Quotes by W. H. Auden

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Wystan Hugh Auden, known more commonly as W. H. Auden, (February 21, 1907 - September 29, 1973) was an English poet, often cited as one of the most influential of the 20th century. He spent the first part of his life in the United ...

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You must go to bed with friends or whores, where money makes up the difference in beauty or desire.

You know there are no secrets in America. It's quite different in England, where people think of a secret as a shared relation between two people.
A man has his distinctive personal scent which his wife, his children and his dog can recognize. A crowd has a generalized stink. The public is odorless.
Precisely because we do not communicate by singing, a song can be out of place but not out of character; it is just as credible that a stupid person should sing beautifully as that a clever person should do so.
It is already possible to imagine a society in which the majority of the population, that is to say, its laborers, will have almost as much leisure as in earlier times was enjoyed by the aristocracy. When one recalls how aristocracies in the past actually behaved, the prospect is not cheerful.
What people don't realize is that intimacy has its conventions as well as ordinary social intercourse. There are three cardinal rules -- don't take somebody else's boyfriend unless you've been specifically invited to do so, don't take a drink without being asked, and keep a scrupulous accounting in financial matters.
To the man-in-the-street, who, I'm sorry to say, is a keen observer of life, the word intellectual suggests straight away - a man who's untrue to his wife.
No human being is innocent, but there is a class of innocent human actions called Games.
Fame often makes a writer vain, but seldom makes him proud.
Every European visitor to the United States is struck by the comparative rarity of what he would call a face, by the frequency of men and women who look like elderly babies. If he stays in the States for any length of time, he will learn that this cannot be put down to a lack of sensibility -- the American feels the joys and sufferings of human life as keenly as anybody else. The only plausible explanation I can find lies in his different attitude to the past. To have a face, in the European sense of the word, it would seem that one must not only enjoy and suffer but also desire to preserve the memory of even the most humiliating and unpleasant experiences of the past.
America has always been a country of amateurs where the professional, that is to say, the man who claims authority as a member of an ?lite which knows the law in some field or other, is an object of distrust and resentment.
The words of a dead man are modified in the guts of the living.
The critical opinions of a writer should always be taken with a large grain of salt. For the most part, they are manifestations of his debate with himself as to what he should do next and what he should avoid.
All works of art are commissioned in the sense that no artist can create one by a simple act of will but must wait until what he believes to be a good idea for a work comes to him.
Healing, Papa would tell me, is not a science, but the intuitive art of wooing nature.
Literary confessors are contemptible, like beggars who exhibit their sores for money, but not so contemptible as the public that buys their books.
The countenances of children, like those of animals, are masks, not faces, for they have not yet developed a significant profile of their own.
Nobody knows what the cause is, though some pretend they do; it like some hidden assassin waiting to strike at you. Childless women get it, and men when they retire; it as if there had to be some outlet for their foiled creative fire.
Of course, behaviorism works. So does torture. Give me a no-nonsense, down-to-earth behaviorist, a few drugs, and simple electrical appliances, and in six months I will have him reciting the Athanasian Creed in public.
Every autobiography is concerned with two characters, a Don Quixote, the Ego, and a Sancho Panza, the Self.
The Americans are violently oral. That's why in America the mother is all-important and the father has no position at all -- isn't respected in the least. Even the American passion for laxatives can be explained as an oral manifestation. They want to get rid of any unpleasantness taken in through the mouth.
The actors today really need the whip hand. They're so lazy. They haven't got the sense of pride in their profession that the less socially elevated musical comedy and music hall people or acrobats have. The theater has never been any good since the actors became gentlemen.
All sin tends to be addictive, and the terminal point of addiction is what is called damnation.
The only way to spend New Year’s Eve is either quietly with friends or in a brothel.
In a game, just losing is almost as satisfying as just winning. . . . In life the loser's score is always zero.
Eagerly, musician,Sweep your string,So we may sing,Elated, optative,Our several voicesInterblending,Playfully contending,Not interferingBut co-inhering,For all withinThe cincture of the soundIs holy ground,Where all are Brothers,None faceless Others. Let mortals bewareOf words, forWith words we lie,Can say peaceWhen we mean war,Foul thought speak fairAnd promise falsely,But song is true:Let music for peaceBe the paradigm,For peace means to changeAt the right time,As the World-Clock,Goes Tick and Tock. So may the storyOf our human cityPresently moveLike music, whenBegotten notesNew notes beget,Making the flowingOf time a growing,Till what it could be,At last it is,Where even sadnessIs a form of gladness,Where Fate is Freedom,Grace and Surprise.
Happy Birthday, Johnny, Live beyond your income, Travel for enjoyment, Follow your own nose.
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.