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

Proceed to Rune 151
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Rune 150
Tenth lines, Set XI (Sonnets 141-154)

                         Rune 150

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

     Dissuade one foolish heart from serving thee
     Whom thine eyes woo as mine importune thee
     Whilst I, thy babe, chase thee, afar behind.
 4  Suspect I may—yet not directly tell,
     That followed it as gentle day
     And let that pine to aggravate thy store,
     And, frantic mad with evermore unrest
 8  That is so vexed with watching and with tears;
     That is so proud thy service to despise
     The more I hear and see, just cause of hate—
     As his triumphant prize—proud of this pride,
12 Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy—
     The boy for trial needs would touch my breast,
     Which from love’s fire took heat perpetual.
     Glosses: 1) heart puns on hard, a phallicism; 3) Whilst I puns, Will Shakespeare [ = st, the family name cipher]; 5) That = I, who; it = my heart (see 1); gentle day puns, “genital’d I,” with I a phallic pictograph; 6) that = gentle day (see 5), i.e., a peaceful life; also, “my heart”; 11) proud...pride echoes 9, with phallic innuendo (cf. “proud flesh,” “prowed”); 13) breast echoes foolish heart in 1, with the phallic pun “barest witch-form low, fired hook...” (13-14).

     150. The Poet’s Service

     You should discourage another boy’s foolish heart from following you,
     someone whom your eyes pursue even while my eyes plead with you
     as I, your babe, run after with no hope of catching up.
  4 My surmise, not a conclusion I can affirm absolutely but one based on my experience
     as that somewhat inarticulate child who followed his heart (and thus you) as day follows day
     and let daily peace languish while adding to your bounty
     and is driven to frantic madness with perpetual unrest
  8 made terribly anxious by watching and crying;
     as that child who is now so proud to regret his service to you,
     the more I see and hear the valid reasons for despising you—
     my surmise (to try, finally, to get to the point) is that, as the crowning recognition of his service—even while he’s feeling proud
12 that you swore you’d love him and be true and constant always—
     the boy would do well, as a test, to communicate intimately with this heart of mine
     that was set perpetually on fire with the burning passion of love.


          In Rune 150, perverse syntax conspires to hide the drama of a chivalric conceit.

          The situation, as I piece it together, may run something like this: Will, a page and a Cupid-like “babe” (3) in his master’s service (see 1), has come to despise a hard, all-consuming life that brings no rewards (5-11) and wants his experience to serve to warn some new “boy” (13), another “foolish heart” (1). Will also wants something affirmative from the master (11-13) as he contemplates a love grown cold (13-14).

          Outstripping his loyal servant (3), the unnamed auditor whom Will addresses may be a mounted horseman. His “wealth” is “Thy store” (6), literally the tribute that Will is paying him by writing the Q texts. Terms such as “watching” (8), “triumphant prize” (11), and “for trial” (13) suggest chivalric contests. The “virtues” that the auditor might avow, but doesn’t, are also “knightly”: love, truth, and constancy (12). “Woo,” “pine,” and “vexed” are the diction of romance, while “Don Foolish Heart…” (1) and “Gentle Don [Q day /An] Deleted (...Delighted)” (5-6) may be punning epithets for a nobleman.

          Even the final missing foot in line 5 (cf. Hamlet 1.3.79) is, implicitly, “…the night” and thus “The Knight”—a kind of “answer” to the riddle that the text poses for a reader/player. Will’s “rambling” indirection (see line 4) seems a plausible upshot of the youthful naivety and love-sick state that the speaking persona of the poem betrays. The dash-ridden text interrupts itself and seems to stammer, generating a form that echoes the speaker’s low status and his frustration.

           The usual punning jokes encoded in the letterstring codes of the 14 textual lines include typical family nameplays: e.g., “Deaf, weighty Anne S. wholly shared fair hommes” (1); “thin, eye Sue S., mine imp...” (2); “as my Annie importune thee, Will Shakespeare, I, type a Bacchus...”—with ft in Whilft being the family name cipher, an s holding a spearlike t as if by the handle and “shaking” it (2-3); “Will Shakespeare eyed Hebe, Bacchus—this airy band (...these, aye ribboned)” (3-4); “T’ Hat., soldat aye is genitaled, handy lad” (5-6); “Anne deaf, our antique mad wight, you’re m’ whore...” (7); and “witty Taurus [Will’s astrological sign] t’ Hat. is foe prodded (...berated; ...paraded); high is her vice today, spite...” (8-9).

           The 5th line here of Rune 150 comes from the puzzling, much-discussed “short-line” text, Sonnet 145, which comprises tetrameter rather than the usual pentameter lines. Sonnets editor Stephen Booth has proposed that puns on “Anne Hathaway” lurk in that sonnet. Here in a rune that shares one line with it, Will’s derogation of his wife seems to be slyly at work. Such put-downs, in fact, comprise a conventional feature of Q’s in-group wit.

           A play on the poet’s son, Hamnet, hides in lines 4-5: “Suspect I may,yet; [the letter] n ought directly tell that followed it....” In other words, “I may,yet is a suspicious-looking form, and the letter n following it here seems to confirm that it encodes ‘Hamnet’.” (The n is the letter needed in Imay,yet to generate Imay[n]yet, Hamnet. The comma suggests an elliptical omission.)

           The initial pun in line 4, “Sue S. pieced ‘Ham[n]et’...” depicts the poet’s older daughter, Susannah, piecing the elements together and detecting the pun on her brother’s name. My own conclusions are that her husband, Dr. John Hall, was one primary in-group figure whom Will envisioned as an auditor for Q’s buried wit, and I suspect strongly—from such plays as the one here--that Susannah Hall, at least in the poet’s mind as he composed the Q texts, was also to have been involved in the ultimate coterie of readers. Here, at least, the poet imagines her as one who finds his tediously buried wit.

           Hamnet, a twin, died in 1596 at age 11. In one sense, I deduce, the Q cycles are memorials to the twins, with the Sonnets an analog for Judith (who lived) and the Runes a parallel for Hamnet (who lay buried).

           In another sense, I deduce, the Q text is an epithalamion tribute to the Halls, the “master mistress” of the poet’s affections (see Sonnet 20.2).

           As to other coterie wit here, lines 12-14 in Rune 150 may encode a topical reference to Boys and Edes, both members of the King James Bible translation committee working in the first decade of the 17th century. The codeforms for the two names are boyf and edes (13). Two extended variants of this ambiguous but insistently derogatory pun runs, “..seedy Boys’ ordure eye: Hall [i.e., Will’s son-in-law?] and Edes would touch my barest witch-form lowest if ire took heat...” and “aye in City, Boys’ whore, trailing Edes, would touch my bare, fit ‘wedge’.”

           Other concurrent puns involving Boys and Edes include these two homoerotic jokes: “In City, Boys whored, railing Edes wood [i.e., crazy, but with wit in ‘rail’ and ‘wood’ as echoic]...” (12-13) and “Seedy Boys whored, ‘rail’ in Edes woody. Ouch!” (12-13). “Edes’ wool did ‘ouch’ my barest wedge-form low...” is a further variant of the wit here.

           Elsewhere in Q, fairly convincing plays suggest that one Rabbett, another KJB translator, is the butt of Will’s wit. The previously detected Shakespeare namepun encoded in Psalm 46 (and discussed, e.g., in The Interpreter’s Bible) may be a kind of reciprocal coterie gesture initiated by one or more of the translators.

           Differently, Rune 150.14 puns, “Witch, from low satire, took heat perpetual.”

Sample Puns

         1) Dei, few eye OO [= oglers] Donne’s livered form; Deaf Waite (wight), one foolish heart, fearing thee; Dis-way dawns, holy fart, fair homme; Deaf, weighty Annie S., holy farts; Dis we eyed once, OO; OO [=see] lizard forms here; hard as Remus err you, inched; Dies Wyatt, one solace, art is our home
         1-2) ingot you omit; syringe to you, homme tiny ass woes; of Rome, see rune jet you; you eye nugget hue, W.H., homme, tiny eye Swiss mine; you aye in jet hue omit; inched Hume tiny ass woos
         2) Swiss man, eye nymph, whore, t’ you nigh; tiny Sue OO; Swiss mien import you; W.H., O, maiden (midden) eye, Sue’s mine; W.H., homme, thine ass woos m’ “I”
         2-3) my Annie, I importuned you, Hill of titty, babe’s hockey, the Ass, our (a sour) Behind; W.H., omit hiney, Sue’s ass, m’ Annie importuned you; W.H., hum t’ Annie S., who’s m’ Annie
         3) high be a beach, a city; W.S., eye thy “B, A, B” chased, heavy or ribboned [chase = a printing apparatus for holding type in place]; Ill-fitted aye, babe see hasty, afire behind; W.S. aye thy baby’s ass et, hee!—a fiery behind
         3-4) see the “I” Servian [Serbian] dies; eye sarabande days of peace; W.S. eyed Hebe, Bacchus—these, aye ribboned (this airy band), suspect, Tommy; a serpent suave pecked (pissed) I
         4) Sue’s pieced hymn eye, wide knot, dear assed, little (dressed little, duressed lie, tale); see Tommy, Eden ode, dearest t’ Lydell (Little, Lady L.); notary, see, delete “L”; see tomato ’n’ oat; nodey, eye rectal Y
         4-5) Sue’s piss Tommy et, not directly tilted; Tommy T., notary, subtle “l” thought “s,” “O” lewd
         5) That ass hollow died, ass genitaled aye; That solo deed eyes gent., lady; Tee! Hat’s hollow ditties gentle die
         5-6) T’ Hat., soledad (soldat) aye is genitaled, handy lad
         6) Handy Lady Hat., pee in Edo aye; Anne, dilateth aye to pine [cf. “wood” (phallic)] to aggravate history; two agreed; to pine, talker awaits tear
         6-7) aye Wyatt, historian different, I seek, my duty; Isaac meadow (m’ Edo) eyed; I Nate “O” edge, gratis, (gray, ’tis) tore handy ass randy, sick, mad, witty, firm
         7) Anne, deferring to Jack, made you eye th’ ewer, moor “V,” Anne-rift; Anne deaf, our antique maid witty, you rim (rhyme) or even arrest
         7-8) m’ adieu (meadow) eye there, my horn rested
         8) Hat. Esau vexed with weight (white chin; “wedging” and wetted “ears” (whetted arse); a tease suffixed wit; eye Sussex, too; Watch engine do it t’ Harry S.; Hat. is so vexed with watching—Anne, do it to arse!
         8-9) witty Taurus [Will’s sign] t’ Hat. is foe, prodded (berated; pirated; parroted; paraded) his arse; Taurus t’ Hat. his ass-O paraded high, fierce
         9) heavier ewe eyes Edo; Th’ tease suppurated (separated) his heiress today; avarice, too, despise; Tee! Hat. is foe-prowed, this her vice to despise; Thetis’ opera dead hiss
         9-10) “Fairest toad(y) I spy, seed him, O, rear-end’s eased,” coughs Hat.; spy Fatima, rearing
         9-11) I see theme awry (whorey) here, indices dizzy awe Caesar,’tis his triumphant prize; sir, you eye seat of Dis, peace-theme (pieced hymn), O, rear, and cease to see a wife of Hate, a Sheisse triumphant (to rhyme, fey Anne to prize)
       10) theme awry, herein desist
       10-11) a thesis hissed, rhyme faint peer eyes, parodies t’ hiss parade; cough o’ fetus hissed wry; see O shits history o’ my faint peers, parodies t’ hiss peer eyed
       11) aye you hymn faint Paris, parodos t’ hiss peer eyed; eye zephyr odd of this parade
       11-12) wry deities oft hell owe; doughtiest O’s tale Ovid hid rooted, his own fitting sigh; Southy’s parados, oft hallowed, hid Ruth; you dos desperados oft hail; P-row does this pride o’ th’ ass oft hail
       12) Olivet hid Ruth; oft itch (H [i.e., acrostic ladder]) eluded Ruth; soft alluded Ruth; thigh, cunts tan see
       12-13) Oft hail Ovid, high truth thy cunts t’ Anne sighed, boy fart wry Hall (real, reel) needs
       12-14) seedy boy’s ordure eye, Hall, and Edes wood, touch my barest witch-form; aye in City, Boys’ whore, trailing Edes, would touch Maybury’s fit wedge [Boys and Edes were on the KJB committee (Butterworth 208).]
       13) Boys’ order I’ll lineate; The boy, for trial, needs wood to “ouch” my bare ass, to which form love’s fire took heat perpetual
       13-14) I’ll Nate’s wood touch, maybe rough (arrest), too; Twitch of Rome louse fire took
       14) Witch from loo’s fire took heat, peer, pet you awl (Hall); Witches’ Rome, lo, is afire, too; H’s roam low, serried; fire to kitty-parapet [suggesting “pussy perch”] you haul; Kate, peer, pet, V “awl” [i.e., groin pierce]; Is Romulus fairy, too; Romulus, ferry to gate (gaiety) perpetual; is our ducat perpetual?

Acrostic Wit

          The downward acrostic code here in Rune 150—DWWSTA AT TT AOT W—suggests “dusty”; “state”; wit aimed at T.T. (i.e., Will’s known printing agent, Thomas Thorpe, the “T.T.” of Q’s frontmatter, often linked with “Swede,” a likely body-type epithet, in Q’s subtextual wit); and numeric wit including plays on 8 (AAT, AOT), deux (DWW), 7 (encoded as T), and Roman numeral plays involving D and VV. As usual WW may represent fanglike teeth or pictographic dugs, sagging breasts.

           Possible readings of the downward acrostic codeline include these samples: “Deux [i.e., Sonnets/Runes] stated W.”; “Dusty, eye Dido”; “Due West aye at tattoo [i.e., a drumbeat for ‘to quarters’ (1644)]”; “Dusty-eyed T.T. ate 10”; “Dusty a twat: VV [= a pudendum, ‘fanged’?]”; “Dusty, I eyed T.T., Eden [VV=10=‘ten’]”; and “Dusty, eye ‘88. W.” The W’s and “TT” link up to suggest multiple plays on paired breasts or “titties”—maybe AOT (i.e., 8) of them or more: e.g., “Two titties t’ eye, eyed T.T. 8 titties.”

           The upward (reverse) of the acrostic codeline—WT OAT T TAAT SW WD—suggests such possibilities as these decodings: “Wit ought tight Sue wed”; “Witty oat, T.T., ate soot (sweet)”; “Widow (h)ate T.T., I (h)ate Swede”; “Widowed T.T. eyed Sue wed”; and “W. touted [i.e., spied, peered?], sweet.”

           The down/up hairpin suggests, e.g., “Dusty, I taught (...eye taut) widowed tot sweet” and “Dusty-eyed Dido awaited Swede.”

           The up/down hairpin codeline suggests, e.g., “Witty oat T.T. ate, sweetest 8 taut. W.” and “Widowed tot Sue dusty eyed, taught. W.”

Proceed to Rune 151
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