Wystan Hugh Auden (February 21, 1907 - September 29, 1973), who published as W.H. Auden, was an Anglo-American poet, born in England, later an American citizen, regarded by many critics as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. His work is noted for its stylistic and technical achievements, its engagement with moral and political issues, and its variety of tone, form and content. The central themes of his poetry are love, politics and citizenship, religion and morals, and the relationship between unique human beings and the anonymous, impersonal world of nature. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)
A god who is both self-sufficient and content to remain so could not interest us enough to raise the question of his existence.
A tremendous number of people in America work very hard at something that bores them. Even a rich man thinks he has to go down to the office every day. Not because he likes it but because he can't think of anything else to do
A vice in common can be the ground of a friendship but not a virtue in common.
All pity is self-pity.
All sin tends to be addictive, and the terminal point of addiction is what is called damnation.
All the possibilities
It had to reject are
What give life and warmth to
An actual character;
The roots of wit and charm tap
Secret springs of sorrow,
Every brilliant doctor
Hides a murderer.
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.
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 élite which knows the law in some field or other, is an object of distrust and resentment.
Anyone who has a child today should train him to be either a physicist or a ballet dancer. Then he'll escape.
Aphorisms are essentially an aristocratic genre of writing. The aphorist does not argue or explain, he asserts; and implicit in his assertion is a conviction that he is wiser and more intelligent than his readers.
Between friends differences in taste or opinion are irritating in direct proportion to their triviality.
Dogmatic theological statements are neither logical propositions nor poetic utterances. They are 'shaggy dog' stories; they have a point, but he who tries too hard to get it will miss it.
Every autobiography is concerned with two characters, a Don Quixote, the Ego, and a Sancho Panza, the Self.
Evil is unspectacular and always human,
And shares our bed and eats at our own table.
Fame often makes a writer vain, but seldom makes him proud.
Genealogies are admirable things, provided they do not encourage the curious delusion that some families are older than others.
History is, strictly speaking, the study of questions; the study of answers belongs to anthropology and sociology.
I see little hope for a peaceful world until men are excluded from the realm of foreign policy altogether and all decisions concerning international relations are reserved for women, preferably married ones.
In all technologically 'advanced' countries, fashion has replaced tradition, so that involuntary membership in a society can no longer provide a feeling of community.
In any modern city, a great deal of our energy has to be expended in not seeing, not hearing, not smelling. An inhabitant of New York who possessed the sensory acuteness of an African Bushman would very soon go mad.
In general, when reading a scholarly critic, one profits more from his quotations than from his comments.
In most poetic expressions of patriotism, it is impossible to distinguish what is one of the greatest human virtues from the worst human vice, collective egotism.
It takes little talent to see clearly what lies under one's nose, a good deal of it to know in which direction to point that organ .
It's usually the stupid people that develop long illnesses. You need more than indolence and selfishness, you need endurance to make a good patient.
Lead us not into temptation and evil for our sake.
They will come all right, don't worry; probably in a form
That we do not expect, and certainly with a force
More dreadful than we can imagine.
Machines have no political opinions, but they have profound political effects. They demand a strict regimentation of time, and, by abolishing the need for manual skill, have transformed the majority of the population from workers into laborers.
Most people call something profound, not because it is near some important truth but because it is distant from ordinary life. Thus, darkness is profound to the eye, silence to the ear; what-is-not is the profundity of what-is.
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.
No opera plot can be sensible, for people do not sing when they are feeling sensible.
No poet or novelist wishes he were the only one who ever lived, but most of them wish they were the only one alive, and quite a number fondly believe their wish has been granted.
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.
One can only blaspheme if one believes.
One cannot review a bad book without showing off.
Perhaps there is only one cardinal sin: impatience. Because of impatience we were driven out of Paradise, because of impatience we cannot return.
Politics cannot be a science, because in politics theory and practice cannot be separated, and the sciences depend upon their separation.
Private faces in public places
Are wiser and nicer
Than public faces in private places.
Proper names are poetry in the raw. Like all poetry they are untranslatable.
Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none are undeservedly remembered.
Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about.
The law cannot forgive, for the law has not been wronged, only broken; only persons can be wronged. The law can pardon, but it can only pardon what it has the power to punish.
The surest sign that a man has a genuine taste of his own is that he is uncertain of it.
There is no love;
There are only the various envies, all of them sad.
Thou shalt not sit
With statisticians nor commit
A social science.
Thoughts of his own death,
like the distant roll
of thunder at a picnic.
to be free
Is often to be lonely;
To have a sense of sin means to feel guilty at there being an ethical choice to make, a guilt which, however 'good' I may become, remains unchanged.
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.
Whatever the field under discussion, those who engage in debate must not only believe in each other's good faith, but also in their capacity to arrive at the truth.
When words lose their meaning, physical force takes over.
Without Art, we should have no notion of the sacred; without Science, we should always worship false gods.
You must go to bed with friends or whores, where money makes up the difference in beauty or desire.
Young people, who are still uncertain of their identity, often try on a succession of masks in the hope of finding the one which suits them- the one, in fact, which is not a mask.