November 15, 2016

W. H. Auden Quotes

“A crowd of ordinary decent folk Watched from without and neither moved nor spoke As three pale figures were led forth and bound To three posts driven upright in the ground.”

“A million eyes, a million boots in line, Without expression, waiting for a sign.”

“A poet can write about a man slaying a dragon, but not about a man pushing a button that releases a bomb.”

“A poet is a professional maker of verbal objects.”

“A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language.”

“A professor is someone who talks in someone else’s sleep.”

“A ragged urchin, aimless and alone, Loitered about that vacancy: a bird Flew up to safety from his well-aimed stone: That girls are raped, that two boys knife a third, Were axioms to him, who’d never heard Of any world where promises were kept Or one could weep because another wept.”

“A real book is not one that we read, but one that reads us.”

“A tremendous number of people in America work very hard at something that bores them. Even a rich man thinks he has to go down to the office everyday. Not because he likes it but because he can’t think of anything else to do.”

“A verbal art like poetry is reflective; it stops to think. Music is immediate, it goes on to become.”

“About suffering they were never wrong, The Old Masters.”

“Acts of injustice done Between the setting and the rising sun In history lie like bones, each one.”

“All that we are not stares back at what we are.”

“All works of art are commissioned in the sense that no artist can create one by a simple act of will but must wait until what he believes to be a good idea for a work comes to him.”

“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.”

“Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.”

“Art is born of humiliation.”

“Art is our chief means of breaking bread with the dead.”

“Base words are uttered only by the base And can for such at once be understood; But noble platitudes — ah, there’s a case Where the most careful scrutiny is needed To tell a voice that’s genuinely good From one that’s base but merely has succeeded.”

“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.”

“Between friends differences in taste or opinion are irritating in direct proportion to their triviality.”

“Choice of attention – to pay attention to this and ignore that – is to the inner life what choice of action is to the outer. In both cases, a man is responsible for his choice and must accept the consequences, whatever they may be.”

“Cold, impossible, ahead Lifts the mountain’s lovely head Whose white waterfall could bless Travellers in their last distress.”

“Dance till the stars come down from the rafters Dance, Dance, Dance till you drop.”

“Death is the sound of distant thunder at a picnic.”

“Defenceless under the night Our world in stupor lies; Yet, dotted everywhere, Ironic points of light Flash out wherever the Just Exchange their messages: May I, composed like them Of Eros and of dust, Beleaguered by the same Negation and despair, Show an affirming flame.”

“Every American poet feels that the whole responsibility for contemporary poetry has fallen upon his shoulders, that he is a literary aristocracy of one.”

“Every autobiography is concerned with two characters, a Don Quixote, the Ego, and a Sancho Panza, the Self.”

“Evil is unspectacular and always human, and shares our bed and eats at our own table.”

“Fame often makes a writer vain, but seldom makes him proud.”

“For the error bred in the bone Of each woman and each man Craves what it cannot have, Not universal love But to be loved alone.”

“For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?”

“Geniuses are the luckiest of mortals because what they must do is the same as what they most want to do.”

“God bless the USA, so large, so friendly, and so rich.”

“Good can imagine Evil; but Evil cannot imagine Good.”

“He was my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday rest, My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song; I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.”

“Healing,’ Papa would tell me, ‘is not a science, but the intuitive art of wooing nature.”

“Hemingway is terribly limited. His technique is good for short stories, for people who meet once in a bar very late at night, but do not enter into relations. But not for the novel.”

“History is, strictly speaking, the study of questions; the study of answers belongs to anthropology and sociology.”

“How should we like it were stars to burn With a passion for us we could not return? If equal affection cannot be, Let the more loving one be me.”

“I am beginning to lose patience With my personal relations. They are not deep And they are not cheap.”

“I and the public know What all schoolchildren learn, Those to whom evil is done Do evil in return.”

“I don’t get acting jobs because of my looks.”

“I sit in one of the dives On Fifty-second Street Uncertain and afraid As the clever hopes expire Of a low dishonest decade.”

“If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving be me.”

“If time were the wicked sheriff in a horse opera, I’d pay for riding lessons and take his gun away.”

“I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you till China and Africa meet and the river jumps over the mountain and the salmon sing in the street.”

“In a national capital Mirabeau and his set Attacked mystery ; the packed galleries roared And history marched to the drums of a clear idea, The aim of the Rational City, quick to admire, Quick to tire.”

“In a world of prayer, we are all equal in the sense that each of us is a unique person, with a unique perspective on the world, a member of a class of one.”

“In general, when reading a scholarly critic, one profits more from his quotations than from his comments.”