Ralph Waldo Emerson
(1803 - 1882)

Emerson Quotes

The greatest homage we can pay to truth is to use it.

In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, -- no disgrace, no calamity (leaving me my eyes), which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, -- my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space, -- all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part and parcel of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintences, master or servant, is then a trifle and a disturbance. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.
-- Nature

Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself and you shall have the sufferage of the world.
-- Essays, Series I (Self-Reliance)

Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self. There is something which you can do better than another. Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that. Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for.

To be great is to be misunderstood.
-- Essays, Series I (Self-Reliance)

For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure.
-- Essays, Series I (Self-Reliance)

It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude after own own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
-- Essays, Series I (Self-Reliance)

Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force; that thoughts rule the world.
-- Progress of Culture. Phi Beta Kappa Address, July 18, 1867.

The whole course of things goes to teach us faith. We need only obey. There is guidance for each of us, and by lowly listening we shall hear the right word.... Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which flows into you as life, place yourself in the full center of that flood, then you are without effort impelled to truth, to right, and a perfect contentment.
-- Essays, Series I (Spiritual Laws)

It is a lesson which all history teaches wise men,
to put trust in ideas, and not in circumstances.
-- Miscellanies (War)

We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes us receivers of its truth and organ of its activity. When we discern justice, when we discern truth, we do nothing by ourselves, but allow a passage to its beams. If we ask whence this comes, if we seek to pry into the soul that causes, all philosophy is at fault. Its presence or its absence is all we can affirm.
-- Essays, Series I (Self-Reliance)

If you would lift me you must be on higher ground.
-- Society and Solitude (Eloquence)

The crowning fortune of a man is to be born to some pursuit which finds him employment and happiness, whether it be to make baskets, or broadswords, or canals, or statues, or songs.
-- The Conduct of Life (Considerations by the Way)

Each man has his own vocation. The talent is the call. There is one direction in which all space is open to him. He has faculties silently inviting him thither to endless exertion. ... He inclines to do something which is easy to him and good when it is done, but which no other man can do. He has no rival. For the more truly he consults his own powers, the more difference will his work exhibit from the work of any other.
-- Essays, Series I (Spiritual Laws)

Nature arms each man with some faculty which enables him to do easily some feat impossible to any other, and thus makes him necessary to society. ... Society can never prosper, but must always be bankrupt, until every man does that which he was created to do.
-- The Conduct of Life (Wealth))

... Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.
-- Lectures and Biographical Sketches (Education)

The greatest man in history was the poorest.
-- Society and Solitude (Domestic Life)

The powers of the soul are commensurate with its needs.

The spirit only can teach. ... only he can give who has, he only can create who is.
-- Divinity College Address

Have the courage not to adopt another's courage. There is scope and cause and resistance enough for us in our proper work and circumstance.
-- Society and Solitude (Courage)

Belief consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; unbelief, in denying them.
-- Representative Men (Montaigne)

Every spirit makes its house, but afterwards the house confines the spirit.
-- The Conduct of Life (Fate)

Every man is a divinity in disguise, a god playing the fool.

Souls are not saved in bundles.
-- The Conduct of Life (Worship)

Immortality will come to such as are fit for it; and he who would be a great soul in the future must be a great soul now.
-- The Conduct of Life (Worship)

There's no road has not a star above it.
-- Society and Solitude (Farming)

God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.
-- Essays, Series I (Self-Reliance)

Men live on the brink of mysteries and harmonies into which they can never enter, and with their hand on the doorlatch they die outside.
-- Letter to Carlyle, March 12, 1838

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events.
-- Essays, Series I (Self-Reliance)

I do not wish to expiate, but to live. My life is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, then that it should be glittering and unsteady. I wish it to be sound and sweet, and not to need diet and bleeding.
-- Essays, Series I (Self-Reliance)

He walks abreast with his days and feels no shame in not 'studying a profession', for he does not postpone his life, but lives already. He has not one chance, but a hundred chances.
-- Essays, Series I (Self-Reliance)

We are taught by great actions that the universe is the property of every individual in it.
-- Nature, Addresses and Lectures (Beauty)

Life is good only when it is magical and musical, a perfect timing and consent, and when we do not anatomise it.... You must hear the bird's song without attempting to render it into nouns and verbs.
-- Society and Solitude (Works and Days)

There is no knowledge that is not power.
-- Society and Solitude (Old Age)

Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.
-- Essays, Series I (Self-Reliance)

Home | Quotes | Images | Events | Emerson Items | Success | Links

Last revised: December 10, 2009