Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes

As we refine, our checks become finer. If we rise to spiritual culture, the antagonism takes a spiritual form.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. "Fate," The Conduct of Life (1860).
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Nature does not cocker us: we are children, not pets: she is not fond: everything is dealt to us without fear or favor, after severe universal laws.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. "Gifts," Essays, Second Series (1844).
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A great licentiousness treads on the heels of a reformation.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. "History," Essays, First Series (1841, repr. 1847).
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We are too civil to books. For a few golden sentences we will turn over and actually read a volume of four or five hundred pages.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. Journals, entry, June 7, 1841 (1909-1914).
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Destitution is the Muse of her genius,—Destitution and Death. I used to propose that her epitaph should be: "Here lies the angel of Death." And wonderfully as she varies and poetically repeats that image in every page and day, yet not less fondly and sublimely she returns to the other,—the grandeur of humility and privation, as thus: "The chief witness which I have had of a Godlike principle of action and feeling is the disinterested joy felt in others' superiority. For the love of superior virtue is mine own gift from God."
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. "Mary Moody Emerson," Lectures and Biographical Sketches (1883, repr. 1904).
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The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. Nature, ch. 1 (1836, revised and repr. 1849).
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The scholar was not raised by the sacred thoughts amongst which he dwelt, but used them to selfish ends. He was a profane person, and became a showman, turning his gifts to marketable use, and not to his own sustenance and growth. It was found that the intellect could be independently developed, that is, in separation from the man, as any single organ can be invigorated, and the result was monstrous.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. Lecture, March 3, 1884, in Amory Hall, Boston, Massachusetts. "New England Reformers," Essays, Second Series (1844).
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On the other side, the conservative party, composed of the most moderate, able, and cultivated part of the population, is timid, and merely defensive of property. It vindicates no right, it aspires to no real good, it brands no crime, it proposes no generous policy, it does not build, nor write, nor cherish the arts, nor foster religion, nor establish schools, nor encourage science, nor emancipate the slave, nor befriend the poor, or the Indian, or the immigrant.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. "Politics," Essays, Second Series (1844).
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The vanishing volatile froth of the present which any shadow will alter, any thought blow away, any event annihilate, is every moment converted into the Adamantine Record of the past.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. Quoted in Robert D. Richardson, Jr., Emerson: The Mind on Fire, ch. 20 (1995).
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Power and speed be hands and feet.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. "Self-Reliance," Essays, First Series (1841, repr. 1847).
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