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

"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."

"No man stands on truth. They are merely banded together as usual, one leaning on another and all together on nothing."

"None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm."

"The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run."

"Our truest life is when are in dreams awake."

"Now or never! You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in every moment."

"Our charitable institutions are an insult to humanity. A charity which dispenses the crumbs that fall from its overloaded tables, which are left after its feasts."

"The perception of beauty is a moral test."

"The spirit can for the time pervade and control every member and function of the body, and transmute what in form is the grossest sensuality into purity and devotion."

"The universe is not rough-hewn, but perfect in its details. Nature will bear the closest inspection; she invites us to lay our eye level with the smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain. She has no interstices; every part is full of life."

"The unconsciousness of man is the consciousness of God."

"Things do not change; we change."

"To affect the quality of the day - that is the highest of arts."

"There are few men who do not love better to give advice than to give assistance."

"These motions everywhere in nature must surely be the circulations of God. The flowing sail, the running stream, the waving tree, the roving wind – whence else their infinite health and freedom? I can see nothing so proper and holy as unrelaxed play and frolic in this bower God has built for us."

"Why is [government] not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out faults… Why does it always crucify Christ, and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels?"

"To live deep and suck out all the marrow of life."

"Whey 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."

"As if you could kill time without injuring eternity."

"As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way: government, society, and even the sun, moon and stars."

"Between whom there is hearty truth, there is love."

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined."

"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."

"How can we expect a harvest of thought who have not had a seedtime of character?"

"If you give money, spend yourself with it."

"How vain it is to sit down and write when you have not stood up to live."

"It is not a man's duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support. If I devote myself to other pursuits and contemplations, I must first see, at least, that I do not pursue them sitting upon another man's shoulders."

"Law never made men a whit more just."

"It is never too late to give up your prejudices."

"Liberty produces wealth and wealth destroys liberty."

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

"The world is but a canvas to our imaginations."

"Thought is the sculptor who can create the person you want to be."

"The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it."

"What the first philosopher taught the last philosopher will have to repeat."

"When a man's conscience and the laws clash, it is his conscience that he must follow."

"What I must do is what concerns me, not what people think."

"We can never have enough of nature. We are enabled to apprehend at all what is sublime and noble only by the perpetual instilling and drenching of the reality that surrounds us."

"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. "

"After the first blush of sin comes its indifference. "

"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. "

"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. "

"All this worldly wisdom was once the unamiable heresy of some wise man. "

"Being is the great explainer. "

"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"

"Be true to your work, your word, and your friend. "

"How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living? "

"Every people have gods to suit their circumstances. "

"If a man constantly aspires is he not elevated? "

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