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Famous quotes by Henry David Thoreau on nature, life, wisdom, love, success and other things.

100 Famous Quotes By Henry David Thoreau, The Author Of Walden

Quick Facts

Famous As
Writer and Philosopher

Born On
July 12, 1817

Died On
May 6, 1862

Born In
Concord

Founder / Co Founder
Transcendental Club

Died At Age

Henry David Thoreau was an American essayist, poet and philosopher who is best known as the author of the book, ‘Walden’. His essay on ‘Civil Disobedience’ caught the attention of people and influenced the political thoughts and actions of notable figures such as Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. Other than being a renowned and famous writer, Thoreau served as an abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor and historian. In his lifetime, Thoreau contributed invariably writing essays, articles, journals, poetry and books. Thoreau wrote primarily on natural history and philosophy, anticipating the methods and findings of ecology and environmental history, surviving historical change or natural decay and advocating the abandonment of waste and illusion. Today, Thoreau is regarded as one of the foremost American writers, both for the modern clarity of his prose style and the prescience of his views on nature and politics. His literary style was unique and distinctive. It interweaved close observation of nature, personal experience, pointed rhetoric, symbolic meanings and historical lore, while displaying a poetic sensibility, philosophical austerity, and attention to practical detail. Same is also visible in his quotes that convey a powerful message in limited words. Explore this section and find some of the best known quotes by Henry David Thoreau.  

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

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

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

- Henry David Thoreau

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

- Henry David Thoreau

Dreams are the touchstones of our characters.

- Henry David Thoreau

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

- Henry David Thoreau

Be yourself- not your idea of what you think somebody else's idea of yourself should be.

- Henry David Thoreau

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.

- Civil Disobedience and Other Essays, Henry David Thoreau

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

- Henry David Thoreau

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately...

- Henry David Thoreau

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.

- Henry David Thoreau

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

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

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 he hears, however measured or far away.

- Henry David Thoreau

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.

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

All good things are wild and free.

- Henry David Thoreau

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

- Walden and Other Writings, Henry David Thoreau

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined.

- Henry David Thoreau

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

- A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, Henry David Thoreau

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

- Henry David Thoreau

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

- Henry David Thoreau

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

- Henry David Thoreau

I was not designed to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest.

- On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau

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

- Henry David Thoreau

There is no remedy for love, but to love more.

- Henry David Thoreau

Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.

- Henry David Thoreau

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

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

Not till we are completely lost or turned around... do we begin to find ourselves.

- Henry David Thoreau

As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

Things do not change; we change.

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

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

- I to Myself: An Annotated Selection from the Journal of Henry D. Thoreau, Henry David Thoreau

Any fool can make a rule And any fool will mind it.

- Journal #14, Henry David Thoreau

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.

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

All men want, not something to do with, but something to do, or rather something to be.

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

The language of Friendship is not words, but meanings.

- A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, Henry David Thoreau

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

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

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.

- Henry David Thoreau

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

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

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

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

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

- Henry David Thoreau

This world is but a canvas for our imagination.

- Henry David Thoreau

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.

- Henry David Thoreau

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

- Henry David Thoreau

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

- Familiar Letters, Henry David Thoreau

Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

It's not worth our while to let our imperfections disturb us always.

- Henry David Thoreau

It is never too late to give up your prejudices

- Henry David Thoreau

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

- Henry David Thoreau

Say what you have to say, not what you ought. Any truth is better than make-believe.

- Henry David Thoreau

My greatest skill in life has been to want but little

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

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

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book.

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about?

- Letters to Various Persons, Henry David Thoreau

I can alter my life by altering my attitude. He who would have nothing to do with thorns must never attempt to gather flowers.

- 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. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience.

- Henry David Thoreau

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

- Henry David Thoreau

If you would convince a man that he does wrong, do right. But do not care to convince him. Men will believe what they see. Let them see.

- Henry David Thoreau

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

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.

- On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau

Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

I have an immense appetite for solitude, like an infant for sleep, and if I don't get enough for this year, I shall cry all the next.

- Henry David Thoreau

The universe is wider than our views of it.

- Walden & Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau

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

- A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, Henry David Thoreau

You cannot dream yourself into a character: you must hammer and forge yourself into one.

- Henry David Thoreau

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

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

The path of least resistance leads to crooked rivers and crooked men.

- Henry David Thoreau

Men are born to succeed, not to fail.

- Henry David Thoreau

Amid a world of noisy, shallow actors it is noble to stand aside and say, 'I will simply be.

- Henry David Thoreau

Men have become the tools of their tools.

- Henry David Thoreau

Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. what a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate.

- Henry David Thoreau

We are born as innocents. We are polluted by advice.

- Henry David Thoreau

Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

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

- Henry David Thoreau

I have no doubt that it is part of the destiny of the human race in it's gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals.

- Henry David Thoreau

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

What sort of philosophers are we, who know absolutely nothing of the origin and destiny of cats?

- Thoreau Journal 9, Henry David Thoreau

I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well.

- Walden: Or, Henry David Thoreau

Wildness is the preservation of the World.

- Walking, Henry David Thoreau

We are constantly invited to be who we are.

- Henry David Thoreau

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

- Henry David Thoreau

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

- Henry David Thoreau

When we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence, that petty fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow of the reality.

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.

- Henry David Thoreau

The question is not what you look at, but what you see.

- Henry David Thoreau

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.

- Henry David Thoreau

Renew thyself completely each day.

- Henry David Thoreau

A lake is a landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature. It is Earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

Do not lose hold of your dreams or aspirations. For if you do, you may still exist but you have ceased to live.

- Henry David Thoreau

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

- Henry David Thoreau

Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written.

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

I have a room all to myself; it is nature.

- Henry David Thoreau

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

- Henry David Thoreau

If a plant cannot live according to its nature, it dies; and so a man.

- Civil Disobedience and Other Essays, Henry David Thoreau

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

- A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, Henry David Thoreau

I make myself rich by making my wants few.

- Henry David Thoreau

The heart is forever inexperienced.

- Henry David Thoreau

Simplify, simplify.

- Henry David Thoreau

I have, as it were, my own sun and moon and stars, and a little world all to myself.

- Walden, Henry David Thoreau

If i repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior. what demon possessed me that i behaved so well?

- Henry David Thoreau

To be awake is to be completely alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake.

- Henry David Thoreau