• Quotations

The Best W. H. Auden Quotes

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A list of the best W. H. Auden quotes. This list is arranged by which famous W. H. Auden quotes have received the most votes, so only the greatest W. H. Auden quotes are at the top of the list. All the most popular quotes from W. H. Auden should be listed here, but if any were missed you can add more at the end of the list. This list includes notable W. H. Auden quotes on various subjects, many of which are inspirational and thought provoking.

This list answers the questions, "What are the best W. H. Auden quotes?" and "What is the most famous W. H. Auden quote?"

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    No human being is innocent, but there is a class of innocent human actions called Games.

    W. H. Auden
  • 52
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    Narcissus does not fall in love with his reflection because it is beautiful, but because it is his. If it were his beauty that enthralled him, he would be set free in a few years by its fading.

    W. H. Auden
  • 53
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    Rhymes, meters, stanza forms, etc., are like servants. If the master is fair enough to win their affection and firm enough to command their respect, the result is an orderly happy household. If he is too tyrannical, they give notice; if he lacks authority, they become slovenly, impertinent, drunk and dishonest.

    W. H. Auden
  • 54
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    No good opera plot can be sensible, for people do not sing when they are feeling sensible.

    W. H. Auden
  • 55
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    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.

    W. H. Auden
  • 56
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    I cannot accept the doctrine that in poetry there is a suspension of belief. A poet must never make a statement simply because it is sounds poetically exciting; he must also believe it to be true.

    W. H. Auden
  • 57
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    In a land which is fully settled, most men must accept their local environment or try to change it by political means; only the exceptionally gifted or adventurous can leave to seek his fortune elsewhere. In America, on the other hand, to move on and make a fresh start somewhere else is still the normal reaction to dissatisfaction and failure.

    W. H. Auden
  • 58
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    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.

    W. H. Auden
  • 59
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    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.

    W. H. Auden
  • 60
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    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.

    W. H. Auden
  • 61
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    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.

    W. H. Auden
  • 62
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    If the most significant characteristic of man is the complex of biological needs he shares with all members of his species, then the best lives for the writer to observe are those in which the role of natural necessity is clearest, namely, the lives of the very poor.

    W. H. Auden
  • 63
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    We are not commanded (or forbidden) to love our mates, our children, our friends, our country because such affections come naturally to us and are good in themselves, although we may corrupt them. We are commanded to love our neighbor because our natural attitude toward the other is one of either indifference or hostility.

    W. H. Auden
  • 64
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    How happy the lot of the mathematician! He is judged solely by his peers, and the standard is so high that no colleague or rival can ever win a reputation he does not deserve. No cashier writes a letter to the press complaining about the incomprehensibility of Modern Mathematics and comparing it unfavorably with the good old days when mathematicians were content to paper irregularly shaped rooms and fill bathtubs without closing the waste pipe.

    W. H. Auden
  • 65
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    The masculine imagination lives in a state of perpetual revolt against the limitations of human life. In theological terms, one might say that all men, left to themselves, become gnostics. They may swagger like peacocks, but in their heart of hearts they all think sex an indignity and wish they could beget themselves on themselves. Hence the aggressive hostility toward women so manifest in most club-car stories.

    W. H. Auden
  • 66
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    A verbal art like poetry is reflective; it stops to think. Music is immediate, it goes on to become.

    W. H. Auden
  • 67
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    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.

    W. H. Auden
  • 68
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    The only way to spend New Year's Eve is either quietly with friends or in a brothel. Otherwise when the evening ends and people pair off, someone is bound to be left in tears.

    W. H. Auden
  • 69
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    You have to see the sex act comically, as a child.

    W. H. Auden
  • 70
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    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.

    W. H. Auden
  • 71
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    Drama is based on the Mistake. I think someone is my friend when he really is my enemy, that I am free to marry a woman when in fact she is my mother, that this person is a chambermaid when it is a young nobleman in disguise, that this well-dressed young man is rich when he is really a penniless adventurer, or that if I do this such and such a result will follow when in fact it results in something very different. All good drama has two movements, first the making of the mistake, then the discovery that it was a mistake.

    W. H. Auden
  • 72
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    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.

    W. H. Auden
  • 73
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    Literary confessors are contemptible, like beggars who exhibit their sores for money, but not so contemptible as the public that buys their books.

    W. H. Auden
  • 74
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    My deepest feeling about politicians is that they are dangerous lunatics to be avoided when possible and carefully humored; people, above all, to whom one must never tell the truth.

    W. H. Auden
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    Fame often makes a writer vain, but seldom makes him proud.

    W. H. Auden