Out on the lawn I lie in bed,
Vega conspicuous overhead.
A Summer Night, 1936
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.Wystan Hugh AudenInterlude: West's Disease", p. 245
Sad is Eros , builder of cities, And weeping anarchic Aphrodite .Wystan Hugh AudenIn Memory of Sigmund Freud (1939) Lines 111-112
Let us honour if we can The vertical man Though we value none But the horizontal one.Wystan Hugh AudenDedication to Christopher Isherwood, Poems (1930)
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.Wystan Hugh AudenOn Søren Kierkegaard, in "A Knight of Doleful Countenance", p. 192
And none will hear the postman's knock Without a quickening of the heart. For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?Wystan Hugh Auden1936 'Night Mail', written to accompany a documentary by the Post Office Film Unit.
When there was peace, he was for peace; when there was war, he went.Wystan Hugh Auden1940 'The Unknown Citizen'.
Pleasure is by no means an infallible critical guide, but it is the least fallible.Wystan Hugh Auden1963 The Dyer's Hand,'Reading'.
Music is the best means we have of digesting time.Wystan Hugh AudenQuoted in Robert Craft Stravinsky: Chronicle of a Friendship (1972).
Acts of injustice done Between the setting and the rising sun In history lie like bones, each one.Wystan Hugh AudenThe Ascent of F6, Written with Christopher Isherwood, Act II, Scene V; quoted by Richard Adams in his novel Watership Down. (1936)
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.Wystan Hugh AudenLay your sleeping head, my love (1937) Lines 1-2, Written January 1937; also known as Lullaby.
Cold, impossible, ahead Lifts the mountain's lovely head Whose white waterfall could bless Travellers in their last distress.Wystan Hugh AudenLines 17-20First published in book form in Look, Stranger! (1936; US title On this Island)
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.Wystan Hugh AudenLines 78-88; for a 1955 anthology text the poet changed this line to "We must love one another and die" to avoid what he regarded as a falsehood in the original.
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"Writing", p. 22
Without Art, we should have no notion of the sacred; without Science, we should always worship false gods.Wystan Hugh Auden"The Virgin & The Dynamo", p. 62
All wishes, whatever their apparent content, have the same and unvarying meaning: "I refuse to be what I am."Wystan Hugh Auden"Interlude: West's Disease", p. 241
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. Lear is not a tragic hero, Othello is.Wystan Hugh Auden"The Greeks and Us", p. 21
I don't think the mystical experience can be verbalized. When the ego disappears, so does power over language.Wystan Hugh Audenp. 266 (Paris Review interview (1972))
A poet can write about a man slaying a dragon, but not about a man pushing a button that releases a bomb.Wystan Hugh AudenQuoted in Best Quotes of '54, '55, '56 (1957) edited by James Beasley Simpson.
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