Quotes by Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 April 27, 1882) was a famous American essayist and one of America's most influential thinkers and writers. more

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To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one's own sunshine
When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.
Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.
Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.
Words are alive; cut them and they bleed.
The glory of friendship is not in the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is in the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him.
Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.
There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right.
The secret in education lies in respecting the student.
A man is a god in ruins.
Love and you shall be loved. All love is mathematically just, as much as the two sides of an algebraic equation.
There are three wants which never can be satisfied: that of the rich, who wants something more; that of the sick, who wants something different; and that of the traveler, who says, Anywhere but here.
Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events.
Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.
It is not length of life, but depth of life.
Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.
We are shut up in schools and college recitation rooms for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a belly-full of words and do not know a thing. The things taught in schools and colleges are not an education, but the means of education.
Respect the child. Be not too much his parent. Trespass not on his solitude.
For everything you have missed, you have gained something else; and for everything you gain, you lose something else.
Earth laughs in flowers.
Always do what you are afraid to do.
All that I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.
There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide.
Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.
How much of human life is lost in waiting.
Some books leave us free and some books make us free.
It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.
A true friend is somebody who can make us do what we can.
A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him, I may think aloud.
Can anybody remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?
Can anything be so elegant as to have few wants, and to serve them one's self?
We do not count a man's years until he has nothing else to count.
The moment we indulge our affections, the earth is metamorphosed, there is no winter and no night; all tragedies, all ennui s, vanish, all duties even.
Every great achievement is the victory of a flaming heart.
Big jobs usually go to the men who prove their ability to outgrow small ones.
The eloquent man is he who is no eloquent speaker, but who is inwardly drunk with a certain belief.
Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.
To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
Do the thing we fear, and the death of fear is certain.
Self-trust is the essence of heroism.
Nothing can bring you peace but yourself; nothing, but the triumph of principles.
You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.
The eyes indicate the antiquity of the soul.
To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven.
He who is in love is wise and is becoming wiser, sees newly every time he looks at the object beloved, drawing from it with his eyes and his mind those virtues which it possesses.
It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinions; it is easy in solitude to live after your own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
Conversation enriches the understanding; but solitude is the school of genius.
The only way to have a friend is to be one.
Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.
Do that which is assigned to you and you cannot hope too much or dare too much.
Self-command is the main discipline.
For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.
All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen.
Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.
Music causes us to think eloquently.
It is one of the most beautiful compensations in life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.
Accept your genius and say what you think.
To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men -- that is genius.
The more experiments you make the better.
I pay the schoolmaster, but it is the school boys who educate my son.
Out of love and hatred, out of earnings and borrowings and leadings and losses; out of sickness and pain; out of wooing and worshipping; out of traveling and voting and watching and caring; out of disgrace and contempt, comes our tuition in the serene and beautiful laws.
Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment.
Our strength grows out of our weakness.
Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.
Shallow people believe in luck and in circumstances; Strong people believe in cause and effect.
The religion that is afraid of science dishonors God and commits suicide.
In every man there is something wherein I may learn of him, and in that I am his pupil.
I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and new.
Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.
If a man knew anything, he would sit in a corner and be modest; but he is such an ignorant peacock, that he goes bustling up and down, and hits on extraordinary discoveries.
People with great gifts are easy to find, but symmetrical and balanced ones never.
Little minds have little worries, big minds have no time for worries.
What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.
No one can cheat you out of ultimate success but yourself.
Be true to your own act and congratulate yourself if you have done something strange and extravagant to break the monotony of a decorous age.
To fill the hour -- that is happiness.
Great people are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force, that thoughts rule the world.
I didn't find my friends; the good Lord gave them to me.
The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.
So far as a person thinks; they are free.
Fear always springs from ignorance.
There is nothing capricious in nature and the implanting of a desire indicates that its gratification is in the constitution of the creature that feel it.
The ship of heaven guides itself and will not accept a wooden rudder.
Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes.
Want is a growing giant whom the coat of Have was never large enough to cover.
Trust instinct to the end, even though you can give no reason.
The power of love, as the basis of a State, has never been tried.
He then learns that in going down into the secrets of his own mind he has descended into the secrets of all minds.
Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God's handwriting -- a wayside sacrament. Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.
Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.
By persisting in your path, though you forfeit the little, you gain the great.
The creation of a thousand forest in one acorn.
We walk alone in the world.
What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.
The first thing a great person does, is make us realize the insignificance of circumstance.
In failing circumstances no one can be relied on to keep their integrity.
Happiness is a perfume which you cannot pour on someone without getting some on yourself.
We aim above the mark to hit the mark.
Our faith comes in moments... yet there is a depth in those brief moments which constrains us to ascribe more reality to them than to all other experiences.
Envy is the tax which all distinction must pay.
Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it. The man who knows how will always have a job. The man who also knows why will always be his boss. As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.
Nature is full of freaks, and now puts an old head on young shoulders, and then takes a young heart heating under fourscore winters.
The ancestor of every action is thought.
The highest compact we can make with our fellow is --Let there be truth between us two forevermore.
One of the illusions of life is that the present hour is not the critical, decisive hour. Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. No man has learned anything rightly, until he knows that every day is Doomsday.
All mankind loves a lover.
Men are what their mothers made them.
The next best thing to saying a good thing yourself, is to quote one.
The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.
Society is a masked ball, where every one hides his real character, and reveals it by hiding.
The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.
The measure of a great leader, is their success in bringing everyone around to their opinion twenty years later.
Intellect annuls fate. So far as a man thinks, he is free.
At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins.
A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer.
He is great who is what he is from nature, and who never reminds us of others.
The less government we have the better.
Go oft to the house of thy friend, for weeds choke the unused path.
Fate is nothing but the deeds committed in a prior state of existence.
Some will always be above others. Destroy the inequality today, and it will appear again tomorrow.
All diseases run into one. Old age.
Fate, then, is a name for facts not yet passed under the fire of thought; for causes which are unpenetrated.
Trust your instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.
If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.
Some of your grief you have cured, and lived to survive; but what torments of pain have you endured that haven't as yet arrived.
A man makes inferiors his superiors by heat; self-control is the rule.
The first wealth is health.
Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.
Nothing is beneath you if it is in the direction of your life.
Nature... She pardons no mistakes. Her yea is yea, and her nay, nay.
As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way.
Stay at home in your mind. Don't recite other people's opinions. I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.
Sorrow makes us children again.
Every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the health of human society.
Be a little careful about your library. Do you foresee what you will do with it? Very little to be sure. But the real question is, What it will do with you? You will come here and get books that will open your eyes, and your ears, and your curiosity, and turn you inside out or outside in.
The years teach us much the days never knew.
Good men must not obey the laws too well.
We lie in the lap of immense intelligence.
Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.
The characteristic of genuine heroism is its persistency. All men have wandering impulses, fits and starts of generosity. But when you have resolved to be great, abide by yourself, and do not weakly try to reconcile yourself with the world. The heroic cannot be the common, nor the common the heroic.
Health is the condition of wisdom, and the sign is cheerfulness -- an open and noble temper.
There is a crack in everything God has made.
Tis the old secret of the gods that they come in low disguises.
Coffee is good for talent, but genius wants prayer.
The chief mourner does not always attend the funeral.
Every man passes his life in the search after friendship.
We talk of choosing our friends, but friends are self-elected
Whatever limits us we call fate.
No facts are to me sacred; none are profane; I simply experiment, an endless seeker, with no past at my back.
Intellectual tasting of life will not supersede muscular activity.
I have heard with admiring submission the experience of the lady who declared that the sense of being perfectly well dressed gives a feeling of inward tranquility which religion is powerless to bestow.
Blame is safer than praise.
Nothing external to you has any power over you.
Do what you know and perception is converted into character.
Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.
We boil at different degrees.
Good breeding, a union of kindness and independence.
There is a tendency for things to right themselves.
Without a rich heart, wealth is an ugly beggar.
The god of victory is said to be one-handed, but peace gives victory on both sides.
Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.
The life of man is the true romance, which when it is valiantly conduced, will yield the imagination a higher joy than any fiction.
Columbus discovered no isle or key so lonely as himself.
Leave this hypocritical prating about the masses. Masses are rude, lame, unmade, pernicious in their demands and influence, and need not to be flattered, but to be schooled. I wish not to concede anything to them, but to tame, drill, divide, and break them up, and draw individuals out of them.
If you would lift me up you must be on higher ground.
I find that the Americans have no passions, they have appetites.
Whenever you are sincerely pleased you are nourished.
Nature arms each man with some faculty which enables him to do easily some feat impossible to any other.
Men are respectable only as they respect.
In skating over thin ice, our safety is in our speed.
The sea, washing the equator and the poles, offers its perilous aid, and the power and empire that follow it... Beware of me, it says, but if you can hold me, I am the key to all the lands.
Solitude is impractical and yet society is fatal.
The only thing grief has taught me is to know how shallow it is.
Talent for talent's sake is a bauble and a show. Talent working with joy in the cause of universal truth lifts the possessor to new power as a benefactor.
A man's library is a sort of harem.
Our chief want in life is somebody who will make us do what we can.
The good lawyer is not the man who has an eye to every side and angle of contingency, and qualifies all his qualifications, but who throws himself on your part so heartily, that he can get you out of a scrape.
Knowledge comes by eyes always open and working hands; and there is no knowledge that is not power.
Knowledge is knowing that we cannot know.
If you shoot at a king you must kill him.
One definition of man is an intelligence served by organs.
The best efforts of a fine person is felt after we have left their presence.
That man is idle who can do something better.
Many might go to Heaven with half the labor they go to hell.
A great man stands on God. A small man on a great man.
The essence of greatness is the perception that virtue is enough.
The only gift is a portion of thyself.
He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare, And he who has one enemy will meet him everywhere.
Flowers are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty out-values all the utilities of the world.
If you believe in fate, believe in it, at least, for your good.
Fame is proof that the people are gullible.
The faith that stands on authority is not faith.
If a man will kick a fact out of the window, when he comes back he finds it again in the chimney corner.
Our knowledge is the amassed thought and experience of innumerable minds.
Every great and commanding movement in the annals of the world is due to the triumph of enthusiasm. Nothing great was ever achieved without it.
The pest of society are the egotist, they are dull and bright, sacred and profane, course and fine. It is a disease that like the flu falls on all constitutions.
Tis a superstition to insist on a special diet. All is made at last of the same chemical atoms.
It is said that the world is in a state of bankruptcy, that the world owes the world more than the world can pay.
The most dangerous thing is illusion.
The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but for deliverance from fear.
Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.
Wise men are not wise at all hours, and will speak five times from their taste or their humor, to once from their reason.
When the eyes say one thing, and the tongue another, a practiced man relies on the language of the first.
No change of circumstances can repair a defect of character.
Tis the good reader that makes the good book; in every book he finds passages which seem to be confidences or sides hidden from all else and unmistakably meant for his ear; the profit of books is according to the sensibility of the reader; the profound thought or passion sleeps as in a mine, until it is discovered by an equal mind and heart.
A beautiful form is better than a beautiful face; it gives a higher pleasure than statues or pictures; it is the finest of the fine arts.
We are a puny and fickle folk. Avarice, hesitation, and following are our diseases.
We are always getting ready to live, but never living.
We are taught by great actions that the universe is the property of every individual in it.
Real action is in silent moments.
Slavery it is that makes slavery; freedom, freedom. The slavery of women happened when the men were slaves of kings.
Men talk as if victory were something fortunate. Work is victory.
So much of our time is spent in preparation, so much in routine, and so much in retrospect, that the amount of each person's genius is confined to a very few hours.
Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet.
The soul of God is poured into the world through the thoughts of men.
Live, let live, and help live
Light is the first of painters. There is no object so foul that intense light will not make it beautiful.
There is no chance, and no anarchy, in the universe. All is system and gradation. Every god is there sitting in his sphere.
Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices.
The betrothed and accepted lover has lost the wildest charms of his maiden by her acceptance. She was heaven while he pursued her, but she cannot be heaven if she stoops to one such as he!
The fatal trait of the times is the divorce between religion and morality.
Nature is an endless combination and repetition of a very few laws. She hums the old well-known air through innumerable variations.
Nature has made up her mind that what cannot defend itself shall not be defended.
We do what we must, and call it by the best names.
Passion, though a bad regulator, is a powerful spring.
Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.
The people are to be taken in small doses.
Only poetry inspires poetry.
There is no knowledge that is not power.
I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.
Our best thoughts come from others.
Every revolution was first a thought in one man?s mind.
Self-sacrifice is the real miracle out of which all the reported miracles grow.
No man can help another without helping himself.
Let us be silent that we may hear the whispers of the gods.
Every man alone is sincere. At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins.
We never touch but at points.
We acquire the strength we have overcome.
Talent is commonly developed at the expense of character.
No man ever prayed heartily without learning something.
We learn geology the morning after the earthquake.
No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my own constitution; the only wrong what is against it.
Language is the archives of history.
Language is a city to the building of which every human being brought a stone.
If a man's eye is on the Eternal, his intellect will grow.
A man must consider what a rich realm he abdicates when he becomes a conformist.
Higher than the question of our duration is the question of our deserving. Immortality will come to such as are fit for it, and he would be a great soul in future must be a great soul now.
There are no days in life so memorable as those which vibrate to some stroke of the imagination.
It is a lesson which all history teaches wise men, to put trust in ideas, and not in circumstances.
There is this benefit in brag, that the speaker is unconsciously expressing his own ideal. Humor him by all means; draw it all out, and hold him to it.
The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.
Our best history is still poetry.
Heroism feels and never reasons, and therefore is always right.
His heart was as great as the world, but there was no room in it to hold the memory of a wrong.
To be great is to be misunderstood.
It is very hard to be simple enough to be good.
Them meaning of good and bad, of better and worse, is simply helping or hurting.
The dice of God are always loaded.
In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.
When Nature has work to be done, she creates a genius to do it.
The greatest genius is the most indebted person.
A day for toil, an hour for sport, but for a friend is life too short.
A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.
For what avail the plough or sail, Or land or life, if freedom fail?
Concentration is the secret of strength in politics, in war, in trade, in short, in all the management of human affairs.
We estimate the wisdom of nations by seeing what they did with their surplus capital.
A man's personal defects will commonly have with the rest of the world precisely that importance which they have to himself. If he makes light of them, so will other men.
The hues of the opal, the light of the diamond, are not to be seen if the eye is too near.
The eye is easily frightened.
Enthusiasm is the leaping lightning, not to be measured by the horse-power of the understanding.
Commerce is a game of skill which everyone cannot play and few can play well.
Tobacco and opium have broad backs, and will cheerfully carry the load of armies, if you choose to make them pay high for such joy as they give and such harm as they do.
The compensations of calamity are made apparent to the understanding also, after long intervals of time. A fever, a mutilation, a cruel disappointment, a loss of wealth, a loss of friends, seems at the moment unpaid loss, and unpayable. But the sure years reveal the deep remedial force that underlies all facts.
One ought never to turn one's back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half. Never run away from anything. Never!
Curiosity is lying in wait for every secret.
Courage charms us, because it indicates that a man loves an idea better than all things in the world, that he is thinking neither of his bed, nor his dinner, nor his money, but will venture all to put in act the invisible thought of his mind.
People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.
Every burned book or house enlightens the world; every suppressed or expunged word reverberates through the earth from side to side.
We are born believing. A man bears beliefs as a tree bears apples.
Belief consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; unbelief, in denying them.
Beauty is the pilot of the young soul.
The angels are so enamoured of the language that is spoken in heaven, that they will not distort their lips with the hissing and unmusical dialects of men, but speak their own, whether there be any who understand it or not.
I hate this shallow Americanism which hopes to get rich by credit, to get knowledge by raps on midnight tables, to learn the economy of the mind by phrenology, or skill without study, or mastery without apprenticeship.
Hitch your wagon to a star. Let us not fag in paltry works which serve our pot and bag alone.
Let us be poised, and wise, and our own, today.
Beware what you set your heart upon. For it shall surely be yours.