Henry David Thoreau Quotes

It is generally supposed that they who have long been conversant with the ocean can foretell, by certain indications, such as its roar and the notes of sea-fowl, when it will change from calm to storm; but probably no such ancient mariner as we dream of exists; they know no more, at least, than the older sailors do about this voyage of life on which we are all embarked. Nevertheless, we love to hear the sayings of old sailors, and their accounts of natural phenomena which totally ignore, and are ignored by, science; and possibly they have not always looked over the gunwale so long in vain.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. Cape Cod (1855-1865), in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 4, p. 126, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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But there are spirits of a yet more liberal culture, to whom no simplicity is barren. There are not only stately pines, but fragile flowers, like the orchises, commonly described as too delicate for cultivation, which derive their nutriment from the crudest mass of peat. These remind us, that, not only for strength, but for beauty, the poet must, from time to time, travel the logger's path and the Indian's trail, to drink at some new and more bracing fountain of the Muses, far in the recesses of the wilderness.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. "Chesuncook" (1858) in The Maine Woods (1864), in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 3, pp. 172-173, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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For eighteen hundred years, though perchance I have no right to say it, the New Testament has been written; yet where is the legislator who has wisdom and practical talent enough to avail himself of the light which it sheds on the science of legislation?
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. "Civil Disobedience," originally published as "Resistance to Civil Government" (1849), in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 4, p. 386, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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May we so love as never to have occasion to repent of our love!
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. Essay on "Chastity and Sensuality" in letter, September 1852, to Harrison Blake, in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 6, p. 207, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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From this elevation, just on the skirts of the clouds, we could overlook the country, west and south, for a hundred miles. There it was, the State of Maine, which we had seen on the map, but not much like that,—immeasurable forest for the sun to shine on, the eastern stuff we hear of in Massachusetts. No clearing, no house. It did not look as if a solitary traveler had cut so much as a walking-stick there.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. "Ktaadn" (1848) in The Maine Woods (1864), in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 3, p. 73, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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How sweet it would be to treat men and things, for an hour, for just what they are!
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. Letter, April 3, 1850, to Harrison Blake, in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 6, p. 177, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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I have made slight acquaintance also with one Mrs. Lidia Emerson, who almost persuades me to be a Christian, but I fear I as often lapse into heathenism.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. Letter, January 24, 1843, to Ralph Waldo Emerson, in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 6, p. 51, Houghton Mifflin (1906). Since Thoreau at this time was helping to take care of Ralph Waldo Emerson's family during his absence in Europe, this statement is tongue-in-cheek.
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In my cheapest moments I am apt to think that it is n't my business to be "seeking the spirit," but as much its business to be seeking me.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. Letter, May 2, 1848, to Harrison Blake, in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 6, p. 168, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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It is the vice, but not the excellence of manners, that they are continually being deserted by the character; they are cast- off clothes or shells, claiming the respect which belonged to the living creature.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. "Life Without Principle" (1863), in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 4, pp. 477-478, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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How insupportable would be the days, if the night with its dews and darkness did not come to restore the drooping world. As the shades begin to gather around us, our primeval instincts are aroused, and we steal forth from our lairs, like the inhabitants of the jungle, in search of those silent and brooding thoughts which are the natural prey of the intellect.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. "Night and Moonlight" (1863), in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 5, p. 330, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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