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In “Seven Types of Ambiguity”, William Empson describes the ambiguity of a line from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73.
“To take a famous example, there is no pun, double syntax, or dubiety of feeling, in-
‘Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.’

But the comparison holds for many reasons; because ruined monastery choirs are places in which to sing, because they involve sitting in a row, because they are made of wood, are carved into knots and so forth, because they used to be surrounded by a sheltering building crystallized out of the likeness of a forest, and coloured like the skies of winter, because the cold and Narcissistic charm suggested by choir-boys suits well with Shakespeare’s feeling for the object of the Sonnets, and for various sociological and historical reasons (the protestant destruction of monasteries; fear of Puritanism), which it would be hard now to trace out in their proportions; these reasons, and many more relating the simile to its place in the sonnet, must all combine to give the line its beauty and there is a sort of ambiguity in not knowing which of them to hold most clearly in mind.”


As this is an added extra to the workshop, I will just say thank you for a great workshop.
I noticed that a lot of our poets learned many things, I thank you for all the work you have put into this.
I know how busy you must be and what you have done here means a lot to the Neopoet site, where it has shown the excellence of the teachers here, and I notice that there are quite a few more joining in.
Thanks again, Yours Ian.T

There are a million reasons to believe in yourself,
So find more reasons to believe in others..

and I still don't get it entirely.

And I've read the sonnet too.

I still don't get it. :(


No verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job. - TS Eliot

First of all it is actually a little tongue in cheek. He deliberately found every tiny little ambiguous direction that could reasonably be taken and took it. Ambiguity is a dangerous tool, but if used carefully it can give the reader multiple directions to take with a given line. We must choose phrasing to limit this that we lead them where we want, but as you may have noticed with our Chinese Song, many of the poets here found reams of things the poet did not intend.
This is what the author above as a demonstration of the power of ambiguity.
Allegory poses the same sort of difficulties. We produce a story underneath the story and find our audience is eight miles off reading another tale we had not intended.

W. H. Snow

A poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds. Percy Bysshe Shelley

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