Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes 1–30 of 519 Quotes

Ralph Waldo Emerson (25 May 1803 – 27 April 1882) was an American philosopher, essayist, and poet.

Below are 30 of 519 sourced Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes. Sources and related information appear under each quote. Use the 'Cite this quote' link to get citation references.

“The cup of life is not so shallow That we have drained the best That all the wine at once we swallow And lees make all the rest.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Quote source: 1827 journal entry reproduced in Emerson: The Mind on Fire (1995), p. 82

“The man who renounces himself, comes to himself.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes: 1–30 of 519 Quotes.” Last modified August 4, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Ralph-Waldo-Emerson-quotes.html#2

Quote source: The Divinity College Address (1838) : full title “An Address Delivered Before the Senior Class in Divinity College, Cambridge, Sunday Evening, July 15, 1838”, given at Harvard Divinity School : as contained in The Spiritual Emerson: Essential Writings, Emerson, ed. David M Robinson, Beacon Press (2004), p. 78 :

“The sublime is excited in me by the great stoical doctrine, Obey thyself.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Quote source: The Divinity College Address (1838)

“Wherever a man comes, there comes revolution. The old is for slaves.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Quote source: The Divinity College Address (1838)

“None believeth in the soul of man, but only in some man or person old and departed.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Quote source: The Divinity College Address (1838)

“The imitator dooms himself to hopeless mediocrity. The inventor did it because it was natural to him, and so in him it has a charm. In the imitator something else is natural, and he bereaves himself of his own beauty, to come short of another man's.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Quote source: The Divinity College Address (1838)

“He who is in love is wise and is becoming wiser, sees newly every time he looks at the object beloved, drawing from it with his eyes and his mind those virtues which it possesses.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Quote source: Address on The Method of Nature (1841)

“I fancy I need more than another to speak (rather than write), with such a formidable tendency to the lapidary style. I build my house of boulders.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Quote source: Letter to Thomas Carlyle (30 October 1841)

“Yet a man may love a paradox, without losing either his wit or his honesty.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Quote source: Walter Savage Landor, from The Dial, XII (1841)

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“There is always a certain meanness in the argument of conservatism, joined with a certain superiority in its fact.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Quote source: The Conservative (1842)

“The two parties which divide the State, the party of Conservatism and that of Innovation are very old, and have disputed the possession of the world ever since it was made … Now one, now the other gets the day, and still the fight renews itself as if for the first time, under new names and hot personalities … Innovation is the salient energy; Conservatism the pause on the last movement.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Quote source: The Conservative, via Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Cycles of American History (Houghton Mifflin, 1986) p. 23

“Self-reliance, the height and perfection of man, is reliance on God.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Quote source: The Fugitive Slave Law, a lecture in New York City (7 March 1854), The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1904)

“Slavery is disheartening; but Nature is not so helpless but it can rid itself of every last wrong. But the spasms of nature are centuries and ages and will tax the faith of short-lived men. Slowly, slowly the Avenger comes, but comes surely. The proverbs of the nations affirm these delays, but affirm the arrival. They say, "God may consent, but not forever." The delay of the Divine Justice — this was the meaning and soul of the Greek Tragedy, — this was the soul of their religion.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Quote source: "The Fugitive Slave Law", a lecture in New York City (7 March 1854), The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1904), p. 238 https://www.lovequotesg.com/

“I am not blind to the worth of the wonderful gift of "LEAVES OF GRASS." I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed. I am very happy in reading it, as great power makes us happy. It meets the demand I am always making of what seemed the sterile and stingy nature, as if too much handiwork, or too much lymph in the temperament, were making our western wits fat and mean. I give you joy of your free and brave thought. I have great joy in it. I find incomparable things said incomparably well, as they must be. I find the courage of treatment which so delights us, and which large perception only can inspire. I greet you at the beginning of a great career, which yet must have had a long foreground somewhere, for such a start. I rubbed my eyes a little, to see if this sunbeam were no illusion; but the solid sense of the book is a sober certainty. It has the best merits, namely, of fortifying and encouraging…”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Quote source: Letter to Walt Whitman, thanking him for a copy of Leaves of Grass (July 21, 1855)

“The thing done avails, and not what is said about it. An original sentence, a step forward, is worth more than all the censures.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Quote source: "First Visit to England" in English Traits (1856)

“Classics which at home are drowsily read have a strange charm in a country inn, or in the transom of a merchant brig.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Quote source: English Traits (1856)

“I find the Englishman to be him of all men who stands firmest in his shoes. They have in themselves what they value in their horses, — mettle and bottom.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Quote source: English Traits (1856)

“Solvency is maintained by means of a national debt, on the principle, "If you will not lend me the money, how can I pay you?"”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes: 1–30 of 519 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 4 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Ralph-Waldo-Emerson-quotes.html#19

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Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes: 1–30 of 519 Quotes.” Last modified August 4, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Ralph-Waldo-Emerson-quotes.html#19

Quote source: English Traits (1856), reprinted in The Prose Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Vol. 2 (Boston: Fields, Osgood, & Co., 1870), p. 206 (full text at GoogleBooks)

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“Never read any book that is not a year old.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Quote source: In Praise of Books

“If the colleges were better, if they … had the power of imparting valuable thought, creative principles, truths which become powers, thoughts which become talents, — if they could cause that a mind not profound should become profound, — we should all rush to their gates: instead of contriving inducements to draw students, you would need to set police at the gates to keep order in the in-rushing multitude.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes: 1–30 of 519 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, Last modified August 4, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Ralph-Waldo-Emerson-quotes.html#22

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Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes: 1–30 of 519 Quotes.” Last modified August 4, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Ralph-Waldo-Emerson-quotes.html#22

Quote source: The Celebration of Intellect (1861)

“Only the great generalizations survive. The sharp words of the Declaration of Independence, lampooned then and since as 'glittering generalities,' have turned out blazing ubiquities that will burn forever and ever.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes: 1–30 of 519 Quotes.” Last modified August 4, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Ralph-Waldo-Emerson-quotes.html#23

Quote source: A lecture on 'Books' delivered in 1864; the quoted phrase 'glittering generalities' had been used by Rufus Choate to describe the declaration of the rights of man in the Preamble to the Constitution (The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1903-4) Vol. 10, p. 88, note 1)

“A mollusk is a cheap edition [of man] with a suppression of the costlier illustrations, designed for dingy circulation, for shelving in an oyster-bank or among the seaweed.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Quote source: Power and Laws of Thought (c. 1870)

“Poetry teaches the enormous force of a few words, and, in proportion to the inspiration, checks loquacity.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Quote source: Parnassus, Preface (1874)

“There are two classes of poets — the poets by education and practice, these we respect; and poets by nature, these we love.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Quote source: Parnassus, Preface

“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have yet to be discovered.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes: 1–30 of 519 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, Last modified August 4, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Ralph-Waldo-Emerson-quotes.html#27

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Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes: 1–30 of 519 Quotes.” Last modified August 4, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Ralph-Waldo-Emerson-quotes.html#27

Quote source: Fortune of the Republic (1878)

“I hung my verse in the wind Time and tide their faults will find.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes: 1–30 of 519 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, Last modified August 4, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Ralph-Waldo-Emerson-quotes.html#28

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Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes: 1–30 of 519 Quotes.” Last modified August 4, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Ralph-Waldo-Emerson-quotes.html#28

Quote source: "The Test", as quoted in Emerson As A Poet (1883) by Joel Benton, p. 40

“Sunshine cannot bleach the snow, Nor time unmake what poets know.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes: 1–30 of 519 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, Last modified August 4, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Ralph-Waldo-Emerson-quotes.html#29

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Emerson, Ralph Waldo (2021, August 4) Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes: 1–30 of 519 Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Ralph-Waldo-Emerson-quotes.html#29

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Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes: 1–30 of 519 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 4 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Ralph-Waldo-Emerson-quotes.html#29

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Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes: 1–30 of 519 Quotes.” Last modified August 4, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Ralph-Waldo-Emerson-quotes.html#29

Quote source: "The Test", as quoted in Emerson As A Poet (1883) by Joel Benton, p. 40

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Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes: 1–30 of 519 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 4 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Ralph-Waldo-Emerson-quotes.html

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Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes: 1–30 of 519 Quotes.” Last modified August 4, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Ralph-Waldo-Emerson-quotes.html

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