Born on July 12, 1817, Henry David Thoreau was an American essayist, poet, and practical philosopher, widely recognized for his masterworks Walden and Civil Disobedience.
The first one is a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, inspired by transcendentalist philosophy, and the second one is an essay that reveals Thoreau’s defense of the private, individual conscience.
In 1837, Thoreau graduated from Harvard and searched for a teaching job in Concord. He soon realized that he wasn’t the strict type, a disciplinarian, so he resigned after only two weeks.
The good thing about going back to Concord was that Thoreau not only had the chance to meet Ralph Waldo Emerson, but to become his disciple. Thoreau saw in him a mentor and a friend. It was then that he began writing nature poetry and was exposed to Transcendentalism.
Thoreau’s work has influenced the American Civil Rights Movement and inspired many leaders. His work has endured because much of what he wrote is still applicable today.
Here are 20 Henry David Thoreau quotes that will help you see life through different eyes.
Dreams are the touchstones of our characters.
Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life so. Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.
Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.
The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.
The question is not what you look at, but what you see.
Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.
The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right,
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.
Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.
The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.
Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.
Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.
If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.
To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.
What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?