Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes


Type: Essayist, Lecturer, and Poet

Born: May 25, 1803,Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.

Died: : April 27, 1882 (aged 78),Concord, Ma

Ralph Waldo Emerson—a New England preacher, essayist, lecturer, poet, and philosopher—was one of the most influential writers and thinkers of the nineteenth century in the United States.

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders
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. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

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

Sorrow looks back, Worry looks around, Faith looks up. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sorrow looks back, Worry looks around, Faith looks up

It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in
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.

No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are
No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution; the only wrong is what is against it.

The crowning fortune of a man is to be born to some pursuit which finds him
The crowning fortune of a man is to be born to some pursuit which finds him employment and happiness, whether it be to make baskets, or broadswords, or canals, or statues, or songs.

There is creative reading as well as creative writing.. Ralph Waldo Emerson
There is creative reading as well as creative writing.

People do not deserve good writing, they are so pleased with bad.. Ralph Waldo Emerson
People do not deserve good writing, they are so pleased with bad.

Books are for nothing but to inspire. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Books are for nothing but to inspire

The way to write is to throw your body at the mark when your arrows are
The way to write is to throw your body at the mark when your arrows are spent.

Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.

The Artist always has the masters in his eyes.. Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Artist always has the masters in his eyes.

Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent
Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.

Do the thing and you will have the power.. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Do the thing and you will have the power.

Every industrious man, in every lawful calling, is a useful man. And one principal reason why
Every industrious man, in every lawful calling, is a useful man. And one principal reason why men are so often useless is that they neglect their own profession or calling, and divide and shift their attention among a multiplicity of objects and pursuits.

Love, and you shall be loved.. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Love, and you shall be loved.

He who is in love is wise and is becoming wiser, sees newly every time he
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.

There is one other reason for dressing well, namely that dogs respect it, and will not
There is one other reason for dressing well, namely that dogs respect it, and will not attack you in good clothes.

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

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

Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.

Life is a series of surprises and would not be worth taking or keeping if it were not.

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 us only what lies in its own focus.

What can we see, read, acquire, but ourselves. Take the book, my friend, and read your eyes out, you will never find there what I find.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

Always do what you are afraid to do.

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

Make the most of yourself....for that is all there is of you.

A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.

Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect.

You become what you think about all day long.

Envy is ignorance,
Imitation is Suicide.

Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self. There is something which you can do better than another. Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that. Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for.

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

That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed but that our power to do has increased.

None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.

Life consists of what man is thinking about all day.

It is one of the beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.

The reward of a thing well done is having done it.

Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years how man would marvel and adore.

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

When you were born you were crying and everyone else was smiling. Live your life so at the end, your're the one who is smiling and everyone else is crying.

The only true gift is a portion of thyself.

Whatever games are played with us, we must play no games with ourselves, but deal in our privacy with the last honesty and truth.

Truth is handsomer than the affectation of love. Your goodness must have some edge to it-else it is none.

I ought to go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways.

Every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the health of human society.

The life of truth is cold.

He in whom the love of repose predominates will accept the first creed, the first philosophy, the first political party he meets - most likely his father's. He gets rest, commodity, and reputation; but he shuts the door of truth.

I would put myself in the attitude to look in the eye an abstract truth, and I cannot. I blench and withdraw on this side and on that. I seem to know what he meant who said, No man can see God face to face and live.

We are all inventors, each sailing out on a voyage of discovery, guided each by a private chart, of which there is no duplicate. The world is all gates, all opportunities.

The selfish man suffers more from his selfishness than he from whom that selfishness withholds some important benefit.

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

The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.

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.

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

Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting some on yourself.

To fill the hour──that is happiness.

The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship

Of all the ways to lose a person, death is the kindest.

The South-wind brings
Life, sunshine and desire,
And on every mount and meadow
Breathes aromatic fire;
But over the dead he has no power,
The lost, the lost, he cannot restore;
And, looking over the hills, I mourn
The darling who shall not return.

Every man is a divinity in disguise, a god playing the fool.

Even in the mud and scum of things, something always, always sings.

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

If the single man plants himself indomitably on his instincts, and there abides, this huge world will come around to him.

Some people will tell you there is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea.

Every word was once a poem.

Everything in creation has its appointed painter or poet and remains in bondage like the princess in the fairy tale 'til its appropriate liberator comes to set it free.

The poet knows that he speaks adequately, then, only when he speaks somewhat wildly.

Love what is simple and beautiful.
These are the essentials.

Imagination is a very high sort of seeing, which does not come by study, but by the intellect being where and what it sees, by sharing the path, or circuits of things through forms, and so making them translucid to others.

Language is fossil Poetry.

Ideas must work through the brains and arms of men, or they are no better than dreams

All that we call sacred history attests that the birth of a poet is the principal event in chronology.

It is not metres, but a metre-making argument that makes a poem, - a thought so passionate and alive that like the spirit of a plant or an animal it has an architecture of its own, and adorns nature with a new thing. The thought and the form are equal in the order of time, but in the order of genesis the thought is prior to the form.

There is some awe mixed with the joy of our surprise, when this poet, who lived in some past world, two or three hundred years ago, says that which lies close to my own soul, that which I also had wellnigh thought and said.

Poetry must be as new as foam, and as old as the rock.

The poet is the sayer, the namer, and represents beauty.

Me too thy nobleness has taught
To master my despair;
The fountains of my hidden life
Are through thy friendship fair.

Why covet a knowledge of new facts? Day and night, house and garden, a few books, a few actions, serve us as well as would all trades and all spectacles. We are far from having exhausted the significance of the few symbols we use. We can come to use them yet with a terrible simplicity.

The foremost watchman on the peak announces his news. It is the truest word ever spoken, and the phrase will be th fittest, most musical, and the unerring voice of the world for that time.

We are students of words: we are shut up in schools, and colleges, and recitation -rooms, for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bag of wind, a memory of words, and do not know a thing.

The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil. It is not for you to choose what he shall know, what he shall do. It is chosen and foreordained and he only holds the key to his own secret.

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

If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.

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

The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next.

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

The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn

It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.

By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight, we all quote.

Quotation confesses inferiority.

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.

We are wiser than we know.

His heart was as great as the world, but there was no room in it to hold the memory of a wrong

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God’s handwriting - a wayside sacrament. Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Miss Austen’s novels … seem to me vulgar in tone, sterile in artistic invention, imprisoned in the wretched conventions of English society, without genius, wit, or knowledge of the world. Never was life so pinched and narrow. The one problem in the mind of the writer … is marriageableness.

Men love to wonder, and that is the seed of science.

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

Faith and love are apt to be spasmodic in the best minds. Men live the brink of mysteries and harmonies into which they never enter, and with their hands on the door-latch they die outside.

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

Some books leave us free and some books make us free.

In the highest civilization, the book is still the highest delight. He who has once known its satisfactions is provided with a resource against calamity.

Tis the good reader that makes the good book.

Your goodness must have some edge to it - else it is none.

Man Thinking must not be subdued by his instruments. Books are for the scholar's idle times. When he can read God directly, the hour is too precious to be wasted in other men's transcripts of their readings.

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.

Be an opener of doors

The years teach much the days never know.

A day is a miniature eternity.

Nature wishes that woman should attract man, yet she often cunningly moulds into her face a little sarcasm, which seems to say, 'Yes, I am willing to attract, but to attract a little better kind of a man than any I yet behold

A beautiful woman is a practical poet, taming her savage mate, planting tenderness, hope and eloquence in all whom she approaches.

Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.

Fear always springs
from ignorance.

Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.

When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.

Beauty is the virtue of the body as virtue is the beauty of the soul

The power of love, as the basis of a State, has never been tried.

One must be an inventor to read well. There is then creative reading as well as creative writing.

We, as we read, must become Greeks, Romans, Turks, priest and king, martyr and executioner; must fasten these images to some reality in our secret experience, or we shall learn nothing rightly.

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.

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.

Beauty without expression is boring.

Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers in it

If eyes were made for seeing, then beauty is its own excuse for being.

I covet truth; beauty is unripe childhood's cheat; I leave it behind with the games of youth.

Things are pretty, graceful, rich, elegant, handsome, but, until they speak to the imagination, not yet beautiful.

Beauty will not come at the call of the legislature.... It will come, as always, unannounced, and spring up between the feet of brave and earnest men.

We are immensed in beauty, but our eyes have no clear vision.

We cannot approach beauty. Its nature is like opaline doves'-neck lustres, hovering and evanescent. Herein it resembles the most excellent things, which all have this rainbow character, defying all attempts at appropriation and use.

Flowers and fruits are always fit presents; flowers, because they are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world.

The secret of ugliness consists not in irregularity, but in being uninteresting.

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.

I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.

To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars.

In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods, is perpetual youth.

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. In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows...

Nature is not always tricked in holiday attire, but the same scene which yesterday breathed perfume and glittered as for the frolic of the nymphs, is overspread with melancholy today. Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.

Nature is a language and every new fact one learns is a new word; but it is not a language taken to pieces and dead in the dictionary, but the language put together into a most significant and universal sense. I wish to learn this language-not that I may know a new grammar, but that I may read the great book which is written in that tongue.

She shows us only surfaces but Nature is a million fathoms deep.

Nature is a mutable cloud which is always and never the same

Have mountains, and waves, and skies, no significance but what we consciously give them, when we employ them as emblems of our thoughts?

Nature has made up her mind that what cannot defend itself shall not be defended.

The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible

In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows. Nature says, - he is my creature, and maugre all his impertinent griefs, he shall be glad with me

The sky is less grand as it shuts down over less worth in the population.

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. In like manner, nature is already, in its forms and tendencies, describing its own design. Let us interrogate the great apparition, that shines so peacefully around us. Let us inquire, to what end is nature?

If he had the earth for his pasture and the sea for his pond, he would be a pauper still. He only is rich who owns the day. There is no king, rich man, fairy or demon who possesses such power as that.

Mentioned in
Sixty Days and Counting, by Kim Stanley Robinson

We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are shining parts, is the soul

In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, - no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair.

The first and last lesson of religion is, 'The things that are seen are temporal; the things that are not seen are eternal.' It puts an affront upon nature.

The word miracle, as pronounced by Christian churches, gives a false impression; it is a monster. It is not one with the blowing clover and the falling rain.

The world is emblematic. Parts of speech are metaphors, because the whole of nature is a metaphor of the human mind.

Every natural action is graceful.

In the woods is perpetual youth. In the woods we return to faith and reason.

The landscape belongs to the person who looks at it..." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to illusion. Life is like 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. . . .

Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.

Art is the path of the creator to his work.

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.

The student is to read history actively not passively.

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 today.

What is the foundation of that interest all men feel in Greek history, letters, art, and poetry, in all its periods, from the Heroic or Homeric age down to the domestic life of the Athenians and Spartans, four or five centuries later? What but this, that every man passes personally through a Grecian period.

Marriage is the perfection of what love aimed at, ignorant of what it sought.

When a man is pushed, tormented, defeated, he has a chance to learn something.

Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.

Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.

The god of Victory is said to be one-handed, but Peace gives victory to both sides.

People do not seem to realise that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.

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

Don't be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.

Judge of your natural character by what you do in your dreams.

Dreams and beasts are two keys by which we find ou the secret of our own nature. They are test objects.

For what avail the plough or sail, or land or life, if freedom fail?

Outside, among your fellows, among strangers, you must perceive appearances, a hundred things you cannot do; but inside, the terrible freedom!

The revelation of thought takes men out of servitude into freedom.

Does not… the ear of Handel predict the witchcraft of harmonic sound?

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

Why all this deference to Alfred, and Scanderbeg, and Gustavus? Suppose they were virtuous; did they wear out virtue?

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.

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

Friendship, like the immortality of the soul, is too good to be believed. When friendships are real, they are not glass threads or frost work but the solidest things we know.

Why should I cumber myself with regrets that the receiver is not capacious? It never troubles the sun that some of his rays fall wide and vain into ungrateful space, and only a small part on the reflecting planet. Let your greatness educate the crude and cold companion.

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

Let us even bid our dearest friends farewell, and defy them, saying, "Who are you? Unhand me: I will be dependent no more." Ah! seest thou not, O brother, that thus we part only to meet again on a higher platform, and only be more each other's, because we are more our own?

An Eastern poet, Ali Ben Abu Taleb, writes with sad truth, -
"He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare,
And he who has one enemy shall meet him everywhere.

The law of nature is alternation for evermore. Each electrical state superinduces the opposite. The soul environs itself with friends, that it may enter into a grander self-acquaintance or solitude; and it goes alone for a season, that it may exalt its conversation or society.

To stand in true relations with men in a false age is worth a fit of insanity, is it not?

Ein Freund ist ein Mensch, vor dem man laut denken kann.

A child is a curly, dimpled lunatic.

Children are all foreigners.

I cannot marry the facts of William Shakespeare to his verse: Other men had led lives in some sort of keeping with their thought, but this man is in wide contrast.

The youth, intoxicated with his admiration of a hero, fails to see, that it is only a projection of his own soul, which he admires.

Don't trust children with edge tools. Don't trust man, great God, with more power than he has until he has learned to use that little better. What a hell we should make of the world if we could do what we would!

Power ceases in the instant of repose; it resides in the moment of transition from a past to a new state, in the shooting of the gulf, in the darting to an aim.

The alleged power to charm down insanity, or ferocity in beasts, is a power behind the eye.

The soul is the perceiver and revealer of truth. We know the truth when we see it, let skeptic and scoffer say what they choose.

Money often costs too much

Whatever course you decide upon there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires....courage.

The best lightning rod for your protection is your own spine.

Whatever you do you need courage.
Whatever course you decide upon, there will always be someone to tell you that you are wrong.

Scatter joy!

There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us.

The reason why the world lacks unity, and lies broken and in heaps, is, because man is disunited with himself.

Society is always taken by surprise at any new example of common sense.

Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other. It undergoes continual changes; it is barbarous, it is civilized, it is christianized, it is rich, it is scientific; but this change is not amelioration. For every thing that is given, something is taken.

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.

Imitation is suicide.

Bare lists of words are found suggestive to an imaginative and excited mind.

The most wonderful inspirations die with their subject, if he has no hand to paint them to the senses.

That which we are, we shall teach, not voluntarily, but involuntarily. Thoughts come into our minds by avenues which we never left open, and thoughts go out of our minds through avenues which we never voluntarily opened.

The years teach us much, which the days never knew.

Books are the best of things, well used; abused, among the worst...They are for nothing but to inspire.

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