Quotations by Auden, W. H.


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 (1907-1973) Anglo-American poet [Wystan Hugh Auden]
“Base Words Are Uttered Only by the Base,” ll. 1-5 (1940)
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Evil is unspectacular and always human
And shares our bed and eats at our own table.

W. H. Auden (1907-1973) Anglo-American poet [Wystan Hugh Auden]
“Herman Melville”
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About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along.

W. H. Auden (1907-1973) Anglo-American poet [Wystan Hugh Auden]
“Musée des Beaux Arts” (1940)

Full text.

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Those who will not reason
Perish in the act:
Those who will not act
Perish for that reason.

W. H. Auden (1907-1973) Anglo-American poet [Wystan Hugh Auden]
“Shorts”
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Those who will not reason
Perish in the act:
Those who will not act
Perish for that reason.

W. H. Auden (1907-1973) Anglo-American poet [Wystan Hugh Auden]
“Shorts” (1974)
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The stars are dead. The animals will not look.
We are left alone with our day, and the time is short, and
History to the defeated
May say Alas but cannot help nor pardon.

W. H. Auden (1907-1973) Anglo-American poet [Wystan Hugh Auden]
“Spain,” l. 101-104 (1937)
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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 (1907-1973) Anglo-American poet [Wystan Hugh Auden]
“Spain,” ll. 81-92 (1937)
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A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language.

W. H. Auden (1907-1973) Anglo-American poet [Wystan Hugh Auden]
“Squares and Oblongs” (1948)
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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 forever: I was wrong.

W. H. Auden (1907-1973) Anglo-American poet [Wystan Hugh Auden]
“Stop All the Clocks [Funeral Blues]” (1936)
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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 (1907-1973) Anglo-American poet [Wystan Hugh Auden]
“The Age of Anxiety” (1948)
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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 (1907-1973) Anglo-American poet [Wystan Hugh Auden]
“The Dyer’s Hand” (1955)

Published in The Listener (30 Jun 1955)

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Perhaps there is only one cardinal sin: impatience. Because of impatience we were driven out of Paradise, because of impatience we cannot return.

W. H. Auden (1907-1973) Anglo-American poet [Wystan Hugh Auden]
“The I Without a Self,” The Dyer’s Hand and Other Essays (1962)

Sometimes misattributed to Franz Kafka.
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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 (1907-1973) Anglo-American poet [Wystan Hugh Auden]
“The More Loving One,” ll. 8-12 (1957)
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Acts of injustice done
Between the setting and the rising sun
In history lie like bones, each one.

W. H. Auden (1907-1973) Anglo-American poet [Wystan Hugh Auden]
The Ascent of F6, Act II, sc. v [with Christpher Isherwood] (1936)
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No human being can make another one happy.

W. H. Auden (1907-1973) Anglo-American poet [Wystan Hugh Auden]
The Dyer’s Hand and Other Essays, “Postscript: The Frivolous & the Earnest” (1962)
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We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don’t know.

W. H. Auden (1907-1973) Anglo-American poet [Wystan Hugh Auden]
The Dyer’s Hand, and Other Essays (1968)
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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.

W. H. Auden (1907-1973) Anglo-American poet [Wystan Hugh Auden]
The Dyer’s Hand (1962)
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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 wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

W. H. Auden (1907-1973) Anglo-American poet [Wystan Hugh Auden]
Twelve Songs, Number 9 (1936)
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