Henry David Thoreau Quotes 1–30 of 228 Quotes

Henry David Thoreau (12 July 1817 – 6 May 1862) was an American essayist, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, and historian. A leading transcendentalist, Thoreau is best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay Resistance to Civil Government (also known as Civil Disobedience), an argument for disobedience to an unjust state.

Below are 30 of 228 sourced Henry David Thoreau quotes. Sources and related information appear under each quote. Use the 'Cite this quote' link to get citation references.

“I am a parcel of vain strivings tied By a chance bond together, Dangling this way and that, their links Were made so loose and wide, Methinks, For milder weather.”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Quote source: "I am a parcel of vain strivings tied", st. 1 (1841)

“But now I see I was not plucked for naught, And after in life's vase Of glass set while I might survive, But by a kind hand brought Alive To a strange place.”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Quote source: "I am a parcel of vain strivings tied", st. 6 (1841)

“Let us not underrate the value of a fact; it will one day flower in a truth.”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Quote source: "Natural History of Massachusetts" , The Dial (1842)

“Great God, I ask thee for no meaner pelf Than that I may not disappoint myself, That in my action I may soar as high As I can now discern with this clear eye.”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Quote source: Prayer, st. 1 (1842)

“My books I'd fain cast off, I cannot read, 'Twixt every page my thoughts go stray at large Down in the meadow, where is richer feed, And will not mind to hit their proper targe.”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Quote source: The Summer Rain, st. 1 (1842)

“Here while I lie beneath this walnut bough, What care I for the Greeks or for Troy town, If juster battles are enacted now Between the ants upon this hummock's crown?”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Quote source: The Summer Rain, st. 3

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

— Henry David Thoreau

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Quote source: Letter to Ralph Waldo Emerson (8 June 1843)

“Talk of mysteries! — Think of our life in nature, — daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it, — rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks! The solid earth! the actual world! the common sense! Contact! Contact! Who are we? where are we?”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Quote source: The Maine Woods, Ktaadn, Pt. 6 (1848)

“The law will never make men free; it is men who have got to make the law free.”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Quote source: Slavery in Massachusetts (1854)

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“I am grateful for what I am & have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite — only a sense of existence. Well, anything for variety. I am ready to try this for the next 1000 years, & exhaust it. How sweet to think of! My extremities well charred, and my intellectual part too, so that there is no danger of worm or rot for a long while. My breath is sweet to me. O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it — for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Quote source: Letter to Harrison Gray Otis Blake (6&7 December 1856), as published in The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau (1958), p. 444; a line within this has been most quoted since 1865 in the form "I am ready to try this for the next ten thousand years, and exhaust it."

“It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about?”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Quote source: Letter to Harrison Blake (16 November 1857)

“Let me suggest a theme for you: to state to yourself precisely and completely what that walk over the mountains amounted to for you, — returning to this essay again and again, until you are satisfied that all that was important in your experience is in it. Give this good reason to yourself for having gone over the mountains, for mankind is ever going over a mountain. Don't suppose that you can tell it precisely the first dozen times you try, but at 'em again, especially when, after a sufficient pause, you suspect that you are touching the heart or summit of the matter, reiterate your blows there, and account for the mountain to yourself. Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Quote source: Letter to Harrison Blake (16 November 1857)

“Men and boys are learning all kinds of trades but how to make men of themselves. They learn to make houses; but they are not so well housed, they are not so contented in their houses, as the woodchucks in their holes. What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on? — If you cannot tolerate the planet that it is on? Grade the ground first. If a man believes and expects great things of himself, it makes no odds where you put him, or what you show him … he will be surrounded by grandeur. He is in the condition of a healthy and hungry man, who says to himself, — How sweet this crust is!”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Quote source: Letter to Harrison Blake (20 May 1860); published in Familiar Letters (1865)

“You ask particularly after my health. I suppose that I have not many months to live; but, of course, I know nothing about it. I may add that I am enjoying existence as much as ever, and regret nothing.”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Quote source: His last letter, to Myron Benton (31 March 1862)

“My life is like a stroll upon the beach, As near the ocean's edge as I can go.”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Quote source: The Fisher's Boy, Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). An American Anthology, 1787–1900

“Whate'er we leave to God, God does And blesses us.”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Quote source: Inspiration, Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). An American Anthology, 1787–1900

“I hear beyond the range of sound, I see beyond the range of sight, New earths and skies and seas around, And in my day the sun doth pale his light.”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Quote source: Inspiration, Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). An American Anthology, 1787–1900

“She with one breath attunes the spheres, And also my poor human heart.”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Thoreau, Henry David. “Henry David Thoreau Quotes: 1–30 of 228 Quotes.” Last modified August 4, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Henry-David-Thoreau-quotes.html#19

Quote source: Inspiration, Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). An American Anthology, 1787–1900

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“A gun gives you the body, not the bird.”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Quote source: Quoted by Ralph Waldo Emerson in Talks with Ralph Waldo Emerson (1890) by Charles Johnson Woodbury

“What extracts from the Vedas I have read fall on me like the light of a higher and purer luminary, which describes a loftier course through purer stratum. It rIses on me like the full moon after the stars have come out, wading through some far stratum in the sky.”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Quote source: quoted in Chinmoy, Sri Commentaries on the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita: the three branches of India slife-tree Aum Publications. 1996. p 26

“Whenever I have read any part of the Vedas, I have felt that some unearthly and unknown light illuminated me. In the great teaching of the Vedas, there is no touch of sectarianism. It is of all ages, climes and nationalities and is the royal road for the attainment of the Great Knowledge. When I am at it, I feel that I am under the spangled heavens of a summer night."”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Quote source: quoted in Pandit, Bansi The Hindu mind: fundamentals of Hindu religion and philosophy for all ages B & V Enterprises 1996. p 307

“"I would say to the readers of the Scriptures, if they wish for a.. good book, read the Bhagavad-Gita .... translated by Charles Wilkins. It deserves to be read with reverence even by yankees .... " Besides the Bhagvat-Geeta, our Shakespeare seems sometimes youthfully green ... Ex oriente lux may still be the motto of scholars, for the Western world has not yet derived from the East all the light it is destined to derive thence."”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Thoreau, Henry David. “Henry David Thoreau Quotes: 1–30 of 228 Quotes.” Last modified August 4, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Henry-David-Thoreau-quotes.html#24

Quote source: quoted in Londhe, S. (2008). A tribute to Hinduism: Thoughts and wisdom spanning continents and time about India and her culture. New Delhi: Pragun Publication.

“"The Vedas contain a sensible account of God." "The veneration in which the Vedas are held is itself a remarkable feat. Their code embraced the whole moral life of the Hindus and in such a case there is no other truth than sincerity. Truth is such by reference to the heart of man within, not to any standard without."”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Thoreau, Henry David. “Henry David Thoreau Quotes: 1–30 of 228 Quotes.” Last modified August 4, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Henry-David-Thoreau-quotes.html#25

Quote source: quoted in Londhe, S. (2008). A tribute to Hinduism: Thoughts and wisdom spanning continents and time about India and her culture. New Delhi: Pragun Publication.

“"The Hindoos are most serenely and thoughtfully religious than the Hebrews. They have perhaps a purer, more independent and impersonal knowledge of God. Their religious books describe the first inquisitive and contemplative access to God; the Hebrew bible a conscientious return, a grosser and more personal repentance. Repentance is not a free and fair highway to God. A wise man will dispense with repentance. It is shocking and passionate. God prefers that you approach him thoughtful, not penitent, though you are chief of sinners. It is only by forgetting yourself that you draw near to him. The calmness and gentleness with which the Hindoo philosophers approach and discourse on forbidden themes is admirable."”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Thoreau, Henry David. “Henry David Thoreau Quotes: 1–30 of 228 Quotes.” Last modified August 4, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Henry-David-Thoreau-quotes.html#26

Quote source: In 1853. quoted in Londhe, S. (2008). A tribute to Hinduism: Thoughts and wisdom spanning continents and time about India and her culture. New Delhi: Pragun Publication.

“"In the Hindoo scripture the idea of man is quite illimitable and sublime. There is nowhere a loftier conception of his destiny. He is at length lost in Brahma himself 'the divine male. ' ... there is no grandeur conception of creation anywhere .... The very indistinctness of its theogeny implies a sublime truth."”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Thoreau, Henry David. “Henry David Thoreau Quotes: 1–30 of 228 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 4 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Henry-David-Thoreau-quotes.html#27

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Thoreau, Henry David. “Henry David Thoreau Quotes: 1–30 of 228 Quotes.” Last modified August 4, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Henry-David-Thoreau-quotes.html#27

Quote source: quoted in Londhe, S. (2008). A tribute to Hinduism: Thoughts and wisdom spanning continents and time about India and her culture. New Delhi: Pragun Publication.

“"I cannot read a sentence in the book of the Hindoos without being elevated as upon the table-land of the Ghauts. It has such a rhythm as the winds of the desert, such a tide as the Ganges, and seems as superior to criticism as the Himmaleh Mounts. Even at this late hour, unworn by time with a native and inherent dignity it wears the English dress as indifferently as the Sanscrit."”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Thoreau, Henry David (2021, August 4) Henry David Thoreau Quotes: 1–30 of 228 Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Henry-David-Thoreau-quotes.html#28

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Thoreau, Henry David. “Henry David Thoreau Quotes: 1–30 of 228 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 4 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Henry-David-Thoreau-quotes.html#28

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Thoreau, Henry David. “Henry David Thoreau Quotes: 1–30 of 228 Quotes.” Last modified August 4, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Henry-David-Thoreau-quotes.html#28

Quote source: 6 August 1841 in his journal. quoted in Gokhale, Balkrishna Govind India in the American mind Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1992. p.22-27

“The reader is nowhere raised into and sustained in a bigger, purer or rarer region of thought than in the Bhagavad Gita. The Gita's sanity and sublimity have impressed the minds of even soldiers and merchants."”

— Henry David Thoreau

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Thoreau, Henry David (2021, August 4) Henry David Thoreau Quotes: 1–30 of 228 Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Henry-David-Thoreau-quotes.html#29

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Thoreau, Henry David. “Henry David Thoreau Quotes: 1–30 of 228 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 4 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Henry-David-Thoreau-quotes.html#29

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Thoreau, Henry David. “Henry David Thoreau Quotes: 1–30 of 228 Quotes.” Last modified August 4, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Henry-David-Thoreau-quotes.html#29

Quote source: quoted in Londhe, S. (2008). A tribute to Hinduism: Thoughts and wisdom spanning continents and time about India and her culture. New Delhi: Pragun Publication.

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