W. H. Auden biography

W. H. Auden

Poet, Author

1907 – 1973

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Who was W. H. Auden?

Wystan Hugh Auden, who published as W. H. Auden, was an Anglo-American poet, born in England, later an American citizen, regarded by many critics as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. His work is noted for its stylistic and technical achievements, its engagement with moral and political issues, and its variety of tone, form and content. The central themes of his poetry are love, politics and citizenship, religion and morals, and the relationship between unique human beings and the anonymous, impersonal world of nature.

Auden grew up in and near Birmingham in a professional middle-class family and read English literature at Christ Church, Oxford. His early poems, written in the late 1920s and early 1930s, alternated between telegraphic modern styles and fluent traditional ones, were written in an intense and dramatic tone, and established his reputation as a left-wing political poet and prophet. He became uncomfortable in this role in the later 1930s, and abandoned it after he moved to the United States in 1939, where he became an American citizen in 1946. His poems in the 1940s explored religious and ethical themes in a less dramatic manner than his earlier works, but still combined traditional forms and styles with new forms devised by Auden himself. In the 1950s and 1960s many of his poems focused on the ways in which words revealed and concealed emotions, and he took a particular interest in writing opera librettos, a form ideally suited to direct expression of strong feelings.

Famous Quotes:

  • Between friends differences in taste or opinion are irritating in direct proportion to their triviality.
  • Literary confessors are contemptible, like beggars who exhibit their sores for money, but not so contemptible as the public that buys their books.
  • Poetry makes nothing happen. It survives in the valley of its saying.
  • If music in general is an imitation of history, opera in particular is an imitation of human willfulness; it is rooted in the fact that we not only have feelings but insist upon having them at whatever cost to ourselves. The quality common to all the great operatic roles, e.g., Don Giovanni, Norma, Lucia, Tristan, Isolde, Br?nnhilde, is that each of them is a passionate and willful state of being. In real life they would all be bores, even Don Giovanni.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The center that I cannot find is known to my unconscious mind.

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Born
Feb 21, 1907
York
Also known as
  • Wystan Hugh Auden
  • W.H. Auden
  • Auden, W.H.
Parents
Siblings
Spouses
Religion
  • Anglicanism
  • Christianity
Ethnicity
  • English people
Nationality
  • England
  • United States of America
Profession
Education
  • Christ Church, Oxford
  • Gresham's School
  • University of Oxford
Died
Sep 29, 1973
Vienna

Submitted
on July 23, 2013

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