Wystan Hugh Auden Quotes

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.

Wystan Hugh Auden

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.

Wystan Hugh Auden

The mass and majesty of this world, all That carries weight and always weighs the same Lay in the hands of others; they were small And could not hope for help and no help came: What their foes like to do was done, their shame Was all the worst could wish; they lost their pride And died as men before their bodies died.

Wystan Hugh Auden

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.

Wystan Hugh Auden

Out of the air a voice without a face Proved by statistics that some cause was just In tones as dry and level as the place: No one was cheered and nothing was discussed...

Wystan Hugh Auden

We would rather be ruined than changed We would rather die in our dread Than climb the cross of the moment And let our illusions die.

Wystan Hugh Auden

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.

Wystan Hugh Auden

Unendowed with wealth or pity, Little birds with scarlet legs Sitting on their speckled eggs, Eye each flu-infected city. Altogether elsewhere, vast Herds of reindeer move across Miles and miles of golden moss, Silently and very fast.

Wystan Hugh Auden

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.

Wystan Hugh Auden

Sad is Eros, builder of cities, And weeping anarchic Aphrodite.

Wystan Hugh Auden

All I have is a voice To undo the folded lie, The romantic lie in the brain Of the sensual man-in-the-street And the lie of Authority Whose buildings grope the sky: There is no such thing as the State And no one exists alone; Hunger allows no choice To the citizen or the police; We must love one another or die.

Wystan Hugh Auden

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.

Wystan Hugh Auden

The windiest militant trash Important Persons shout Is not so crude as our wish.

Wystan Hugh Auden

Into this neutral air Where blind skyscrapers use Their full height to proclaim The strength of Collective Man, Each language pours its vain Competitive excuse.

Wystan Hugh Auden

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

Wystan Hugh Auden

I sit in one of the dives On Fifty-second Street Uncertain and afraid As the clever hopes expire Of a low dishonest decade: Waves of anger and fear Circulate over the bright And darkened lands of the earth, Obsessing our private lives; The unmentionable odour of death Offends the September night.

Wystan Hugh Auden
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