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100 Best Henry David Thoreau Quotes

Last Updated: December 30, 2023 by Team

Looking for the best Henry David Thoreau quotes?

We’ve prepared this collection of inspirational quotes from Thoreau for you.


Henry David Thoreau was an American essayist, poet, and philosopher, most famously known for his book “Walden,” a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay “Civil Disobedience,” an argument for disobedience to an unjust state. Thoreau was born on July 12, 1817, in Concord, Massachusetts, and became a key figure in the transcendentalist movement, which emphasized the importance of nature and the inherent goodness of people.

Thoreau’s philosophy was deeply rooted in the idea of living a life of simplicity and self-sufficiency. His two years living in a cabin he built near Walden Pond, which formed the basis for his book “Walden,” was an experiment in minimalist, natural living. This work is considered one of the foremost American contributions to philosophical literature and is a key text in the environmentalist movement.

“Civil Disobedience,” another significant work by Thoreau, argues that individuals should not permit governments to overrule their consciences and that they have a duty to avoid allowing such acquiescence to enable the government to make them the agents of injustice. This essay has been influential in the thoughts and actions of later leaders and movements, including Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

Thoreau’s ideas on naturalism, individualism, and civil disobedience have continued to influence thinkers and activists around the world. His emphasis on the importance of nature, his critique of materialism, and his advocacy for personal integrity and moral courage make him a significant figure in American literature and philosophy. He passed away on May 6, 1862, but his works and thoughts continue to resonate today.

Henry David Thoreau Quotes

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” – Henry David Thoreau

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” – Henry David Thoreau

“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” – Henry David Thoreau

“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Men have become the tools of their tools.” – Henry David Thoreau

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau

“There is no remedy for love but to love more.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Most men would feel insulted if it were proposed to employ them in throwing stones over a wall, and then in throwing them back.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Things do not change; we change.” – Henry David Thoreau

“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” – Henry David Thoreau

“All good things are wild and free.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” – Henry David Thoreau

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau

“In wildness is the preservation of the world.” – Henry David Thoreau

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind.” – Henry David Thoreau

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Dreams are the touchstones of our characters.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” – Henry David Thoreau

“An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” – Henry David Thoreau

“I have learned this at least by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Only the day dawns to which we are awake.” – Henry David Thoreau

“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” – Henry David Thoreau

“Goodness is the only investment that never fails.” – Henry David Thoreau

“I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.” – Henry David Thoreau

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” – Henry David Thoreau

“The universe is wider than our views of it.” – Henry David Thoreau

“I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.” – Henry David Thoreau

“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” – Henry David Thoreau

“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” – Henry David Thoreau

“To be awake is to be alive.” – Henry David Thoreau

“I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.” – Henry David Thoreau

“It is never too late to give up our prejudices.” – Henry David Thoreau

“The perception of beauty is a moral test.” – Henry David Thoreau

“The world is but a canvas to our imagination.” – Henry David Thoreau

“I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.” – Henry David Thoreau

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.” – Henry David Thoreau

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!” – Henry David Thoreau

“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Be yourself- not your idea of what you think somebody else’s idea of yourself should be.” – Henry David Thoreau

“The world is but a canvas for our imagination.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life so. Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.” – Henry David Thoreau

“None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.” – Henry David Thoreau

“I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.” – Henry David Thoreau

“How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Not till we are completely lost or turned around… do we begin to find ourselves.” – Henry David Thoreau

“To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.” – Henry David Thoreau

“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.” – Henry David Thoreau

“I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one.” – Henry David Thoreau

“What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.” – Henry David Thoreau

“In the long run, men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.” – Henry David Thoreau

“A lake is a landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature.” – Henry David Thoreau

“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” – Henry David Thoreau

“A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.” – Henry David Thoreau

“The lawyer’s truth is not Truth, but consistency or a consistent expediency.” – Henry David Thoreau

“It is a great art to saunter.” – Henry David Thoreau

“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.” – Henry David Thoreau

“The language of friendship is not words but meanings.” – Henry David Thoreau

“It is never too late to give up your prejudices.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Live the life you have imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau

“I have a great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.” – Henry David Thoreau

“We are born as innocents. We are polluted by advice.” – Henry David Thoreau

“The path of least resistance leads to crooked rivers and crooked men.” – Henry David Thoreau

“There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed by them.” – Henry David Thoreau

“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.” – Henry David Thoreau

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.” – Henry David Thoreau

“As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.” – Henry David Thoreau

“I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.” – Henry David Thoreau

“To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates.” – Henry David Thoreau

“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time.” – Henry David Thoreau

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