Henry David Thoreau Quotes

Most popular Henry David Thoreau Quotes

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

famous the self

If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal, — that is your success.
— Henry David Thoreau

success what is success

We are all sculptors and painters, and our material is our own flesh and blood and bones.  Any nobleness begins at once to refine a man's features, and meanness or sensuality to imbrute them.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

self-determination

It often happens that a man is more humanely related to a cat or dog than to any human being.
— Henry David Thoreau

cats dogs pets

Thaw with her gentle persuasion is more powerful than Thor with his hammer. The one melts, the other breaks into pieces.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

persuasion

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.
— Henry David Thoreau

famous mankind

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

Attention compliments listening

The hero obeys his own law.
— Henry David Thoreau

heroism

Being is the great explainer.
— Henry David Thoreau
Write while the heat is in you.
— Henry David Thoreau

writing advice

The heart is forever inexperienced.
— Henry David Thoreau

heart

To regret deeply is to live afresh.
— Henry David Thoreau

regret

A man sits as many risks as he runs.
— Henry David Thoreau

risk-taking

Men are born to succeed, not to fail.
— Henry David Thoreau

optimistic

Keep your accounts on your thumbnail.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden
Time is but the stream I go fishing in.
— Henry David Thoreau

time

Love must be as much a light as a flame.

love

Men have become the tools of their tools.
— Henry David Thoreau

technology

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.
— Henry David Thoreau

time

Be it life or death, we seek only reality.
— Henry David Thoreau

reality

The rarest quality in an epitaph is truth.
— Henry David Thoreau
The blue-bird carries the sky on his back.
— Henry David Thoreau

interesting

Be not merely good; be good for something.
— Henry David Thoreau

advisory

Man is the artificer of his own happiness.
— Henry David Thoreau

happiness

We must have infinite faith in each other.
— Henry David Thoreau

faith

The universe is wider than our views of it.
— Henry David Thoreau

universe

Life has no blessing like a prudent friend.
— Henry David Thoreau

friendship

The world is but a canvas to the imagination.
— Henry David Thoreau

imagination

Lo! Men have become the tools of their tools.
— Henry David Thoreau

technology

This world is but canvas to our imaginations.

imagination the world

There is no remedy for love but to love more.
— Henry David Thoreau

love

Dreams are the touchstones of our characters.
— Henry David Thoreau

dreams

Say what you have to say, not what you ought.
— Henry David Thoreau

communication speak your mind

In the long run men hit only what they aim at.
— Henry David Thoreau

goals

Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only.
— Henry David Thoreau

wealth

We hate the kindness which we don't understand.
— Henry David Thoreau

kindness

A perfectly healthy sentence is extremely rare.
— Henry David Thoreau

writing

Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.
— Henry David Thoreau

imagination

It is never too late to give up our prejudices.
— Henry David Thoreau

prejudice

We make ourselves rich by making our wants few.
— Henry David Thoreau
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

life mankind

Goodness is the only investment that never fails.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

being good Goodness morals

Live your life, do your work, then take your hat.
— Henry David Thoreau

how to live life

Even the best things are not equal to their fame.
— Henry David Thoreau

fame

Distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes.
— Henry David Thoreau

fashion

The only way to speak the truth is speak lovingly.
— Henry David Thoreau

love speech

Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

heaven

Humility like darkness reveals the heavenly lights.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

humility

As if we could kill time without injuring eternity!
— Henry David Thoreau

time

Every man is a builder of a temple called his body.
— Henry David Thoreau

body

What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

giving up

As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.
— Henry David Thoreau

time wasting time

Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told.
— Henry David Thoreau

stories

As if you could kill time without injuring eternity!
— Henry David Thoreau

time wasting time

Heaven is under our feet, as well as over our heads.
— Henry David Thoreau

attitude

When were the good and the brave ever in a majority?
— Henry David Thoreau

mankind

After the first blush of sin comes its indifference.

sin

This life is not for complaint, but for satisfaction.
— Henry David Thoreau

complaining

Morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden
That man is richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.
— Henry David Thoreau

pleasure

The language of friendship is not words but meanings.
— Henry David Thoreau

friendship

Humility, like darkness, reveals the heavenly lights.
— Henry David Thoreau

humility

An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.
— Henry David Thoreau

exercise walking

None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.
— Henry David Thoreau

enthusiasm

Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

money

Money is not required to buy one necessity of the soul.
— Henry David Thoreau

money

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.
— Henry David Thoreau

truth

Not till we are lost ... do we begin to find ourselves.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

know yourself losing our way

City life is millions of people being lonesome together.
— Henry David Thoreau

solitude

The most I can do for my friend is simply be his friend.
— Henry David Thoreau

friendship

Music is perpetual, and only the hearing is intermittent.
— Henry David Thoreau

music

It is characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

wisdom

For what are the classics but the noblest thoughts of man?
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

classics

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.
— Henry David Thoreau

know yourself

What is called genius is the abundance of life and health.
— Henry David Thoreau

genius health

There is never an instant's truce between virtue and vice.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

vice & virtue

The most I can do for my friend is simply to be his friend.
— Henry David Thoreau

friendship

A perfectly healthy sentence, it is true, is extremely rare.

grammar

Each man can interpret another's experience only by his own.
— Henry David Thoreau

experience

We should distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes.
— Henry David Thoreau

business fashion

It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.
— Henry David Thoreau

wisdom

It takes two to speak truth—one to speak and another to hear.
— Henry David Thoreau

honesty truth

I think that we may safely trust a good deal more than we do.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

trust

Our life is frittered away by detail . . . Simplify, simplify.
— Henry David Thoreau

simplicity

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.
— Henry David Thoreau

life

Friends do not live in harmony merely, as some say, but in melody.

friendship

Dwell as near as possible to the channel in which your life flows.
— Henry David Thoreau

advisory

I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

solitude

It takes two to speak the truth — one to speak and another to hear.
— Henry David Thoreau

truth

Any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one.
— Henry David Thoreau

right and wrong

A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

work

Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.
— Henry David Thoreau

success

Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.
— Henry David Thoreau

environment

We begin to praise when we begin to see a thing needs our assistance.
— Henry David Thoreau

praise

Politics is, as it were, the gizzard of society—full of grit & gravel.
— Henry David Thoreau

politics

Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written.
— Henry David Thoreau

reading

We cannot well do without our sins; they are the highways of our virtue.
— Henry David Thoreau

sin

Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them all.
— Henry David Thoreau

reading

I am as desirous of being a good neighbor as I am of being a bad subject.
— Henry David Thoreau

neighbors

How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

books reading

Our molting season, like that of the fowls, must be a crisis in our lives.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

crisis

No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof.
— Henry David Thoreau
Let us not underrate the value of a fact; it will one day flower in a truth.

facts

It is as hard to see one's self as to look backwards without turning around.
— Henry David Thoreau

know yourself

Mythology is the crop which the Old World bore before its soil was exhausted.

mythology

Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.
— Henry David Thoreau

fashion

A man cannot be said to succeed in this life who does not satisfy one friend.
— Henry David Thoreau

friendship

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined.
— Henry David Thoreau
What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?
— Henry David Thoreau

earth environment

One of the most attractive things about the flowers is their beautiful reserve.
— Henry David Thoreau

flowers

While men believe in the infinite, some ponds will be thought to be bottomless.
— Henry David Thoreau
There is more of good nature than of good sense at the bottom of most marriages.
— Henry David Thoreau

marriage

I love best to have each thing in its season, doing without it at all other times.
— Henry David Thoreau
Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.
— Henry David Thoreau
It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about?
— Henry David Thoreau
Philanthropy is almost the only virtue which is sufficiently appreciated by mankind.
— Henry David Thoreau

charity virtue

The frontiers are not east or west, north or south, but wherever a man fronts a fact.
— Henry David Thoreau

truth

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

environment nature

A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

wealth

Men are probably nearer the central truth in their superstitions than in their science.
— Henry David Thoreau

science superstitions

There has been no man of pure genius; as there has been none wholly destitute of genius.
— Henry David Thoreau

genius

The movements of the eyes express the perpetual and unconscious courtesy of the parties.

eyes

It would be glorious to see man at leisure for once. It is nothing but work, work, work.
— Henry David Thoreau

leisure

True friendship can afford true knowledge. It does not depend on darkness and ignorance.
— Henry David Thoreau

friendship

The pleasures of the intellect are permanent, the pleasures of the heart are transitory.
— Henry David Thoreau

intellectualism

I had three chairs in my house: one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.
— Henry David Thoreau
There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

evil

If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.
— Henry David Thoreau

disappointment

What does education often do?  It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook.
— Henry David Thoreau

education

The universe seems bankrupt as soon as we begin to discuss the characters of individuals.
— Henry David Thoreau

character

If you would convince a man that he does wrong, do right. Men will believe what they see.
— Henry David Thoreau

action persuasion

What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

self-acceptance

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

friendship

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

fishing

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

life as a journey

I never received more than one or two letters in my life . . . that were worth the
postage.
— Henry David Thoreau

letters

The author's character is read from title-page to end. Of this he never corrects the proofs.
— Henry David Thoreau

authors

There is a chasm between knowledge and ignorance which the arches of science can never span.

knowledge and ignorance

All perception of truth is the detection of an analogy; we reason from our hands to our head.
— Henry David Thoreau

analogy perception truth

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.
— Henry David Thoreau

present moment

Gardening is civil and social, but it wants the vigor and freedom of the forest and the outlaw.

garden

I am sorry to think that you do not get a man's most effective criticism until you provoke him.
— Henry David Thoreau

criticism

Government never furthered any enterprise but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way.
— Henry David Thoreau

government regulations

With all your science can you tell how it is, and whence it is, that light comes into the soul?
— Henry David Thoreau

religion science

Men will lie on their backs, talking about the fall of man, and never make an effort to get up.
— Henry David Thoreau

action

Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

books

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

empathy

Cultivate the habit of early rising. It is unwise to keep the head long on a level with the feet.
— Henry David Thoreau

how to live life

We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our success.
— Henry David Thoreau

goals

In the long run, men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, they had better aim at something high.
— Henry David Thoreau

aim high

To him whose elastic and vigorous thought keeps pace with the sun, the day is a perpetual morning.
— Henry David Thoreau

thinking

Nature abhors a vacuum, and if I can only walk with sufficient carelessness I am sure to be filled.
— Henry David Thoreau
Those undeserved joys which come uncalled and make us more pleased than grateful are they that sing.
— Henry David Thoreau

joy

Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.
— Henry David Thoreau

nature

One man lies in his words, and gets a bad reputation; another in his manners, and enjoys a good one.
— Henry David Thoreau

lies

Society affects to estimate men by their talents, but really feels and knows them by their character.
— Henry David Thoreau

character talent

Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only.  Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

wealth

It is usually the imagination that is wounded first, rather than the heart; it being much more sensitive.
— Henry David Thoreau

imagination

The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait until the other is ready.
— Henry David Thoreau
The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.
— Henry David Thoreau
He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

food

Our thoughts are epochs in our lives; all else is but as a journal of the winds that blow while we are here.
— Henry David Thoreau

thoughts

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

writing

It is the marriage of the soul with Nature that makes the intellect fruitful, and gives birth to imagination.
— Henry David Thoreau

nature

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

news

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

leadership

A simple and independent mind does not toil at the bidding of any prince.  Genius is not a retainer to any emperor.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

mind

Shall a man go and hang himself because he belongs to the race of pygmies, and not be the biggest pygmy that he can?
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

self-pity

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

advisory

To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts; but to so love wisdom as to live according to its dictates.
— Henry David Thoreau

philosophers

I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

aspiration

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn.
— Henry David Thoreau

hope

In misfortune, what friend remains a friend? Real friendship is shown in times of trouble; prosperity is full of friends.
— Henry David Thoreau
As for style of writing—if one has anything to say, it drops from him simply and directly, as a stone falls to the ground.
— Henry David Thoreau

style

In human intercourse the tragedy begins, not when there is misunderstanding about words, but when silence is not understood.
— Henry David Thoreau

communication silence

He is the best sailor who can steer within fewest points of the wind, and exact a motive power out of the greatest obstacles.

ability

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

justice truth

I do not know how to distinguish between our waking life and a dream. Are we not always living the life that we imagine we are?
— Henry David Thoreau

dreams (during sleep) interesting reality

Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul is the work of the soul, and good for either the work of the other.
— Henry David Thoreau

work

He is the best sailor who can steer within the fewest points of the wind, and extract a motive power out of the greatest obstacles.

obstacles

I felt a positive yearning toward one bush this afternoon. There was a match found for me at last. I fell in love with a shrub oak.
— Henry David Thoreau

nature

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.
— Henry David Thoreau
It is impossible to give a soldier a good education without making him a deserter. His natural foe is the government that drills him.
— Henry David Thoreau

government military soldiers

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

business

In the long run men hit only what they aim at.  Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

ambition

Authors are a natural and irresistible aristocracy in every society, and, more than kings and emperors, exert an influence on mankind.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

authors

A sentence should read as if its author, had he held a plough instead of a pen, could have drawn a furrow deep and straight to the end.

writing writing advice

Good for the body is the work of the body, and good for the soul is the work of the soul, and good for either is the work of the other.
— Henry David Thoreau

labor spiritual wise

A truly good book is something as wildly natural and primitive, mysterious and marvelous, ambrosial and fertile as a fungus or a lichen.
— Henry David Thoreau

books

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.
— Henry David Thoreau

awareness

We shall see but little way if we require to understand what we see.  How few things can a man measure with the tape of his understanding!
— Henry David Thoreau

understanding

I think that we may safely trust a good deal more than we do. We may waive just so much care of ourselves as we honestly bestow elsewhere.
— Henry David Thoreau
The poet is a man who lives at last by watching his moods.  An old poet comes at last to watch his moods as narrowly as a cat does a mouse.
— Henry David Thoreau

poets

I have lived some thirty years on this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

advice

The birds I heard today, which did not come within the scope of my science, sang as freshly as if it had been the first morning of creation.
— Henry David Thoreau

birds

I only desire sincere relations with the worthiest of my acquaintance, that they may give me an opportunity once in a year to speak the truth.
— Henry David Thoreau

sincerity

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.
— Henry David Thoreau

comfort luxury

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.
— Henry David Thoreau

life

Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it alright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.
— Henry David Thoreau

environment

Good poetry seems too simple and natural a thing that when we meet it we wonder that all men are not always poets. Poetry is nothing but healthy speech.
— Henry David Thoreau

poetry

A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature.  It is earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden
I love Nature partly because she is not man, but a retreat from him.  None of his institutions control or pervade her.  There a different kind of right prevails.
— Henry David Thoreau

nature

A man must be out-of-doors enough to get experience of wholesome reality, as a ballast to thought and sentiment. Health requires this relaxation, this aimless life.
— Henry David Thoreau
I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow-birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

trees

Associate reverently and as much as you can with your loftiest thoughts. Each thought that is welcomed and recorded is a nest egg, by the side of which more will be laid.
— Henry David Thoreau

aspiration

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 that he hears, however measured or far away.
— Henry David Thoreau

parenting

Associate reverently and as much as you can with your loftiest thoughts.  Each thought that is welcomed and recorded is a nest egg, by the side of which more will be laid.
— Henry David Thoreau

thoughts

We worship ... Fashion.  She spins and weaves and cuts with full authority.  The head monkey at Paris puts on a traveller's cap, and all the monkeys in America do the same.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

fashion

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.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

conformity individuality

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.  I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

time

Most men are engaged in business the greater part of their lives because the soul abhors a vacuum, and they have not discovered any continuous employment for man's nobler faculties.
— Henry David Thoreau

business

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 reminded of them.
— Henry David Thoreau
Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. One cannot inflame the minds of his audience.
— Henry David Thoreau

writing

Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow, as if I had given vent to the stream at the lower end and consequently new fountains flowed into it at the upper.

walking

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.
— Henry David Thoreau

artists genius

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.
— Henry David Thoreau

inspiration

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.
— Henry David Thoreau

middle age youth & age

If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal—that is your success.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

success

To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

philosophers

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.
— Henry David Thoreau

nature

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.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

dreams success

I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.
— Henry David Thoreau

nature

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.
— Henry David Thoreau
I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other when they came in contact with the more civilized.
— Henry David Thoreau Walden

vegan vegetarian

William Jennings Bryan compared the way a convention feels about demonstrations to the feeling of a big man whose wife "was in the habit of beating him. When asked why he permitted it, he replied that it seemed to please her and did not hurt him." . . . I am as desirous of being a good neighbor as I am of being a bad subject.
— Henry David Thoreau

rebels