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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 153
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Rune 152
Twelfth lines, Set XI (Sonnets 141-154)

                         Rune 152

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

     Thy proud heart’s slave and vassal, wretch-to-be,
     Thy pity may deserve. To pitied be
     And play the mother’s part, kiss me, be kind.
 4  I guess one angel in another’s hell
     From heaven to hell is flown away,
     Within be fed, without be rich no more,
     At random from the truth, vainly expressed.
 8  The sun itself sees not, till heaven clears.
     Commanded by the motion of thine eyes,
     With others thou shouldst not abhor my state;
     To stand in thy affairs, fall by thy side,
12 Or made them swear against the thing they see
     And thither hide: A sad, distempered guest
     For men diseased, but I my mistress thrall.
     Glosses:1-2) an exact rhymed couplet (see also Rune 150); 7) At random (Q randon) = At great speed, without fixed principle; 10) puns: “oathers” (i.e., coterie members sworn to secrecy); knot (i.e., riddle, puzzle); ms. state (a printing term?); 11) thy side puns on “this hide” (see 13); 12) them = thine eyes (see 9); puns: “O’er, my dead Ham S. were...”; “hymn Sue ‘ear’ against ‘the thing’”; “the thin Judy see”; 12-13) pun: “...eye in jet [i.e., see in black ink] heavy / Anne....”; 13) hide (Q hied); guest (Q gueft) puns on gift, gust; 14) but = only; mistress suggests mss., mysteries, masteries, Mister S. (see 3).

     152. Stay, Heavenly Guest

     I, a slave to your proud heart (or your art, your “hard,” some punning variant of that word) and thus destined to be wretched,
     may merit your pity. To be both comforted
     and comforter—like a mother—you must kiss me and be kind.
  4 I guess that one angel who might inhabit another angel’s hell (such as this hellish domain)
     would, in effect, have flown away from the comforts of heaven,
     having given up an infinitely rich context for companionship and an engrossing mental life
     and having rushed off-course from rationality, whose mouthings did not change outcomes.
  8 Even the sun itself moves blindly when the heavens are not clear.
     Directed by what attracts your eyes, by what they affirm,
     you shouldn’t dismiss my condition, the state of these mss., as hateful, whatever others do.
     To take a stand and surmount the pressing affairs of your own life, fall in beside me,
12 or else you will have made your eyes disavow the very thing they observe
     and then, “out there” in some ethereal realm, blot out: I may be melancholy company,
     a taint to companions, a pariah, but my rhetoric keeps my mss., these mysteries, under my spell—and controls you, too, as you take the female role I’m suggesting here.


          I read Rune 152 as Will’s apostrophe to his “angelic” friend in which he pleads for attention. By echoing “mother” (3), the term “mistress” (14) associates the friend with that term, so that gender-bending wit clouds the drama by obfuscating the make-up of the cast. Among various coexistent interpretations, some suggest gay sex.

          Students of the Sonnets know that earlier critics, trying to understand the puzzling personal insinuations that abound in the visible texts of Q, have suspected some kind of homosexual connection between the poet and the unnamed male he addresses in his poems.

           One such scenario in Rune 152 might run this way: By playing the “mother’s part” (3) the listening male whom Will addressees could facilitate a homosexual “hell” that develops when “one ‘angle’” is “in another [an ‘oather’]” (4). (“Oather,” I deduce, is a conventional pun meaning “a sworn member of the coterie.”)

           The play “Four men diseased, beauty maims thrice their ‘awl’” (14) is another variant pun that insinuates some kind of offbeat sexual situation, treated comically.

           In the main scenario that I detect, the pun “proud hard’s salve and vessel” initiates jokes about phallic worship (1-2), swapping positions (2-3), mutual homoerotic acts (4), and oral sex (6). As always, I propose, Q’s heart encodes an automatic pun on “hard.” Here “proud hard” (1), echoing “proud flesh,” puns on a puffy, heart-shaped glans. Even the phrase “the motion of thine eyes” (9) suggesting testicular rotation, comically analogous to the cosmic “rounds.”

           Many puns in Q suggest that Henry (Harry) Wriothesley, the 3rd earl of Southampton, is in the poet’s mind as one of several intended coterie auditors who might eventually have heard the Q texts as addressing them; Southy (a familiar name I’ve deduced from its many occurrences in the subtext of Q) was a handsome young man in the 1590s and was Will’s only known patron. In earlier criticism of the Sonnets, Southampton has often been proposed as the most likely candidate for the Handsome Young Man role in Q’s ambiguously delineated dramatis personae.

           Here, for example, the impolite pun “To stand (Toasting...) in thy ass hairs” (11) plays on “Harry S./hairy ass” and thus might address Southampton.

           Concurrent puns encourage other readings: “Anne, play the mother’s part: kiss me, be kind” (3), e.g., seems to redirect Will’s apostrophe toward his wife, back in Stratford, while “…‘To be’ / Thy pity may deserve. To pit I’d be, / And play the mother’s part…” (1-3) may be a joke about Hamlet and Gertrude. Meanwhile, “‘To be’ / typed, Tommy differed: ‘To pitied be…’ ” is a Thomas Thorpe joke. (And see acrostic wit, below.)

           Though Will’s “mistress” in the Q lines has many meanings in its various contexts, including “mysteries” and mss.,” the pun “I my Mistress thrall” here (in 14) means, partly, “I always keep my audience attentive.”

           As usual in Q,
cultivated image clusters give the rune a technical kind of unity. Here imagery focuses on legal jargon (including crime and punishment); theatre; and the cosmos.

           Terms and puns with legal insinuations abound, including these: deserve (2); motion (9); flown away (5), suggesting “escaped”; clears (8) as “declares innocent”; state (10); affairs (11); swear (12); and foreman (14). Lines 7 and 12 both suggests perjury, with 12 suggesting subornation. And line 11 hints at “taking the stand.” Yoked with these elements are words pointing to social station such as slave and vassal (2), rich no more (6), my state (10), and thy affairs (11).

           A pattern of theatrical imagery—a “play theme,” to use Will’s own pun—inheres in pitty/pittied (2), suggesting “pit,” and in play the...part (3). The second phrase reminds us that male actors of the day took female roles. Indeed, one pun echoes Will’s famous metaphoric description of The Globe as a “wooden ‘O’ ”: “Thorpe, aye, T.T.—you, mate—see rude ‘O’ [&] pit, hid (...eyed...) behind play theme, m’ oather’s part, [to] kiss femme beckoned...” (2-3).

           Many other details
coyly allude to theatre: e.g., Line 5 and 8 suggest the conventional painted Heavens and trapdoor Hell. Further details suggest the falsity of theatrical lines (see, e.g., 7, 12); melodramatic ogling (e.g., 9); and other stage gestures (e.g., 11). One run-on pun in 12-13 goes, “Scene d’ theatre hid, aside, distempered guest; four men deaf; Eve début. (I’m your Mistress, th’ role (’ hairy hole;’ hairy ‘awl’).”

           Since such runic text materials do suggest an absurdist theatrical performance, any one of us watching it is, indeed apt to be a “distempered” spectator.

           Further, the opening line here echoes Hamlet’s “rogue and peasant slave” line. One punning version of lines 1-2 even alerts Will’s printing agent, Thomas Thorpe, to note the hidden ‘Hamletic’ details: e.g., “Thorpe rude, here ’tis: ‘Slave and vassal wretch,’ ‘To be...” thy pity may deserve, to pitied be.” (Likely the “to be” speech had quickly become a familiar saw in Will’s day—as it still is in ours.)

           Terms in the text about the cosmos include angel, hell (twice), heaven (twice) and the sun. The pun “Dis-tempered guest” (13) uses Dante’s term “Dis,” to name Hell’s capital. The phrase “commanded by the motion...” hints at cosmic energy—here centered in the eyes of the unnamed listener (see 9).

           Phrases about sight include sees not (8); the motion of thine eyes (9); and the thing th’ eye see (12).

           Rhymes occur as be / be / see (1-2, 12) and expressed / guest (7, 13).

           I suspect that the poet consciously linked his endwords in all 154 Runes to generate witty wordstring meanings, an incidental kind of rune or puzzle: One translation of the endwords here, e.g., is, “Baby kind, [&] hell awe [the] eye. My whore, expressed, clears eyes. Fit ‘8’ sight: See gesture, awl.” Another variant closes, “...Stat, evade sea-gust there, all.”

           Yet another full reading of the endwords is this: “By beaconed dale awe I, moor express t’ clearest eyes. States hide. See jester, ale.”

           Throwaway puns in the letterstrings of the textual lines include these: “Thy parody arts flaunt...” (1); “Red Sea (lurid sea...) hid Obediah” (1-2; code: ...retch to be: Thy); “Mighty Pharaoh Tobit eyed” (2); “theme odd hear: Spartacus’ fame beckoned” (3); “I gave Onan jelly, none other shall form you” (4); “beer, icy enema red, ran down from the head rude, heavenly” (6-7); and “The cider made them swear against the thing they see” (11-12).

Sample Puns

           1) Tommy prowed hard ass, loving vessel; Thy proud hard’s salve, Anne; Thy proud hard’s flowing vessel, Wriothes-to-be; Thy pee, rowdy, hard, is slaving; undo awful wretch, Toby; wretch tupped; Type, rowdy artists, love handy face of Hall, we’re touched
           1-2) O, you dirty ass, flaunt wassail, red shit o’ beet; Obediah’d be (pee) item I deserve; Red Sea hid Obediah, Pit ye may deserve; “To be” thy pity may deserve
           2) Mighty Pharaoh, Tobit eyed; Type eye, Tommy, desert “O,” pity “D” (…th’ “B”); Th’ pit [theatrical; hell] Tommy deserved, O-pit eyed (“I’d”) be; Thy piety Midas rued; Thy “pitty” maid served, oped to Ed; Tommy deferred obit tidy
           2-3) you Tobit eyed, bane t’ play theme; Two-pitted be Anne (bean)
           3) Spartacus fame beckoned; dapple aye the moat here; Anne dappled hymn, oathers paired kiss, seam beckoned; oathers, part, cuff me, be kind
           3-4) John, dig even, one angle; if my beak in Dick is wan, I angle in another; Digest one angel, John, another, S. Hall
           4) I gave Onan jelly, none other; see wan angel Oenone there
           4-5) an oather shell form you, Nautilus low, new; felony; hell-forum you end, O, hell is flown away; Oathers’ hell is Rome, heaven, too; one angle in another ass’ll form heaven; Hershall of Rome you “entool”; in an oather’s hell, F-row mewn tolls; John Anne owed, her shelf, our home unit, oils ass low
           5) Fair homme, you Knight o’ Hell, ass flowing away; heaven tollis fool, Owen, away
           5-6) low “Annie Way” witty nabs Ed
           6) Witty Hen. be fat wit, out bare “I”; bare itch in “O” moor; in Bess (peace), dewy toad bare I see; Within Bess (beef), do I doubt, bare is Hen (berries, hen)
           6-7) know (in O) m’ orator Anne, Don of Rome formed; rich in Homer, I’d rain down; in homo, rat ran down from th’ hid root; without beer (peer), icy enema ran down from the head; you Tiber aye see, no more eyed rain (reign)
           7) Donne formed that rude hue Anne likes; heaven likes peer Shakespeare; Eight ran, dons of Rome, that rue th’ V Annelicks (lacks, likes); Anne licks bare Shakespeare; a train don (Donne) formed; hid, rude Hughey-John, Ely (Eli) expressed
           7-8) Anne likes Paris, T.T., heaven; Ruth vain likes (licks) pressed thigh; Eight [inches] ran down, formed head, rude vein likes pierced Thief
           8) The Sonnets’ll feces note, t’ elephants’ leers; Thief you, knight, see, leaf’s note (leafy snot); till you in cellar, ass; The heaven I’d sell (sail) ceases not
           8-9) face an oat tilling Clarissa; Clarissa emended bitty mode, I own; heaven solaris see; eye lune, solaris; know, T.T., ill events, Lear has come, and Ed bitty motions t’ Hen; This unites leaf’s ease, naughty leaf, ink leer, scum ended
           9) Come [i.e., ejaculate] ended by the motion of thine “I’s”; my ocean’s tiny
           9-10) thy niece VV [= pictographic dugs], I thought her stuffy, old; eye Nice, with oathers Thos., Hall, Shakespeare, an oat (aye note); aye Southy oather is; “Swede hot (Sweetheart)” hearest thou, fool; John oft high neighs, with others—Thomas, Hall
         10) ass-holed, fit, know taper, misty 8 [inches]
         10-11) rheumy fit hate, toasting dainty fairy ass celibate
         10-13) Hall dost not abhor ms., Titus, tending to his affairs, his idea re-made, themes weary again fit (fight, fade) the tinged heaven
         11) Toast Anne, dying; Two standing—Thief Harry S., S. Hall by Thief eyed (“I’d”); hairy ass/Harry S.
         11-12) thy satire may date hymn; this eye: doormat to hem (…Ham)
         12) Whore, maid, t’ Ham S. were aging Shakespeare, the thing to hiss, eee! Daddy in jet aye see
         12-13) O remedied hymn of weary, aging Shakespeare that hinged heaven; in God, eye fiend, head high; heaven did heat here (…Harry, Ed effete)
         13) I end theatre, hiatus odd [a line break here], deft hymn Bard, ghost, forming, deceased bawdy mime (maim) I, fit rife to Hera, too [= ll = II]; a fetus temper digest
         13-14) And thither eye David, distempered Jew, fit for men diseased
         14) Foe remands East; Four men deceased, bawdy my mystery is t’ Harold; Farm in diseased butt, “I” my Mistress there, “awl”; eye my mysteries there, Hall; my miss tries to hear all; my ms. tries t’ herald; my miss tries their awl; defer hymn, end Isis début, eye my ms., thrice federal (…satyr awl)

Acrostic Wit

          Conventionally, the downward acrostic codeline—TT AIF WATCV[V]T OAF—also conveys playfully ambiguous “messages.” The opening letterstring TT (along with the end, ...OAF) suggests that Will as usual aims disparaging wit at least partly at Thomas Thorpe, his printer, the “T.T.” who signed the dedication page in the frontmatter of the 1609 Quarto text.

           Puns in the textual lines (see above) also suggest Thorpe as one intended auditor of the poet’s wit, a member of the Q coterie.

           One family pun of many here is, “Our Madam S. were H., Anne Shakespeare [with ft = the family name cipher, an s “shaking” a spear-like t as if by the handle]” (12).

           Possible readings of this downward acrostic codeline include, e.g., these possibilities: “T.T. I’ve watched, oaf (oft),” “T.T., half-wit Swede, oaf,” “T.T., half-way t’ sea, witty oaf,” “T.T. aye f--ked a wife,” “T.T., I’ve weighty queue tough,” “T.T. eye, fat cut off,” “T’ Dave [tough] Waite, sweet oaf,” “Titty eye few, 8 see witty oaf,” “T.T., eye a feud (fit), see widow I f--k,” “Dive: white sea wet oaf,” and “Thos. [F=S] Wyatt see, witty oaf (…cut off).”

           The reverse (upward) codeline—FAOT V[V]CT AW FIATT—can in like manner be interpreted along lines of these samples: “Fate, wicked ‘O’ fight,” “Fetus tough I ate,” “Fate you see to fight (..., defeat),” “Fat VV [cf. sagging breasts] see, too fat,” “Fat widow sight [F=S],” “Sight W., citified,” “Fight VV [pictographic fangs], see two, fight,” “Of 8 fangs, see 2 of 8,” “Of 8, 10 see 2 of 8,” “If 8551002 halve 18…,” “Fat-wick’d oaf, I eye T.T. (…hose I ate),” and “Is ‘8’ wick too fat?”

           Here puns on “8/ate” link with the “fang” and sexual humor. Because the two “fangs” (VV) suggest “two ate” and thus 28, they may encode a number play about the last two sets.  

Proceed to Rune 153
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