Quotes by Henry David Thoreau

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Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 - 1862) was an American essayist, poet, and naturalist. Among his lasting contributions were his writings on natural history and philosophy, where he anticipated the methods and findings of ecology and environmental history, two sources of modern day environmentalism. more

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None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm

A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.
Of what significance are the things you can forget.
We are constantly invited to be who we are.
I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.
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?
Humility like the darkness, reveals the heavenly lights.
That government is best which governs least.
In the long run you hit only what you aim at. Therefore, though you should fail immediately, you had better aim at something high.
A friend is one who incessantly pays us the compliment of expecting from us all the virtues, and who can appreciate them in us. The friend asks no return but that his friend will religiously accept and wear and not disgrace his apotheosis of him. They cherish each other's hopes. They are kind to each other's dreams.
We must have infinite faith in each other. If we have not, we must never let it leak out that we have not.
Is not disease the rule of existence? There is not a lily pad floating on the river but has been riddled by insects. Almost every shrub and tree has its gall, oftentimes esteemed its chief ornament and hardly to be distinguished from the fruit. If misery loves company, misery has company enough. Now, at midsummer, find me a perfect leaf or fruit.
As to conforming outwardly, and living your own life inwardly, I have not a very high opinion of that course.
Associate reverently, as much as you can, with your loftiest thoughts.
You know about a person who deeply interests you more than you can be told. A look, a gesture, an act, which to everybody else is insignificant tells you more about that one than words can.
I would not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well.
When any real progress is made, we unlearn and learn anew what we thought we knew before.
Be not simply good; be good for something.
The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well? You may say the wisest thing you can, old man, -- you who have lived seventy years, not without honor of a kind, -- I hear an irresistible voice which invites me away from all that.
To regret deeply is to live afresh.
Any fool can make a rule, and every fool will mind it.
To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour.
Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.
He enjoys true leisure who has time to improve his soul's estate.
To have done anything just for money is to have been truly idle.
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.
Man is the artificer of his own happiness.
I suppose you think that persons who are as old as your father and myself are always thinking about very grave things, but I know that we are meditating the same old themes that we did when we were ten years old, only we go more gravely about it.
People die of fright and live of confidence.
We worship not the Graces, nor the Parcae, but Fashion. She spins and weaves and cuts with full authority. The head monkey at Paris puts on a traveler's cap, and all the monkeys in America do the same.
Even the best things are not equal to their fame.
There is no rule more invariable than that we are paid for our suspicions by finding what we suspect.
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 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.
There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted.
Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written.
As for the pyramids, there is nothing to wonder at in them so much as the fact that so many men could be found degraded enough to spend their lives constructing a tomb for some ambitious booby, whom it would have been wiser and manlier to have drowned in the Nile, and then given his body to the dogs.
The man who is dissatisfied with himself, what can he do?
The volatile truth of our words should continually betray the inadequacy of the residual statement.
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.
The universe is wider than our views of it.
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! How many greater things might he be seeing in the meanwhile!
Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.
If I shall sell both my forenoons and afternoons to society, as most appear to do, I'm sure that, for me, there would be nothing left worth living for.
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.
A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight.
Don't be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life so.
The pleasure we feel in music springs from the obedience which is in it.
Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each. Let them be your only diet drink and botanical medicines.
Silence is the universal refuge, the sequel to all dull discourses and all foolish acts, a balm to our every chagrin, as welcome after satiety as after disappointment; that background which the painter may not daub, be he master or bungler, and which, however awkward a figure we may have made in the foreground, remains ever our inviolable asylum, where no indignity can assail, no personality can disturb us.
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.
If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.
You must get your living by loving, or at least half your life is a failure.
We are paid for our suspicions by finding what we suspected.
I have received no more than one or two letters in my life that were worth the postage.
Knowledge does not come to us in details, but in flashes of light from heaven.
We are made happy when reason can discover no occasion for it. The memory of some past moments is more persuasive than the experience of present ones. There have been visions of such breadth and brightness that these motes were invisible in their light.