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Musée des Beaux Arts

Musée des Beaux Arts

by W.H. Auden

Passivity Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, (5-6)

Notice how even the action in this poem is actually just…waiting for action? Everything happens offscreen. And we do mean everything.

Quote #2

While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along; (4)

There's all sorts of things that you can do while ignoring everything else around you. Just in case you missed that point the first time around, Auden offers a list of all of the other things that can dull your brain and bore you into sleepwalking. Heck, just reading about it kills a few of our brain cells. We're guessing that's why it's in the poem!

Quote #3

even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, (9-10)

OK, no one's actually being passive here – or are they? After all, martyrs are usually persecuted. Which means that someone out there is not standing up to support her. Or him. And corners don't tend to hold too many people. Being alone isn't usually a choice, is it?

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