Henry David Thoreau Quotations

-It is as hard to see one’s self as to look backwards without turning around.

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

-Things do not change; we change.

-It is never too late to give up your prejudices.

-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.

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

-Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.

-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.

-In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been anxious to improve the nick of time, and notch it on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and the future, which is precisely the present moment; to toe that line.

-We do not enjoy poetry unless we know it to be poetry.

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

-So behave that the odor of your actions may enhance the general sweetness of the atmosphere, that when we behold or scent a flower, we may not be reminded how inconsistent your deeds are with it; for all odor is but one form of advertisement of a moral quality, and if fair actions had not been performed, the lily would not smell sweet. The foul slime stands for the sloth and vice of man, the decay of humanity; the fragrant flower that springs from it, for the purity and courage which are immortal.

-For more than five years I maintained myself thus solely by the labour of my hands, and I found, that by working about six weeks in a year, I could meet all the expenses of living.

-On tops of mountains, as everywhere to hopeful souls, it is always morning.

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

-I heartily accept the motto, “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically.

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

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

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

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

-As for Doing-good, that is one of the professions which are full.

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

-Wherever a man goes, men will pursue him and paw him with their dirty institutions, and, if they can, constrain him to belong to their desperate odd fellow society.

-It is not worthwhile to go around the world to count the cats in Zanzibar.

-If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary…he will live with the license of a higher order of beings…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 is very rare that you meet with obstacles in this world which the humblest man has not faculties to surmount.

-There never is but one opportunity of a kind.

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

-If I am not I, who will be?

-In the long run you hit only what you aim at. Therefore, though you should fail immediately, you had better aim at something high.

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

-The tragedy of a man’s life is what dies inside of him while he lives.

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

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

-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.

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

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

-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.

-It is not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?

-Shall I not have intelligence with the earth? Am I not part leaves and vegetable mould myself?

-I did not know that we had ever quarreled. (On being told to make his peace with God.)

-Men have become the tools of their tools.

-Goodness is the only investment that never fails.

-In what concerns you much, do not think that you have companions: know that you are alone in the world.

-Most 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.

-Be true to your work, your word, and your friend.

-I also have in mind that seemingly wealthy , but most terribly impoverished class of all, who have accumulated dross, but know not how to use it, or get rid of it, and thus have forged their own golden or silver fetters.

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

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

-He enjoys true leisure who has time to improve his soul’s estate.

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

-I stand in awe of my body.

-Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.

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

-Cultivate the habit of early rising. It is unwise to keep the head long on a level with the feet.

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

-Men are born to succeed, not fail.

-Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. I think that there is nothing, not even crime, more opposed to poetry, to philosophy, ay, to life itself

-In wildness is the preservation of the world.

-However mean your life is, meet it and live it: do not shun it and call it hard names. Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Things do not change, we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts.

-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.

-A man sits as many risks as he runs.

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

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

-When a dog runs at you, whistle for him.

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

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