Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes

Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803 – 1882

Born: 25 May 1803, Boston, Massachusetts
Died: 27 April 1882, Concord, Massachusetts

The son of a Unitarian minister who died less than eight years after Emerson’s birth, he was largely raised by his mother and other women in the family, notably his aunt Mary Moody Emerson. He entered Boston Latin School in 1812 and Harvard College in 1817. At Harvard he was Class Poet but otherwise undistinguished, graduating in the middle of his class. Now known as Waldo, he was a schoolmaster for four years before entering Harvard Divinity School in 1828. The next year he married and was called to serve as junior pastor at Boston Second Church. Following his wife’s 1831 death he lost his faith in the divinity of Jesus, and then any faith in a specific god at all, so he left the ministry. He moved to Concord in 1834 and the next spring bought a home on Walden Pond. Throughout his life he was a prolific essayist and lecturer, the Transcendentalist movement coalesced around him, his work, and his intellectual friends. In 1845 Henry David Thoreau , one of that circle, built a cabin in the woods on Emerson’s property in exchange for keeping an eye on Emerson’s family when Emerson was traveling. In late 1871 Emerson began to lose his memory and suffer from aphasia, by the end of the decade he forgot his own name at times. In April of 1882 the Sage of Concord took a walk in the rain, contracted pneumonia, and died at home a week later.

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes:

A chief event in life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

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.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I may think aloud.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

A friend might well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

A garden has this advantage, that it makes it indifferent where you live. A well-laid garden makes the face of the country of no account; let that be low or high, grand or mean, you have made a beautiful abode worthy of man.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

A good intention clothes itself with power.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

A great man is always willing to be little.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

A man finds room in the few square inches of the face for the traits of all his ancestors; for the expression of all his history, and his wants.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

A man in debt is so far a slave.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

A man is related to all nature.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

A man often pays dear for a small frugality.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

A man’s growth is seen in the successive choir of his friends.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

A man’s library is a sort of harem.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

A man’s wife has more power over him than the state has.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

A mind might ponder its thought for ages, and not gain so much self-knowledge as the passion of love shall teach in a day.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

A sect or party is an elegant incognito devised to save a man from the vexation of thinking.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

A true friend is somebody who can make us do what we can.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

All are needed by each one; Nothing is fair or good alone.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

All conservatives are such from personal defects. They have been effeminated by position or nature, born halt and blind, through luxury of their parents, and can only, like invalids, act on the defensive.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

All great masters are chiefly distinguished by the power of adding a second, a third, and perhaps a fourth step in a continuous line. Many a man had taken the first step. With every additional step you enhance immensely the value of your first.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

All our progress is an unfolding, like a 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.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Always do what you are afraid to do.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

And what is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not been discovered.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

As a man thinketh, so is he, and as a man chooseth, so is he.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

As soon as there is life there is danger.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

As the Sandwich-Islander believes that the strength and valor of the enemy he kills passes into himself, so we gain the strength of the temptations we resist.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Be and not seem.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Be not the slave of your own past … plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so shall you come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience, that shall explain and overlook the old.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Beauty without grace is the hook without the bait.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Belief consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; unbelief, in denying them.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Better be a nettle in the side of your friend than his echo.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Beware what you set your heart upon, for it shall surely be yours.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Big jobs usually go to the men who prove their ability to outgrow small ones.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Body: A thing of shreds and patches, borrowed unequally from good and bad ancestors and a misfit from the start.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

But when you have chosen your part, abide by it, and do not weakly try to reconcile yourself with the world.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight, we all quote. In fact, it is as difficult to appropriate the thoughts of others as it is to invent.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live as well as think.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Character is what can do without success.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Common sense is genius dressed in working clothes.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Courage consists in the power of self-recovery.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Creative force, like a musical composer, goes on unweariedly repeating a simple air or theme, now high, now low, in solo, in chorus, ten thousand times reverberated, till it fills earth and heaven with the chant.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Criticism should not be querulous and wasting, all knife and root-pulling, but guiding, instructive, inspirational – a south wind and not an east wind.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Curiosity is lying in wait for every secret.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dare to be yourself.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Defect in manners is usually the defect of fine perceptions. Elegance comes of no breeding, but of birth.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Difficulties exist to be surmounted.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Discontent is want of self-reliance; it is infirmity of will.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson – Self-Reliance (1841)

Do not be too timid and squeamish about your reactions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do not say things. What you are stands over you the while and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do that which is assigned to you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dreams and beasts are two keys by which we find out the keys of our own nature.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Each man has his own vocation; his talent is his call. There is one direction in which all space is open to him.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Each man takes care that his neighbor shall not cheat him. But a day comes when he begins to care that he does not cheat his neighbor. Then all goes well. He has changed his market-cart into a chariot of the sun.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Earth laughs in flowers.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every artist was first an amateur.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every burned book or house enlightens the world; every suppressed or expunged word reverberates through the earth from side to side.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every genuine work of art has as much reason for being as the earth and the sun.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every great and commanding movement in the annals of the world is the triumph of enthusiasm. Nothing great was ever achieved without it.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every man alone is sincere. At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every man I meet is in some way my superior.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every man is a divinity in disguise, a God playing the fool.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every man’s task is his life-preserver.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every professional was first an amateur.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every revolution was first a thought in one man’s mind.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every ship is a romantic object, except that we sail in. Embark, and the romance quits our vessel, and hangs on every other sail in the horizon.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Faith is the highest passion in a human being. Many in every generation may not come that far, but none comes further.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Fame is proof that the people are gullible.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Fate is nothing but the deeds committed in a prior state of existence.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two. This you cannot do without temperance.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Flowers… are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty out-values all the utilities of the world.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

For every benefit you receive a tax is levied.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

For everything you have missed, you have gained something else; and for everything you gain, you lose something.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Galileo, with an operaglass, discovered a more splendid series of celestial phenomena than anyone since.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Give me the eye to see a navy in an acorn. What is there of the divine in a load of bricks? What of the divine in a barber’s shop or a privy? Much, all.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Go often to the house of thy friend, for weeds choke the unused path.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

God builds his temple in the heart on the ruins of churches and religions.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose. Take which you please; you can never have both.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Good luck is another name for tenacity of purpose.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Good men must not obey the laws too well.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Great geniuses have the shortest biographies.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force, that thoughts rule the world.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Greek architecture is the flowering of geometry.
    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

He has not learned the first lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

He then learns that in going down into the secrets of his own mind he has descended into the secrets of all minds.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare, And he who has one enemy will meet him everywhere.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Health is the first muse, and sleep is the condition to produce it.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Heaven always bears some proportion to earth. The god of the cannibal will be a cannibal, of the crusades a crusader, and of the merchants a merchant.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Here is the world, sound as a nut, perfect, not the smallest piece of chaos left, never a stitch nor an end, not a mark of haste, or botching, or second thought; but the theory of the world is a thing of shreds and patches.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hitch your wagon to a star.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am sure of this, that by going much alone a man will get more of a noble courage in thought and word than from all the wisdom that is in books.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

I awoke with devout thanksgiving for my friends.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

I fear the popular notion of success stands in direct opposition in all points to the real and wholesome success. One adores public opinion, the other, private opinion; one, fame, the other, desert; one, feats, the other, humility; one, lucre, the other, love; one, monopoly, and the other, hospitality of mind.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have heard with admiring submission the experience of the lady who declared that the sense of being well-dressed gives a feeling of inward tranquillity which religion is powerless to bestow.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

I like to have a man’s knowledge comprehend more than one class of topics, one row of shelves. I like a man who likes to see a fine barn as well as a good tragedy.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

I look on that man as happy, who, when there is a question of success, looks into his work for a reply.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

I pay the schoolmaster. But ’tis the schoolboys that educate my son.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

I see that sensible men and conscientious men all over the world were of one religion; the religion of well-doing and daring, men of sturdy truth, men of integrity and feeling for others.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

I suffer whenever I see that common sight of a parent or senior imposing his opinion and way of thinking and being on a young soul to which they are totally unfit. Cannot we let people be themselves, and enjoy life in their own way? You are trying to make that man another you. One’s enough.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

I used to always think that I’d look back on us crying and laugh, but, I never thought I’d look back on us laughing and cry.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ideas must work through the brains and the arms of good and brave men, or they are no better than dreams.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

If a man carefully examines his thoughts he will be surprised to find how much he lives in the future. His well-being is always ahead.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

If a man does not keep time with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

If a man have a genius for painting, poetry, music, architecture, or philosophy, he makes a bad husband, and an ill provider.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

If man has good corn, or wood, or boards, or pigs to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles, or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad, hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

If there is any period one would desire to be born in, is it not the age of Revolution; when the old and the new stand side by side … when the glories of the old can be compensated by the rich possibilities of the new era? This time … is a very good one.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

If we live truly, we shall see truly.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you believe in fate, believe in it, at least, for your own good.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you put a chain around the neck of a slave, the other end fastens itself around your own.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

In conversation the game is, to say something new with old words. And you shall observe a man of the people picking his way along, step by step, using every time an old boulder, yet never setting his foot on an old place.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

In England every man you meet is some man’s son; in America, he may be some man’s father.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the matter of religion, people eagerly fasten their eyes on the difference between their own creed and yours; whilst the charm of the study is in finding the agreements and identities in all the religions of humanity.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the woods is perpetual youth.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Intellect annuls fate. So far as a man thinks, he is free.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Is not marriage an open question, when it is alleged, from the beginning of the world, that such who are in the institution wish to get out; and such as are out wish to get in?
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is a lesson which all history teaches wise men, to put trust in ideas, and not in circumstances.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is commonly observed that a sudden wealth, like a prize drawn in a lottery or a large bequest to a poor family, does not permanently enrich.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion, it is easy in solitude to live after your own; but the great man is he who, in the midst of the world, keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is easy to live for others; everybody does. I call on you to live for yourselves.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is hard to go beyond your public. If they are satisfied with cheap performance, you will not easily arrive at better. If they know what is good, and require it. you will aspire and burn until you achieve it. But from time to time, in history, men are born a whole age too soon.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is impossible for a man to be cheated by anyone but himself.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is not death or pain that is to be dreaded, but the fear of pain or death.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is the eye which makes the horizon.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is very hard to be simple enough to be good.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

It seems to me that perfection of means and confusion of goals seems to characterize our age.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Knowledge exists to be imparted.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life consists in what a man is thinking of all day.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life is a festival only to the wise.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life is a perpetual instruction in cause and effect.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life is a progress, and not a station.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life is not so short but that there is always time enough for courtesy.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life is our dictionary.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life itself is a bubble and a skepticism, and a sleep within sleep.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Light is the first of painters. There is no object so foul that intense light will not make it beautiful.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Love and you shall be loved.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Love is the essence of God.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Machinery is aggressive. The weaver becomes a web, the machinist a machine. If you do not use the tools, they use you. All tools are in one sense edge-tools, and dangerous.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Make yourself necessary to somebody.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers in it.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Men admire the man who can organize their wishes and thoughts in stone and wood and steel and brass.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Men are what their mothers made them.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Men live on the brink of mysteries and harmonies into which they can never enter, and with their hand on the doorlatch they die outside.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Men love to wonder. And that is the seed of science.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Men wish to be saved from the mischiefs of their vices, but not from their vices.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

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.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Money often costs too much.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Music whispers to us dim secrets that startle our wonder as to who we are, and for what, whence, and whereto.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

My evening visitors, if they cannot see the clock, should find the time in my face.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nature and Books belong to the eyes that see them.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nature arms each man with some faculty which enables him to do easily some feat impossible to any other.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nature hates calculators.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nature is reckless of the individual. When she has points to carry, she carries them.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nature is what you may do. There is much you may not do.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Never read a book that is not a year old.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

No change of circumstances can repair a defect of character.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

No facts are to me sacred; none are profane; I simply experiment, an endless seeker with no Past at my back.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

No great man ever complains of want of opportunity.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

No man ever prayed heartily without learning something.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

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