Henry David Thoreau - Quotes

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

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

Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.

Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.

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

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

Things do not change; we change.

Things do not change; we change.

This world is but a canvas to our imagination.

This world is but a canvas to our imagination.

There is no remedy for love but to love more.

There is no remedy for love but to love more.

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.

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.

The language of friendship is not words but meanings.

The language of friendship is not words but meanings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.

Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.

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

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

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. ---->>>

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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. ---->>>

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Truths and roses have thorns about them. ---->>>

Live your life, do your work, then take your hat. ---->>>

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. ---->>>

Before printing was discovered, a century was equal to a thousand years. ---->>>

What is once well done is done forever. ---->>>

Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something. ---->>>

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

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. ---->>>

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

Our life is frittered away by detail... simplify, simplify. ---->>>

I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.

I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.

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

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

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.

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.

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

Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.

Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.

Men are born to succeed, not to fail.

Men are born to succeed, not to fail.

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

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

Goodness is the only investment that never fails.

Goodness is the only investment that never fails.

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

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

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. ---->>>

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

To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. ---->>>

It is never too late to give up our prejudices. ---->>>

The perception of beauty is a moral test. ---->>>

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. ---->>>

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

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

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

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

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

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

None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.

None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.

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.

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.

The bluebird carries the sky on his back.

The bluebird carries the sky on his back.

So thoroughly and sincerely are we compelled to live, reverencing our life, and denying the possibility of change. This is the only way, we say; but there are as many ways as there can be drawn radii from one centre. All change is a miracle to contemplate; but it is a miracle which is taking place every instant. ---->>>

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

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

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

The squirrel that you kill in jest, dies in earnest. ---->>>

Dreams are the touchstones of our character.

Dreams are the touchstones of our character.

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

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

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. ---->>>

Distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes. ---->>>

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

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

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

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

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

Not only must we be good, but we must also be good for something. ---->>>

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

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live the life you've dreamed. ---->>>

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

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

Men have become the tools of their tools.

Men have become the tools of their tools.

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. ---->>>

The savage in man is never quite eradicated. ---->>>

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. ---->>>

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

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

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

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

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? ---->>>

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. ---->>>

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. ---->>>

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. ---->>>

That man is rich whose pleasures are the cheapest. ---->>>

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.

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.

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. ---->>>

The rarest quality in an epitaph is truth.

The rarest quality in an epitaph is truth.

In wildness is the preservation of the world. ---->>>

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

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

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. ---->>>

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

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

A man cannot be said to succeed in this life who does not satisfy one friend. ---->>>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instead of noblemen, let us have noble villages of men. ---->>>

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

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

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

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. ---->>>

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? ---->>>

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

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

That government is best which governs least.

That government is best which governs least.

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

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

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

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

If misery loves company, misery has company enough. ---->>>

'Tis healthy to be sick sometimes.

'Tis healthy to be sick sometimes.

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

Be not simply good - be good for something.

Be not simply good - be good for something.

Justice is sweet and musical; but injustice is harsh and discordant. ---->>>

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

The heart is forever inexperienced.

The heart is forever inexperienced.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.

As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We should distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes. ---->>>

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

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

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

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

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

Every people have gods to suit their circumstances. ---->>>

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

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

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

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

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

After the first blush of sin comes its indifference. ---->>>

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

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. ---->>>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is best to avoid the beginnings of evil. ---->>>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An unclean person is universally a slothful one. ---->>>

The universe is wider than our views of it. ---->>>

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

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

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

There is no just and serene criticism as yet. ---->>>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faith never makes a confession. ---->>>

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

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

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

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

If a man constantly aspires is he not elevated? ---->>>

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. ---->>>

Night is certainly more novel and less profane than day. ---->>>

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

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

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

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

I have found that no exertion of the legs can bring two minds much nearer to one another. ---->>>

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

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

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

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

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. ---->>>

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

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

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

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

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

Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new. ---->>>

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

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. ---->>>

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. ---->>>

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.

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.

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. ---->>>

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. ---->>>

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. ---->>>

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. ---->>>

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. ---->>>

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. ---->>>

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

Simplify, simplify. ---->>>

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

Only that day dawns to which we are awake. ---->>>

Being is the great explainer. ---->>>

Biography

Nationality: American
Born: July 12, 1817
Birthplace: Concord, Massachusetts, US
Die: May 6, 1862
Occupation: Author
Website:

Henry David Thoreau (see name pronunciation; 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" (originally published as "Resistance to Civil Government"), an argument for disobedience to an unjust state (wikipedia)