Posts Tagged ‘w. h. auden’

Quote of the Day: GOOD AND EVIL

January 27, 2022

GOOD AND EVIL

Towards the end he sailed into an extraordinary mildness,
And anchored in his home and reached his wife
And rode within the harbour of her hand,
And went each morning to an office
As though his occupation were another island.

Goodness existed: that was the new knowledge.
His terror had to blow itself quite out
To let him see it; but it was the gale had blown him
Past the Cape Horn of sensible success
Which cries: “This rock is Eden. Shipwreck here.”
But deafened him with thunder and confused with lightning:
–The maniac hero hunting like a jewel
The rare ambiguous monster that had maimed his sex,
The unexplained survivor breaking off the nightmare–
All that was intricate and false; the truth was simple.

Evil is unspectacular and always human,
And shares our bed and eats at our own table,
And we are introduced to Goodness every day,
Even in drawing-rooms among a crowd of faults;
He has a name like Billy and is almost perfect,
But wears a stammer like a decoration:
And every time they meet the same thing has to happen;
It is the Evil that is helpless like a lover
And has to pick a quarrel and succeeds,
And both are openly destroyed before our eyes.

For now he was awake and knew
No one is ever spared except in dreams;
But there was something else the nightmare had distorted–
Even the punishment was human and a form of love:
The howling storm had been his father’s presence
And all the time he had been carried on his father’s breast.

Who now had set him gently down and left him.
He stood upon the narrow balcony and listened:
And all the stars above him sang as in his childhood
“All, all is vanity,” but it was not the same;
For now the words descended like the calm of mountains–
–Nathaniel had been shy because his love was selfish–
Reborn, he cried in exultation and surrender
“The Godhead is broken like bread. We are the pieces.”
And sat down at his desk and wrote a story.”

— W. H. Auden, “Herman Melville (for Lincoln Kirstein)”

Portrait of Herman Melville (1819-1891), American novelist, short story writer, essayist and poet.

Quote of the day: LOVE

July 30, 2019

LOVE

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

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.

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.

Were all stars to disappear or 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”

Quote of the day: ILLUSIONS

July 30, 2011

ILLUSIONS

We would rather be ruined
than changed
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die.

— W. H. Auden

Quote of the day: YOUTH

May 16, 2010

YOUTH

Why leave out the worst
pangs of youth? The Princes of Fiction,
who ride through risks to rescue their loves,
know their business, are not really
as young as they look. To be young means
to be all on edge, to be held waiting in a
packed lounge for a personal Call
from Long Distance, for the low voice that
defines one’s future. The fears we know are of
not knowing. Will nightfall bring us
some awful order — Keep a hardware store
in a small town? Teach science for life to
progressive girls? It is getting late.
Shall we ever be asked for? Are we simply
not wanted at all?

— W. H. Auden

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