Monday, September 3, 2012

10 Great Quotes From the Poetry of W.H. Auden

W.H. Auden was an Anglo-American poet often regarded by critics as one of the great writers of the 21st century. Below are ten of my favorites lines from his poetry. What is your favorite?

“He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever:
I was wrong.”

“All the clocks in the city
Began to whir and chime:
'O let not Time deceive you,
You cannot conquer Time.'"

“These are enough
Leftovers to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week--
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted--quite unsuccessfully--
To love all our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers.”

"How should we like it were stars to burn 
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me."

“The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.”

“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. ”

“For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone”

“Behind the corpse in the reservoir, behind the ghost on the links,
Behind the lady who dances and the man who madly drinks,
Under the look of fatigue, the attack of migraine and the sigh
There is always another story, there is more than meets the eye.”

“The nightingales are sobbing in
The orchards of our mothers,
And hearts that we broke long ago
Have long been breaking others.”

"Admirer as I think I am 
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day."


  1. I most love W. H. Auden's Bucholics...
    To be sitting in privacy,like a cat
    On the warm roof of a loft,
    Where the high-spirited son of some gloomy tarn
    Comes sprinting down through a green croft,
    Bright with flowers laid out in exquisite splodges...
    For an uncatlike
    Creature who has gone wrong,
    Five minutes on even the nicest mountain
    Is awfully long.

  2. I sometimes deeply appreciate modern English poetry. Your post about Auden is interesting and appropriate. Auden' lines quoted are pleasantly traditional Thank you.
    Silvio Pilone (Google circle "Friendly Simpatia"). (2013).