When William Empson wrote Seven Types of Ambiguity in 1927, it was generally assumed that a poem was given one meaning by the poet and that meaning should be obvious. But in 1920 Hope Mirrlees had published the modernist masterpiece, Paris; the equally riddling The Waste Land followed three years later both in a way reflecting that physics was currently coming to terms with there being no absolute cause of the universe. Of course, poets, like philosophers and linguists, were not strangers to ambiguity. Critic Philip Hobsbaum describes the line they flee from me who sometime did me seek from the well known sixteenth century poem by Thomas Wyatt: The details that flesh out this inclusive concept, they, suggest nothing central to the experience. Rather they have a tentative, hesitating quality, like movements seen out of the corner of ones eye. But at no point do they commit the poem or the reader to an explicit statement of fact.
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