Famous Quotes By W. H. Auden


  1. A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language.
  2. A professor is someone who talks in someone else's sleep.
  3. A verbal art like poetry is reflective it stops to think. Music is immediate, it goes on to become.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Art is born of humiliation.
  8. Art is our chief means of breaking bread with the dead.
  9. 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.
  10. Choice of attention - to pay attention to this and ignore that - is to the inner life what choice of action is to the outer. In both cases, a man is responsible for his choice and must accept the consequences, whatever they may be.
  11. Death is the sound of distant thunder at a picnic.
  12. Every American poet feels that the whole responsibility for contemporary poetry has fallen upon his shoulders, that he is a literary aristocracy of one.
  13. 'Healing,' Papa would tell me, 'is not a science, but the intuitive art of wooing nature.'
  14. Health is the state about which medicine has nothing to say.
  15. History is, strictly speaking, the study of questions the study of answers belongs to anthropology and sociology.
  16. 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.
  17. It is a sad fact about our culture that a poet can earn much more money writing or talking about his art than he can by practicing it.
  18. It's a sad fact about our culture that a poet can earn much more money writing or talking about his art than he can by practicing it.
  19. Learn from your dreams what you lack.
  20. Like everything which is not the involuntary result of fleeting emotion but the creation of time and will, any marriage, happy or unhappy, is infinitely more interesting than any romance, however passionate.
  21. May it not be that, just as we have to have faith in Him, God has to have faith in us and, considering the history of the human race so far, may it not be that 'faith' is even more difficult for Him than it is for us?
  22. 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.
  23. Music can be made anywhere, is invisible and does not smell.
  24. Music is the best means we have of digesting time.
  25. No good opera plot can be sensible, for people do not sing when they are feeling sensible.
  26. Now is the age of anxiety.
  27. Of all possible subjects, travel is the most difficult for an artist, as it is the easiest for a journalist.
  28. The class distinctions proper to a democratic society are not those of rank or money, still less, as is apt to happen when these are abandoned, of race, but of age.
  29. The words of a dead man are modified in the guts of the living.
  30. 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.
  31. When I find myself in the company of scientists, I feel like a shabby curate who has strayed by mistake into a room full of dukes.

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