Quotes from Thoreau

Quotes from Walden, “Walking”, and Reflections at Walden

(replica of Thoreau’s cabin near Walden Pond which I visited in twice in the fall)

-I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

-I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.

-Our life is frittered away by detail….Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!

-The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation….But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.

-In eternity there is indeed something true and sublime. But all these times and places and occasions are now and here.

-Books are the treasured wealth of the world and fit inheritance of generations and nations….How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book?

-I love a broad margin to my life.

-The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.

-Almost any man knows how to earn money, but not one in a million knows how to spend it.

-Cultivate reverence.

-Follow your genius closely enough, and it will never fail to show you a fresh prospect every hour.

-To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?

-If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

-In literature it is only the wild that attracts us….In short all good things are wild and free.

-I think that there is nothing, not even crime, more opposed to poetry, to philosophy, ay to life itself, than this incessant business.

-There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living…You must get your living by loving.

-If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and friends, and never see them again–if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man–then you are ready for a walk….I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit…In my walks I would fain return to my senses. What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?

-So we saunter to the Holy Land, till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever he has done, shall perchance shine into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, as warm and serene and golden as on a bankside in autumn.

-Morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me.

-The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another tenderly.

-A wise man will know what game to play and how to play it. We must not be governed by rigid rules, as by the almanac, but let the seasons rule us. The moods and thoughts of man are revolving just as steadily and incessantly as nature`s. Nothing must be postponed.

-Take time by the forelock. Now or never! You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this, or the like of this….Take any other course and life will be a succession of regrets….There is no world for the penitent and regretful.

-All change is a miracle to contemplate.

-He enjoys true leisure who has time to improve his soul`s estate.

-Listen to music religiously, as if it were the last strain you might hear.

-The true poet will ever live aloof from society, wild to it, as the finest singer is the wood thrush, a forest bird.

-A man cannot be said to succeed in this life who does not satisfy one friend.

-Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.

-I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.

-It takes two to speak the truth–one to speak, and another to hear.


A definite highlight of my two `90s  fall wonder trips to New England was walking all around Walden pond and visiting the Thoreau Lyceum. He has long been an inspiration as a connection to nature. solitude, and individualism. (I even wrote a one man play about him!) I always start to recall those trips and his work when summer is winding down and autumn begins…

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