Henry David Thoreau Quotes

Henry David Thoreau was a poet, philosopher, and essayist from the United States. He was a famous transcendentalist who is best known for his book Walden, which dwells on simple living and the natural environment. He was born in 1817 and became a leading transcendentalist.

Thoreau’s dedication to nature and the environment has had a lasting impact on the way we view the world today.

His opinions on anarchism, tax resistance, and conscientious objection were presented in another of his articles, “Civil Disobedience.” His commitment to the abolition of slavery impacted Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., among others.

These are the best Henry David Thoreau quotes to inspire you to reconnect with nature, reflect on yourself, and do your part to make the world a better place.

Henry David Thoreau Quotes

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.

The world is but a canvas to our imagination. – Henry David Thoreau

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.

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.

I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest.

I can alter my life by altering my attitude. He who would have nothing to do with thorns must never attempt to gather flowers.

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

The question is not what you look at, but what you see. – Henry David Thoreau

A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.

Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.

There is no remedy for love but to love more.

To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake.

Be resolutely and faithfully what you are; be humbly what you aspire to be.

Life in us is like the water in a river.

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. – Henry David Thoreau

Night is certainly more novel and less profane than day.

Goodness is the only investment that never fails.

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.__Walden

None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.

Nay, be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.

It is never too late to give up your prejudices. – Henry David Thoreau

So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run.

Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.

As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.

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

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.

Things do not change; we change. – Henry David Thoreau

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

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 even 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. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.

I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.

It is not worth the while to let our imperfections disturb us always.

Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience.

The universe is wider than our views of it. – Henry David Thoreau

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.

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

All men want, not something to do with, but something to do, or rather something to be.

Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.

Friends… they cherish one another’s hopes. They are kind to one another’s dreams.

Our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed by them.

The finest workers in stone are not copper or steel tools, but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time.

We shall see but a little way if we require to understand what we see.

Say what you have to say, not what you ought. Any truth is better than make-believe.

The path of least resistance leads to crooked rivers and crooked men.

My greatest skill has been to want but little.

Wildness is the preservation of the World. – Henry David Thoreau

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

I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion. – Henry David Thoreau

Shall I not have intelligence with the earth? Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself.

It is an interesting question how far men would retain their relative rank if they were divested of their clothes.

If a man constantly aspires is he not elevated?

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.

What old people say you cannot do, you try and find that you can. Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new.

What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?

Familiar Letters

How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book. – Henry David Thoreau

Amid a world of noisy, shallow actors it is noble to stand aside and say, ‘I will simply be.’

If you would convince a man that he does wrong, do right. But do not care to convince him. Men will believe what they see. Let them see.

It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about?

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

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.

The life which men praise and regard as successful is but one kind. Why should we exaggerate any one kind at the expense of the others?

Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake. – Henry David Thoreau

However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace.

Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.

If a plant cannot live according to its nature, it dies; and so a man.

A written word is the choicest of relics. It is something at once more intimate with us and more universal than any other work of art. It is the work of art nearest to life itself. It may be translated into every language, and not only be read but actually breathed from all human lips; — not be represented on canvas or in marble only, but be carved out of the breath of life itself.

The most I can do for my friend is simply to be his friend. – Henry David Thoreau

True friendship can afford true knowledge. It does not depend on darkness and ignorance.

We are born as innocents. We are polluted by advice.

Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.

Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.

I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.

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

Dreams are the touchstones of our characters. – Henry David Thoreau

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.

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

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

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

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.

Men are born to succeed, not to fail. – Henry David Thoreau

I have an immense appetite for solitude, like an infant for sleep, and if I don’t get enough for this year, I shall cry all the next.

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.

Our moments of inspiration are not lost though we have no particular poem to show for them; for those experiences have left an indelible impression, and we are ever and anon reminded of them.

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