Wystan Hugh Auden Quotes

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.

Wystan Hugh Auden

Money is the necessity that frees us from necessity. Of all novelists in any country, Trollope best understands the role of money. Compared with him even Balzac is a romantic.

Wystan Hugh Auden

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.

Wystan Hugh Auden

He 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.

Wystan Hugh Auden

Man always acts either self-loving, just for the hell of it, or God-loving, just for the heaven of it; his reasons, his appetites are secondary motivations. Man chooses either life or death, but he chooses; everything he does, from going to the toilet to mathematical speculation, is an act of religious worship, either of God or of himself. Lastly by the classical apotheosis of Man-God, Augustine oppose the Christian belief in Jesus Christ, the God-Man. The former is a Hercules who compels recognition by the great deeds he does in establishing for the common people in the law, order and prosperity they cannot establish for themselves, by his manifestation of superior power; the latter reveals to fallen man that God is love by suffering, i.e. by refusing to compel recognition, choosing instead to be a victim of man's self-love. 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.

Wystan Hugh Auden

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.

Wystan Hugh Auden

A god who is both self-sufficient and content to remain so could not interest us enough to raise the question of his existence.

Wystan Hugh Auden

Politics cannot be a science, because in politics theory and practice cannot be separated, and the sciences depend upon their separation.

Wystan Hugh Auden

We were always adroiter with objects than lives, and more facile at courage than kindness: from the moment the first flint was flaked this landing was merely a matter of time. But our selves, like Adam's, still don't fit us exactly, modern only in this our lack of decorum.

Wystan Hugh Auden

Thoughts of his own death, like the distant roll of thunder at a picnic.

Wystan Hugh Auden

No opera plot can be sensible, for people do not sing when they are feeling sensible.

Wystan Hugh Auden

When one looks into the window of a store which sells devotional art objects, one can't help wishing the iconoclasts had won.

Wystan Hugh Auden

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.

Wystan Hugh Auden

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.

Wystan Hugh Auden

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.

Wystan Hugh Auden

All pity is self-pity.

Wystan Hugh Auden
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