runnes (suggesting “runes”) and the OED definition of “catch” clarify this play: As a musical term, a catch was “a round in which one singer catches at the words of another, producing ludicrous effects. 160l.” The “‘O’ cruel” (pun 9) is also the “ringlike, injurious round/rune,” and each textual “O” (8, 9, 10) puns further on “round”; the routine pun “knot” (1, 9, 11 [as “know what”]) suggests a puzzle. The “in-faith” that the poet “does not love” (1) is partly the coterie allegiance that must have caused him feverish difficulty as a writer.

           Puns on “low” and “lowing” occur, suggesting bad singing; in fact, 11 of 14 lines harbor forms of loue (Q’s spelling). Puns on “pour” (6, 10 [twice]) suggest ink, and Q’s spelling “CVpid...” suggests the play “See vapid lay [i.e., insipid song]” (13).

           “Religious” diction includes “In faith,” “sin,” “virtue,” “comfort and despair,” “soul,” “sinful earth,” “power,” and “Love-God.” The detail “brand” (13) and others vaguely identify Cupid with Satan, while the friend’s Power (10) seems a Godlike foil and source of “virtue” (2, 10). Paradoxically, a Cupid who “lays by his brand” (13) after his creative act (see 5) suggests God’s rest after Creation, while his “sleep” is vaguely like that of Adam. Diction about money, buying, and ownership includes “powerful mite” (10), galvanizing “careful housewife” (3) into a glancing Biblical allusion to the Widow’s Mite.

           Puns about fishes and animals, and jokes about eating, include “poor fowl” (6), “fin” (2), and “loaves” (2, 4)—adumbrating Christ’s Feeding of the Multitude and putting in a new light the question, “O, from what power halved thou these powerful, mighty (empty) / loaves two…?” (10-11). The pun in “owne hand” on “Onan” (5)—who “spilled his seed upon the ground”—gives “sinful earth” (6) a quite specific sense. Bawdry about small penises accumulates in “powerful mite” (10), “the little love-god-lying-wand’s asleep” (14), and the overlaid pun “a flea-pee” repeated in the exact rhymes of the couplet.

           A motif of eyes ties together the opening and close, just as “lying” connects diction about eyes and lips.

           Pointing toward Will’s own wife (and away from the Bible) are such puns such as “Anne—tidy or weird—you Hate-away ass see, our Eisell (Evil) Housewife…” (2-3, with Q’s hate, I.Oe using an altered “L”) and the phrase “what eyes hath” (8)—a syllabic anagram (which rearranges to generate “Hath eye[s] wha[t]”) in which the “extra” ft encodes the recurring name-cipher for “Shakespeare.” Such plays on “Anne Hathaway” seem almost overtly keyed to “careful housewife” in 3. One way to read the rune, in fact, is as an address to Anne in which Will tries to apologize for breaking a marriage vow he made at too young an age and to rationalize the dying of love’s flame.

           Indeed the text is a tour de force of puerile anti-Anne wit. For example, lines 1-2 (in mine eyes, / ...) pun, “...m’ Annie S. loves my sin....” As Booth has noted in one instance elsewhere in Q, the word and forms a possible pun on “Anne.” Similarly, the word what (e.g., here in 8, 10, 11) puns on Anne Hat. (with w = IN = Anne). Thus the letterstring in line 8 admits the reading “Home, Anne Hat. aye is Hath-I-way [= Q hath loue]...,” with what eyes hath loue... punning “Anne Hat-e-Y is Hath-I-o-we...,” with concurrent scatology and body-function humor, and with my head punning on “maid.” CAnst (Q 9) puns “See Anne Shakespeare the house rule...,” with the printed ft digraph being the Shakespeare family name cipher that I have deduced, a ‘long s’ seeming to ‘hold’ a dagger- or spearlike t by the handle and ‘shake’ it. Line 10 opens with the pun “Offer our homme Anne Hat. poor, base T., Thos. Th. is powerful midget,” concurrently denigrating the poet’s wife and his printing agent, Thomas Thorpe. Q’s what powre puns on “Anne Hath-o-were...” (with p = thorn, archaic th). Q’s and dispaire (4) puns, e.g., “Anne, disappear,” with the run-on pun “Anne die, ‘Speared...” Q’s hand did make, / POore soule the center of my sinfull earth... (5-6) puns, “Anne died, make [i.e., mate] poor, foul, thick Anne, terror awesome, wife Anne, foolhardy H. [itch]....” And so on, almost infinitely in the crafty Q codestrings.

           An ingenious pun on “Wriothesley” (Q ... re,THoseli... [4-5]) and another inverted one (ruell, fay [9], cf. “Rillsey,” “Risley”) point the poem’s wit toward Southampton, while acrostic wit about TT (see below) broadens its contemporary audience to include the poet’s printer-agent.

           Like all eleven of the first-line groupings in the separate sets, Rune 141 features in its paste-up form the oversized capital letters as printed in Q, a text that (I deduce) was overseen during the printing stage by Will’s (previously identified) printing agent Thomas Thorpe, the man who “signed” the title page and infamously cryptic dedication of the book. My own deduction is that the printed details of Q represent, in jot-and-tittle detail, the poet’s carefully authorized intentions.

           One example of Thorpe’s likely involvement in arranging Q’s printed forms oppears in the lefthand acrostic (discussed below), where an initial oversized L is apparently altered to I. in line 3.

           Another example of manipulated typography occurs in 13f., where the italicized Vpid after the initial C underscores such pun as, e.g., “See vapid [OED 1656] lady buy his ‘brand’ and sell a sleepy tail....” Another strained pun here is “See vpid [i.e., as printed elements] laid bias [i.e., oblique (OED 1530ff.)], beruned, and [see] sales [i.e., of the poet’s book] leap.” This pun underscores the fact that the italicized letters lie “on the bias.” Concurrently, the pun “lead bias” may be a printing term. Since “vapid” means “damp or steamy” [OED 1690], the pun “sea, vapid” may also be intended, with “...and sails leap” an amplifying detail in the line.

           The altered “L” (initial in 3) appears to be printed from exactly the same type-bit used initially in Rune 1.3; as “I.,”this detail triggers possibilities: e.g., “I light [lit] P.M. occult.” The “light ‘I’” is filed down and shows an aberrational white space. Printing agent Thomas Thorpe would have been Will’s collaborator here, helping to effect minuscule wit.

Sample Puns

          1) John sayeth, “Eye dough-knot lewd, The Weight, m’ Annie S.”; In faith I’d “O,” knot lewd, hew (hue); John, Satan ought love (…ought love to hew [hue]); John, Satan owed love to you, Satan ought laud you; Laud hued my anus; “Ovidy,” witty m’ Aeneas
          1-2) wit minus love is my sin; knot lewd you eyed, harmonious, low vice-hymn; Item: Annie’s loo (loose); with my knees low, aye (high) is my fin handy, hid, “ear’y”; my Annie-ass loves my “fin”; eye Slavs, missing and dead; aye sallow is Mycenaean dead-head
          2) Is Mycenae in debt? …ended? “I” is my sin, Anne “died,” headier word you hate; Love is missing, Anne did “[maiden]head/ear” virtue hate; Low is my sigh anent theatre, word you hate; Louis’ missing, indebted; eye seamy Finn, and headier virtue hate
          2-3) you Attila’s ass aye wrestle; you Atlas, Asser solace; Hathaway [hate, I.oe a, with “L” altered to “I.”] is a careful housewife, our Annie S.; Low is Miss Annie, Anne, diet headier were to Hate. loss, a sicker fool (aye sick, her soul); Louis eyes my Seine, handy to hate, eerie, weird-hued Louis see arise aloof, wiser, you in Nice
          3) Lo, asses [imitating 2, initially] are full of wise runes to catch (catch round, rune); housewife—our own—ass, toes itch too
          3-4) few eye Pharaoh in nest o’ cat-shit; wise runes toga’d chattel; Eunice took 8 chattels, eye halves, see ’em; is toga’d cat Wallace?
          4) Wooly-ass (Wallace), eye half-ass seam fart and disappear; Tall, O (T’ hallow), you Shivas see; eye Wyckham fart and disappear; Too low, is Jesus home farting?
          4-5) handy, spy (spay) I Wriothesley piss, the tail-office, Onan did I damn; fore-tanned didies parade hose (prate whose) lapsed; paired O-syllabus, thought lucent died; t’ Anne Dis-parrot Hosea lisped
          4-7) Two loaves [suggesting hips, etc.] I halve, O’s comfort and despair; come, farty Anne, deaf parrot whose lips (tee!) Hath-I-way sounding did make pour, foul, the center of my sinful earth, my loo-ey sauce, a sewer
          5) Onan did aye; aye Dulcinea ended m’ ache; Thou Phillip stayed Louis’ Onan-deed
          5-6) eye dim (I damn) a (item eye) caper foul; my keeper is old (…sold his aunt; …his interest, missing fuller theme); Th’ offal I piss, that loo-sound Anne did make pour…; make mate
          6) Poor, foul the scene
          6-7) my sinful earth-milieu is a Savior; tear off my ms.-in-full here, Tommy, low vices eye, if you are longing still; Himalayas, I save (sauce) you e’erlong
          7) My Louis’ ass I see e’erlong; asses aye see we’re long-inch Shakespeare, allow me! [the exclamation mark combines phallic and pudendal/anal elements]
          7-8) Mellow, Isaiah’s ass you e’erlong inch, fiddle “O” mute (muddy); May Louis’ ass a virile (feral) engine (honking) give Ptolemy; eye loamy, white-assed Hat.; long-inch, ass-tallow mute I shat; aver, lo, in jing of till, O, me (owe me), Hat. aye shat, tail of puta in my head (in mead, in mid-sea)
          8-9) low puta named sane (Seine) fit doggerel; hallow poot, John, medicine of T.T., ocher wells eye; lo, puta in Medician fit to you occur; Homme! what has Hat-I-way put in medicine of T.T. (titty)?
          9) See Anne Shakespeare, thick or vile (thick her vial); See Anne’s doggerel fail; See Anne Shakespeare, Thos., rules aye, a lofty knot; ogre of hell, assail Ovid; See Anne S., T.T., hog her Yule’s ale; Canst thou, O, see, Risley [Rill-sey], I love thee not? Canst thou, O cruel, fail, Ovid henad [platonic monad, 1678 from Gr]?
          9-10) Ovid-hint owes Rome weighty power; …Hen. ought (He, Anne, aught) “O’s” roam; see rule, fail, Ovid—he no tough Rome; in fit doggerel salute (salad), hee! notice Rome; say, ill Ovid, hint, O, from what power hast thou this powerful mite; tough Row M (Rome), W.H., had power. Hast thou? This powerful M (hymn) I jet?
        10) O, fair O, mew a typo erased; pay Aristotle [i = l] his poor sou limit (his poor, sole mite); Over homme, W.H. I’d pour; halved, th’ odes pour, solemn I jet; O’s row mute pours T.T. out
        10-11) midget Louis’ toy hound owe you; revel may get lusty; midget lusty, hung, took naughty cunts, sciences anal; my Judy low is too young to know what cunt-science is
        11) [see the beginnings of 2, 3] Loosed to you in jet, oaken [suggesting “wooden,” crazy] “O,” W.H. eyed cunt-sciences; in jet, “Okinawa” ’tis unseen
        11-12) ass, see incising, low inch
        12) “I” in, loving that oaken “O”, W. Shakespeare jams arse worn; the token O “stems” our few—horny, capital 8; In love, John Judy (jetty) took in O
        12-13) loving th’ heath, O, you know stems or [pur]sue horny cow; Noe (Noah) stems whore’s worn capital; neck up, I delayed bias
        13) See, vapid lady buys barren Dan; delayed bias be randon; eight buy his barren, dandy ass; See, you peed, lad, biased be rune; I debase bare Anne
        13-14) randon devils leap t’ hell; petaled, teal, lo, figged Lincoln see asleep; bare and dandy sailors (fellows) leapt; eying devil, I flee petaled tail of God [cf. Dante’s Paradiso]; petaled tail of God’ll win John
        14) lying John, see a flea pee; Th’ “l” Italy got— “l.” Why, John? (John see, asleep; John, seize [sees] “l”-heap); Go dallying, John, seas leap; Tale idle lugged lying John; join Cecil, pee; in Sicily (Cecily), pee

Acrostic Wit

          The acrostic code in first-line texts is doubled because of Q’ s typographical emphasis. Each implicit code here allows manipulation and possible “deciphering.” (Note that the ladder arrangement of the doubled acrostic codeline allows four “corners” as starting points, and also allows two directions, up and down, for each leg of the ladder. The permutations that start from the lefthand corners are down/up and up/down (the hairpin variants), and down/down and up/up; each one of these four codelines has an implicit reverse, which will start from one of the righthand corners. These facts explain how each first-line text in the 11 sets generates eight acrostic codeline permutations. Additionally, the most overt codeline (i.e., the emphatic lefthand letterstring) can be read separately in its up and down variants, just as it can be in each of the other 13 runes in any given set.

          To what extent Will tinkered with these to make them meaningful is anybody’s guess. One keeps fathoming the limits of his “great mind.” To some extent language will play its own intrinsic games, regardless of an author’s conscious intentions.

          One reading of the codeline that is visually most insistent—i.e., ILL TT PM O COLICT—is “Ill Thos. Thorpe [i.e., Will’s known printing agent] p.m. ‘O’ [i.e., a nightly round or rune] collect.” (The scenario shows “T.T.” coming by Will’s place late to collect the poet’s latest work, and gagging on what he gets.) The acrostic elements CO LICT pun on “company licensed”—and on “colic,” echoing ILL.

          The full down/down hairpin codeILL TT PM O COLIC T NOO WHOYM A HON V H—may be aimed at printing agent Thomas Thorpe. The codeline suggests, e.g., “Ill T.T., p.m. ‘O’ [round, rune] collect—gnome [i.e., aphorism] I owe new,” and “Ill T.T., p.m. O-colic [i.e., nighttime bowel distress, with ‘O’ suggesting ‘anus’] t’ know—Whooom! A honey!” Other readings include “Ill type, my occult, no (know) homme (...home) I honor” and “…an O-womb I honor.”

          The down/up hairpin codeILL TT PM O COLIC THV NOH A MY OHWOON—suggests, e.g., “Ill T.T., p.m. O-colic, the ‘V’-gnome [groin aphorism] ye own [i.e.,have, acknowledge],” and “…th’ vino eye, my own!” (Does Will visit his “sick” friend Thorpe with a bottle of wine?) The code also suggests “Ill T.T. p.m.-O [a nighttime rune] collect, the vein [of wit], O, aye my own.”

          The up/up codeline and the up/down (hairpin) codeline offer similar kinds of gamy potentialities:

          The up/up codeT C IL O COMPT T L LI HV N O HAM YOH WOON—suggests, e.g., “Tickle O, cunt; lying, owe a Mayan,” “To see ill O, count to 11. O, Ham, you won!,” “T’ see high/low, come, T.T., Livy-gnome you own,” “To silo come, pet lion o’ Ham you wound,” and “T’ seal (sell, kill) O, count to 11, O, ha (O, aye) my O won! Zero eye my O wan!” (Eleven sets “seal” the runes into place; Ham[net], the dead son, “wins,” perhaps, as one muse of a nearly completed project. Livy’s breadth makes sense of “high/low.”) Other possibilities are these: “‘Tis ill O, come pee, T.T., liven O…” and “…live gnome you, H.W. [suggesting both Southampton (Henry Wriothesley) and John Hall (as H., IN.)], own.”

          The up/down hairpin codeT C IL O COM PT T L LI NOO WHOYM A HON V H—might be interpreted to read, e.g., “To sell O, count to 101 anew. Why money?” “…W.H. owe you money,” “T’ cielo, come, Pit: hells annoy M.A. who knew,” “…Hells I know. Why my honey?” and “To seal O, Count Lyly know, whom I honor.” (A play on LL and MA as academic degrees may be at work here, as the poet one-ups his university-educated “betters.”) Other suggestions in the codeline are “Compt” and “T.T., LL….” Thus this reading: “T’ see ill O [T’ cielo], Compt LL…, John, Homme, I own you,” “…Ahoy!,” “…Away!” “…O, why?”

Proceed to Rune 142
Return to the Index of Set XI
Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets