Top 50+Henry David Thoreau Quotes

henry david thoreau quotes

Who is Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau was a poet, philosopher and essayist born in the United States of America on the 12th June 1817 and died on the 6th May 1862, aged 44. He is perhaps best known for the book ‘Walden’ which touches on the subject of simple living in natural surroundings. As well as that, he wrote an essay on Civil Disobedience, promoting the view that disobedience is a just cause if you are living in an unjust state.

Thoreau was a prolific writer, with all of his work amounting to over 20 volumes and perhaps his most popular contributions are in the fields of philosophy and natural history, where some of his ideas have been fundamental sources of modern environmentalism. His way of writing was one of mixing his own personal experiences and observations in nature, with meaning, history and lore.

He was firmly against slavery and regularly lectured on the failings of the Fugitive Slave Law, praising writers of similar action and support abolitionists such as John Brown. His work on civil disobedience has been spoken of by influential figures in history including Martin Luther King Jr and Mahatma Gandhi, gaining inspiration and meaning from his work.

Here are just a selection of his quotes.

Henry David Thoreau Quotes

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

2. “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.”

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

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

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

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

7. “Surely joy is the condition of life.”

8. “Dreams are the touchstones of our characters.”

9. “Be not simply good – be good for something.”

10. “Only that traveling is good which reveals to me the value of home and enables me to enjoy it better.”

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

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

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

14. “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.”

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

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

17. “Be yourself- not your idea of what you think somebody else’s idea of yourself should be.”

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

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

20. “All good things are wild and free.”

21. “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…”

22. “Our life is frittered away by detail…simplify, simplify.”
23. “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”

24. “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.”

25. “Not all who wander are lost.”

26. “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.”

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

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

29. “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.”

30. “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”

31. “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.”

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

33. “Most of the luxuries and many so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.”

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

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

36. “All good things are wild and free.”

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

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

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

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

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

42. “Be yourself, not your idea of what you think somebody else’s idea of yourself should be.”

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

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

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

46. “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.”

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

48. “For an impenetrable shield, stand inside yourself.”

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

50. “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.”



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