Henry David Thoreau Quotes

We went to see the ocean, and that is probably the best place of all our coast to go to. If you go by water, you may experience what it is to leave and to approach these shores; you may see the stormy petrel by the way, thalassodroma, running over the sea, and if the weather is but a little thick, may lose sight of the land in mid-passage. I do not know where there is another beach in the Atlantic States, attached to the mainland, so long, and at the same time so straight, and completely uninterrupted by creeks or coves or fresh-water rivers and marshes.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. Cape Cod (1855-1865), in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 4, pp. 269-270, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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And what are we coming to in our Middlesex towns? A bald, staring town-house, or meeting-house, and a bare liberty-pole, as leafless as it is fruitless, for all I can see. We shall be obliged to import the timber for the last, hereafter, or splice such sticks as we have. And our ideas of liberty are equally mean with these.
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, p. 170, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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But even suppose blood should flow. Is there not a sort of blood shed when the conscience is wounded? Through this wound a man's real manhood and immortality flow out, and he bleeds to an everlasting death. I see this blood flowing now.
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, pp. 371-372, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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If common sense had been consulted, how many marriages would never have taken place; if uncommon or divine sense, how few marriages such as we witness would ever have taken place!
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. Essay on "Love" in letter, September 1852, to Harrison Blake, in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 6, p. 200, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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The trees lay at full length, four or five feet deep, and crossing each other in all directions, all black as charcoal, but perfectly sound within, still good for fuel or for timber; soon they would be cut into lengths and burnt again. Here were thousands of cords, enough to keep the poor of Boston and New York amply warm for a winter, which only cumbered the ground and were in the settler's way. And the whole of that solid and interminable forest is doomed to be gradually devoured thus by fire, like shavings, and no man warmed by it.
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, pp. 18-19, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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MR. BLAKE,—I received your letter just as I was rushing to Fire Island beach to recover what remained of Margaret Fuller, and read it on the way. That event and its train, as much as anything, have prevented my answering it before. It is wisest to speak when you are spoken to. I will now endeavor to reply, at the risk of having nothing to say. I find that actual events, notwithstanding the singular prominence which we all allow them, are far less real than the creations of my imagination. They are truly visionary and insignificant,—all that we commonly call life and death,—and affect me less than my dreams. This petty stream which from time to time swells and carries away the mills and bridges of our habitual life, and that mightier stream or ocean on which we securely float,—what makes the difference between them? I have in my pocket a button which I ripped off the coat of the Marquis of Ossoli, on the seashore, the other day. Held up, it intercepts the light,—an actual button,—and yet all the life that it is connected with is less substantial to me, and interests me less, than my faintest dream. Our thoughts are the epochs in our lives: all else is but as a journal of the winds that blew while we were here.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. Letter, August 9, 1850, to Harrison Blake, in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 6, pp. 185-186, Houghton Mifflin (1906). The Marquis of Ossoli was Margaret Fuller's newly wed husband who drowned along with her and their child in the shipwreck mentioned here.
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What wealth is it to have such friends that we cannot think of them without elevation!
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. Letter, June 20, 1843, to Lidian Jackson Emerson, in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 6, p. 89, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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You must ascend a mountain to learn your relation to matter, and so to your own body, for it is at home there, though you are not.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. Letter, November 16, 1857, to Harrison Blake, in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 6, pp. 319-320, Houghton Mifflin (1906). In context, Thoreau clearly alludes here to his own ascent of Mount Ktaadn, recounted in The Maine Woods.
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The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.... Commonly, if men want anything of me, it is only to know how many acres I make of their land,—since I am a surveyor,—or, at most, what trivial news I have burdened myself with. They never will go to law for my meat; they prefer the shell.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. "Life Without Principle" (1863), in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 4, p. 455, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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It must be confessed that horses at present work too exclusively for men, rarely men for horses; and the brute degenerates in man's society.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. "Paradise (To Be) Regained" (1843), in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 4, p. 286, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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