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    Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes

    American essayist & poet
    18 Favorites on Read Print

    Quotes by Ralph Waldo Emerson

    • A friend is one before whom I may think aloud.
    • A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer.
    • A man of genius is privileged only as far as he is genius. His dullness is as insupportable as any other dullness.
    • All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.
    • 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.
    • As we grow old, the beauty steals inward.
    • Be not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.
    • Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet.
    • Character is higher than intellect... A great soul will be strong to live, as well as to think.
    • Children are all foreigners.
    • Colleges hate geniuses, just as convents hate saints.
    • Conversation is an art in which a man has all mankind for his competitors, for it is that which all are practising every day while they live.
    • Democracy becomes a government of bullies tempered by editors.
    • Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
    • Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.
    • Don't waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good.
    • Every great and commanding moment in the annals of the world is the triumph of some enthusiasm.
    • Every hero becomes a bore at last.
    • Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good.
    • Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could.
    • Give all to love; obey thy heart.
    • God enters by a private door into every individual.
    • He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear.
    • I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new.
    • I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.
    • 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.
    • If I have lost confidence in myself, I have the universe against me.
    • Insist on yourself; never imitate... Every great man is unique.
    • Let not a man guard his dignity, but let his dignity guard him.
    • Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air?
    • Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.
    • Make yourself necessary to somebody. Do not make life hard to any.
    • Money, which represents the prose of life, and which is hardly spoken of in parlors without an apology, is, in its effects and laws, as beautiful as roses.
    • Nature magically suits a man to his fortunes, by making them the fruit of his character.
    • No great man ever complains of want of opportunity.
    • None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.
    • Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.
    • Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.
    • Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.
    • Our chief want in life is somebody who shall make us do what we can.
    • Our knowledge is the amassed thought and experience of innumerable minds.
    • People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.
    • Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.
    • That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved.
    • The adventitious beauty of poetry may be felt in the greater delight with a verse given in a happy quotation than in the poem.
    • The ancestor of every action is a thought.
    • The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.
    • The essence of all jokes, of all comedy, seems to be an honest or well intended halfness; a non performance of that which is pretended to be performed, at the same time that one is giving loud pledges of performance. The balking of the intellect, is comedy and it announces itself in the pleasant spasms we call laughter.
    • The key to every man is his thought. Sturdy and defying though he look, he has a helm which he obeys, which is the idea after which all his facts are classified. He can only be reformed by showing him a new idea which commands his own.
    • The life of man is the true romance, which when it is valiantly conduced, will yield the imagination a higher joy than any fiction.
    • The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.
    • The measure of a master is his success in bringing all men around to his opinion twenty years later.
    • The only gift is a portion of thyself.
    • The only way to have a friend is to be one.
    • The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.
    • The peril of every fine faculty is the delight of playing with it for pride. Talent is commonly developed at the expense of character, and the greater it grows, the more is the mischief. Talent is mistaken for genius, a dogma or system for truth, ambition for greatest, ingenuity for poetry, sensuality for art.
    • The world belongs to the energetic.
    • There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant.
    • 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.
    • This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.
    • Those who cannot tell what they desire or expect, still sigh and struggle with indefinite thoughts and vast wishes.
    • Tis the good reader that makes the good book.
    • Trust your instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.
    • Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.
    • We all boil at different degrees.
    • We do what we must, and call it by the best names.
    • What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.
    • When you strike at a king, you must kill him.
    • Whoever is open, loyal, true; of humane and affable demeanour; honourable himself, and in his judgement of others; faithful to his word as to law, and faithful alike to God and man....such a man is a true gentleman.
    • Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.
    • Work and acquire, and thou hast chained the wheel of Chance.
    • Hitch your wagon to a star.
      "American Civilization", The Atlantic Monthly, 1862
    • In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.
      "Self Reliance"
    • Speak what you think today in hard words and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today.
      "Self-Reliance", 1841
    • Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing.
      'Art,' 1841
    • Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis.
      'Journals,' 1836
    • 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 encumbered with your old nonsense.
    • What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
    • 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.
      Address on The Method of Nature, 1841
    • To be great is to be misunderstood.
      An Essay on Self-Reliance
    • Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great.
      Essays, First Series: Prudence, 1841
    • Immortality. I notice that as soon as writers broach this question they begin to quote. I hate quotation. Tell me what you know.
      Journal (May 1849)
    • 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.
      Journals, 1824
    • The best effect of fine persons is felt after we have left their presence.
      Journals, 1839
    • Next to the originator of a good sentence is the first quoter of it.
      Letters and Social Aims (Quotation and Originality)
    • Every artist was first an amateur.
      Letters and Social Aims: Progress of Culture, 1876
    • 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.
      Letters and Social Aims: Quotation and Originality, 1876
    • Wit makes its own welcome, and levels all distinctions. No dignity, no learning, no force of character, can make any stand against good wit.
      Letters and Social Aims: The Comic, 1876
    • The bitterest tragic element in life to be derived from an intellectual source is the belief in a brute Fate or Destiny.
      Natural History of Intellect (1893)
    • Men are conservatives when they are least vigorous, or when they are most luxurious. They are conservatives after dinner.
      New England Reformers, 1844
    • In every work of genius we see our own rejected thoughts.
      Self Reliance
    • 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.
    • A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.
    • As soon as there is life there is danger.
      Society and Solitude (1870)
    • A man builds a fine house; and now he has a master, and a task for life; he is to furnish, watch, show it, and keep it in repair, the rest of his days.
      Society and Solitude: Works and Days, 1870
    • The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.
      The Conduct of Life, 'Fate,' 1860
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