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HENRY DAVID THOREAU QUOTES

Things do not change; we change.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

In all perception of the truth there is a divine ecstasy, an inexpressible delirium of joy, as when a youth embraces his betrothed virgin.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Familiar Letters

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

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Journal

Early in the morning, while all things are crisp with frost, men come with fishing-reels and slender lunch, and let down their fine lines through the snowy field to take pickerel and perch; wild men, who instinctively follow other fashions and trust other authorities than their townsmen, and by their goings and comings stitch towns together in parts where else they would be ripped. They sit and eat their luncheon in stout fear-naughts on the dry oak leaves on the shore, as wise in natural lore as the citizen is in artificial.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

Birds do not sing in caves, nor do doves cherish their innocence in dovecots.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

Even the utmost good-will and harmony and practical kindness are not sufficient for Friendship, for Friends do not live in harmony merely, as some say, but in melody. We do not wish for Friends to feed and clothe our bodies--neighbors are kind enough for that--but to do the like office to our spirits.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Friendship

Solitude is not measured by the miles of space that intervene between a man and his fellows. The really diligent student in one of the crowded hives of Cambridge College is as solitary as a dervis in the desert.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, The Writings of Henry David Thoreau

All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the voters is not staked. I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Civil Disobedience

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.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

Even the utmost good-will and harmony and practical kindness are not sufficient for Friendship, for Friends do not live in harmony merely, as some say, but in melody. We do not wish for Friends to feed and clothe our bodies--neighbors are kind enough for that--but to do the like office to our spirits.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Friendship

The language of Friendship is not words but meanings.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Friendship

Man flows at once to God when the channel of purity is open.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

When we are in health, all sounds fife and drum for us; we hear the notes of music in the air, or catch its echoes dying away when we awake in the dawn.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

I do not believe in lawyers, in that mode of attacking or defending a man, because you descend to meet the judge on his own ground, and, in cases of the highest importance, it is of no consequence whether a man breaks a human law or not. Let lawyers decide trivial cases.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, "A Plea for Captain John Brown"

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

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least--and it is commonly more than that--sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walking

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.... I never yet met with, or heard of, a judge who was not a slave of this kind, and so the finest and most unfailing weapon of injustice. He fetches a slightly higher price than the black men only because he is a more valuable slave.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, journal, Dec. 4, 1860

Of what use the friendliest disposition even, if there are no hours given to Friendship, if it is forever postponed to unimportant duties and relations? Friendship first, Friendship last.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Friendship

The Friend does not count his Friends on his fingers; they are not numerable.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Friendship

I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walking

I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other when they came in contact with the more civilized.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

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.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

Action from principle, the perception and the performance of right, changes things and relations; it is essentially revolutionary, and does not consist wholly with anything which was. It not only divides States and churches, it divides families; ay, it divides the individual, separating the diabolical in him from the divine.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, "Resistance to Civil Government"

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundation under them.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

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. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

Still we live meanly, like ants ... our life is frittered away by detail.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

The imagination, give it the least license, dives deeper and soars higher than Nature goes.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, The Writings of Henry David Thoreau

Two or three hours' walking will carry me to as strange a country as I expect ever to see. A single farmhouse which I had not seen before is sometimes as good as the dominions of the King of Dahomey.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walking

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

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

But men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon ploughed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

One day when I went out to my wood-pile, or rather my pile of stumps, I observed two large ants, the one red, the other much larger, nearly half an inch long, and black, fiercely contending with one another. Having once got hold they never let go, but struggled and wrestled and rolled on the chips incessantly. Looking farther, I was surprised to find that the chips were covered with such combatants, that it was not a duellum, but a bellum, a war between two races of ants, the red always pitted against the black, and frequently two red ones to one black. The legions of these Myrmidons covered all the hills and vales in my wood-yard, and the ground was already strewn with the dead and dying, both red and black. It was the only battle which I have ever witnessed, the only battle-field I ever trod while the battle was raging; internecine war; the red republicans on the one hand, and the black imperialists on the other. On every side they were engaged in deadly combat, yet without any noise that I could hear, and human soldiers never fought so resolutely.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

When we walk, we naturally go to the fields and woods: what would become of us, if we walked only in a garden or a mall? Even some sects of philosophers have felt the necessity of importing the woods to themselves, since they did not go to the woods. They planted groves and walks of Plantanes, where they took subdiales ambulationes in porticos open to the air. Of course, it is of no use to direct our steps to the woods, if they do not carry us thither.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walking

Nature is as well adapted to our weakness as to our strength.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

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

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, letter to Harrison Blake, November 16, 1857

Many of the phenomena of Winter are suggestive of an inexpressible tenderness and fragile delicacy. We are accustomed to hear this king described as a rude and boisterous tyrant; but with the gentleness of a lover he adorns the tresses of Summer.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

A written word is the choicest of relics. It is something at once more intimate with us and more universal than any other work of art. It is the work of art nearest to life itself. It may be translated into every language, and not only be read but actually breathed from all human lips -- not be represented on canvas or in marble only, but be carved out of the breath of life itself.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

I believe that men are generally still a little afraid of the dark, though the witches are all hung.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

Drive a nail home and clinch it so faithfully that you can wake up in the night and think of your work with satisfaction -- a work at which you would not be ashamed to invoke the Muse.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

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.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

Comparatively, tattooing is not the hideous custom which it is called. It is not barbarous merely because the printing is skin-deep and unalterable.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

If a thousand men were not to pay their tax-bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

To him whose elastic and vigorous thought keeps pace with the sun, the day is a perpetual morning.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

I think that we may safely trust a good deal more than we do: we may waive just so much care of ourselves as we honestly bestow elsewhere.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

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 encumbrances, 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.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, letter to Mr. B., March 27, 1848

Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. 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.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden: or, Life in the Woods

Wherever a man goes, men will pursue him and paw him with their dirty institutions, and, if they can, constrain him to belong to their desperate oddfellow society.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

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.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

Men are probably nearer the essential truth in their superstitions than in their science.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Journal, June 27, 1852

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

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, journal entry, March 31, 1842

He enjoys true leisure who has time to improve his soul's estate.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, journal, February 11, 1840

The story of Romulus and Remus being suckled by a wolf is not a meaningless fable. The founders of every State which has risen to eminence have drawn their nourishment and vigor from a similar wild source. It was because the children of the Empire were not suckled by the wolf that they were conquered and displaced by the children of the Northern forests who were.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, "Walking"

Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end, an end which it was already but too easy to arrive at; as railroads lead to Boston or New York.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

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

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, journal, February 3, 1860

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, letter to Mr. B., April 10, 1853

So thoroughly and sincerely are we compelled to live, reverencing our life, and denying the possibility of change. This is the only way, we say; but there are as many ways as there can be drawn radii from one centre.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

Those who, while they disapprove of the character and measures of a government, yield to it their allegiance and support are ... the most serious obstacles to reform.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Civil Disobedience

For what reason have I this vast range and circuit, some square miles of unfrequented forest, for my privacy, abandoned to me by men? My nearest neighbor is a mile distant, and no house is visible from any place but the hill-tops within half a mile of my own. I have my horizon bounded by woods all to myself; a distant view of the railroad where it touches the pond on the one hand, and of the fence which skirts the woodland road on the other. But for the most part it is as solitary where I live as on the prairies. It is as much Asia or Africa as New England. I have, as it were, my own sun and moon and stars, and a little world all to myself.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

Our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed in them.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

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

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Thoreau and the Art of Life: Precepts and Principles


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