150 Quotes by Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau, an insightful author, was an advocate for individualism and a keen observer of the natural world. His masterpiece, "Walden," encapsulated his belief in simple living and self-sufficiency, urging readers to reevaluate their relationship with society and the environment. Thoreau's eloquent prose revealed his transcendentalist philosophy, emphasizing the importance of intuition and spirituality in a world driven by materialism. Beyond his literary contributions, Thoreau's essay "Civil Disobedience" left an indelible mark on the concept of nonviolent protest and its power to catalyze societal change. His legacy as a philosopher and nature lover endures, inspiring countless individuals to seek introspection, embrace simplicity, and question the status quo in the pursuit of a more purposeful existence.

Henry David Thoreau Quotes

It's the beauty within us that makes it possible for us to recognize the beauty around us. The question is not what you look at but what you see.

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Simplify your life. Don't waste the years struggling for things that are unimportant. Don't burden yourself with possessions. Keep your needs and wants simple and enjoy what you have. Don't destroy your peace of mind by looking back, worrying about the past. Live in the present. Simplify!

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined...

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

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

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

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.

The greatest tragedy in life is to spend your whole life fishing only to discover it was never fish that you were after.

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.

The only people who ever get anyplace interesting are the people who get lost.

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

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. In her midst I can be glad with an entire gladness. If this world were all man, I could not stretch myself, I should lose all hope. He is constraint, she is freedom to me. He makes me wish for another world. She makes me content with this.

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There is no remedy for love but to love more.

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.

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.

I am a happy camper so I guess I’m doing something right. Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.

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

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.

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

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

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.

If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.

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

When it's time to die, let us not discover that we have never lived.

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

City life is millions of people being lonesome together.

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

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.

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

Everyone must believe in something. I believe I'll go canoeing.

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.

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

When we bring what is within out into the world, miracles happen.

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. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.

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

Behave so the aroma of your actions may enhance the general sweetness of the atmosphere.

It takes two to speak the truth: one to speak, and another to hear.

Think for yourself, or others will think for you without thinking of you.

The secret of achievement is to hold a picture of a successful outcome in mind.

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.

I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.

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

Time is like a handful of sand - the tighter you grasp it, the faster it runs through your fingers.

In 1848, Thoreau went to jail for refusing, as a protest against the Mexican war, to pay his poll tax. When RW Emerson came to bail him out, Emerson said, 'Henry, what are you doing in there?' Thoreau quietly replied, 'Ralph, what are you doing out there?'

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

The soul grows by subtraction, not addition.

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

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.

It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?

This world is but a canvas to our imagination.

Waves of a serene life pass over us from time to time, like flakes of sunlight over the fields in cloudy weather.

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

We can never have enough of nature. We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and titanic features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, the thunder-cloud, and the rain.

Life isn't about finding yourself; it's about creating yourself. So live the life you imagined.

Let nothing come between you and the light.

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

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

A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.

Every oak tree started out as a couple of nuts who stood their ground.

There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.

Maturity is when all of your mirrors turn into windows.

Goodness is the only investment that never fails.

That government is best which governs least.

All good things are wild and free.

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this, or the like of this. I wish to live ever as to derive my satisfactions and inspirations from the commonest events, everyday phenomena, so that what my senses hourly perceive, my daily walk, the conversation of my neighbors, may inspire me, and I may dream of no heaven but that which lies about me.

Remember that the smallest seed of faith is of more worth than the largest fruit of happiness.

To have made even one person's life a little better, that is to succeed.

Kindness to children, love for children, goodness to children-- these are the only investments that never fail.

All things in this world must be seen with youthful, hopeful eyes.

Things do not change; We change.

I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.

That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves.

Do not despair of your life. You have force enough to overcome your obstacles.

Love must be as much a light as it is a flame.

The question is not what you look at – but how you look & whether you see.

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.

"What lies before us and what lies behind us are small matters compared to what lies within us.
And when we bring what is within out into the world, miracles happen."

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

Men have become the tools of their tools.

Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.

When was it that men agreed to respect the appearance and not the reality?

To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.

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

None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.

He who walks alone, waits for no-one.

I make myself rich by making my wants few.

The only way to tell the truth is to speak with kindness. Only the words of a loving man can be heard.

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

To have done anything just for money is to have been truly idle.

One is not born into the world to do everything but to do something.

It is only when we forget all our learning that we begin to know.

There is no beginning too small.

Truths and roses have thorns about them.

In the long run, you hit only what you aim at.

Since most of us spend our lives doing ordinary tasks, the most important thing is to carry them out extraordinarily well.

I have no time to be in a hurry.

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

The voice of nature is always encouraging.

It is the marriage of the soul with nature that makes the intellect fruitful, and gives birth to imagination

The meeting of two eternities, the past and future....is precisely the present moment.

Dissent without action is consent.

A bore is someone who takes away my solitude and doesn't give me companionship in return.

My profession is to always find God in nature.

Talk about slavery! It is not the peculiar institution of the South. It exists wherever men are bought and sold, wherever a man allows himself to be made a mere thing or a tool, and surrenders his inalienable rights of reason and conscience. Indeed, this slavery is more complete than that which enslaves the body alone.

The most difficult thing to understand during conversation is silence.

Thank God, they cannot cut down the clouds!

Mathematics should be mixed not only with physics but with ethics.

All men are children, and of one family.

That man is rich whose pleasures are the cheapest.

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

He who owns little is little owned.

I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest thinks he must attend to in a day; how singular an affair he thinks he must omit. When the mathematician would solve a difficult problem, he first frees the equation of all incumbrances, and reduces it to its simplest terms. So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run.

What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.

Wealth can't buy heath, but heath can buy wealth.

When any real progress is made, we unlearned and learn anew what we thought we knew before.

I have lately got back to that glorious society called Solitude.

When you knock, ask to see God — none of the servants.

There will never be a really free and enlightened state until the state comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived.

We are constantly invited to be who we are.

Sweep away the clutter of things that complicate our lives.

Thought is the sculptor who can create the person you want to be.

It is what a man thinks of himself that really determines his fate.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.

If you see a man approaching you with the obvious intent of doing you good, you should run for your life.

I am struck by the fact that the more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think that the same is true of human beings. We do not wish to see children precocious, making great strides in their early years like sprouts, producing a soft and perishable timber, but better if they expand slowly at first, as if contending with difficulties, and so are solidified and perfected. Such trees continue to expand with nearly equal rapidity to extreme old age.

How prompt we are to satisfy the hunger and thirst of our bodies; how slow to satisfy the hunger and thirst of our souls!

A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority.

We are happy in proportion to the things we can do without.

When were the good and the brave ever in a majority?

Anyone in a free society where the laws are unjust has an obligation to break the law.

When a man truly commits, the universe will conspire to assure his success.

An ordinary man will work every day for a year at shoveling dirt to support his body, or a family of bodies; but he is an extraordinary man who will work a whole day in a year for the support of his soul. Even the priests, men of God, so called, for the most part confess that they work for the support of the body.

Where the most beautiful wild flowers grow, there mans spirit is fed and poets grow.

There is nothing more difficult to find than oneself.

There is absolutely no common sense, it is common non-sense.

There is more religion in men's science, than there is science in their religion.

It's only by forgetting yourself that you draw near to God.

The press is, almost without exception, corrupt.

In an unjust society the only place for a just man is prison.

Do not engage to find things as you think they are.

Staying in the house breeds a sort of insanity always. Every house is, in this sense, a hospital.

We communicate like the burrows of foxes, in silence and darkness, under ground. We are undermined by faith and love.

I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born.

The best way to correct a mistake is to make it right.

It is not enough that we are truthful; we must cherish and carry out high purposes to be truthful about.

A person who chooses to die or to risk death demonstrates that there are values, principles, maxims, that are more valuable to him than is life itself. In short, he places his immortal self above his mortal self. Nothing goes by luck in composition. It allows of no tricks. The best you can write will be the best you are.

In some countries a hunting parson is no uncommon sight. Such a one might make a good shepherd's dog, but is far from being the Good Shepherd.

Four things to think about: 1. Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes. 2. Let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred. 3. Keep three chairs in your house. One for solitude, two for friendship, three for society. 4. To preserve your relationship to nature, make your life more moral, more pure, more innocent.

― Henry David Thoreau Quotes

Chief Editor

Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.

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