wystan hugh auden Quotes

Wystan Hugh Auden Quotes

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Quotes

    • Written August 1930. Lines 6-7
    • Written 1930, published in The English Auden
    • Written 1936. Also known as Funeral Blues. Lines 1-8
    • Written 1936. Lines 1-4
    • Lines 17-20
    • Written with Christopher Isherwood in 1936. Act II, Scene V
    • Written January 1937. Also known as Lullaby. Lines 1-2
    • Written March 1937. Lines 33-44
    • Lines 65-76
    • Lines 81-92
    • Lines 101-104
    • Written November 1937. Lines 37-44
    • Written December 1938. Lines 1-2
    • Lines 9-13
    • Written January 1939. Lines 5-6
    • Written February 1939. Lines 10-23
    • Lines 66-77
    • Written September 1939. Lines 1-11
    • Lines 19-22
    • Lines 34-39
    • Lines 56-58
    • Lines 62-66
    • Lines 78-88
    • Lines 89-99
    • Written November 1939. Lines 111-112
    • Written 1940. Lines 1-5
    • Written January 1947. Lines 21-28
    • Written 1952. Lines 53-59
    • Written September 1957. Lines 8-12
    • Written 1961. Lines 9-16
    • Written between 1965 and 1968.
    • Written August 1969. Lines 10-16
    • Look, stranger, on this island now.
    • What's the good of going to Wales?
    • A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language.
    • Before people complain of the obscurity of modern poetry, they should first examine their consciences and ask themselves with how many people and on how many occasions they have genuinely and profoundly shared some experience with another; they might also ask themselves how much poetry of any period they can honestly say that they understand.
    • The surest sign that a man has a genuine taste of his own is that he is uncertain of it.
    • In general, when reading a scholarly critic, one profits more from his quotations than from his comments.
    • Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none are undeservedly remembered.
    • One cannot review a bad book without showing off.
    • At first critics classified authors as Ancients, that is to say, Greek and Latin authors, and Moderns, that is to say, every post-Classical Author. Then they classified them by eras, the Augustans, the Victorians, etc., and now they classify them by decades, the writers of the '30's, '40's, etc. Very soon, it seems, they will be labeling authors, like automobiles, by the year.
    • No poet or novelist wishes he were the only one who ever lived, but most of them wish they were the only one alive, and quite a number fondly believe their wish has been granted.
    • In the course of many centuries a few laborsaving devices have been introduced into the mental kitchen - alcohol, coffee, tobacco, Benzedrine, etc. - but these are very crude, constantly breaking down, and liable to injure the cook. Literary composition in the twentieth century A.D. is pretty much what it was in the twentieth century B.C.: nearly everything has still to be done by hand.
    • The poet who writes 'free' verse is like Robinson Crusoe on his desert island: he must do all his cooking, laundry and darning for himself. In a few exceptional cases, this manly independence produces something original and impressive, but more often the result is squalor - dirty sheets on the unmade bed and empty bottles on the unswept floor.
    • The condition of mankind is, and always has been, so miserable and depraved that, if anyone were to say to the poet: 'For God's sake stop singing and do something useful like putting on the kettle or fetching bandages,' what just reason could he give for refusing? But nobody says this. The self-appointed unqualified nurse says: 'You are to sing the patient a song which will make him believe that I, and I alone, can cure him. If you can't or won't, I shall confiscate your passport and send you to the mines.' And the poor patient in his delirium cries: 'Please sing me a song which will give me sweet dreams instead of nightmares. If you succeed, I will give you a penthouse in New York or a ranch in Arizona.'
    • Without Art, we should have no notion of the sacred; without Science, we should always worship false gods.
    • When I find myself in the company of scientists, I feel like a shabby curate who has strayed by mistake into a drawing room full of dukes.
    • What the mass media offers is not popular art, but entertainment which is intended to be consumed like food, forgotten, and replaced by a new dish. This is bad for everyone; the majority lose all genuine taste of their own, and the minority become cultural snobs.
    • All poets adore explosions, thunderstorms, tornadoes, conflagrations, ruins, scenes of spectacular carnage. The poetic imagination is not at all a desirable quality in a statesman.
    • When I consider others I can easily believe that their bodies express their personalities and that the two are inseparable. But it is impossible for me not to feel that my body is other than I, that I inhabit it like a house, and that my face is a mask which, with or without my consent, conceals my real nature from others.
    • The image of myself which I try to create in my own mind in order that I may love myself is very different from the image which I try to create in the minds of others in order that they may love me.
    • Almost all of our relationships begin and most of them continue as forms of mutual exploitation, a mental or physical barter, to be terminated when one or both parties run out of goods.
    • To have a sense of sin means to feel guilty at there being an ethical choice to make, a guilt which, however 'good' I may become, remains unchanged.
    • The law cannot forgive, for the law has not been wronged, only broken; only persons can be wronged. The law can pardon, but it can only pardon what it has the power to punish.
    • All wishes, whatever their apparent content, have the same and unvarying meaning: 'I refuse to be what I am.'
    • All pity is self-pity.
    • In societies with fewer opportunities for amusement, it was also easier to tell a mere wish from a real desire. If, in order to hear some music, a man has to wait for six months and then walk twenty miles, it is easy to tell whether the words, 'I should like to hear some music,' mean what they appear to mean, or merely, 'At this moment I should like to forget myself.' When all he has to do is press a switch, it is more difficult. He may easily come to believe that wishes can come true.
    • To some degree every American poet feels that the whole responsibility for contemporary poetry has fallen upon his shoulders, that he is a literary aristocracy of one.
    • A vice in common can be the ground of a friendship but not a virtue in common. X and Y may be friends because they are both drunkards or womanizers but, if they are both sober and chaste, they are friends for some other reason.
    • Unfortunately for the modern dramatist, during the past century and a half the public realm has been less and less of a realm where human deeds are done, and more and more of a realm of mere human behavior. The contemporary dramatist has lost his natural subject.
    • When one looks into the window of a store which sells devotional art objects, one can't help wishing the iconoclasts had won.
    • No opera plot can be sensible, for people do not sing when they are feeling sensible.
    • Politics cannot be a science, because in politics theory and practice cannot be separated, and the sciences depend upon their separation.
    • A god who is both self-sufficient and content to remain so could not interest us enough to raise the question of his existence.
    • The truly tragic kind of suffering is the kind produced and defiantly insisted upon by the hero himself so that, instead of making him better, it makes him worse and when he dies he is not reconciled to the law but defiant, that is, damned. Lear is not a tragic hero, Othello is.
    • The idea of a sacrificial victim is not new; but that it should be the victim who chooses to be sacrificed, and the sacrificers who deny that any sacrifice has been made, is very new.
    • The basic stimulus to the intelligence is doubt, a feeling that the meaning of an experience is not self-evident.
    • Whatever the field under discussion, those who engage in debate must not only believe in each other's good faith, but also in their capacity to arrive at the truth.
    • The mystics themselves do not seem to have believed their physical and mental sufferings to be a sign of grace, but it is unfortunate that it is precisely physical manifestations which appeal most to the religiosity of the mob. A woman might spend twenty years nursing lepers without having any notice taken of her, but let her once exhibit the stigmata or live for long periods on nothing but the Host and water, and in no time the crowd will be clamoring for her beatification.
    • In the late Middle Ages there were, no doubt, many persons in monasteries and convents who had no business there and should have been out in the world earning an honest living, but today it may very well be that there are many persons trying to earn a living in the world and driven by failure into mental homes whose true home would be the cloister.
    • He [Kierkegaard] suffers from one great literary defect, which is often found in lonely geniuses: he never knows when to stop. Lonely people are apt to fall in love with the sound of their own voice, as Narcissus fell in love with his reflection, not out of conceit but out of despair of finding another who will listen and respond.
    • I said earlier that I do not believe an artist's life throws much light upon his works. I do believe, however, that, more often than most people realize, his works may throw light upon his life. An artist with certain imaginative ideas in his head may then involve himself in relationships which are congenial to them.
    • A craftsman knows in advance what the finished result will be, while the artist knows only what it will be when he has finished it. But it is unbecoming in an artist to talk about inspiration; that is the reader's business.
    • Machines have no political opinions, but they have profound political effects. They demand a strict regimentation of time, and, by abolishing the need for manual skill, have transformed the majority of the population from workers into laborers. There are, that is to say, fewer and fewer jobs which a man can find a pride and satisfaction in doing well, more and more which have no interest in themselves and can be valued only for the money they provide.
    • In most poetic expressions of patriotism, it is impossible to distinguish what is one of the greatest human virtues from the worst human vice, collective egotism. The virtue of patriotism has been extolled most loudly and publicly by nations that are in the process of conquering others, by the Roman, for example, in the first century B.C., the French in the 1790s, the English in the nineteenth century, and the Germans in the first half of the twentieth. To such people, love of one's country involves denying the right of others, of the Gauls, the Italians, the Indians, the Poles, to love theirs.
    • Most people call something profound, not because it is near some important truth but because it is distant from ordinary life. Thus, darkness is profound to the eye, silence to the ear; what-is-not is the profundity of what-is.
    • Young people, who are still uncertain of their identity, often try on a succession of masks in the hope of finding the one which suits them - the one, in fact, which is not a mask.
    • Most people are even less original in their dreaming than in their waking life; their dreams are more monotonous than their thoughts and oddly enough, more literary.
    • In all technologically 'advanced' countries, fashion has replaced tradition, so that involuntary membership in a society can no longer provide a feeling of community.
    • It is, for example, axiomatic that we should all think of ourselves as being more sensitive than other people because, when we are insensitive in our dealings with others, we cannot be aware of it at the time: conscious insensitivity is a self-contradiction.
    • In any modern city, a great deal of our energy has to be expended in not seeing, not hearing, not smelling. An inhabitant of New York who possessed the sensory acuteness of an African Bushman would very soon go mad.
    • One can only blaspheme if one believes.
    • The curious delusion that some families are older than others.
    • Normally, when one passes someone on the street who is in pain, one either tries to help him, or one simply looks the other way. With a photo there's no human decision; you're not there; you can't turn away; you simply gape. It's a form of voyeurism.
    • It's frightfully important for a writer to be his age, not to be younger or older than he is. One might ask, 'What should I write at the age of sixty-four,' but never, 'What should I write in 1940.'
    • A poet, qua poet, has only one political duty, namely, in his own writing to set an example of the correct use of his mother tongue, which is always being corrupted. When words lose their meaning, physical force takes over.
    • I never write when I'm drunk. Why should one need aids? The Muse is a high-spirited girl who doesn't like to be brutally or coarsely wooed. And she doesn't like slavish devotion - then she lies.
    • I don't think the mystical experience can be verbalized. When the ego disappears, so does power over language.
    • We are all on earth to help others. What on earth the others are here for, I can't imagine.
    • Minus times minus equals plus, The reason for this we need not discuss.
    • wystan hugh auden

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