W. H. AUDEN QUOTES

English-born poet (1907-1973)

Evil is unspectacular and always human
And shares our bed and eats at our own table.

W. H. AUDEN, "Herman Melville"

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Tags: evil


No good opera plot can be sensible, for people do not sing when they are feeling sensible.

W. H. AUDEN, Time Magazine, Dec. 29, 1961

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Tags: opera


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, The Age of Anxiety

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Tags: illusion


To ask the hard question is simple,
The simple act of the confused will.

W. H. AUDEN, "To Ask the Hard Question is Simple", Poems

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About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters.

W. H. AUDEN, Musee des Beaux Arts

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Tags: suffering


All we are not stares back at what we are.

W. H. AUDEN, "The Sea and the Mirror"

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Tags: identity


Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none are undeservedly remembered.

W. H. AUDEN, "Reading", The Dyer's Hand and Other Essays

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Tags: books


A craftsman knows in advance what the finished result will be, while the artist knows only what it will be when he has finished it.

W. H. AUDEN, "A Poet of the Actual", Forewords and Afterwords

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Tags: art


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, "The Poet & the City", The Dyer's Hand and Other Essays

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Hunger allows no choice.

W. H. AUDEN, "September 1, 1939", Selected Poems

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Tags: hunger


Murder is unique in that it abolishes the party it injures, so that society has to take the place of the victim and on his behalf demand atonement or grant forgiveness; it is the one crime in which society has a direct interest.

W. H. AUDEN, The Dyer's Hand and Other Essays

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Tags: murder


From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow.

W. H. AUDEN, "September 1, 1939", Selected Poems

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Poetry might be defined as the clear expression of mixed feelings.

W. H. AUDEN, New Year Letter

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Tags: poetry


Without Art, we should have no notion of the sacred; without Science, we should always worship false gods.

W. H. AUDEN, "The Virgin & the Dynamo", The Dyer's Hand and Other Essays

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Tags: art, science


We must love one another or die.

W. H. AUDEN, "September 1, 1939", Selected Poems

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Tags: love


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?

W. H. AUDEN, "Writing", The Dyer's Hand and Other Essays

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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, "September 1, 1939", Selected Poems

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Let us honour if we can
The vertical man
Though we value none
But the horizontal one.

W. H. AUDEN, "Dedication to Christopher Isherwood", Poems

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

W. H. AUDEN, "Squares and Oblongs", Poets at Work

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Tags: language


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, "Base words are uttered"

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