Henry David Thoreau Quotes on Life (52 Quotes)


    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.



    I found in myself, and still find, an instinct toward a higher, or, as it is named, spiritual life, as do most men, and another toward a primitive rank and savage one, and I reverence them both. I love the wild not less than the good.

    It is by a mathematical point only that we are wise, as the sailor or fugitive slave keeps the polestar in his eye; but that is sufficient guidance for all our life. We may not arrive at our port within a calculable period, but we would preserve the true course.


    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 poor-house. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the alms-house 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.

    The art of life, of a poet's life, is, not having anything to do, to do something.

    Measure your health by your sympathy with morning and Spring. If there is no response in you to the awakening of nature, if the prospect of an early morning walk does not banish sleep, if the warble of the first bluebird does not thrill you, know that the morning and spring of your life are past. Thus you may feel your pulse.

    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.



    Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.


    Children, who play life, discern its true law and relations more clearly than men, who fail to live it worthily, but who think that they are wiser by experience, that is, by failure.

    What I have been preparing to say is this, in wildness is the preservation of the world ... Life consists of wildness. The most alive is the wildest. Not yet subdued by man, its presence refreshes him.... When I would re-create myself, I seek the darkest wood, the thickest and most interminable and to the citizen, most dismal, swamp. I enter as a sacred place, a Sanctum sanctorum. There is the strength, the marrow, of Nature. In short, all good things are wild and free.

    I do not know how to distinguish between our waking life and a dream. Are we not always living the life that we imagine we are.


    I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die Discover that I had not lived.

    What is peculiar in the life of a man consists not in his obedience, but his opposition, to his instincts. In one direction or another he strives to live a supernatural life.


    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.

    My Aunt Maria asked me to read the life of Dr. Chalmers,which, however, I did not promise to do.Yesterday, Sunday, she was heard through the partitionshouting to my Aunt Jane, who is deaf, 'Think of itHe stood half an hour today to hear the frogs croak,and he wouldn't read the life of Chalmers.'

    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.

    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.

    Do not despair of your life. You have force enough to overcome your obstacles.

    In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowedfor, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be agreat calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify.

    Do not despair of life. Think of the fox, prowling in a winter night to satisfy his hunger. His race survives I do not believe any of them ever committed suicide.


    There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.

    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.


    More Henry David Thoreau Quotations (Based on Topics)


    Man - Life - Nature - Mind - Friendship - World - Truth - Money & Wealth - Thought & Thinking - Law & Regulation - Love - Society & Civilization - Time - Morning - Dreams - God - Wisdom & Knowledge - Work & Career - Books - View All Henry David Thoreau Quotations

    More Henry David Thoreau Quotations (By Book Titles)


    - Walden, or Life in the Woods
    - Walden

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