240 Henry David Thoreau Quotes (about Nature, Life, Love, Friendship…)

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Henry David Thoreau was an American philosopher, essayist, and poet. He is one of the prominent figures of Transcendentalism in the 19th century. Throughout his life, Thoreau wrote volumes of books, poems, articles, and essays, which have lasting contributions to philosophy and natural history.

Feeling the need to focus on his writing, he lived in a small house he built himself in the woodland near the Walden Pond shores. Here, Thoreau began writing many of his works, like Walden, and put Transcendentalism into practice.

Simply put, Transcendentalism was an idea that people have an inherent knowledge about themselves and the world around them that “transcends” what they see, hear, taste, feel, or touch in their daily lives.

Thoreau never married or had any affairs with either man or woman. He was a solitary man who had a few close friends. One of whom was Ralph Waldo Emerson, another prominent figure in American Transcendentalism. In addition to this, he was also an environmentalist, a fierce abolitionist, and against the oppression of Native Americans.

Thoreau’s writings influenced many great thinkers and public figures after his death in 1862 at the age of 64. The likes of Leo Tolstoy, John Muir, and Martin Luther King Jr. are a few of many who were greatly influenced by his works.

Discover the transcendental mind of Henry David Thoreau through his quotes and sayings that demonstrate his ideas on nature, life, love, friendship, and many more.

Henry David Thoreau Quotes About Nature

1. “Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.”

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

Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth - Henry David Thoreau. #henry #david #thoreau #quotes #men #fly #waste #earth #sky

 

3. “I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. I do not wish to go below now.”

4. “Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.”

5. “The Artist is he who detects and applies the law from observation of the works of Genius, whether of man or Nature. The Artisan is he who merely applies the rules which others have detected.”

6. “Nature puts no question and answers none which we mortals ask. She has long ago taken her resolution.”

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

8. “Nature and human life are as various as our several constitutions. Who shall say what prospect life offers to another?”

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

10. “To be admitted to Nature’s hearth costs nothing. None is excluded, but excludes himself. You have only to push aside the curtain.”

11. “The bluebird carries the sky on his back.”

The bluebird carries the sky on his back - Henry David Thoreau. #henry #david #thoreau #quotes #bluebird #sky #back

12. “What is human warfare but just this; an effort to make the laws of God and nature take sides with one party.”

13. “There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance.”

14. “There is more of good nature than of good sense at the bottom of most marriages.”

15. “There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in the infinite leisure and repose of nature.”

16. “The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or, perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and, at length, the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them.”

Henry David Thoreau Quotes About Love

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

2. “Ignorance and bungling with love are better than wisdom and skill without.”

3. “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”

4. “The heart is forever inexperienced.”

The heart is forever inexperienced - Henry David Thoreau. #henry #david #thoreau #quotes #heart #inexperienced

5. “May we so love as never to have occasion to repent of our love!”

6. “There is no remedy for love but to love more.”

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

Henry David Thoreau Quotes About Friendship

1. “There is a danger that we lose sight of what our friend is absolutely, while considering what she is to us alone.”

2. “Friends… they cherish one another’s hopes. They are kind to one another’s dreams.”

3. “The most I can do for my friend is simply be his friend.”

4. “The language of friendship is not words but meanings.”

The language of friendship is not words but meanings - Henry David Thoreau. #henry #david #thoreau #quotes #friendship #words #meanings

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

6. “True friendship can afford true knowledge. It does not depend on darkness and ignorance.”

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

8. “Be true to your work, your word, and your friend.”

Henry David Thoreau Quotes About Solitude

1. “If misery loves company, misery has company enough.”

2. “In my afternoon walk I would fain forget all my morning occupations and my obligations to society.”

3. “I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude - Henry David Thoreau. #henry #david #thoreau #quotes #alone #solitude

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

5. “I have a great deal of company in the house, especially in the morning when nobody calls.”

Henry David Thoreau Quotes About Life

1. “If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life.”

2. “Live your life, do your work, then take your hat.”

3. “There is always a present and extant life, be it better or worse, which all combine to uphold.”

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

5. “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.”

6. “If an injustice requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the government machine.”

7. “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined - Henry David Thoreau. #henry #david #thoreau #quotes #direction #dreams #life #imagined

8. “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.”

9. “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.”

10. “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.”

11. “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.”

12. “It is never too late to give up our prejudices.”

13. “How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living?”

14. “There are old heads in the world who cannot help me by their example or advice to live worthily and satisfactorily to myself; but I believe that it is in my power to elevate myself this very hour above the common level of my life.”

15. “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”

16. “Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify.”

17. “Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.”

18. “There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living.”

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

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it - Henry David Thoreau. #henry #david #thoreau #quotes #price #life #exchange

20. “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.”

21. “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.”

22. “Live the life you’ve dreamed.”

23. “Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.”

24. “A broad margin of leisure is as beautiful in a man’s life as in a book. Haste makes waste, no less in life than in housekeeping. Keep the time, observe the hours of the universe, not of the cars.”

25. “Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.”

26. “Nothing goes by luck in composition. It allows of no tricks. The best you can write will be the best you are.”

Nothing goes by luck in composition. It allows of no tricks. The best you can write will be the best you are - Henry David Thoreau. #henry #david #thoreau #quotes #composition #best

27. “I have learned, that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

28. “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.”

29. “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.”

30. “I think that there is nothing, not even crime, more opposed to poetry, to philosophy, ay, to life itself than this incessant business.”

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

Henry David Thoreau, More Quotes and Sayings

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

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

3. “The rarest quality in an epitaph is truth.”

4. “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.”

5. “They can do without architecture who have no olives nor wines in the cellar.”

6. “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.”

7. “None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.”

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

Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it - Henry David Thoreau. #henry #david #thoreau #quotes #success #busy #looking

9. “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.”

10. “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.”

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

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

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

14. “Men have become the tools of their tools.”

15. “Is the babe young? When I behold it, it seems more venerable than the oldest man.”

16. “Generally speaking, a howling wilderness does not howl: it is the imagination of the traveler that does the howling.”

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

18. “While civilization has been improving our houses, it has not equally improved the men who are to inhabit them. It has created palaces, but it was not so easy to create noblemen and kings.”

19. “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.”

20. “The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.”

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

22. “How does it become a man to behave towards the American government today? I answer, that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it.”

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

24. “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.”

25. “We are not what we are, nor do we treat or esteem each other for such, but for what we are capable of being.”

26. “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves - Henry David Thoreau. #henry #david #thoreau #quotes #lost #understand #ourselves

27. “Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends… Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts.”

28. “The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.”

29. “It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right.”

30. “Through our own recovered innocence we discern the innocence of our neighbors.”

31. “Faith never makes a confession.”

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

33. “Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.”

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

35. “Dreams are the touchstones of our character.”

36. “There is no rule more invariable than that we are paid for our suspicions by finding what we suspect.”

37. “Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end.”

38. “There are old heads in the world who cannot help me by their example or advice to live worthily and satisfactorily to myself but I believe that it is in my power to elevate myself this very hour above the common level of my life.”

39. “Being is the great explainer.”

40. “I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will.”

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

42. “If you would convince a man that he does wrong, do right. Men will believe what they see.”

43. “What old people say you cannot do, you try and find that you can. Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new.”

44. “This world is but a canvas to our imagination.”

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

46. “Things do not change; we change.”

Things do not change; we change - Henry David Thoreau. #henry #david #thoreau #quotes #change

47. “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”

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

49. “No face which we can give to a matter will stead us so well at last as the truth. This alone wears well.”

50. “It is best to avoid the beginnings of evil.”

51. “The man who is dissatisfied with himself, what can he do?”

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

53. “Faith keeps many doubts in her pay. If I could not doubt, I should not believe.”

54. “Great men, unknown to their generation, have their fame among the great who have preceded them, and all true worldly fame subsides from their high estimate beyond the stars.”

55. “The lawyer’s truth is not Truth, but consistency or a consistent expediency.”

56. “A man’s interest in a single bluebird is worth more than a complete but dry list of the fauna and flora of a town.”

57. “I have been as sincere a worshipper of Aurora as the Greeks.”

58. “Alas! how little does the memory of these human inhabitants enhance the beauty of the landscape!”

59. “What is human warfare but just this an effort to make the laws of God and nature take sides with one party.”

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

61. “Only he is successful in his business who makes that pursuit which affords him the highest pleasure sustain him.”

62. “It is an interesting question how far men would retain their relative rank if they were divested of their clothes.”

63. “Books can only reveal us to ourselves, and as often as they do us this service we lay them aside.”

64. “Some are reputed sick and some are not. It often happens that the sicker man is the nurse to the sounder.”

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

66. “We are always paid for our suspicion by finding what we suspect.”

67. “Where there is an observatory and a telescope, we expect that any eyes will see new worlds at once.”

68. “The fibers of all things have their tension and are strained like the strings of an instrument.”

69. “Instead of noblemen, let us have noble villages of men.”

Instead of noblemen, let us have noble villages of men - Henry David Thoreau. #henry #david #thoreau #quotes #noble #villages #men

70. “Front yards are not made to walk in, but, at most, through, and you could go in the back way.”

71. “To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”

72. “There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted.”

73. “Do what nobody else can do for you. Omit to do anything else.”

74. “To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea.”

75. “Goodness is the only investment that never fails.”

76. “Truths and roses have thorns about them.”

77. “I have found that hollow, which even I had relied on for solid.”

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

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

80. “Truth is always in harmony with herself, and is not concerned chiefly to reveal the justice that may consist with wrong-doing.”

81. “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.”

82. “I put a piece of paper under my pillow, and when I could not sleep I wrote in the dark.”

83. “I have seen how the foundations of the world are laid, and I have not the least doubt that it will stand a good while.”

84. “Every people have gods to suit their circumstances.”

85. “If it is surely the means to the highest end we know, can any work be humble or disgusting? Will it not rather be elevating as a ladder, the means by which we are translated?”

86. “We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our success.”

87. “Distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes.”

88. “In wilderness is the preservation of the world.”

In wilderness is the preservation of the world - Henry David Thoreau. #henry #david #thoreau #quotes #wilderness #preservation #world

89. “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.”

90. “Make the most of your regrets never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.”

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

92. “The language of excitement is at best picturesque merely. You must be calm before you can utter oracles.”

93. “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.”

94. “How many things there are concerning which we might well deliberate whether we had better know them.”

95. “What is once well done is done forever.”

96. “As in geology, so in social institutions, we may discover the causes of all past changes in the present invariable order of society.”

97. “Men have a respect for scholarship and learning greatly out of proportion to the use they commonly serve.”

98. “The finest workers in stone are not copper or steel tools, but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time.”

99. “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.”

100. “In the long run, men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, they had better aim at something high.”

101. “We know but a few men, a great many coats and breeches.”

102. “Thaw with her gentle persuasion is more powerful than Thor with his hammer. The one melts, the other breaks into pieces.”

103. “There is one consolation in being sick; and that is the possibility that you may recover to a better state than you were ever in before.”

104. “God reigns when we take a liberal view, when a liberal view is presented to us.”

105. “The perception of beauty is a moral test.”

The perception of beauty is a moral test - Henry David Thoreau. #henry #david #thoreau #quotes #beauty #moral #test

106. “There never was and is not likely soon to be a nation of philosophers, nor am I certain it is desirable that there should be.”

107. “Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.”

108. “The law will never make a man free; it is men who have got to make the law free.”

109. “All endeavor calls for the ability to tramp the last mile, shape the last plan, endure the last hours toil. The fight to the finish spirit is the one… characteristic we must posses if we are to face the future as finishers.”

110. “As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.”

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

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

113. “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.”

114. “If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.”

115. “Nay, be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.”

116. “We should distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes.”

117. “Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new.”

118. “The law will never make a man free it is men who have got to make the law free.”

119. “Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed… Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”

120. “Shall I not have intelligence with the earth? Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself.”

121. “It is remarkable how closely the history of the apple tree is connected with that of man.”

122. “If you can speak what you will never hear, if you can write what you will never read, you have done rare things.”

123. “All this worldly wisdom was once the unamiable heresy of some wise man.”

124. “It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.”

125. “Our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed by them.”

126. “Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.”

Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something - Henry David Thoreau. #henry #david #thoreau #quotes #good #something

127. “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.”

128. “Only that day dawns to which we are awake.”

129. “Books are to be distinguished by the grandeur of their topics even more than by the manner in which they are treated.”

130. “Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.”

131. “The squirrel that you kill in jest, dies in earnest.”

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

133. “Before printing was discovered, a century was equal to a thousand years.”

134. “Night is certainly more novel and less profane than day.”

135. “I have thought there was some advantage even in death, by which we mingle with the herd of common men.”

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

137. “The savage in man is never quite eradicated.”

138. “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

139. “Justice is sweet and musical; but injustice is harsh and discordant.”

140. “It is too late to be studying Hebrew; it is more important to understand even the slang of today.”

141. “It is usually the imagination that is wounded first, rather than the heart it being much more sensitive.

142. “What you get by achieving your goals is to as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”

143. “‘Tis healthy to be sick sometimes.”

144. “After the first blush of sin comes its indifference.”

145. “In the meanest are all the materials of manhood, only they are not rightly disposed.”

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

147. “Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air. They are where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

148. “All men are children, and of one family. The same tale sends them all to bed, and wakes them in the morning.”

All men are children, and of one family. The same tale sends them all to bed, and wakes them in the morning - Henry David Thoreau. #henry #david #thoreau #quotes #men #family

149. “We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aid, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn.”

150. “I was more independent than any farmer in Concord, for I was not anchored to a house or farm, but could follow the bent of my genius, which is a very crooked one, every moment.”

151. “What is called genius is the abundance of life and health.”

152. “We shall see but a little way if we require to understand what we see.”

153. “How can any man be weak who dares to be at all?”

154. “Men are born to succeed, not to fail.”

155. “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.”

156. “The smallest seed of faith is better than the largest fruit of happiness.”

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

158. “Not only must we be good, but we must also be good for something.”

159. “An unclean person is universally a slothful one.”

160. “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.”

161. “That government is best which governs least.”

162. “Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”

163. “There is but one stage for the peasant and the actor.”

164. “It is not part of a true culture to tame tigers, any more than it is to make sheep ferocious.”

165. “It is usually the imagination that is wounded first, rather than the heart; it being much more sensitive.”

166. “It is the greatest of all advantages to enjoy no advantage at all.”

167. “The universe is wider than our views of it.”

The universe is wider than our views of it - Henry David Thoreau. #henry #david #thoreau #quotes #universe #views

168. “Every man casts a shadow; not his body only, but his imperfectly mingled spirit. This is his grief. Let him turn which way he will, it falls opposite to the sun; short at noon, long at eve. Did you never see it?”

169. “If a man constantly aspires is he not elevated?”

170. “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

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

172. “There is no just and serene criticism as yet.”

173. “That man is rich whose pleasures are the cheapest.”

174. “If I seem to boast more than is becoming, my excuse is that I brag for humanity rather than for myself.”

If you’d like to read Henry David Thoreau’s works, we recommend you start with his best one, Walden.