Auden the Aphorist

by F.

There are so many Audens—Auden the Marxist, Auden the Christian, Auden the slovenly artist. The Auden of the late thirties and the forties is the one I like best at the moment.

About ten years ago, I bought a little volume of his aphorisms from this period. I didn’t like it much. Returning to it today, I find it pretty interesting. Not a trove of truths but a hand-basket of hypotheses:

How often one hears a young man with no talent say when asked what he intends to do, “I want to write.” What he really means is, “I don’t want to work.” Politics and science can be play too, but art is the least dependent on the good-will of others and looks the easiest.

From The Prolific and the Devourer.