Wystan Hugh Auden Quotes

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."

Wystan Hugh Auden

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.

Wystan Hugh Auden

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.

Wystan Hugh Auden

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.

Wystan Hugh Auden

One cannot review a bad book without showing off.

Wystan Hugh Auden

Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none are undeservedly remembered.

Wystan Hugh Auden

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

Wystan Hugh Auden

The surest sign that a man has a genuine taste of his own is that he is uncertain of it.

Wystan Hugh Auden

Marriage is rarely bliss But, surely it would be worse As particles to pelt At thousands of miles per sec About a universe In which a lover's kiss Would either not be felt Or break the loved one's neck.

Wystan Hugh Auden

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

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

Wystan Hugh Auden
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