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W. H. Auden (Writer)

Put the car away; when life fails What's the good of going to Wales? Here am I, here are you: But what does it mean? What are we going to do?
W. H. Auden life
To ask the hard question is simple, The simple act of the confused will.
W. H. Auden will
Dedication to Christopher Isherwood
W. H. Auden cat
Let us honour if we can The vertical man Though we value none But the horizontal one.
W. H. Auden man
I am beginning to lose patience With my personal relations. They are not deep And they are not cheap.
W. H. Auden patience
Look, stranger, on this island now The leaping light for your delight discovers,
W. H. Auden light
Now the leaves are falling fast, Nurse's flowers will not last; Nurses to their graves are gone, And the prams go rolling on.
W. H. Auden will
Cold, impossible, ahead Lifts the mountain's lovely head Whose white waterfall could bless Travellers in their last distress.
W. H. Auden love
Written with
W. H. Auden wit
Acts of injustice done Between the setting and the rising sun In history lie like bones, each one.
W. H. Auden history
First version written 1936, final version 1938; also known as "Stop all the clocks" -
W. H. Auden
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone. Silence the pianos and with muffled drum Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
W. H. Auden wit
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.
W. H. Auden love
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one, Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun, Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods; For nothing now can ever come to any good.
W. H. Auden man
Written January 1937; also known as Lullaby.
W. H. Auden
Lay your sleeping head, my love Human on my faithless arm; Time and fevers burn away Individual beauty from Thoughtful children, and the grave Proves the child ephemeral; But in my arms till break of day Let the living creature lie: Mortal, guilty, but to me The entirely beautiful.
W. H. Auden love
Written March 1937
W. H. Auden
And the poor in their fireless lodgings, dropping the sheets Of the evening paper: "Our day is our loss, O show us History the operator, the Organiser, Time the refreshing river." And the nations combine each cry, invoking the life That shapes the individual belly and orders The private nocturnal terror: "Did you not found the city state of the sponge, "Raise the vast military empires of the shark And the tiger, establish the robin's plucky canton? Intervene. Descend as a dove or A furious papa or a mild engineer, but descend."
W. H. Auden life
On that arid square, that fragment nipped off from hot Africa, soldered so crudely to inventive Europe; On that tableland scored by rivers, Our thoughts have bodies; the menacing shapes of our fever Are precise and alive. For the fears which made us respond To the medicine ad and the brochure of winter cruises Have become invading battalions; And our faces, the institute-face, the chain-store, the ruin Are projecting their greed as the firing squad and the bomb. Madrid is the heart. Our moments of tenderness blossom As the ambulance and the sandbag; Our hours of friendship into a people's army.
W. H. Auden fear
To-morrow the rediscovery of romantic love, The photographing of ravens; all the fun under Liberty's masterful shadow; To-morrow the hour of the pageant-master and the musician, The beautiful roar of the chorus under the dome; To-morrow the exchanging of tips on the breeding of terriers, The eager election of chairmen By the sudden forest of hands. But to-day the struggle. To-morrow for the young the poets exploding like bombs, The walks by the lake, the weeks of perfect communion; To-morrow the bicycle races Through the suburbs on summer evenings. But to-day the struggle.
W. H. Auden love
The stars are dead. The animals will not look. We are left alone with our day, and the time is short, andHistory to the defeated May say Alas but cannot help nor pardon.
W. H. Auden time
Written November 1937
W. H. Auden
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, I'll love you till the ocean Is folded and hung up to dry And the seven stars go squawking Like geese about the sky.
W. H. Auden love
'O plunge your hands in water, Plunge them in up to the wrist; Stare, stare in the basin And wonder what you've missed. 'The glacier knocks in the cupboard, The desert sighs in the bed, And the crack in the tea-cup opens A lane to the land of the dead.'Lines 37-44
W. H. Auden sin
Written December 1938
W. H. Auden
About suffering they were never wrong, The Old Masters.
W. H. Auden suffering
They never forgot That even the most dreadful martyrdom must run its course Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse Scratches its innocent behind on a tree. Lines 9-13
W. H. Auden life
Written January 1939
W. H. Auden
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter, And when he cried the little children died in the streets.
W. H. Auden children
Written February 1939
W. H. Auden
By mourning tongues The death of the poet was kept from his poems. But for him it was his last afternoon as himself, An afternoon of nurses and rumours; The provinces of his body revolted, The squares of his mind were empty, Silence invaded the suburbs. The current of his feeling failed: he became his admirers. Now he is scattered over a hundred cities And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections; To find his happiness in another kind of wood And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.The words of a dead man are modified in the guts of the living.
W. H. Auden happiness
Follow, poet, follow right To the bottom of the night, With your unconstraining voice Still persuade us to rejoice; With the farming of a verse Make a vineyard of the curse, Sing of human unsuccess In a rapture of distress; In the deserts of the heart Let the healing fountains start, In the prison of his days Teach the free man how to praise.
W. H. Auden success
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.
W. H. Auden hope
I and the public know What all schoolchildren learn, Those to whom evil is done Do evil in return.
W. H. Auden children
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.
W. H. Auden strength
The windiest militant trash Important Persons shout Is not so crude as our wish.
W. H. Auden win
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.
W. H. Auden love
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.
W. H. Auden love
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.
W. H. Auden change
Sad is , builder of cities, And weeping anarchic .
W. H. Auden sad
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.
W. H. Auden words
Written January 1947
W. H. 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.
W. H. Auden wealth
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.
W. H. Auden history
Let us then Consider rather the incessant Now of The traveler through time, his tired mind Biased towards bigness since his body must Exaggerate to exist, possessed by hope...
W. H. Auden hope
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.
W. H. Auden change
A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language.
W. H. Auden love
A million eyes, a million boots in line, Without expression, waiting for a sign.
W. H. Auden eyes
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...
W. H. Auden wit
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.
W. H. Auden right
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.
W. H. Auden hope
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.
W. H. Auden world
The thin-lipped armorer,, hobbled away, of the shining breasts Cried out in dismay At what the god had wrought To please her son, the strong Iron-hearted man-slayingWho would not live long.
W. H. Auden god
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.
W. H. Auden poetry
Written September 1957
W. H. Auden
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.
W. H. Auden passion
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.
W. H. Auden love
The surest sign that a man has a genuine taste of his own is that he is uncertain of it.
W. H. Auden man
In general, when reading a scholarly critic, one profits more from his quotations than from his comments.
W. H. Auden reading
Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none are undeservedly remembered.
W. H. Auden books
One cannot review a bad book without showing off.
W. H. Auden book
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.
W. H. Auden writers
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.
W. H. Auden believe
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.
W. H. Auden men
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.
W. H. Auden self
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."
W. H. Auden dreams
Without Art, we should have no notion of the sacred; without Science, we should always worship false gods.
W. H. Auden god
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.
W. H. Auden self
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.
W. H. Auden art
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.
W. H. Auden imagination
Every autobiography is concerned with two characters, a , the Ego, and a Sancho Panza, the Self.
W. H. Auden character
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.
W. H. Auden nature
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.
W. H. Auden love
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.
W. H. Auden relationships
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.
W. H. Auden change
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.
W. H. Auden power
All wishes, whatever their apparent content, have the same and unvarying meaning: "I refuse to be what I am."
W. H. Auden hate
All pity is self-pity.
W. H. Auden self
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.
W. H. Auden music
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.
W. H. Auden poetry
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.
W. H. Auden friendship
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.
W. H. Auden past
When one looks into the window of a store which sells devotional art objects, one can't help wishing the iconoclasts had won.
W. H. Auden art
No opera plot can be sensible, for people do not sing when they are feeling sensible.
W. H. Auden people
Thoughts of his own death, like the distant roll of thunder at a picnic.
W. H. Auden death
Written August 1969
W. H. Auden
A grand gesture. But what does it period? What does it osse? We were always adroiter with objects than lives, and more facile at courage than kindness: from the moment
W. H. Auden courage
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.
W. H. Auden time
Lines 10-16
W. H. Auden
Viking Press, 1st edition,
W. H. Auden
Politics cannot be a science, because in politics theory and practice cannot be separated, and the sciences depend upon their separation.
W. H. Auden science
All sin tends to be addictive, and the terminal point of addiction is what is called damnation.
W. H. Auden sin
A god who is both self-sufficient and content to remain so could not interest us enough to raise the question of his existence.
W. H. Auden god
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.is not a tragic hero,is.
W. H. Auden suffering
The basic stimulus to the intelligence is doubt, a feeling that the meaning of an experience is not self-evident.
W. H. Auden intelligence
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.
W. H. Auden 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.
W. H. Auden time
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.
W. H. Auden men
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.
W. H. Auden love
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.
W. H. Auden life

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