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Table of Contents


Quotes About (Clickable):

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes about Life, dreams, fate, education and more!

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Emerson Quotes on Art & Literature



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

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Classics which at home are drowsily read have a strange charm in a country inn, or in the transom of a merchant brig.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, English Traits (1856)


“I greet you at the beginning of a great career, which yet must have had a long foreground somewhere, for such a start. I rubbed my eyes a little, to see if this sunbeam were no illusion; but the solid sense of the book is a sober certainty. It has the best merits, namely, of fortifying and encouraging…”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Letter to Walt Whitman, thanking him for a copy of Leaves of Grass (July 21, 1855)


“The novelist should not make any character act absurdly, but only absurdly as seen by others. For it is so in life. Nonsense will not keep its unreason if you come into the humorist’s point of view, but unhappily we find it is fast becoming sense, and we must flee again into the distance if we would laugh.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Natural History of Intellect (1893)


“Poetry teaches the enormous force of a few words, and, in proportion to the inspiration, checks loquacity.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Parnassus


“Consider what you have in the smallest chosen library. A company of the wisest and wittiest men that could be picked out of all civil countries, in a thousand years, have set in best order the results of their learning and wisdom. The men themselves were hid and inaccessible, solitary, impatient of interruption, fenced by etiquette; but the thought which they did not uncover to their bosom friend is here written out in transparent words to us, the strangers of another age.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


“There are two classes of poets — the poets by education and practice, these we respect; and poets by nature, these we love.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Parnassus


“The advancing man discovers how deep a property he has in literature,—in all fable as well as in all history. He finds that the poet was no odd fellow who described strange and impossible situations, but that universal man wrote by his pen a confession true for one and true for all. His own secret biography he finds in lines wonderfully intelligible to him, dotted down before he was born. One after another he comes up in his private adventures with every fable of Aesop, of Homer, of Hafiz, of Ariosto, of Chaucer, of Scott, and verifies them with his own head and hands.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance & Other Essays (kp. 252)


“I wish to write such rhymes as shall not suggest a restraint, but contrariwise the wildest freedom.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals

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Emerson on Character & Virtue

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes on Character & Virtue

“People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Conduct of Life


“The best effect of fine persons is felt after we have left their presence.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals


“Beauty is the mark God sets upon virtue.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature


“Beauty will not come at the call of a legislature, nor will it repeat in England or America its history in Greece. It will come, as always, unannounced, and spring up between the feet of brave and earnest men.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

 


“There is no den in the wide world to hide a rogue. Commit a crime, and the earth is made of glass. Commit a crime, and it seems as if a coat of snow fell on the ground, such as reveals in the woods the track of every partridge and fox and squirrel and mole.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“Men suffer all their life long, under the foolish superstition that they can be cheated. But it is as impossible for a man to be cheated by any one but himself, as for a thing to be and not to be at the same time.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. Act singly, and what you have already done singly will justify you now. Greatness appeals to the future. If I can be firm enough to-day to do right, and scorn eyes, I must have done so much right before as to defend me now. Be it how it will, do right now. Always scorn appearances, and you always may. The force of character is cumulative.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


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

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The American Scholar


“Character teaches above our wills. Men imagine that they communicate their virtue or vice only by overt actions, and do not see that virtue or vice emit a breath every moment.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not. The best of beauty is a finer charm than skill in surfaces, in outlines, or rules of art can ever teach, namely, a radiation from the work of art of human character, — a wonderful expression through stone, or canvas, or musical sound, of the deepest and simplest attributes of our nature, and therefore most intelligible at last to those souls which have these attributes.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


“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.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Emerson Quotes on Death


“The Indian who was laid under a curse, that the wind should not blow on him, nor water flow to him, nor fire burn him, is a type of us all. The dearest events are summer-rain, and we the Para coats that shed every drop. Nothing is left us now but death. We look to that with a grim satisfaction, saying, there at least is reality that will not dodge us.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: Second Series

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Emerson Quotes on Discovery

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes on Discovery

“Explore, and explore, and explore. Be neither chided nor flattered out of your position of perpetual inquiry. Neither dogmatise yourself, nor accept another’s dogmatism. Why should you renounce your right to traverse the star-lit deserts of truth, for the premature comforts of an acre, house, and barn? Truth also has its roof, and bed, and board. Make yourself necessary to the world, and mankind will give you bread, and if not store of it, yet such as shall not take away your property in all men’s possessions, in all men’s affections, in art, in nature, and in hope.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Literary Ethics


“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Thought is all light, and publishes itself to the universe. It will speak, though you were dumb, by its own miraculous organ. It will flow out of your actions, your manners, and your face. It will bring you friendships. It will impledge you to truth by the love and expectation of generous minds. By virtue of the laws of that Nature, which is one and perfect, it shall yield every sincere good that is in the soul, to the scholar beloved of earth and heaven.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Literary Ethics


“All our progress is an unfolding, like the vegetable bud. You have first an instinct, then an opinion, then a knowledge, as the plant has root, bud, and fruit. Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason. It is vain to hurry it. By trusting it to the end it shall ripen into truth, and you shall know why you believe.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions, so they be each honest and natural in their hour. For of one will, the actions will be harmonious, however unlike they seem. These varieties are lost sight of at a little distance, at a little height of thought. One tendency unites them all. The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series

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Emerson Quotes on Dreams


“Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to illusion. Life is a train of moods like a string of beads, and, as we pass through them, they prove to be many-colored lenses which paint the world their own hue, and each shows only what lies in its focus.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: Second Series


“Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Emerson Quotes on Education

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes on Education

 

“Every man I meet is in some way my superior; and in that I can learn of him.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, As quoted in Think, Vol. 4-5 (1938)


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

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


“If the colleges were better, if they … had the power of imparting valuable thought, creative principles, truths which become powers, thoughts which become talents, — if they could cause that a mind not profound should become profound, — we should all rush to their gates: instead of contriving inducements to draw students, you would need to set police at the gates to keep order in the in-rushing multitude.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Celebration of Intellect (1861)


“I owed a magnificent day to the Bhagavad Gita. It was the first of books; it was as if an empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals


“In this distribution of functions, the scholar is the delegated intellect. In the right state, he is, Man Thinking. In the degenerate state, when the victim of society, he tends to become a mere thinker, or, still worse, the parrot of other men’s thinking.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The American Scholar


“We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“Of course, he who has put forth his total strength in fit actions, has the richest return of wisdom.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The American Scholar


“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance

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Fate & Destiny


“Whatever limits us we call Fate.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Shallow men believe in luck, believe in circumstances…Strong men believe in cause and effect.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


“In different hours, a man represents each of several of his ancestors, as if there were seven or eight of us rolled up in each man’s skin, — seven or eight ancestors at least, — and they constitute the variety of notes for that new piece of music which his life is.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Nature magically suits the man to his fortunes, by making these the fruit of his character.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


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

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


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

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Emerson on Friendship


“The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to have a friend is to be one.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson


“A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I may think aloud. I am arrived at last in the presence of a man so real and equal, that I may drop even those undermost garments of dissimulation, courtesy, and second thought, which men never put off, and may deal with him with the simplicity and wholeness with which one chemical atom meets another.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“When friendships are real, they are not glass threads or frost work, but the solidest things we can know.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“My friends have come to me unsought. The great God gave them to me. By oldest right, by the divine affinity of virtue with itself, I find them, or rather not I, but the Deity in me and in them derides and cancels the thick walls of individual character, relation, age, sex, circumstance, at which he usually connives, and now makes many one.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


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

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emerson in His Journal


“A man’s growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Emerson Quotes on Greatness

Emerson Quotes on History & Greatness

“The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to have a friend is to be one.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson


“A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I may think aloud. I am arrived at last in the presence of a man so real and equal, that I may drop even those undermost garments of dissimulation, courtesy, and second thought, which men never put off, and may deal with him with the simplicity and wholeness with which one chemical atom meets another.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“When friendships are real, they are not glass threads or frost work, but the solidest things we can know.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“My friends have come to me unsought. The great God gave them to me. By oldest right, by the divine affinity of virtue with itself, I find them, or rather not I, but the Deity in me and in them derides and cancels the thick walls of individual character, relation, age, sex, circumstance, at which he usually connives, and now makes many one.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


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

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emerson in His Journals


“A man’s growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Emerson Quotes on History


“Every revolution was first a thought in one man’s mind and when the same thought occurs in another man, it is the key to that era.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“Ordinarily, every body in society reminds us of somewhat else, or of some other person. Character, reality, reminds you of nothing else; it takes place of the whole creation. The man must be so much, that he must make all circumstances indifferent. Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age; requires infinite spaces and numbers and time fully to accomplish his design; — and posterity seem to follow his steps as a train of clients. A man Caesar is born, and for ages after we have a Roman Empire. Christ is born, and millions of minds so grow and cleave to his genius, that he is confounded with virtue and the possible of man. An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man … and all history resolves itself very easily into the biography of a few stout and earnest persons.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“These hints, dropped as it were from sleep and night, let us use in broad day. The student is to read history actively and not passively; to esteem his own life the text, and books the commentary. Thus compelled, the Muse of history will utter oracles, as never to those who do not respect themselves. I have no expectation that any man will read history aright, who thinks that what was done in a remote age, by men whose names have resounded far, has any deeper sense than what he is doing to-day.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance & Other Essays (kp. 74)


“The instinct of the mind, the purpose of nature, betrays itself in the use we make of the signal narrations of history.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance & Other Essays (kp. 79)


“We are always coming up with the emphatic facts of history in our private experience and verifying them here. All history becomes subjective; in other words there is properly no history, only biography. Every mind must know the whole lesson for itself,—must go over the whole ground. What it does not see, what it does not live, it will not know. What the former age has epitomized into a formula or rule for manipular convenience, it will lose all the good of verifying for itself, by means of the wall of that rule. Somewhere, sometime, it will demand and find compensation for that loss, by doing the work itself.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance & Other Essays (kp. 85)


“History must be this or it is nothing. Every law which the state enacts indicates a fact in human nature; that is all. We must in ourselves see the necessary reason of every fact, — see how it could and must be.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“Why should we make account of time, or of magnitude, or of figure? The soul knows how to play with them as a young child plays with graybeards and in churches.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“We cannot overstate our debt to the Past, but the moment has the supreme claim. The Past is for us; but the sole terms on which it can become ours are its subordination to the Present. Only an inventor knows how to borrow, and every man is or should be an inventor. We must not tamper with the organic motion of the soul.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


“If the whole of history is in one man, it is all to be explained from individual experience. There is a relation between the hours of our life and the centuries of time.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance & Other Essays (kp. 39)

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Emerson Quotes on Independence


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

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Education


“The young men were born with knives in their brain, a tendency to introversion, self-dissection, anatomizing of motives.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


“I have been writing & speaking what were once called novelties, for twenty five or thirty years, & have not now one disciple. Why? Not that what I said was not true; not that it has not found intelligent receivers but because it did not go from any wish in me to bring men to me, but to themselves. I delight in driving them from me. What could I do, if they came to me? — They would interrupt and encumber me. This is my boast that I have no school & no follower. I should account it a measure of the impurity of insight, if it did not create independence.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Education


“I had better never see a book than to be warped by its attraction clean out of my own orbit, and made a satellite instead of a system. The one thing in the world, of value, is the active soul.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The American Scholar


“All that Shakespeare says of the king, yonder slip of a boy that reads in the corner feels to be true of himself.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“There is one mind common to all individual men. Every man is an inlet to the same and to all of the same. He that is once admitted to the right of reason is made a freeman of the whole estate. What Plato has thought, he may think; what a saint has felt, he may feel; what at any time has befallen any man, he can understand. Who hath access to this universal mind is a party to all that is or can be done, for this is the only and sovereign agent”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“Do not yet see, that, if the single man plant himself indomitably on his instincts, and there abide, the huge world will come round to him.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The American Scholar


“We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds…A nation of men will for the first time exist, because each believes himself inspired by the Divine Soul which also inspires all men.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The American Scholar


“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.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“I read the other day some verses written by an eminent painter which were original and not conventional. The soul always hears an admonition in such lines, let the subject be what it may. The sentiment they instil is of more value than any thought they may contain. 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. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost, — and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“But now we are a mob. Man does not stand in awe of man, nor is his genius admonished to stay at home, to put itself in communication with the internal ocean, but it goes abroad to beg a cup of water of the urns of other men. We must go alone. I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series

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Emerson Quotes on Kindness


“You can never do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Emerson Quotes on Life

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes on Life

Charcoal portrait of Ralph Waldo Emerson by artist Eastman Johnson, 1846. Part of the personal collection of friend Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

“We are always getting ready to live, but never living.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals


“It is easy to live for others; everybody does. I call on you to live for yourselves”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals


“The years teach much which the days never know.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Second Essays


“The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals


“I give you joy of your free and brave thought. I have great joy in it. I find incomparable things said incomparably well, as they must be. I find the courage of treatment which so delights us, and which large perception only can inspire.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


“The imitator dooms himself to hopeless mediocrity. The inventor did it because it was natural to him, and so in him it has a charm. In the imitator something else is natural, and he bereaves himself of his own beauty, to come short of another man’s.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Divinity College Address (1838)


“The bitterest tragic element in life to be derived from an intellectual source is the belief in a brute Fate or Destiny.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Natural History of Intellect (1893)


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

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals


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

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals


“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.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


“It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, — “Always do what you are afraid to do.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“It is not the length of life, but the depth.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, with Annotations – 1841-1844


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

–  Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Emerson Quotes on Love


“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.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson. Address on The Method of Nature (1841)


“A true aspirant therefore never needs look for allusions personal and laudatory in discourse. He hears the commendation, not of himself, but, more sweet, of that character he seeks, in every word that is said concerning character, yea further in every fact and circumstance,—in the running river and the rustling corn. Praise is looked, homage tendered, love flows, from mute nature, from the mountains and the lights of the firmament.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance & Other Essays (kp. 66)


“And what fastens attention, in the intercourse of life, like any passage betraying affection between two parties? Perhaps we never saw them before, and never shall meet them again. But we see them exchange a glance, or betray a deep emotion, and we are no longer strangers. We understand them, and take the warmest interest in the development of the romance. All mankind love a lover.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be the happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should. I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me, and the heart appoints. If you are noble, I will love you; if you are not, I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions. If you are true, but not in the same truth with me, cleave to your companions; I will seek my own. I do this not selfishly, but humbly and truly. It is alike your interest, and mine, and all men’s, however long we have dwelt in lies, to live in truth. Does this sound harsh to-day? You will soon love what is dictated by your nature as well as mine, and, if we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series

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Emerson Quotes on Morality & Ethics

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes on Morality & Ethics

 

“There is always a certain meanness in the argument of conservatism, joined with a certain superiority in its fact.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Conservative (1842)


“Those who are esteemed umpires of taste are often persons who have acquired some knowledge of admired pictures or sculptures, and have an inclination for whatever is elegant; but if you inquire whether they are beautiful souls, and whether their own acts are like fair pictures, you learn that they are selfish and sensual.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: Second Series


“The two parties which divide the State, the party of Conservatism and that of Innovation are very old, and have disputed the possession of the world ever since it was made … Now one, now the other gets the day, and still the fight renews itself as if for the first time, under new names and hot personalities … Innovation is the salient energy; Conservatism the pause on the last movement.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Conservative (1842)


“Is not every man sometimes a radical in politics? Men are conservatives when they are least vigorous, or when they are most luxurious. They are conservatives after dinner, or before taking their rest; when they are sick, or aged. In the morning, or when their intellect or their conscience has been aroused; when they hear music, or when they read poetry, they are radicals.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: Second Series


“Slavery is disheartening; but Nature is not so helpless but it can rid itself of every last wrong. But the spasms of nature are centuries and ages and will tax the faith of shortlived men. Slowly, slowly the Avenger comes, but comes surely. The proverbs of the nations affirm these delays, but affirm the arrival. They say, “God may consent, but not forever.” The delay of the Divine Justice — this was the meaning and soul of the Greek Tragedy, — this was the soul of their religion.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Fugitive Slave Law


“Solvency is maintained by means of a national debt, on the principle, “If you will not lend me the money, how can I pay you?”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, English Traits (1856)


“He needs no library, for he has not done thinking; no church, for he is himself a prophet; no statute book, for he hath the Lawgiver; no money, for he is value itself; no road, for he is at home where he is.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals

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Emerson Quotes on Nature & Simplicity


“Nature is an endless combination and repetition of a very few laws. She hums the old well-known air through innumerable variations.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance & Other Essays (kp. 135)


“It has been said that “common souls pay with what they do, nobler souls with that which they are.” And why? Because a profound nature awakens in us by its actions and words, by its very looks and manners, the same power and beauty that a gallery of sculpture or of pictures addresses.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance & Other Essays (kp. 147)


“What strength belongs to every plant and animal in nature. The tree or the brook has no duplicity, no pretentiousness, no show. It is, with all its might and main, what it is, and makes one and the same impression and effect at all times. All the thoughts of a turtle are turtles, and of a rabbit, rabbits. But a man is broken and dissipated by the giddiness of his will ; he does not throw himself into his judgments; his genius leads him one way but ‘t is likely his trade or politics in quite another.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Natural History of Intellect (1893)


“Power is in nature the essential measure of right. Nature suffers nothing to remain in her kingdoms which cannot help itself. The genesis and maturation of a planet, its poise and orbit, the bended tree recovering itself from the strong wind, the vital resources of every animal and vegetable, are demonstrations of the self-sufficing, and therefore self-relying soul.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series

 


“The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence. Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection. Nature never became a toy to a wise spirit. The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected the wisdom of his best hour, as much as they had delighted the simplicity of his childhood.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature


“The charming landscape which I saw this morning, is indubitably made up of some twenty or thirty farms. Miller owns this field, Locke that, and Manning the woodland beyond. But none of them owns the landscape. There is a property in the horizon which no man has but he whose eye can integrate all the parts, that is, the poet. This is the best part of these men’s farms, yet to this their warranty-deeds give no title. To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child. The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. His intercourse with heaven and earth, becomes part of his daily food.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature


“Nature is always consistent, though she feigns to contravene her own laws. She keeps her laws, and seems to transcend them. She arms and equips an animal to find its place and living in the earth, and at the same time she arms and equips another animal to destroy it.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: Second Series


“Broader and deeper we must write our annals, from an ethical reformation, from an influx of the ever new, ever sanative conscience, if we would trulier express our central and wide-related nature, instead of this old chronology of selfishness and pride to which we have too long lent our eyes. Already that day exists for us, shines in on us at unawares, but the path of science and of letters is not the way into nature. The idiot, the Indian, the child, and unschooled farmer’s boy, stand nearer to the light by which nature is to be read, than the dissector or the antiquary.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Emerson Quotes on Progress


“The key to the period appeared to be that the mind had become aware of itself. Men grew reflective and intellectual. There was a new consciousness. The former generations acted under the belief that a shining social prosperity was the beatitude of man, and sacrificed uniformly the citizen to the State. The modern mind believed that the nation existed for the individual, for the guardianship and education of every man. This idea, roughly written in revolutions and national movements, in the mind of the philosopher had far more precision; the individual is the world.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


“This perception is a sword such as was never drawn before. It divides and detaches bone and marrow, soul and body, yea, almost the man from himself. It is the age of severance, of dissociation, of freedom, of analysis, of detachment. Every man for himself. The public speaker disclaims speaking for any other; he answers only for himself. The social sentiments are weak; the sentiment of patriotism is weak; veneration is low; the natural affections feebler than they were. People grow philosophical about native land and parents and. relations. There is a universal resistance to ties and ligaments once supposed essential to civil society. The new race is stiff, heady and rebellious; they are fanatics in freedom; they hate tolls, taxes, turnpikes, banks, hierarchies, governors, yea, almost laws. They have a neck of unspeakable tenderness; it winces at a hair. They rebel against theological as against political dogmas; against mediation, or saints, or any nobility in the unseen.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Emerson Quotes on Religion

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes on Religion

“The Religion that is afraid of science dishonours God and commits suicide. It acknowledges that it is not equal to the whole of truth, that it legislates, tyrannizes over a village of God’s empires but is not the immutable universal law. Every influx of atheism, of skepticism is thus made useful as a mercury pill assaulting and removing a diseased religion and making way for truth.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals


“If I made laws for Shakers or a school, I should gazette every Saturday all the words they were wont to use in reporting religious experience, as “spiritual life,” “God,” “soul,” “cross,” etc., and if they could not find new ones next week, they might remain silent.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals


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

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


“It may be a question whether machinery does not encumber; whether we have not lost by refinement some energy, by a Christianity entrenched in establishments and forms, some vigor of wild virtue. For every Stoic was a Stoic; but in Christendom where is the Christian?”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“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.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Emerson Quotes on Society

“But genius looks forward: the eyes of men are set in his forehead, not in his hindhead: man hopes: genius creates.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The American Scholar


“A sect or party is an elegant incognito devised to save a man from the vexation of thinking.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals


“Leave this hypocritical prating about the masses. Masses are rude, lame, unmade, pernicious in their demands and influence, and need not to be flattered, but to be schooled. I wish not to concede anything to them, but to tame, drill, divide, and break them up, and draw individuals out of them.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Conduct of Life


“When a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals


“Every actual State is corrupt. Good men must not obey the laws too well. What satire on government can equal the severity of censure conveyed in the word Politic, which now for ages has signified cunning, intimating that the State is a trick?”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: Second Series


“The less government we have, the better, — the fewer laws, and the less confided power. The antidote to this abuse of formal Government, is, the influence of private character, the growth of the Individual.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: Second Series


“We think our civilization near its meridian, but we are yet only at the cock-crowing and the morning star. In our barbarous society the influence of character is in its infancy.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: Second Series


“If you would rule the world quietly, you must keep it amused.” I notice too, that the ground on which eminent public servants urge the claims of popular education is fear: “This country is filling up with thousands and millions of voters, and you must educate them to keep them from our throats.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: Second Series


“There are always two parties, the party of the Past and the party of the Future: the Establishment and the Movement. At times the resistance is reanimated, the schism runs under the world and appears in Literature, Philosophy, Church, State and social customs.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


“The state of society is one in which the members have suffered amputation from the trunk, and strut about so many walking monsters,—a good finger, a neck, a stomach, an elbow, but never a man.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The American Scholar

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Emerson Quotes on Traveling


“I am not much an advocate for travelling, and I observe that men run away to other countries because they are not good in their own, and run back to their own because they pass for nothing in the new places. For the most part, only the light characters travel. Who are you that have no task to keep you at home? I have been quoted as saying captious things about travel; but I mean to do justice. …. He that does not fill a place at home, cannot abroad. He only goes there to hide his insignificance in a larger crowd. You do not think you will find anything there which you have not seen at home? The stuff of all countries is just the same. Do you suppose there is any country where they do not scald milk-pans, and swaddle the infants, and burn the brushwood, and broil the fish? What is true anywhere is true everywhere. And let him go where he will, he can only find so much beauty or worth as he carries.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Conduct of Life


“Travelling is a fool’s paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty, and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I seek the Vatican, and the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“I have been quoted as saying captious things about travel; but I mean to do justice. I think, there is a restlessness in our people, which argues want of character. All educated Americans, first or last, go to Europe; — perhaps, because it is their mental home, as the invalid habits of this country might suggest. An eminent teacher of girls said, “the idea of a girl’s education, is, whatever qualifies them for going to Europe.” Can we never extract this tape-worm of Europe from the brain of our countrymen?”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Emerson Quotes on Truth

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes about Truth

Emerson Seated. Elliott & Fry studio, London – NYPL Digital Gallery

 

“Henceforward I am the truth’s. Be it known unto you that henceforward I obey no law less than the eternal law. I will have no covenants but proximities.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“Do you see that kitten chasing so prettily her own tail? If you could look with her eyes, you might see her surrounded with hundreds of figures performing complex dramas, with tragic and comic issues, long conversations, many characters, many ups and downs of fate, — and meantime it is only puss and her tail. How long before our masquerade will end its noise of tambourines, laughter, and shouting, and we shall find it was a solitary performance?”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: Second Series


“It is the fault of our rhetoric that we cannot strongly state one fact without seeming to belie some other.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which animates all whom it floats, and you are without effort impelled to truth, to right and a perfect contentment.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Spiritual Laws (1841)


“A mind does not receive truth as a chest receives jewels that are put into it, but as the stomach takes up food into the system. It is no longer food, but flesh, and is assimilated. The appetite and the power of digestion measure our right to knowledge. He has it who can use it. As soon as our accumulation overruns our invention or power to use, the evils of intellectual gluttony begin,— congestion of the brain, apoplexy and strangulation.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Natural History of Intellect (1893)


“You must read Plato. But you must hold him at arm’s length and say, ‘Plato, you have delighted and edified mankind for two thousand years. What have you to say to me?”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


“I read your piece on Plato. Holmes, when you strike at a king, you must kill him.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Undoubtedly we have no questions to ask which are unanswerable. We must trust the perfection of the creation so far, as to believe that whatever curiosity the order of things has awakened in our minds, the order of things can satisfy. Every man’s condition is a solution in hieroglyphic to those inquiries he would put. He acts it as life, before he apprehends it as truth.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature


“What would we really know the meaning of? The meal in the firkin; the milk in the pan; the ballad in the street; the news of the boat; the glance of the eye; the form and the gait of the body; — show me the ultimate reason of these matters; show me the sublime presence of the highest spiritual cause lurking, as always it does lurk, in these suburbs and extremities of nature; let me see every trifle bristling with the polarity that ranges it instantly on an eternal law; and the shop, the plough, and the ledger, referred to the like cause by which light undulates and poets sing; — and the world lies no longer a dull miscellany and lumber-room, but has form and order; there is no trifle; there is no puzzle; but one design unites and animates the farthest pinnacle and the lowest trench.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The American Scholar


“Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“Truth is handsomer than the affectation of love. Your goodness must have some edge to it, — else it is none. The doctrine of hatred must be preached as the counteraction of the doctrine of love when that pules and whines. I shun father and mother and wife and brother, when my genius calls me. I would write on the lintels of the door-post, Whim. I hope it is somewhat better than whim at last, but we cannot spend the day in explanation. Expect me not to show cause why I seek or why I exclude company.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“The world is nothing, the man is all; in yourself is the law of all nature, and you know not yet how a globule of sap ascends; in yourself slumbers the whole of Reason; it is for you to know all, it is for you to dare all.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The American Scholar


“There is one mind common to all individual men. Every man is an inlet to the same and to all of the same. He that is once admitted to the right of reason is made a freeman of the whole estate.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance & Other Essays (kp. 29)


“Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series

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Emerson Quotes on Wealth

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes on Wealth

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s grave, Sleepy Hollow, Concord, Mass.

 

“Money often costs too much.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Conduct of Life


“The world is his, who has money to go over it.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


“We have the same interest in condition and character. We honor the rich because they have externally the freedom, power, and grace which we feel to be proper to man, proper to us.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance & Other Essays (kp. 62)


“If a man own land, the land owns him.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Emerson Quotes on Wisdom & Success

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes on Wisdom & Success

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Letter to Walt Whitman

“Success treads on every right step. For the instinct is sure, that prompts him to tell his brother what he thinks. He then learns, that in going down into the secrets of his own mind, he has descended into the secrets of all minds. He learns that he who has mastered any law in his private thoughts, is master to that extent of all men whose language he speaks, and of all into whose language his own can be translated.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The American Scholar


“You will hear every day the maxims of a low prudence. You will hear, that the first duty is to get land and money, place and name. “What is this Truth you seek? What is this Beauty?” men will ask, with derision. If, nevertheless, God have called any of you to explore truth and beauty, be bold, be firm, be true. When you shall say, “As others do, so will I. I renounce, I am sorry for it, my early visions; I must eat the good of the land, and let learning and romantic expectations go, until a more convenient season.” — then dies the man in you; then once more perish the buds of art, and poetry, and science, as they have died already in a thousand thousand men. The hour of that choice is the crisis of your history; and see that you hold yourself fast by the intellect. … Bend to the persuasion which is flowing to you from every object in Nature, to be its tongue to the heart of man, and to show the besotted world how passing fair is wisdom.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Literary Ethics


“The difference between men is in their principle of association. Some men classify objects by color and size and other accidents of appearance; others by intrinsic likeness, or by the relation of cause and effect. The progress of the intellect is to the clearer vision of causes, which neglects surface differences. To the poet, to the philosopher, to the saint, all things are friendly and sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all men divine. For the eye is fastened on the life, and slights the circumstance. Every chemical substance, every plant, every animal in its growth, teaches the unity of cause, the variety of appearance.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — 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.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“One man’s justice is another’s injustice; one man’s beauty another’s ugliness; one man’s wisdom another’s folly.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“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.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Don’t waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


“To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: Second Series


“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.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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