“I smell blood and an era of prominent madmen.” ― W.H. Auden

On this day, September 29th, in 1973,  W.H. Auden has diedWystan Hugh Auden was an Anglo-American poet and one of the leading literary figures of the 20th century, best known for The Age of Anxiety  which won him the Pulitzer Prize.

W. H. Auden

Born: February 21, 1907, York, England Died: September 28, 1973, Vienna, Austria

In 1935, Auden married Erika Mann, the daughter of the German novelist Thomas Mann. It was a marriage of convenience to enable her to gain British citizenship and escape Nazi Germany – Auden was himself homosexual.

Auden’s political sympathies inspired him to go to Spain in 1937 to observe the Spanish Civil War. In 1939, Auden and Isherwood emigrated to the United States. This was a controversial move, regarded by some as a flight from danger on the eve of war in Europe. In New York, Auden met poet Chester Kallman who would be his companion for the rest of his life. Auden taught at a number of American universities and, in 1946, took US citizenship.

The poet as a young man… WH Auden in London in January 1938, 18 months before the recently unearthed diary was started. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty

The poet as a young man… WH Auden in London in January 1938, 18 months before the recently unearthed diary was started. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty

He continued to publish poetry including his Pulitzer Prize winning ‘The Age of Anxiety’ (1947)  He collaborated with Kallman on the libretto for Stravinsky’s opera ‘The Rake’s Progress’ (1951). From 1956 to 1961 he was professor of poetry at Oxford University.

Such a beautiful evening and in an hour, they say, England will be at war.” (WH Auden,  September 1, 1939. An unpublished diary that sheds light on the composition of one of his most famous poems.)

The journal was one of just three kept by the British poet. It had been in private hands since Auden’s death in 1973, but was recently unearthed and sold earlier this month at Christie’s in London to the British Library.Christie’s called it “the most substantial and significant Auden manuscript to have been offered at auction“, and said it offered “an incomparable insight into the poet’s activities and reflections at the turning point in his life”.

War declared this morning… a page from the journal. Photograph: Christie's/PA

War declared this morning… a page from the journal. Photograph: Christie’s/PA

The journal records Auden’s thoughts on topics from women (“My hatred of women is such that if I am not afraid of them … I am cruel“) to politics. “The problem for a democracy is how to get rid of the pitiful vanities of partisan talk and voting and the corruption of party machines without silencing opposition criticism,” he muses.

That unmistakable voice: grey, shambling and covered in ash, Auden the man found it was the effect of his words that mattered. Photo: Jerry Cooke/Corbis

That unmistakable voice: grey, shambling and covered in ash, Auden the man found it was the effect of his words that mattered.
Photo: Jerry Cooke/Corbis

Among Auden’s highly regarded skills was the ability to think in terms of both symbols and reality at the same time, so that intellectual ideas were transformed. He rooted ideas through creatures of his imagining for whom the reader could often feel affection while appreciating the stern and cold outline of the ideas themselves.

He nearly always used language that was interesting in texture as well as brilliant verbally. He employed a great variety of intricate and extremely difficult technical forms. Throughout his career he often wrote pure lyrics of grave beauty, such as “Lay Your Sleeping Head, My Love” and “Look Stranger.”

In 1972, with his health declining, Auden left America. He moved to live in Oxford, in a cottage belonging to his old college, Christ Church. In the late 1950s, Auden had bought a house in Austria, where he spent six months of every year. He died in Austria on 29 September 1973.

The multivolume Complete Works of W. H. Auden was published in 1989. Auden is now considered one of the greatest poets of the English language.
свеча“Let me see what I wrote so I know what I think”

― W.H. Auden

“I will love you forever” swears the poet. I find this easy to swear too. “I will love you at 4:15 pm next Tuesday” – Is that still as easy?”
― W.H. Auden

“All we are not stares back at what we are.”
― W.H. Auden

“I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.”
― W.H. AudenCollected Poems

“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

What the mass media offers is not popular art, but entertainment which is intended to be consumed like food, forgotten, and replaced by a new dish.”
― W.H. AudenThe Dyer’s Hand

“Let all your thinks be thanks.”
― W.H. Auden

“There is a great deal of difference in believing something still, and believing it again.”
― W.H. Auden

Desire, even in its wildest tantrums, can neither persuade me it is love nor stop me from wishing it were.”
― W.H. Auden

“A real book is not one that we read, but one that reads us. ”
― W.H. Auden

“Thank God for books as an alternative to conversation.”
― W.H. Auden

будъ свечей“Those who will not reason, perish in the act. Those who will not act, perish for that reason.”
― W.H. Auden

“Drama is based on the Mistake.”
― W.H. AudenThe Complete Works of W.H. Auden: Prose, Volume III, 1949-1955

“We are all here on earth to help others: what on earth the others are here for, I don’t know.”
― W.H. Auden

“Words have no word for words that are not true.
― W.H. Auden

“Music is the best means we have of digesting time.”
― W.H. Auden

“The surest sign that a man has a genuine taste of his own is that he is uncertain of it.”
― W.H. AudenThe Dyer’s Hand

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