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 :: 1907-1973, Anglo-American Poet

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There's only one good test of pornography. Get twelve normal men to read the book, and then ask them, ''Did you get an erection?'' If the answer is ''Yes'' from a majority of the twelve, then the book is pornographic.
~ W. H. Auden - [Pornography]

 

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To pray is to pay attention to something or someone other than oneself. Whenever a man so concentrates his attention -- on a landscape, a poem, a geometrical problem, an idol, or the True God -- that he completely forgets his own ego and desires, he is praying. The primary task of the schoolteacher is to teach children, in a secular context, the technique of prayer.
~ W. H. Auden - [Prayer]

 

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You must go to bed with friends or whores, where money makes up the difference in beauty or desire.
~ W. H. Auden - [Relationships]

 

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When I am in the company of scientists, I feel like a shabby curate who has strayed by mistake into a drawing room full of dukes.
~ W. H. Auden - [Science and Scientists]

 

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You know there are no secrets in America. It's quite different in England, where people think of a secret as a shared relation between two people.
~ W. H. Auden - [Secrets]

 

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To the man-in-the-street, who, I'm sorry to say, is a keen observer of life. The word ''Intellectual'' suggests straight away. A man who's untrue to his wife.
~ W. H. Auden - [Intelligence and Intellectuals]

 

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What people don't realize is that intimacy has its conventions as well as ordinary social intercourse. There are three cardinal rules -- don't take somebody else's boyfriend unless you've been specifically invited to do so, don't take a drink without being asked, and keep a scrupulous accounting in financial matters.
~ W. H. Auden - [Intimacy]

 

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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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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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A false enchantment can all too easily last a lifetime.
~ W. H. Auden - [Love]

 

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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 - [Love]

 

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We must love one another or die.
~ W. H. Auden - [Love]

 

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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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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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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 - [Men]

 

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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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The center that I cannot find is known to my unconscious mind.
~ W. H. Auden - [Mind]

 

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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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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.
~ W. H. Auden - [Murder]

 

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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 - [Music]

 

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