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 :: 1907-1973, Anglo-American Poet

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Every autobiography is concerned with two characters, a Don Quixote, the Ego, and a Sancho Panza, the Self.
~ W. H. Auden - [Autobiography]

 

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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 - [Faces]

 

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Evil is unspectacular and always human, and shares our bed and eats at our own table.
~ W. H. Auden - [Evil]

 

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Fame often makes a writer vain, but seldom makes him proud.
~ W. H. Auden - [Fame]

 

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Geniuses are the luckiest of mortals because what they must do is the same as what they most want to do.
~ W. H. Auden - [Genius]

 

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God bless the USA, so large, so friendly, and so rich.
~ W. H. Auden - [America]

 

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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 - [Mathematics]

 

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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 - [Poetry and Poets]

 

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If music in general is an imitation of history, opera in particular is an imitation of human willfulness; it is rooted in the fact that we not only have feelings but insist upon having them at whatever cost to ourselves. The quality common to all the great operatic roles, e.g., Don Giovanni, Norma, Lucia, Tristan, Isolde, Brnnnhilde, is that each of them is a passionate and willful state of being. In real life they would all be bores, even Don Giovanni.
~ W. H. Auden - [Opera]

 

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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 - [Literature]

 

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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 - [Dissatisfaction]

 

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In order that people may be happy in their work, these three things are needed: They must be fit for it: they must not do too much of it: and they must have a sense of success in it --not a doubtful sense, such as needs some testimony of others for its confirmation, but a sure sense, or rather knowledge, that so much work has been done well, and fruitfully done, whatever the world may say or think about it.
~ W. H. Auden - [Work]

 

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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.
~ W. H. Auden - [Poetry and Poets]

 

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It is already possible to imagine a society in which the majority of the population, that is to say, its laborers, will have almost as much leisure as in earlier times was enjoyed by the aristocracy. When one recalls how aristocracies in the past actually behaved, the prospect is not cheerful.
~ W. H. Auden - [Leisure]

 

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It is... axiomatic that we should all think of ourselves as being more sensitive than other people because, when we are insensitive in our dealings with others, we cannot be aware of it at the time: conscious insensitivity is a self-contradiction.
~ W. H. Auden - [Sensitivity]

 

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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.
~ W. H. Auden - [Talent]

 

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It's frightening how easy it is to commit murder in America. Just a drink too much. I can see myself doing it. In England, one feels all the social restraints holding one back. But here, anything can happen.
~ W. H. Auden - [Murder]

 

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Left to itself the masculine imagination has very little appreciation for the here and now; it prefers to dwell on what is absent, on what has been or may be. If men are more punctual than women, it is because they know that, without the external discipline of clock time, they would never get anything done.
~ W. H. Auden - [Men]

 

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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.
~ W. H. Auden - [Marriage]

 

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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 - [Confession]

 

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