Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Henry David Thoreau, born David Henry Thoreau

American Essayist, Naturalist, Poet, Abolitionist, Naturalist, Tax Resister, Development Critic, surveyor, Historian, Philosopher and Leading Transcendentalist

"All good abides with him who waiteth wisely; we shall sooner overtake the dawn by remaining here than by hurrying over the hills of the west."

"A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can do without [let alone]. Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes."

"All men are partially buried in the grave of custom, and of some we see only the crown of the head above a ground."

"Associate reverently, and as much as you can, with your loftiest thoughts."

"For an impenetrable shield, stand inside yourself."

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

"Friendship is never established as an understood relation. It is a miracle which requires constant proofs. It is an exercise of the purest imagination and of the rarest faith!"

"Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life so. Aim above morality. Be simply not good; be good for something."

"Goodness is the only investment that never fails."

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

"Dreams are the touchstones of our characters."

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

"He is a rich man... who can find delight in his own thoughts."

"How few things can a man measure with the tape of his understanding! How many greater things might he be seeing in the meanwhile."

"I came into this world, not chiefly to make this a good place to live in, but to live in it, be it good or bad."

"Humility, like darkness, reveals the heavenly lights."

"I believe that the mind can be permanently profaned by the habit of attending to trivial things. Read not the times, read the eternities."

"I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor... To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts."

"It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things."

"In the long run you hit only what you aim at. Therefore, though you should fail immediately, you had better aim at something high."

"If misery loves company, misery has company enough."

"In dreams we see ourselves naked and acting out our real characters, even more clearly than we see others awake."

"It is easy to repeat, but hard to originate."

"It is a pleasant fact that you will know no man long, however low in the social scale, however poor, miserable, intemperate, and worthless he may appear to be, a mere burden to society, but you will find at last that there is something which he understands and can do better than any other."

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

"Men have a singular desire to be good without being good for anything."

"It is the man determines what is said, not the words."

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

"Our thoughts are epochs in our lives; all else is but as a journal of the winds that blow while we are here."

"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. With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have ever lived a more simple and meager life than the poor."

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

"Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. What a man thinks of himself, that is what determines, or rather, indicates, his fate."

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

"Silence is the communion of a conscious soul with itself."

"Our whole life is startlingly moral. There is never ran instant’s truce between virtue an vice. Goodness is the only investment that never fails."

"The heart is forever inexperienced."

"The highest law gives a thing to him who can use it."

"So far as thinking is concerned, surely original thinking is the divinest thing... We check and repress the divinity that stirs within us, to fall down and worship the divinity that is dead without us."

"That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest."

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

"Through our own recovered innocence we discern the innocence of our neighbors."

"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 for a poetic or divine life."

"The whole duty of life is implied in the question, how to respire and aspire both at once."

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

"There is more of good nature than of good sense at the bottom of most marriages."

"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."

"What is leisure but opportunity for more complete and entire action?"

"To regret deeply is to live afresh."

"We hate the kindness which we understand."

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