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Henry David Thoreau Quotes

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The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to a democracy, is a progress toward a true respect for the individual.
Henry David Thoreau (Civil Disobedience, 1849)
We are all sculptors and painters, and our material is our own flesh and blood and bones. Any nobleness begins at once to refine a man's features, any meanness or sensuality to imbrute them.
Henry David Thoreau (Walden - Chapter XI: Higher Laws, 1854)
Men come tamely home at night only from the next field or street, where their household echoes haunt, and their life pines because it breathes its own breath over again; their shadows, morning and evening, reach farther than their daily steps. We should come home from far, from adventures, and perils, and discoveries every day, with new experience and character.
Henry David Thoreau (Walden - Chapter X: Baker Farm, 1854)
I do not wish to kill nor to be killed, but I can foresee circumstances in which both these things would be by me unavoidable.
Henry David Thoreau (A Plea for Captain John Brown, 1859)
In accumulating property for ourselves or our posterity, in founding a family or a state, or acquiring fame even, we are mortal; but in dealing with truth we are immortal, and need fear no change nor accident.
Henry David Thoreau (Walden - Chapter III: Reading, 1854)
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.
Henry David Thoreau (A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, 1849)
The opportunities of living are diminished in proportion as what are called the "means" are increased. The best thing a man can do for his culture when he is rich is to endeavor to carry out those schemes which he entertained when he was poor.
Henry David Thoreau (Civil Disobedience, 1849)
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)
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.
Henry David Thoreau (Civil Disobedience, 1849)
To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea.
Henry David Thoreau (Walden - Chapter II: Where I Lived, and What I Lived For, 1854)
I love to be alone. I never found the 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.
Henry David Thoreau (Walden - Chapter V: Solitude, 1854)
We need the tonic of wildness...At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.
Henry David Thoreau (Walden - Chapter XVII: Spring, 1854)
The millions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life. To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face? We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep.
Henry David Thoreau (Walden - Chapter II: Where I Lived, and What I Lived For, 1854)
I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.
Henry David Thoreau (Walden - Chapter: VI: Visitors, 1854)
For what are the classics but the noblest recorded thoughts of man? They are the only oracles which are not decayed, and there are such answers to the most modern inquiry in them as Delphi and Dodona never gave. We might as well omit to study Nature because she is old. To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise, and one that will task the reader more than any exercise which the customs of the day esteem.
Henry David Thoreau (Walden - Chapter III: Reading, 1854)
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.
Henry David Thoreau (A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, 1849)
The wisest man preaches no doctrines; he has no scheme; he sees no rafter, not even a cobweb, against the heavens. It is clear sky. If I ever see more clearly at one time than at another, the medium through which I see is clearer.
Henry David Thoreau (A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, 1849)
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.
Henry David Thoreau
I heartily accept the motto, "That government is best which governs least"; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe— "That government is best which governs not at all"; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.
Henry David Thoreau (Civil Disobedience, 1849)
Measure your health by your sympathy with morning and spring. If there is no response in you to the awakening of nature, if the prospect of an early morning walk does not banish sleep, if the warble of the first bluebird does not thrill you -- know that the morning and spring of your life are past. Thus may you feel your pulse.
Henry David Thoreau (Journal Entry, 1859)
If a man walk 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 whole day as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making earth bald before her time, he is esteemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.
Henry David Thoreau (Life Without Principles, 1863)
Talk of mysteries! - Think of our life in nature, - daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it, - rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks! The solid earth! the actual world! the common sense! Contact! Contact! Who are we? where are we?
Henry David Thoreau (The Maine Woods, 1848)
Be it life or death, we crave only reality. If we are really dying, let us hear the rattle in our throats and feel cold in the extremities; if we are alive, let us go about our business. Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars. I cannot count one. I know not the first letter of the alphabet. I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born. The intellect is a cleaver; it discerns and rifts its way into the secret of things.
Henry David Thoreau (Walden - Chapter II: Where I Lived, and What I Lived For, 1854)
The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs.
Henry David Thoreau (Civil Disobedience, 1849)
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 Entry, 1860)
Read not the Times. Read the Eternities. Conventionalities are at length as bad as impurities. Even the facts of science may dust the mind by their dryness, unless they are in a sense effaced each morning, or rather rendered fertile by the dews of fresh and living truth. Knowledge does not come to us by details, but in flashes of light from heaven.
Henry David Thoreau (Life Without Principles, 1863)
To some extent, mythology is only the most ancient history and biography. So far from being false or fabulous in the common sense, it contains only enduring and essential truth, the I and you, the here and there, the now and then, being omitted.
Henry David Thoreau (A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, 1849)
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 (Walden - Chapter I: Economy, 1854)
You ask particularly after my health. I suppose that I have not many months to live; but, of course, I know nothing about it. I may add that I am enjoying existence as much as ever, and regret nothing.
Henry David Thoreau (Letter to Myron Benton - This was Thoreau's last letter, 1862)
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.
Henry David Thoreau (Journal Entry, 1859)
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Henry David Thoreau Biography

Born: July 12, 1817
Died: May 6, 1862

Henry David Thoreau was an American author, abolitionist, poet and philosopher. He is best known as the author of the book Walden. He has also been highly influential in political thought.

Notable Works
The Service (1840)
Paradise Regained (1843)
Reform and the Reformers (1846-1848)
Thomas Carlyle and His Works (1847)
Civil Disobedience (1849)
Walden (1854)
Walking (1861)
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