Quotes about W. H. Auden
6 Sourced Quotes
On W. H. Auden's deep facial wrinkles:Were a fly to attempt to cross it, it would break its leg.
W. H. Auden once suggested that to understand your own country you need to have lived in at least two others. One can say something similar for periods of time: to understand your own century you need to have come to terms with at least two others. The key to learning something about the past might be a ruin or an archive but the means whereby we may understand it is—and always will be—ourselves.
There are people in every age who come early or late to a sense of the futility of the world. Some people, such as the monks of the desert, flee the entanglements of the world to rush toward eternity. But even for those who remain in the world, the approach of eternity is implacable. The glacier knocks in the cupboard, / The desert sighs in the bed, was W. H. Auden's mock-prophetic forecast. He meant the desert is incipient in the human condition. Time melts away from us. Even in luxuriant weather, even in luxuriant wealth, even in luxuriant youth, we know our bodies will fail; our buildings will fall to ruin.
I had never met a poet in my life before winning the Pulitzer in 1945. Well, that's not strictly true; when I went to Johns Hopkins in 1939, W. H. Auden gave a private reading to a group of special literature students, and I was one. I shook hands with him. As it happened, at that time he was my idol, above all others as a modern poet, and that experience was a very sustaining one. But I could hardly say I knew him.