Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862) was an American essayist, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, and historian. A leading transcendentalist, Thoreau is best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay "Civil Disobedience", an argument for disobedience to an unjust state. 

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Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance, they make the latitudes and longitudes.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Read the best books first or you may not have a chance to read them at all.

Goodness is the only investment that never fails.

It is usually the imagination that is wounded first rather than the heart, it being much more sensitive.

As you simplify your life the laws of the universe will be simpler, solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.

Those whom we can love we can hate, to others we are indifferent.

The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.

All men are children and of one family. The same tale sends them all to bed and wakes them in the morning.

'Tis healthy to be sick sometimes.

Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.

If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.

Do what you love. Know your own bone, gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it and gnaw it still.

I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind.

Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air. They are where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

The finest workers in stone are not copper or steel tools, but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time.

Make the most of your regrets, never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.

The man who goes alone can start today, but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.

When I hear music I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times and to the latest.

I had three chairs in my house, one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.

I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born.

There is danger that we lose sight of what our friend is absolutely, while considering what she is to us alone.

In my afternoon walk I would fain forget all my morning occupations and my obligations to society.

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.

Friends... they cherish one another's hopes. They are kind to one another's dreams.

We should distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes.

Generally speaking, a howling wilderness does not howl: it is the imagination of the traveler that does the howling.

I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men, than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will.

Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.

A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading I must finish by acting.

True friendship can afford true knowledge. It does not depend on darkness and ignorance.

An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.

All this worldly wisdom was once the unamiable heresy of some wise man.

I have a great deal of company in the house, especially in the morning when nobody calls.

Before printing was discovered a century was equal to a thousand years.

There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted.

I have thought there was some advantage even in death by which we mingle with the herd of common men.

Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end.

Do not hire a man who does your work for money but him who does it for love of it.

If misery loves company misery has company enough.

I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.

I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion.

There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.

What is once well done is done forever.

If a man constantly aspires is he not elevated?

It is best to avoid the beginnings of evil.

It is what a man thinks of himself that really determines his fate.

Live the life you've dreamed.

They can do without architecture who have no olives nor wines in the cellar.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach and not when I came to die discover that I had not lived.

Beware of all enterprises that require a new set of clothes.

It appears to be a law that you cannot have a deep sympathy with both man and nature.

As in geology, so in social institutions we may discover the causes of all past changes in the present invariable order of society.

Do what nobody else can do for you. Omit to do anything else.

Nature puts no question and answers none which we mortals ask. She has long ago taken her resolution.

If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good I should run for my life.

Alas! how little does the memory of these human inhabitants enhance the beauty of the landscape!

May we so love as never to have occasion to repent of our love!

Justice is sweet and musical, but injustice is harsh and discordant.

The savage in man is never quite eradicated.

Aim above morality. Be not simply good be good for something.

The smallest seed of faith is better than the largest fruit of happiness.

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.

The Artist is he who detects and applies the law from observation of the works of Genius whether of man or Nature. The Artisan is he who merely applies the rules which others have detected.

Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?

Dreams are the touchstones of our character.

I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.

Things do not change, we change.

It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.

It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?

In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore they had better aim at something high.

None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.

There never was and is not likely soon to be a nation of philosophers nor am I certain it is desirable that there should be.

It's not what you look at that matters it's what you see.

It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law so much as for the right.

An unclean person is universally a slothful one.

There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.

We are always paid for our suspicion by finding what we suspect.

Every generation laughs at the old fashions but follows religiously the new.

Men have a respect for scholarship and learning greatly out of proportion to the use they commonly serve.

Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.

Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.

Where there is an observatory and a telescope we expect that any eyes will see new worlds at once.

Old deeds for old people and new deeds for new.

If I seem to boast more than is becoming my excuse is that I brag for humanity rather than for myself.

If we will be quiet and ready enough we shall find compensation in every disappointment.

It takes two to speak the truth: one to speak and another to hear.

The lawyer's truth is not Truth but consistency or a consistent expediency.

Every man casts a shadow, not his body only but his imperfectly mingled spirit. This is his grief. Let him turn which way he will it falls opposite to the sun, short at noon long at eve. Did you never see it?

It is the greatest of all advantages to enjoy no advantage at all.

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.

How can any man be weak who dares to be at all?

Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.

We know but a few men a great many coats and breeches.

If a man does not keep pace with his companions perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears however measured or far away.

To be admitted to Nature's hearth costs nothing. None is excluded but excludes himself. You have only to push aside the curtain.

In wilderness is the preservation of the world.

Night is certainly more novel and less profane than day.

Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.

Do not trouble yourself much to get new things whether clothes or friends... Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts.

Be not simply good - be good for something.

How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living?

Simplify simplify.

Under a government which imprisons any unjustly the true place for a just man is also a prison.

Any fool can make a rule and any fool will mind it.

As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.

Being is the great explainer.

After the first blush of sin comes its indifference.

The perception of beauty is a moral test.

Every people have gods to suit their circumstances.

I have found that hollow which even I had relied on for solid.

The rarest quality in an epitaph is truth.

Is the babe young? When I behold it it seems more venerable than the oldest man.

We are not what we are nor do we treat or esteem each other for such but for what we are capable of being.

The universe is wider than our views of it.

I have learned that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life he has imagined he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

Books are to be distinguished by the grandeur of their topics even more than by the manner in which they are treated.

Truths and roses have thorns about them.

Through our own recovered innocence we discern the innocence of our neighbors.

There are certain pursuits which if not wholly poetic and true do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees for instance.

It is not part of a true culture to tame tigers any more than it is to make sheep ferocious.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.

Our life is frittered away by detail... simplify simplify.

I am sorry to think that you do not get a man's most effective criticism until you provoke him. Severe truth is expressed with some bitterness.

We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal and then leap in the dark to our success.

I have seen how the foundations of the world are laid and I have not the least doubt that it will stand a good while.

To affect the quality of the day that is the highest of arts.

We shall see but a little way if we require to understand what we see.

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.

I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes and not rather a new wearer of clothes.

The most I can do for my friend is simply be his friend.

Our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed by them.

Faith keeps many doubts in her pay. If I could not doubt I should not believe.

That government is best which governs least.

That man is rich whose pleasures are the cheapest.

The language of friendship is not words but meanings.

If you can speak what you will never hear if you can write what you will never read you have done rare things.

Be true to your work your word and your friend.

Faith never makes a confession.

There are old heads in the world who cannot help me by their example or advice to live worthily and satisfactorily to myself, but I believe that it is in my power to elevate myself this very hour above the common level of my life.

Men are born to succeed not to fail.

A broad margin of leisure is as beautiful in a man's life as in a book. Haste makes waste no less in life than in housekeeping. Keep the time observe the hours of the universe not of the cars.

This world is but a canvas to our imagination.

If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another then I say break the law.

Money is not required to buy one necessity of the soul.

The fibers of all things have their tension and are strained like the strings of an instrument.

Men have become the tools of their tools.

Pursue some path however narrow and crooked in which you can walk with love and reverence.

Thank God men cannot fly and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.

Nature and human life are as various as our several constitutions. Who shall say what prospect life offers to another?

I put a piece of paper under my pillow and when I could not sleep I wrote in the dark.

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake not by mechanical aid but by an infinite expectation of the dawn.

While civilization has been improving our houses it has not equally improved the men who are to inhabit them. It has created palaces but it was not so easy to create noblemen and kings.

What is called genius is the abundance of life and health.

There is no just and serene criticism as yet.

The language of excitement is at best picturesque merely. You must be calm before you can utter oracles.

Front yards are not made to walk in but at most through and you could go in the back way.

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.

It is only when we forget all our learning that we begin to know.

What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?

How many things there are concerning which we might well deliberate whether we had better know them.

Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life so. Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.

If it is surely the means to the highest end we know can any work be humble or disgusting? Will it not rather be elevating as a ladder the means by which we are translated?

What is human warfare but just this, an effort to make the laws of God and nature take sides with one party.

The squirrel that you kill in jest dies in earnest.

Great men unknown to their generation have their fame among the great who have preceded them and all true worldly fame subsides from their high estimate beyond the stars.

I think that there is nothing not even crime more opposed to poetry to philosophy ay to life itself than this incessant business.

To have done anything just for money is to have been truly idle.

The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it immediately or in the long run.

Nothing goes by luck in composition. It allows of no tricks. The best you can write will be the best you are.

There is no remedy for love but to love more.

Only that day dawns to which we are awake.

The bluebird carries the sky on his back.

Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.

Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.

Our moments of inspiration are not lost though we have no particular poem to show for them, for those experiences have left an indelible impression and we are ever and anon reminded of them.

The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon or perchance a palace or temple on the earth and at length the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them.

There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in the infinite leisure and repose of nature.

Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.

Instead of noblemen let us have noble villages of men.

You must live in the present launch yourself on every wave find your eternity in each moment.

It is never too late to give up our prejudices.

The law will never make a man free, it is men who have got to make the law free.

Nature is full of genius full of the divinity, so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.

The man who is dissatisfied with himself what can he do?

Only he is successful in his business who makes that pursuit which affords him the highest pleasure sustain him.

It is an interesting question how far men would retain their relative rank if they were divested of their clothes.

Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.

All endeavor calls for the ability to tramp the last mile shape the last plan endure the last hours toil. The fight to the finish spirit is the one... characteristic we must posses if we are to face the future as finishers.

There is more of good nature than of good sense at the bottom of most marriages.

It is too late to be studying Hebrew, it is more important to understand even the slang of today.

I did not wish to take a cabin passage but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. I do not wish to go below now.

I have been as sincere a worshipper of Aurora as the Greeks.

To a philosopher all news as it is called is gossip and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea.

There is but one stage for the peasant and the actor.

God reigns when we take a liberal view when a liberal view is presented to us.

What old people say you cannot do you try and find that you can. Old deeds for old people and new deeds for new.

As for doing good, that is one of the professions which is full. Moreover I have tried it fairly and strange as it may seem am satisfied that it does not agree with my constitution.

In human intercourse the tragedy begins not when there is misunderstanding about words but when silence is not understood.

Live your life do your work then take your hat.

Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf and take an insect view of its plain.

In the meanest are all the materials of manhood only they are not rightly disposed.

Every creature is better alive than dead men and moose and pine trees and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.

There is always a present and extant life be it better or worse which all combine to uphold.

A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.

Nay be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you opening new channels not of trade but of thought.

There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living.

Ignorance and bungling with love are better than wisdom and skill without.

How does it become a man to behave towards the American government today? I answer that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it.

I was more independent than any farmer in Concord, for I was not anchored to a house or farm, but could follow the bent of my genius, which is a very crooked one every moment.

Shall I not have intelligence with the earth? Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself.

It is remarkable how closely the history of the apple tree is connected with that of man.

There is one consolation in being sick, and that is the possibility that you may recover to a better state than you were ever in before.

A man's interest in a single bluebird is worth more than a complete but dry list of the fauna and flora of a town.

If you would convince a man that he does wrong do right. Men will believe what they see.

Not only must we be good but we must also be good for something.

There is no rule more invariable than that we are paid for our suspicions by finding what we suspect.

Thaw with her gentle persuasion is more powerful than Thor with his hammer. The one melts the other breaks into pieces.

The heart is forever inexperienced.

Rather than love than money than fame give me truth.

Some are reputed sick and some are not. It often happens that the sicker man is the nurse to the sounder.

No face which we can give to a matter will stead us so well at last as the truth. This alone wears well.

Truth is always in harmony with herself and is not concerned chiefly to reveal the justice that may consist with wrong-doing.

Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.

Distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes.

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.

It is better to have your head in the clouds and know where you are... than to breathe the clearer atmosphere below them and think that you are in paradise.

The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought and attended to my answer.

Books can only reveal us to ourselves, and as often as they do us this service, we lay them aside.

What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.