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 :: 1907-1973, Anglo-American Poet

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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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We are here on earth to do good to others. What the others are here for, I don't know.
~ W. H. Auden - [Service]

 

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You have to see the sex act comically, as a child.
~ W. H. Auden - [Sex]

 

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All sins tend to be addictive, and the terminal point of addiction is damnation.
~ W. H. Auden - [Sin]

 

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Slavery is so intolerable a condition that the slave can hardly escape deluding himself into thinking that he is choosing to obey his master's commands when, in fact, he is obliged to. Most slaves of habit suffer from this delusion and so do some writers, enslaved by an all too ''personal'' style.
~ W. H. Auden - [Slavery]

 

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A man has his distinctive personal scent which his wife, his children and his dog can recognize. A crowd has a generalized stink. The public is odorless.
~ W. H. Auden - [Smells]

 

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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 - [Song and Singing]

 

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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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A professor is one who talks in someone else's sleep.
~ W. H. Auden - [Teachers and Teaching]

 

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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 - [Theater]

 

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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.
~ W. H. Auden - [Theology]

 

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Anyone who has a child today should train him to be either a physicist or a ballet dancer. Then he'll escape.
~ W. H. Auden - [Upbringing]

 

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Perhaps there is only one cardinal sin: impatience. Because of impatience we were driven out of Paradise, because of impatience we cannot return.
~ W. H. Auden - [Patience]

 

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As a poet there is only one political duty, and that is to defend one's language against corruption. When it is corrupted, people lose faith in what they hear and this leads to violence.
~ W. H. Auden - [Poetry and Poets]

 

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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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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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Poetry makes nothing happen. It survives in the valley of its saying.
~ W. H. Auden - [Poetry and Poets]

 

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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 - [Poetry and Poets]

 

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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 - [Politicians and Politics]

 

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The belief that politics can be scientific must inevitably produce tyrannies. Politics cannot be a science, because in politics theory and practice cannot be separated, and the sciences depend upon their separation. Empirical politics must be kept in bounds by democratic institutions, which leave it up to the subjects of the experiment to say whether it shall be tried, and to stop it if they dislike it, because, in politics, there is a distinction, unknown to science, between Truth and Justice.
~ W. H. Auden - [Politicians and Politics]

 

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