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Famous Henry David Thoreau Quotes

Listed in: Inspirational Quotes

On Love:

Love does not analyze its object.

The purity men love is like the mists which envelope the earth, and not like the azure ether beyond.

On Life:

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

Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.

However intense my experience, I am conscious of the presence and criticism of a part of me, which, as it were, is not a part of me, but a spectator, sharing no experience, but taking note of it, and that is no more I than it is you. When the lay, it may be the tragedy, of life is over, the spectator goes his way. It was a kind of fiction, a work of the imagination only, so far as he was concerned.

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 the richest.

Life is grand, and so are its environments of Past and Future. Would the face of nature be so serene and beautiful if mans destiny were not equally so.

Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his tentoes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity. I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand insteadof a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.

Our life is frittered away with detail…. Simplify, simplify.

Our truest life is when we are in our dreams awake.

Our whole life is startlingly moral. There is never an instant’s truce between virtue and vice.

The earth is not a mere fragment of dead history, stratum upon stratum like the leaves of a book, to be studied by geologists and antiquaries chiefly, but living poetry like the leaves of a tree, which precede flowers and fruit not a fossil earth, but a living earth compared with whose great central life all animal and vegetable life is merely parasitic.

The great art of life is how to turn the surplus life of the soul into life for the body.

The way in which men cling to old institutions after the life has departed out of them, and out of themselves, reminds me of those monkeys which cling by their tails … beyond the hunter’s reach long after they are dead.

In the streets and in society I am almost invariablycheap and dissipated, my life is unspeakably mean.No amount of gold or respectability would in the leastredeem it,– dining with the Governor or a member of CongressBut alone in the distant woods or fields,in unpretending sprout-lands or pastures tracked by rabbits,even in a bleak and, to most, cheerless day, like this,when a villager would be thinking of his inn,I come to myself, I once more feel myself grandly related,and that cold and solitude are friends of mine.I suppose that this value, in my case, is equivalentto what others get by churchgoing and prayer.I come home to my solitary woodland walk as the homesick go home.I thus dispose of the superfluous and see things as they are,grand and beautiful. I have told many that I walk every dayabout half the daylight, but I think they do not believe it.I wish to get the Concord, the Massachusetts, the America,out of my head and be sane a part of every day.

City life is millions of people being lonesome together.

My greatest skill in life has been to want but little
(From: Walden, or Life in the Woods)

On Knowledge:

Knowledge does not come to us in details, but in flashes of light from heaven.

I have lately been surveying the Walden woods so extensively and minutely that I now see it mapped in my minds eye – as, indeed, on paper – as so many mens wood-lots, and am aware when I walk there that I am at a given moment passing from such a ones wood-lot to such anothers. I fear this particular dry knowledge may affect my imagination and fancy, that it will not be easy to see so much wildness and native vigor there as formerly.

On God:

Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Things do not change, we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts. God will see that you do want society.

I am no more lonely than the loon in the pond that laughs so loud, or than Walden Pond itself. What company has that lonely lake, I pray? And yet it has not the blue devils, but the blue angels in it, in the azure tint of its waters. The sun is alone, except in thick weather, when there sometimes appear to be two, but one is a mock sun. God is alone, – but the devil, he is far from being alone; he sees a great deal of company; he is legion.
(From: Walden, or Life in the Woods)