Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes

Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, philosopher, lecturer, and poet in the mid-19th century. He was the leader of the transcendentalist movement, believing in the inherent goodness of both people and nature.

Through dozens of published essays and over 1,500 public lectures, Emerson championed individualism and criticized the pressures placed on American society in his time.

Emerson’s most important essays were published together in two collections that represent the core of his thinking: Essays: First Series (1841) and Essays: Second Series (1844).

He wrote on such themes as nature, self-reliance, and experience; greatly influencing writers, thinkers, and poets in his own generation and those that came after.

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes on Living a Great Life

Life is short, but there is always time enough for courtesy.

Do the thing and you will have the power.

We are always getting ready to live but never living

An original sentence, a step forward, is worth more than all the censures.

What your heart thinks is great, is great. The soul’s emphasis is always right.

What is success? To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate the beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch Or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!

I do not wish more external goods, — neither possessions, nor honors, nor powers, nor persons. The gain is apparent; the tax is certain.

If a man owns land, the land owns him.

We wish to be self-sustained. We do not quite forgive a giver. The hand that feeds us is in some danger of being bitten.

Nature is a mutable cloud which is always and never the same.

I no longer wish to meet a good I do not earn, for example, to find a pot of buried gold, knowing that it brings with it new burdens.

The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.

We must be our own before we can be another’s.

Self-trust is the first secret of success.

These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence.

Happy is the hearing man; unhappy the speaking man.

Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can offer with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation, but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession.

Every genuine work of art has as much reason for being as the earth and the sun.

Of all the ways to lose a person, death is the kindest.

Each man has his own vocation; his talent is his call. There is one direction in which all space is open to him.

Science does not know its debt to imagination.

Every man in his lifetime needs to thank his faults.

Next to the originator of a good sentence is the first quoter of it.

But genius looks forward. The eyes of men are set in his forehead, not in his hindhead. Man hopes. Genius creates.

All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients.

Love, and you shall be loved.

In a library we are surrounded by many hundreds of dear friends imprisoned by an enchanter in paper and leather boxes.

He who is in love is wise and is becoming wiser, sees newly every time he looks at the object beloved, drawing from it with his eyes and his mind those virtues which it possesses.

Even in the mud and scum of things, something always, always sings.

Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, and faith looks up.

Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.

Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes.

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.

You are constantly invited to be what you are.

You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.

People only see what they are prepared to see.

Let us be silent, that we may hear the whisper of God.

There is creative reading as well as creative writing.

In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.

Be not the slave of your own past – plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with new self-respect, with new power, and with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.

People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.

Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.

The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.

Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.

If we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last.

He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.

There can be no excess to love; none to knowledge; none to beauty, when these attributes are considered in the purest sense.

He that does not fill a place at home, cannot abroad. He only goes there to hide his insignificance in a larger crowd.

Every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn.

The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child.

To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven.

Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.

Beauty rests on necessities. The line of beauty is the result of perfect economy.

Don’t choose the better person, choose the person who makes a better you.

Tis the good reader that makes the good book.

We are immersed in beauty, but our eyes have no clear vision.

A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.

The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.

Nothing external to you has any power over you.

If you would lift me you must be on higher ground. If you would liberate me you must be free. If you would correct my false view of facts, — hold up to me the same facts in the true order of thought, and I cannot go back from the new conviction.

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.

What can we see, read, acquire, but ourselves. Take the book, my friend, and read your eyes out, you will never find there what I find.

Be an opener of doors.

Every spirit builds itself a house; and beyond its house, a world; and beyond its world a heaven. Know then, that the world exists for you: build, therefore, your own world.

If I have lost confidence in myself, I have the universe against me.

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men that is genius.

There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us.

The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.

Books are the best of things, well used; abused, the worst. What is the right use? What is the end which all means go to effect? They are for nothing but to inspire.

Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good.

The good news is that the moment you decide that what you know is more important than what you have been taught to believe, you will have shifted gears in your quest for abundance. Success comes from within, not from without.

You become what you think about all day long.

Some people will tell you there is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea.

Nothing is more simple than greatness; indeed, to be simple is to be great.

Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.

Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.

None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.

What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.

Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.

Fear always springs from ignorance.

Beauty without expression is boring.

The wise man in the storm prays God not for safety from danger but for deliverance from fear.

We acquire the strength we have overcome.

Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object.

Go oft to the house of thy friend, for weeds choke the unused path.

Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live as well as think.

‘Tis not important how the hero does this or that, but what he is.

Violence is not power, but the absence of power.

By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight, we all quote.

The reason why the world lacks unity, and lies broken and in heaps, is, because man is disunited with himself.

Every burned book enlightens the world.

My evening visitors, if they cannot see the clock should find the time in my face.

Each man is a hero and an oracle to somebody.

Each of us sees in others what we carry in our own hearts.

Every really able man, in whatever direction he work,—a man of large affairs, an inventor, a statesman, an orator, a poet, a painter,—if you talk sincerely with him, considers his work, however much admired, as far short of what it should be.

Everything in the universe goes by indirection. There are no straight lines.

The dull pray; the geniuses are light mockers.

A cynic can chill and dishearten with a single word.

No matter how you seem to fatten on a crime, there can never be good for the bee which is bad for the hive.

We are reformers in spring and summer; in autumn and winter, we stand by the old; reformers in the morning, conservers at night.

We do what we must, and call it by the best names we can.

We boil at different degrees.

The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next.

The world belongs to the energetic.

Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning, and under every deep a lower deep opens.

There can never be deep peace between two spirits, never mutual respect until, in their dialogue, each stands for the whole world.

The love that you withhold is the pain that you carry.

He who has put forth his total strength in fit actions, has the richest return of wisdom.

Hitch your wagon to a star.

He who is in love is wise and is becoming wiser, sees newly every time he looks at the object beloved, drawing from it with his eyes and his mind those virtues which it possesses.

The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship.

Some books leave us free and some books make us free.

The years teach much the days never know.

Make yourself necessary to somebody. Do not make life hard to any.

The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil. It is not for you to choose what he shall know, what he shall do. It is chosen and foreordained and he only holds the key to his own secret.

No man should travel until he has learned the language of the country he visits. Otherwise he voluntarily makes himself a great baby – so helpless and so ridiculous.

Our minds travel when our bodies are forced to stay at home

When you were born you were crying and everyone else was smiling. Live your life so at the end, you’re the one who is smiling and everyone else is crying.

Whatever course you decide upon there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.

Never read any book that is not a year old.

Want is a growing giant whom the coat of Have was never large enough to cover.

Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.

Thought is the blossom; language the bud; action the fruit behind it.

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.

Respect the child. Be not too much his parent. Trespass not on his solitude.

He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.

There is properly no history; only biography.

It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.

In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed.

Every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.

Valor consists in the power of self recovery.

There never was a child so lovely, but his mother was glad to get him asleep.

Scholarship is to be created not by compulsion, but by awakening a pure interest in knowledge.

Good luck is another name for tenacity of purpose.

It is not the length of life, but the depth

Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force, that thoughts rule the world.

Conservatism stands on man’s confessed limitations; reform on his indisputable infinitude; conservatism on circumstance; liberalism on power; one goes to make an adroit member of the social frame; the other to postpone all things to the man himself; conservatism is debonair and social; reform is individual and imperious.

Our strength grows out of our weakness.

Let us draw a lesson from nature, which always works by short ways. When the fruit is ripe, it falls.

When a man lives with God, his voice shall be as sweet as the murmur of the brook and the rustle of the corn.

Whatever limits us we call fate.

The god of the cannibals will be a cannibal, of the crusaders a crusader, and of the merchants a merchant.

A nation never falls but by suicide.

What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.

Alcohol, hashish, prussic acid, strychnine are weak dilutions. The surest poison is time.

What a new face courage puts on everything!

That what we seek we shall find; what we flee from flees from us.

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.

Your goodness must have some edge to it — else it is none.

No great man ever complains of want of opportunity.

The good news is that the moment you decide that what you know is more important than what you have been taught to believe, you will have shifted gears in your quest for abundance. Success comes from within, not from without.

Things are pretty, graceful, rich, elegant, handsome, but, until they speak to the imagination, not yet beautiful.

The characteristic of a genuine heroism is its persistency.

God enters by a private door into every individual.

When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.

Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.

Happy is the house that shelters a friend.

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect.

What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.

Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.

A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I may think aloud.

I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.

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