February 10, 2017


Quotations by W. H. Auden

“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.”
~ W.H. Auden, Lullaby

“The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the teacup opens
A lane to the land of the dead.”
~ W.H. Auden, As I Walked Out One Evening

 “In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;

Intellectual disgrace
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.”
~ W.H. Auden, In Memory of W. B. Yeats

“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.”
~ W.H. Auden, September 1, 1939

“The nightingales are sobbing in
The orchards of our mothers,
And hearts that we broke long ago
Have long been breaking others;
Tears are round, the sea is deep:
Roll them overboard and sleep. ”
~ W.H. Auden, Song Of The Master And Boatswain

“The sky is darkening like a stain
Something is going to fall like rain
And it won't be flowers”
~ W.H. Auden, The Two (or The Witnesses)

“The mass and majesty of this world, all
That carries weight and always weighs the same
Lay in the hands of others; they were small
And could not hope for help and no help came:
What their foes like to do was done, their shame
Was all the worst could wish; they lost their pride
And died as men before their bodies died.”
~ W.H. Auden, The Shield of Achilles

“Were all stars to disappear and die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time."
~ W.H. Auden, The More Loving One

“But once in a while the odd thing happens,
Once in a while the dream comes true,
And the whole pattern of life is altered,
Once in a while the moon turns blue.”
~ W.H. Auden, Once In A While The Odd Thing Happens

“Clear, unscalable, ahead
Rise the Mountains of Instead,
From whose cold, cascading streams
None may drink except in dreams.”
~ W.H. Auden, Autumn Song

“Beloved, we are always in the wrong,
Handling so clumsily our stupid lives,
Suffering too little or too long,
Too careful even in our selfish loves:
The decorative manias we obey
Die in grimaces round us every day,
Yet through their tohu-bohu comes a voice
Which utters an absurd command - Rejoice. ”
~ W.H. Auden, In Sickness and in Health

“Time will say nothing but I told you so,
Time only knows the price we have to pay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.”
~ W.H. Auden, If I Could Tell You

“For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.”
~ W.H. Auden, In Memory of W. B. Yeats

“In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.”
~ W.H. Auden, Auden, Musée des Beaux Arts

“Base words are uttered only by the base
And can for such at once be understood;
But noble platitudes — ah, there's a case
Where the most careful scrutiny is needed
To tell a voice that's genuinely good
From one that's base but merely has succeeded.”
~ W.H. Auden, Base Words Are Uttered Poem

“Acts of injustice done
Between the setting and the rising sun
In history lie like bones, each one.”
~ W.H. Auden

“Be subtle, various, ornamental, clever,
And do not listen to those critics ever
Whose crude provincial gullets crave in books
Plain cooking made still plainer by plain cooks.”
~ W.H. Auden, The Truest Poetry is the Most Feigning

“We are, for all our polish, of little
stature, and, as human lives,
compared with authentic martyrs,
of no account.”
~ W.H. Auden

“Far from his illness
The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,
The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;
By mourning tongues
The death of the poet was kept from his poems.”
~ W.H. Auden, In Memory of W.B. Yeats

“Will it come like a change in the weather?
Will its greeting be courteous or rough?
Will it alter my life altogether?
O tell me the truth about love.”
~ W.H. Auden, O Tell Me The Truth About Love Poem

“Nothing can be loved too much,
but all things can be loved
in the wrong way.”
~ W.H. Auden, Thank You, Fog

“And maps can really point to places
Where life is evil now:
Nanking. Dachau.”
~ W.H. Auden, In Time of War

“Lovers have lived so long with giants and elves, they won't believe again in their own size.”
~ W.H. Auden, Letters from Iceland

“A dead man who never caused others to die seldom rates a statue.”
~ W.H. Auden

“The element of craftsmanship in poetry is obscured by the fact that all men are taught to speak and most to read and write, while very few men are taught to draw or paint or write music.”
~ W.H. Auden

“People always get what they want. But there is a price for everything. Failures are either those who do not know what they want or are not prepared to pay the price asked them. The price varies from individual to individual. Some get things at bargain-sale prices, others only at famine prices. But it is no use grumbling. Whatever price you are asked, you must pay.”
~ W.H. Auden

“The identification of fantasy is always an attempt to avoid one's own suffering: the identification of art is the sharing in the suffering of another.”
~ W.H. Auden

“Some books are undeservedly forgotten, none are undeservedly remembered”
~ W.H. Auden

“Human "nature" is a nature continually in quest of itself, obliged at every moment to transcend what it was a moment before.”
~ W.H. Auden

Tanvir Shameem Tanvir Shameem is not the biggest fan of teaching, but he is doing his best to write on various topics of language and literature just to guide thousands of students and researchers across the globe. You can always find him experimenting with presentation, style and diction. He will contribute as long as time permits. You can find him on:


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