Overview


In more than 600 striking, thought-provoking excerpts, grouped under 17 headings, Thoreau rails against injustice, gives voice to his love of nature, and advocates simplicity and conscious living. Note.
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Thoreau: A Book of Quotations

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Overview


In more than 600 striking, thought-provoking excerpts, grouped under 17 headings, Thoreau rails against injustice, gives voice to his love of nature, and advocates simplicity and conscious living. Note.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780486159317
  • Publisher: Dover Publications
  • Publication date: 4/26/2012
  • Series: Dover Thrift Editions
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 64
  • Sales rank: 552,904
  • File size: 2 MB

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Thoreau

A Book of Quotations


By HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Bob Blaisdell

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2000 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-15931-7



CHAPTER 1

CONTEMPLATION AND REFLECTION


He is the rich man, and enjoys the fruits of riches, who summer and winter forever can find delight in his own thoughts.

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

* * *

In all perception of the truth there is a divine ecstasy, an inexpressible delirium of joy, as when a youth embraces his betrothed virgin.

Familiar Letters

* * *

New ideas come into this world somewhat like falling meteors, with a flash and an explosion, and perhaps somebody's castle-roof perforated.

Familiar Letters

* * *

Genius is a light which makes darkness visible, like the lightning's flash, which perchance shatters the temple of knowledge itself,—and not a taper lighted at the hearth-stone of the race, which pales before the light of common day.

"Walking"

* * *

Truth strikes us from behind, and in the dark, as well as from before and in broad daylight.

Journal

* * *

Ever and anon something will occur which my philosophy has not dreamed of. The limits of the actual are set some thoughts further off. That which had seemed a rigid wall of vast thickness unexpectedly proves a thin and undulating drapery.

Journal

* * *

Objects are concealed from our view, not so much because they are out of the course of our visual ray as because we do not bring our minds and eyes to bear on them, for there is no power to see in the eye itself, any more than in any other jelly.

"Autumnal Tints"

What shall we make of the fact that you have only to stand on your head a moment to be enchanted with the beauty of the landscape?

Journal

* * *

It is only necessary to behold thus the least fact or phenomenon, however familiar, from a point a hair's breadth aside from our habitual path or routine, to be overcome, enchanted by its beauty and significance.

Journal

* * *

I am, perchance, most and most profitably interested in the things which I already know a little about; a mere and utter novelty is a mere monstrosity to me.

Journal

* * *

We cannot see anything until we are possessed with the idea of it, take it into our heads,—and then we can hardly see anything else.

"Autumnal Tints"

* * *

Whether he sleeps or wakes,—whether he runs or walks,—whether he uses a microscope or a telescope, or his naked eye,—a man never discovers anything, never overtakes anything, or leaves anything behind, but himself.

Familiar Letters

* * *

This world is but canvass to our imaginations.

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

* * *

The landscape lies far and fair within, and the deepest thinker is the farthest traveled.

"A Walk to Wachusett"

* * *

As Bonaparte sent out his horsemen in the Red Sea on all sides to find shallow water, so I sent forth my mounted thoughts to find deep water.

Familiar Letters

* * *

Any sincere thought is irresistible.

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

* * *

If I am visited by a thought, I chew that cud each successive morning, as long as there is any flavor in it.

Journal

Our genius is like a brush which only once in many months is freshly dipped into the paint-pot. It becomes so dry that though we apply it incessantly, it fails to tinge the earth and sky. Applied to the same spot incessantly, it at length imparts no color to it.

Journal

* * *

It is a far more difficult feat to get up without spilling your morning thought, than that which is often practiced of taking a cup of water from behind your head as you lie on your back and drinking from it.

Journal

* * *

When my thoughts are sensible of change, I love to see and sit on rocks which I have known, and pry into their moss, and see unchangeableness so established.

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

* * *

A man has not seen a thing who has not felt it.

Journal

* * *

How can we know what we are told merely? Each man can interpret another's experience only by his own.

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

* * *

No idea is so soaring but it will readily put forth roots.

Journal

* * *

Like the fruits, when cooler weather and frosts arrive, we too are braced and ripened. When we shift from the shady to the sunny side of the house, and sit there in an extra coat for warmth, our green and leafy and pulpy thoughts acquire color and flavor, and perchance a sweet nuttiness at last, worth your cracking.

Journal

* * *

When we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence,—that petty fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow of reality.

Walden

* * *

By a conscious effort of the mind we can stand aloof from actions and their consequences; and all things, good and bad, go by us like a torrent.

Walden

* * *

None can be an impartial or wise observer of human life but from the vantage ground of what we should call voluntary poverty.

Walden

The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men; and so with the paths which the mind travels.

Walden

* * *

The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.

"Life without Principle"

* * *

It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.

Walden

* * *

Falsehoods that glare and dazzle are sloped toward us, reflecting full in our faces even the light of the sun. Wait till sunset, or go round them, and the falsity will be apparent.

Journal

* * *

Great persons are not soon learned, not even their outlines, but they change like the mountains in the horizon as we ride along.

Journal

* * *

Saw a large hawk circling over a pine wood below me, and screaming, apparently that he might discover his prey by their flight. Travelling ever by wider circles. What a symbol of the thoughts, now soaring, now descending, taking larger and larger circles, or smaller and smaller.

Journal

* * *

I believe that the mind can be profaned by the habit of attending to trivial things, so that all our thoughts shall be tinged with triviality.

Journal

* * *

Why should pensiveness be akin to sadness? There is a certain fertile sadness which I would not avoid, but rather earnestly seek. It is positively joyful to me.

Journal

* * *

Man is but the place where I stand, and the prospect hence is infinite. It is not a chamber of mirrors which reflect me. When I reflect, I find that there is other than me.

Journal

* * *

A higher truth, though only dimly hinted at, thrills us more than a lower expressed.

Journal

* * *

Each experience reduces itself to a mood of the mind.

Journal

CHAPTER 2

DAY AND NIGHT


Rise free from care before the dawn, and seek adventures.

Walden

* * *

If the sun rises on you slumbering, if you do not hear the morning cock-crow, if you do not witness the blushes of Aurora, if you are not acquainted with Venus as the morning star, what relation have you to wisdom and purity?

Journal

* * *

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

Walden

* * *

All memorable events, I should say, transpire in morning time and in a morning atmosphere.

Walden

* * *

I catch myself philosophizing most abstractedly when first returning to consciousness in the night or morning. I make the truest observations and distinctions then, when the will is yet wholly asleep and the mind works like a machine without friction.

Journal

* * *

How can one help being an early riser and walker in that season when the birds begin to twitter and sing in the morning?

Journal

* * *

He who passes over a lake at noon, when the waves run, little imagines its serene and placid beauty at evening, as little as he anticipates his own serenity.

Journal

* * *

How perfect an invention is glass! There is a fitness in glass windows which reflect the sun morning and evening, windows, the doorways of light, thus reflecting the rays of that luminary with a splendor only second to itself.

Journal

* * *

Ah, the beauty of this last hour of the day—when a power stills the air and smooths all waters and all minds—that partakes of the light of the day and the stillness of the night!

Journal

* * *

Unless you watch it, you do not know when the sun goes down. It is like a candle extinguished without smoke.

Journal

I thought to-night that I saw glow-worms in the grass, on the side of the hill; was almost certain of it, and tried to lay my hand on them, but found it was the moonlight reflected from (apparently) the fine frost crystals on the withered grass, and they were so fine that they went and came like glow-worms.

Journal

* * *

The moonlight is rich and somewhat opaque, like cream, but the daylight is thin and blue, like skimmed milk. I am less conscious than in the presence of the sun; my instincts have more influence.

Journal

* * *

By moonlight we are not of the earth earthy, but we are of the earth spiritual.

Journal

CHAPTER 3

EDUCATION


What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook.

Journal

* * *

The knowledge of an unlearned man is living and luxuriant like a forest, but covered with mosses and lichens and for the most part inaccessible and going to waste; the knowledge of the man of science is like timber collected in yards for public works, which still supports a green sprout here and there, but even this is liable to dry rot.

Journal

* * *

It is impossible to give the soldier a good education without making him a deserter.

"A Yankee in Canada"

* * *

What I was learning in college was chiefly, I think, to express myself, and I see now, that as the old orator prescribed, 1st, action; 2d, action; 3d, action; my teachers should have prescribed to me, 1st, sincerity; 2d, sincerity; 3d, sincerity.

Familiar Letters

* * *

It is a pleasant fact that you will know no man long, however low in the social scale, however poor, miserable, intemperate, and worthless he may appear to be, a mere burden to society, but you will find at last that there is something which he understands and can do better than any other.

Journal

To my astonishment I was informed on leaving college that I had studied navigation!—why, if I had taken one turn down the harbor I should have known more about it.

Walden

* * *

The student who secures his coveted leisure and retirement by systematically shirking any labor necessary to man obtains but an ignoble and unprofitable leisure, defrauding himself of the experience which alone can make leisure fruitful.

Walden

* * *

What are the natural features which make a township handsome? A river, with its waterfalls and meadows, a lake, a hill, a cliff or individual rocks, a forest, and ancient trees standing singly. Such things are beautiful; they have a high use which dollars and cents never represent. If the inhabitants of a town were wise, they would seek to preserve these things, though at a considerable expense; for such things educate far more than any hired teachers or preachers, or any at present recognized system of school education.

Journal

* * *

We do not learn by inference and deduction and the application of mathematics to philosophy, but by direct intercourse and sympathy.

"Natural History of Massachusetts"

* * *

He who cannot read is worse than deaf and blind, is yet but half alive, is still-born.

Journal

* * *

It is hard to subject ourselves to an influence. It must steal upon us when we expect it not, and its work be all done ere we are aware of it.

Journal

* * *

How vain to try to teach youth, or anybody, truths! They can only learn them after their own fashion, and when they get ready.

Journal

* * *

You must believe that I know before you can tell me.

Journal

* * *

A man receives only what he is ready to receive, whether physically or intellectually or morally, as animals conceive at certain seasons their kind only. We hear and apprehend only what we already half know.

Journal

It is strange that men are in such haste to get fame as teachers rather than knowledge as learners.

Journal

* * *

I think that the man of science makes this mistake, and the mass of mankind along with him: that you should coolly give your chief attention to the phenomenon which excites you as something independent of you, and not as it is related to you. The important fact is its effect on me.

Journal

* * *

The inhumanity of science concerns me, as when I am tempted to kill a rare snake that I may ascertain its species. I feel that this is not the means of acquiring true knowledge.

Journal

CHAPTER 4

FREEDOM AND INDIVIDUALISM


As long as possible live free and uncommitted. It makes but little difference whether you are committed to a farm or the county jail.

Walden

* * *

What is it to be free of King George and continue to be the slaves of King Prejudice? What is it to be born free and not to live free?

"Life without Principle"

* * *

What is the value of any political freedom, but as a means to moral freedom?

"Life without Principle"

* * *

When will the world learn that a million men are of no importance compared with one man?

Familiar Letters

* * *

I am wont to think that men are not so much the keepers of herds as herds are the keepers of men, the former are so much freer.

Walden

CHAPTER 5

FRIENDSHIP AND LOVE


My friend, my friend, I'd speak so frank to thee that thou wouldst pray me to keep back some part, for fear I robbed myself.

Journal

Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.

Familiar Letters

* * *

We are sometimes made aware of a kindness long passed, and realize that there have been times when our friends' thoughts of us were of so pure and lofty a character that they passed over us like the winds of heaven unnoticed; when they treated us not as what we were, but as what we aspired to be.

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

* * *

A Friend is one who incessantly pays us the compliment of expecting from us all the virtues, and who can appreciate them in us.

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

* * *

True Friendship can afford true knowledge. It does not depend on darkness and ignorance. A want of discernment cannot be an ingredient in it. If I can see my Friend's virtues more distinctly than another's, his faults too are made more conspicuous by contrast.

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

* * *

I love my friends very much, but I find that it is of no use to go to see them. I hate them commonly when I am near them. They belie themselves and deny me continually.

Journal

* * *

That which we love is so mixed and entangled with that we hate in one another that we are more grieved and disappointed, aye, and estranged from one another, by meeting than by absence.

Journal

* * *

I find that I postpone all actual intercourse with my friends to a certain real intercourse which takes place commonly when we are actually at a distance from one another.

Journal

* * *

To say that a man is your Friend, means commonly no more than this, that he is not your enemy.

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

* * *

In human intercourse the tragedy begins, not when there is misunderstanding about words, but when silence is not understood.

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

Love is the wind, the tide, the waves, the sunshine. Its power is incalculable; it is many horse-power. It never ceases, it never slacks; it can move the globe without a resting-place; it can warm without fire; it can feed without meat; it can clothe without garments; it can shelter without roof; it can make a paradise within which will dispense with a paradise without.

"Paradise (to Be) Regained"

* * *

The heart is forever inexperienced.

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

* * *

In company, that person who alone can understand you you cannot get out of your mind.

Journal

* * *

If my friend would take a quarter part the pains to show me himself that he does to show me a piece of roast beef, I should feel myself irresistibly invited.

Journal

* * *

Nothing makes me so dejected as to have met my friends, for they make me doubt if it is possible to have any friends.

Journal

* * *

I confess that I am lacking a sense, perchance, in this respect, and I derive no pleasure from talking with a young woman half an hour simply because she has regular features.

Journal

* * *

I have got to that pass with my friend that our words do not pass with each other for what they are worth. We speak in vain; there is no one to hear. He finds fault with me that I walk alone, when I pine for want of a companion; that I commit my thoughts to a diary even on my walks, instead of seeking to share them generously with a friend; curses my practice even. Awful it is to contemplate, I pray that, if I am the cold intellectual skeptic whom he rebukes, his curse may take effect, and wither and dry up those sources of my life, and my journal no longer yield me pleasure nor life.

Journal

* * *

If I have not succeeded in my friendships, it was because I demanded more of them and did not put up with what I could get; and I got no more partly because I gave so little.

Journal

* * *

If I am too cold for human friendship, I trust I shall not soon be too cold for natural influences. It appears to be a law that you cannot have a deep sympathy with both man and nature. Those qualities which bring you near to the one estrange you from the other.

Journal


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Thoreau by HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Bob Blaisdell. Copyright © 2000 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents



Contents
Contemplation and Reflection
Day and Night
Education
Freedom and Individualism
Friendship and Love
Himself
Human Nature
Law and Government
Literature and Writing
Money and Business
Morality and Conduct
Nature: Animals, Trees, Water
Religion
Seasons
Solitude
Travel
Work and Leisure
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