This article proposes a fresh way of understanding Algernon Charles Swinburne’s mind at work on complicated political topics that he would prefer not to be complicated. I consider, as an example of a congested and unclear poem on a public subject, the fiery sonnet on the assassination of Marie François Sadi Carnot, fourth president of the Third Republic of France, on 25 June 1894; I suggest that the sonnet is indicative of a general truth: that Swinburne’s poetry is troubled when he is. I conclude by evaluating what more generally can be said, in the light of my argument, about ambiguity in poetry that is the opposite of an Empsonian type because such ambiguity is not an indicator of value but of bother.


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pp. 823-840
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