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Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes

  1. A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us.
  2. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.
  3. A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.
  4. A good indignation brings out all one’s powers.
  5. A great man is always willing to be little.
  6. A great part of courage is the courage of having done the thing before.
  7. A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.
  8. A man builds a fine house; and now he has a master, and a task for life: he is to furnish, watch, show it, and keep it in repair, the rest of his days.
  9. A man in debt is so far a slave.
  10. A man is a god in ruins. When men are innocent, life shall be longer, and shall pass into the immortal, as gently as we awake from dreams.
  11. A man is a method, a progressive arrangement; a selecting principle, gathering his like to him; wherever he goes.
  12. A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise shall give him no peace.
  13. A man is the whole encyclopedia of facts.
  14. A man is usually more careful of his money than he is of his principles.
  15. A man is what he thinks about all day long.
  16. A man’s growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends.
  17. A more secret, sweet, and overpowering beauty appears to man when his heart and mind open to the sentiment of virtue.
  18. Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.
  19. All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen.
  20. All diseases run into one, old age.
  21. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.
  22. All mankind love a lover.
  23. Always do what you are afraid to do.
  24. America is a poem in our eyes; its ample geography dazzles the imagination, and it will not wait long for metres.
  25. America is another name for opportunity.
  26. An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.
  27. As a cure for worrying, work is better than whiskey.
  28. As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way.
  29. As soon as there is life there is danger.
  30. As we are, so we associate. The good, by affinity, seek the good; the vile, by affinity, the vile. Thus of their own volition, souls proceed into Heaven, into Hell.
  31. As we grow old, the beauty steals inward.
  32. Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.
  33. Beauty is an outward gift, which is seldom despised, except by those to whom it has been refused.
  34. Beauty without expression is boring.
  35. Beauty without grace is the hook without the bait.
  36. Before we acquire great power we must acquire wisdom to use it well.
  37. Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.
  38. Can anything be so elegant as to have few wants, and to serve them one’s self?
  39. Cause and effect are two sides of one fact.
  40. Character is always known. Thefts never enrich; alms never impoverish; murder will speak out of stone walls.
  41. Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live as well as think.
  42. Children are all foreigners.
  43. Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes.
  44. Curiosity is lying in wait for every secret.
  45. Death comes to all, but great achievements build a monument which shall endure until the sun grows cold.
  46. Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
  47. Do the thing we fear, and death of fear is certain.
  48. Doing well is the result of doing good. That’s what capitalism is all about.
  49. Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment.
  50. Each age, it is found, must write its own books; or rather, each generation for the next succeeding.
  51. Earth laughs in flowers.
  52. Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.
  53. Every actual State is corrupt. Good men must not obey laws too well.
  54. Every artist was first an amateur.
  55. Every book is a quotation; and every house is a quotation out of all forests, and mines, and stone quarries; and every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.
  56. Every burned book enlightens the world.
  57. Every experiment, by multitudes or by individuals, that has a sensual and selfish aim, will fail.
  58. Every fact is related on one side to sensation, and, on the other, to morals. The game of thought is, on the appearance of one of these two sides, to find the other: given the upper, to find the under side.
  59. Every hero becomes a bore at last.
  60. Every known fact in natural science was divined by the presentiment of somebody, before it was actually verified.
  61. Every man I meet is in some way my superior.
  62. Every man has his own courage, and is betrayed because he seeks in himself the courage of other persons.
  63. Every man in his lifetime needs to thank his faults.
  64. Every man is a consumer, and ought to be a producer. He is by constitution expensive, and needs to be rich.
  65. Every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.
  66. Every man supposes himself not to be fully understood or appreciated.
  67. Every mind must make its choice between truth and repose. It cannot have both.
  68. Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact.
  69. Every particular in nature, a leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time is related to the whole, and partakes of the perfection of the whole.
  70. Every sentence spoken by Napoleon, and every line of his writing, deserves reading, as it is the sense of France.
  71. Every spirit makes its house, and we can give a shrewd guess from the house to the inhabitant.
  72. Every wall is a door.
  73. Everything in Nature contains all the powers of Nature. Everything is made of one hidden stuff.
  74. Fate is nothing but the deeds committed in a prior state of existence.
  75. Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.
  76. Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.
  77. Fine manners need the support of fine manners in others.
  78. Flowers… are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world.
  79. For every benefit you receive a tax is levied.
  80. For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind.
  81. For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.
  82. Friendship, like the immortality of the soul, is too good to be believed.
  83. Genius always finds itself a century too early.
  84. Getting old is a fascination thing. The older you get, the older you want to get.
  85. Give a boy address and accomplishments and you give him the mastery of palaces and fortunes where he goes.
  86. God enters by a private door into every individual.
  87. God screens us evermore from premature ideas.
  88. Good is positive. Evil is merely privative, not absolute: it is like cold, which is the privation of heat. All evil is so much death or nonentity. Benevolence is absolute and real. So much benevolence as a man hath, so much life hath he.
  89. Good men must not obey the laws too well.
  90. Great geniuses have the shortest biographies.
  91. Great hearts steadily send forth the secret forces that incessantly draw great events.
  92. Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force – that thoughts rule the world.
  93. Great men or men of great gifts you shall easily find, but symmetrical men never.
  94. Happy is the hearing man; unhappy the speaking man.
  95. He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.
  96. Hitch your wagon to a star.
  97. I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.
  98. I hate the giving of the hand unless the whole man accompanies it.
  99. I have lost my mental faculties but am perfectly well.
  100. I have no hostility to nature, but a child’s love to it. I expand and live in the warm day like corn and melons.
  101. I have thought a sufficient measure of civilization is the influence of good women.
  102. I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.
  103. I think we must get rid of slavery, or we must get rid of freedom.
  104. If a man can… make a better mousetrap, the world will make a beaten path to his door.
  105. If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years how man would marvel and stare.
  106. If the tongue had not been framed for articulation, man would still be a beast in the forest.
  107. If you would lift me up you must be on higher ground.
  108. In all my lectures, I have taught one doctrine, namely, the infinitude of the private man.
  109. In art, the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can imagine.
  110. In every society some men are born to rule, and some to advise.
  111. In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed.
  112. In the morning a man walks with his whole body; in the evening, only with his legs.
  113. It is a fact often observed, that men have written good verses under the inspiration of passion, who cannot write well under other circumstances.
  114. It is my desire, in the office of a Christian minister, to do nothing which I cannot do with my whole heart. Having said this, I have said all.
  115. It is not length of life, but depth of life.
  116. It is one of the beautiful compensations in this life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.
  117. It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.
  118. It is said that the world is in a state of bankruptcy, that the world owes the world more than the world can pay.
  119. It is the quality of the moment, not the number of days, or events, or of actors, that imports.
  120. It was high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, ‘always do what you are afraid to do.’
  121. Jesus Christ belonged to the true race of prophets. He saw with open eye the mystery of the soul. Drawn by its severe harmony, ravished with its beauty, he lived in it and had his being there. Alone in all history, he estimated the greatness of man.
  122. Judge of your natural character by what you do in your dreams.
  123. Knowledge is knowing that we cannot know.
  124. Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.
  125. Life consists in what a man is thinking of all day.
  126. Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood. All is riddle, and the key to a riddle is another riddle.
  127. Life is our dictionary.
  128. Little minds have little worries, big minds have no time for worries.
  129. Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art.
  130. Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.
  131. Make yourself necessary to somebody.
  132. Man is priest, and scholar, and statesman, and producer, and soldier.
  133. Manners require time, and nothing is more vulgar than haste.
  134. Men admire the man who can organize their wishes and thoughts in stone and wood and steel and brass.
  135. Men are what their mothers made them.
  136. Men love to wonder, and that is the seed of science.
  137. Men’s actions are too strong for them. Show me a man who has acted, and who has not been the victim and slave of his action.
  138. Money often costs too much.
  139. Mysticism is the mistake of an accidental and individual symbol for an universal one.
  140. Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.
  141. Nature and books belong to the eyes that see them.
  142. Nature hates calculators.
  143. Nature is a mutable cloud which is always and never the same.
  144. Nature is the incarnation of thought. The world is the mind precipitated.
  145. Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.
  146. No change of circumstances can repair a defect of character.
  147. No great man ever complains of want of opportunity.
  148. No man ever prayed heartily without learning something.
  149. Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.
  150. Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing.
  151. Nothing external to you has any power over you.
  152. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.
  153. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.
  154. O Day of days when we can read! The reader and the book, either without the other is naught.
  155. Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.
  156. One must be an inventor to read well. There is then creative reading as well as creative writing.
  157. Only as far as the masters of the world have called in nature to their aid, can they reach the height of magnificence. This is the meaning of their hanging-gardens, villas, garden-houses, islands, parks, and preserves.
  158. Our admiration of the antique is not admiration of the old, but of the natural.
  159. Our best thoughts come from others.
  160. Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.
  161. Our faith comes in moments; our vice is habitual.
  162. Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.
  163. Passion rebuilds the world for the youth. It makes all things alive and significant.
  164. People disparage knowing and the intellectual life, and urge doing. I am content with knowing, if only I could know.
  165. People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.
  166. People only see what they are prepared to see.
  167. People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.
  168. People that seem so glorious are all show; underneath they are like everyone else.
  169. People with great gifts are easy to find, but symmetrical and balanced ones never.
  170. Philosophically considered, the universe is composed of Nature and the Soul. Strictly speaking, therefore, all that is separate from us, all which Philosophy distinguishes as the ‘Not Me,’ that is, both nature and art, all other men and my own body, must be ranked under this name, ‘Nature.’
  171. Pictures must not be too picturesque.
  172. Power and speed be hands and feet.
  173. Preaching is the expression of the moral sentiment in application to the duties of life.
  174. Reality is a sliding door.
  175. Revolutions go not backward.
  176. Science does not know its debt to imagination.
  177. Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.
  178. Society is always taken by surprise at any new example of common sense.
  179. Some books leave us free and some books make us free.
  180. Speak the truth, and all things alive or brute are vouchers, and the very roots of the grass underground there, do seem to stir and move to bear you witness.
  181. The age of a woman doesn’t mean a thing. The best tunes are played on the oldest fiddles.
  182. The ancestor of every action is a thought.
  183. The best effort of a fine person is felt after we have left their presence.
  184. The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet.
  185. The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.
  186. The desire of gold is not for gold. It is for the means of freedom and benefit.
  187. The earth laughs in flowers.
  188. The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.
  189. The faith that stands on authority is not faith.
  190. The first wealth is health.
  191. The fox has many tricks. The hedgehog has but one. But that is the best of all.
  192. The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister is the suggestion of an occult relation.
  193. The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.
  194. The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
  195. The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.
  196. The highest revelation is that God is in every man.
  197. The intuition of the moral sentiment is an insight of the perfection of the laws of the soul. These laws execute themselves. They are out of time, out of space, and not subject to circumstance.
  198. The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.
  199. The man of genius inspires us with a boundless confidence in our own powers.
  200. The martyr cannot be dishonored. Every lash inflicted is a tongue of fame; every prison a more illustrious abode.
  201. The method of nature: who could ever analyze it?
  202. The only way to have a friend is to be one.
  203. The real and lasting victories are those of peace, and not of war.
  204. The reason why men do not obey us, is because they see the mud at the bottom of our eye.
  205. The reason why the world lacks unity, and lies broken and in heaps, is, because man is disunited with himself.
  206. The revelation of thought takes men out of servitude into freedom.
  207. The reward of a thing well done is having done it.
  208. The search after the great men is the dream of youth, and the most serious occupation of manhood.
  209. The secret of ugliness consists not in irregularity, but in being uninteresting.
  210. The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.
  211. The smoothest curled courtier in the boudoirs of a palace has an animal nature, rude and aboriginal as a white bear.
  212. The sum of wisdom is that time is never lost that is devoted to work.
  213. The value of a dollar is social, as it is created by society.
  214. The value of a principle is the number of things it will explain.
  215. The vegetable life does not content itself with casting from the flower or the tree a single seed, but it fills the air and earth with a prodigality of seeds, that, if thousands perish, thousands may plant themselves, that hundreds may come up, that tens may live to maturity; that, at least one may replace the parent.
  216. The wave of evil washes all our institutions alike.
  217. The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck.
  218. The years teach much which the days never know.
  219. There are as many pillows of illusion as flakes in a snow-storm. We wake from one dream into another dream.
  220. There are other measures of self-respect for a man, than the number of clean shirts he puts on every day.
  221. There is a blessed necessity by which the interest of men is always driving them to the right; and, again, making all crime mean and ugly.
  222. There is a tendency for things to right themselves.
  223. There is always safety in valor.
  224. There is an optical illusion about every person we meet.
  225. There is creative reading as well as creative writing.
  226. There is more difference in the quality of our pleasures than in the amount.
  227. There is no chance and anarchy in the universe. All is system and gradation. Every god is there sitting in his sphere.
  228. There was never a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep.
  229. This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.
  230. Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.
  231. To be great is to be misunderstood.
  232. To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
  233. Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.
  234. Trust your instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.
  235. Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.
  236. Truth is handsomer than the affectation of love. Your goodness must have some edge to it, else it is none.
  237. Truth is the property of no individual but is the treasure of all men.
  238. Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.
  239. Use what language you will, you can never say anything but what you are.
  240. We acquire the strength we have overcome.
  241. We aim above the mark to hit the mark.
  242. We are a puny and fickle folk. Avarice, hesitation, and following are our diseases.
  243. We are always getting ready to live but never living.
  244. We are born believing. A man bears beliefs as a tree bears apples.
  245. We are by nature observers, and thereby learners. That is our permanent state.
  246. We are rich only through what we give, and poor only through what we refuse.
  247. We are symbols, and inhabit symbols.
  248. We are wiser than we know.
  249. We do not yet possess ourselves, and we know at the same time that we are much more.
  250. We find delight in the beauty and happiness of children that makes the heart too big for the body.
  251. We gain the strength of the temptation we resist.
  252. We have listened too long to the courtly Muses of Europe.
  253. We must be our own before we can be another’s.
  254. We see God face to face every hour, and know the savor of Nature.
  255. What is a farm but a mute gospel?
  256. What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.
  257. What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.
  258. What we seek we shall find; what we flee from flees from us.
  259. What you are comes to you.
  260. When nature has work to be done, she creates a genius to do it.
  261. When we quarrel, how we wish we had been blameless.
  262. Wherever the invitation of men or your own occasions lead you, speak the very truth, as your life and conscience teach it, and cheer the waiting, fainting hearts of men with new hope and new revelation.
  263. Who hears me, who understands me, becomes mine, a possession for all time.
  264. Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.
  265. Why need I volumes, if one word suffice?
  266. Win as if you were used to it, lose as if you enjoyed it for a change.
  267. Wisdom has its root in goodness, not goodness its root in wisdom.
  268. With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.
  269. Without electricity, the air would rot.
  270. Words are also actions, and actions are a kind of words.
  271. Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.
  272. You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.

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