Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes  

These are great essays and I hope I can write more in-depth reviews on them at a later date.

Inspiring Quotes
* Love
* Life
* Love
* Silly
* By Person

Self Reliance

"To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, -- that is genius." P.19

"A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages."

"In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty."

"Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another." P.20

"There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion"

"The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray."

"Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string."

"not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and advancing on Chaos and the Dark."

"Infancy conforms to nobody: all conform to it, so that one babe commonly makes four or five our of the adults who prattle and play to it."

"Do not think the youth has no force, because he cannot speak to you and me..Bashful or bold, then, he will know how to make us seniors very unnecessary."p.21

"These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world."

"Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist."

"Nothing is sacred but the integrity of your own mind."

"No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature."

"A man is to carry himself in the presence of all opposition, as if every thing were titular and ephemeral but he."p.22

"Rough and graceless would be such meeting, but truth is handsomer than the affectation of love."

"Virtues are, in the popular estimate, rather the exception than the rule."

"My life is for itself and not for a spectacle."

"What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think."p.23

"But do your work, and I shall know you."

"This conformity makes them not false in a few particulars, authors of a few lies, but false in all particulars."

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soiul has simply nothing to do."p.24

"To be great is to be misunderstood."p.25

"Men imagine that they communicate their virtue or vice only by overt actions, and do not see that virtue or vice emit a breath every moment."

"the voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency."

"Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. Act singly, and what you have already done singly will justify you now. Greatness appeals to the future."

"Let us affront and reprimand the smooth mediocrity and squalid contentment of the times, and hurl in the face of custom, and trade, and office, the fact which is the upshot of all history, that there is a great responsible Thinker and Actor working wherever a man works; that a true man belongs to no other time or place, but is the center of things. Where he is, there is nature."p.26

"Let a man know his worth, and keep things under his feet."

"the state of man, who is in the world a sort of sot, but now and then wakes up, exercises his reason, and finds himself a true prince."

"What is the nature and power of that science-baffling star, without parallax, without calculable elements, which shoots a ray of beauty even into trivial and impure actions, if the least mark of independence appear?"

"In that deep force, the last fact behind which analysis cannot go, all things find their common origin."

"man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say "I think," "I am," but quotes some saint or sage."p.28

"But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to forsee the future."

"If we live truly, we shall see truly. It is as easy for the strong man to be strong, as it is for the weak to be weak."p.29

"When a man lives with God, his voice shall be as sweet as the murmur of the brook and the rustle of the corn."

"All persons that have ever existed are its forgotten ministers."

"We do not yet see that virtue is Height, and that a man or a company of men, plastic and permeable to principles, by the law of nature must overpower and ride all cities, nbations, kings, rich men, poets, who are not."p.30

"Self-existence is the attribute of the Supreme Cause, and it constitutes the measure of good by the degree in which it enters into all lower forms."

"If you can love me for what I am, we shall be the happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should."p.31

"And truly it demands something godlike in him who has cast off the common motives of humanity, and has ventured to trust himself for a taskmaster."p.32

"A sturdy lad falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls."

"It is easy to see that a greater self-reliance must spark a revolution in all the offices and relations of men"

"Prayer is the contemplation of the facts of life from the highest point of view. It is the soliloquy of a beholding and jubilant soul. It is the spirit of God pronouncing his works good."p.33

"Let them chirp awhile and clal it their own. If they are honest and do well, presently their neat new pinfold will be too strait and low, will crack, will lean, will rot and vanish, and the immortal light, all young and joyful, million-orbed, million colored, will beam over the universe as on the first morning."p.34

"Traveling is a fool's paradise"

"Our minds travel when our bodies are forced to stay at home."p.35

"Who is the master who could have taught Shakspeare?"

"Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other."36

"And so the reliance on Property, including the reliance on governments which protect it, is the want of self-reliance."p.37

"He who knows that power is inborn, that he is weak because he has looked for good out of him and elsewhere, and so perceiving, throws himself unhesitatingly on his thought, instantly rights himself." p.38


"We have a great deal more kindness than is ever spoken. Maugre all the selfishness that chills like east winds the world, the whole human fraily is bathed with an element of blove like a fine ether."p.39

"From the highest degree of passionate love, to the lowest degree of good-will, they make the sweetness of life."

"What is so delicious as a just and firm encounter of two, in a thought, in a feeling?"p.40

"Who hears me, who understands me, becomes mine,--a possession for all time."

"I have often had fine fancies about persons which have given me delicious hours; but the joy ends in the day; it yields no fruit."p.41

"I must feel pride in my friend's accomplishments as if they were mine, --and a property in his virtues."

"The lover, beholding his maiden, half knows that she is not verily that which he worships; and in the golden hour of friendship, we are surprised with shades of suspicion and unbelief."

"In strictness, the soul does not respect men as it respects itself."

"The root of the plant is not unsightly to science, though for chaplets and festoons we cut the stem short."p.42

"A man who stands united with his thought conceives magnificently of himself."

"Only the star dazzles; the planet has a faint, moon-like ray."

"We seek our friend not sacredly, but with a adulterate passion which would appropriate him to ourselves."p.43

"All association must be a compromise, and what is worst, the very flower and aroma of the flower of each of the beautiful natures disappears as they approach each other."

"Respect the naturlangsamkeit which hardens the ruby in a million years, and works in duration, in which Alps and Andes come and go as rainbows."

"I am arrived at last in the presence of a man so real and equal, that I may drop even those undermost garments of dissimulation, courtesy, and second thought, which men never put off, and may deal with him with the simplicity and wholeness with which one chemical atom meets another."p.44

"I knew a man, who, under a certain religious frenzy, cast off his drapery, and omitting all compliment and commonplace, spoke to the conscience of every person he encountered, and that with great insight and beauty."

"Almost every men we meet requires some civility,-- requires to be humored; he has some fame, some talent, some whim of religion or philanthropy in his head that is not to be questioned, and which spoils all conversation with him."p.45

"The other element of friendship is tenderness. We are holden to men by every sort of tie, by blood, by pride, by fear, by hope, by lucre, by lust, by hate, by admiration, by every circumstance and badge and trifle; but we can scare believe that so much character can subsist in another as to draw us by love."

"I wish that friendship should have feet, as well as eyes and eloquence. It must plant itself on the ground, before it vaults over the moon. I wish it to e a little of a citizen, before it is quite a cherub. We chide the citizen because he makes love a commodity. "

"Friendship may be said to require natures so rare and costly, each so well tempered and so happily adapted, and withal so circumstanced, (for even in that particular, a poet says, love demands that the parties be altogether paired,) that its satisfaction can very seldom be assured."p.46

"Better be a nettle in the side of your friend than his echo. The condition which high friendship demands is ability to do without it. That high office requires great and sublime parts. There must be very two, before there can be very one. Let it be an alliance of two large, formidable natures, mutually beheld, mutually feared, before yet they recognize the deep identity which beneath these disparities unites them."p.47

""are you the friend of your friend's buttons, of his thought? To a great heart he will still be a strange in a thousand particulars, that he may come near in the holiest ground. Leave it to girls and boys to regard a friend as property, and to suck a short and all-confounding pleasure, instead of the noblest benefit."

"are these things material to our covenant? Leave this touching and clawing. Let him be to me a spirit."

"It is a spiritual gift worthy of him to give, and of me to receive. It profanes nobody. In those warm lines the heart will trust itself, as it will not to the tongue, and pour out the prophecy of a godlier existence than all the annals of heroism have yet made good."p.48

"We must be our own before we can be another's; you can speak to your accomplice on even terms."

"In the last analysis, love is only the reflection of a man's own worthiness from other men."

"We walk alone in the world. Friends, such as we desire, are dreams and fables."p.49

"I cannot afford to speak much with my friend. If he is great, he makes me so great that I cannot descend to converse."p.49

" But if you come, perhaps you will fill my mind only with new visions, not with yourself but with your lusters, and I shall not be able any more than now to converse with you."p.50

The Poet

"We were put into our bodies, as fire is put into a pan, to be carried about; but there is no accurate adjustment between the spirit and the organ"p.65

"the highest minds of the world have never ceased to explore the double meaning, or shall I say, the quadruple the centuple, or much more manifold meaning, of every sensuous fact"p.66

"The young man reveres men of genius, because, to speak truly, they are more himself than he is. They receive of the soul as he also receives, but they more. Nature enhances her beauty, to the eye of loving men"p.66

"the great majority of men seem to be minors, who have not yet come into possession of their own, or mutes, who cannot report the conversation they have had with nature."p.66

"Every man should be so much an artist, that he could report in conversation what had befallen him. Yet, in our experience, the rays or appulses have sufficient force to arrive at the senses, but not enough to reach the quick, and compel the reproduction of themselves in speech. The poet is the person in whom these powers are in balance, the man without impediment, who sees and handles that which others dream of, traverses the whole scale of experience, and its representative of man, in virtue of being the largest power to receive and to impart."66-77

"For the Universe has three children, born at one time, which reappear, under different names, in every system of thought, whether they be called cause, operation, and affect; or, more poetically, Jove, Pluto, Neptune; or, theologically, the Father, the Spirit, and the Son, but which we will call here, the Knowert, the Doer, and the Sayer. These stand respectively for the love of truth, for the love of good, and for the love of beauty. These three are equal. Each is that which he is essentially, so that he cannot be surmounted or analyzed, and each of these three has the power of the others latent in him, and his own patent.
"The poet is the sayer, the namer, and represents beauty. He is a sovereign, and stands on the center. For the world is not painted, or adorned, but is from the beginning beautiful; and God has not made some beautiful things, but Beauty is the creator of the universe."p.67

"For poetry was all written before time was, and whenever we are so finely organized that we can penetrate in to that region where the air is music, we hear those primal warblings, and attempt to write them down, but we lose ever and anon a word, or a verse, and substitute something of our own, and thus miswrite the poem. The men of more delicate ear write down these cadences more faithfully, and these transcripts, though imperfect, become the songs of the nations.. For nature is as truly beautiful as it is good, or as it is reasonable, and must as much appear, as it must be done, or be known. Words and deeds are quite indifferent modes of the divine energy. Words are also actions, and actions are a kind of words."p.67

"I took part in a conversation the other say, concerning a recent writer of lyrics, a man of subtle mind, whose head appeared to be a music-box of delicate tunes and rhythms, and whose skill, and command of language, we could not sufficiently praise. But when the question arose, whether he was not only a lyrist, but a poet, we were obliged to confess that he is plainly a contemporary, not an eternal man."p.68

"We hear, through all the varied music, the ground-tone of conventional life. Our poets are men of talents who sing, and not the children of music. The argument is secondary, the finish of the versus is primary."p.68

"The poet has a new thought: he has a whole new experience to unfold; he will tell us how it was with him, and all men will be the richer in his fortune. For, the experience of each new age requires a new confession, and the world seems always waiting for its poet."

"With what joy I begin to read a poem, which I confide in as an inspiration! And now my chains are to be broken; I shall mount above these clouds and opaque airs in which I live,--opaque, though they seem transparent,--and from the heavens of truth I shall see and comprehend my relations. That will reconcile me to life, and renovate nature, to see trifles animated by a tendency, and to know what I am doing. Life will no more be a noise; not I shall see men and women, and know the signs by which they may be discerned from fools and Satan's. This day shall be better than my birth-day: then I became an animal: now I am invited into the science of the real. Such is the hope, but the fruition is postponed. Oftener it falls, that this winged man, who will carry me into the heaven, whirls me into the clouds, then leaps and frisks about with me from cloud to cloud, still affirming that he is bound heavenward; and I, being myself a novice, am slow in perceiving that he does not know the way into the heavens, and is merely bent that I should admire his skill to rise, like a fowl or a flying fish, a little way from the ground or the water; but the all-piercing, all-feeding, and ocular air of heaven, that man shall never inhabit. I tumble down again into my old nooks, and lead the life of exaggerations as before, and have lost my faith in the possibility of any guide who can lead me thither where I would be."p.69

"Things admit of being used a symbols, because nature is a symbol, in the whole, and in every part. Every line we can draw in the sand, has expression; and there is no body without its spirit or genius. All form is an effect of character; all conditions, of the quality of the life; all harmony, of health; (and, for this reason, a perception of beauty should be sympathetic, or proper only to the good). The beautiful rests on the foundations of the necessary. The soul makes the body"p.70

"We stand before the secret of the world, there where Being passes into Appearance, and Unity into Variety."

"science always goes abreast with the just elevation of the man, keeping step with religion and metaphysics, or, the state of science is an index of our self-knowledge. Since everything in nature answers to a moral power, if any phenomenon remains brute and dark, it is that the corresponding faculty in the observer is not yet active."

"every man is so far a poet as to be susceptible of these enchantments of nature: for all men have the thoughts whereof the universe is the celebration. I find that the fascination resides in the symbol. Who loves nature? Who does not? Is it only poets, and men of leisure and cultivation, who live with her? No; but also hunters, farmers, grooms, and butchers, though they express their affection in their choice of life, and not in their choice of words."

"His worship is sympathetic; he has no definitions, but he is commanded in nature, by the living power which he feels to be there present. No imitation, or playing of these things, would content him; he loves the earnest of the north wind, of rain, of stone, and wood, and iron. A beauty not explicable is dearer than a beauty which we can see to the end of. It is nature the symbol, nature certifying the supernatural, body overflowed by life, which he worships, with coarse, but sincere rites."p.71

"The poorest experience is rich enough for all the purposes of expressing thought. Why covet a knowledge of new facts?"p.71

"Readers of poetry see the factory-village, and the railway, and fancy that the poetry of the landscape is broken up by these; for these works of art are not yet consecrated in their reading; but the poet sees them fall within the great Order not less than the bee-hive, or the spider's geometrical web. Nature adopts them very fast into her vital circles, and the gliding train of cars she loves like her own."p.72

"As the eyes of Lyncaeus were said to see through the earth, so the poet turns the world to glass, and shows us all things in their right series and procession. For, through that better perception, he stands one step nearer to things, and sees the flowing or metamorphosis; perceives that thought is multiform; that within the form of every creature is a force impelling it to ascend into a higher form; and, following with his eyes the life, uses the forms which express that life, and so his speech flows with the flowing of nature."p.73

"What we call nature, is a certain self-regulated motion, or change; and nature does all things by her own hands, and does not leave another to baptize her, but baptizes herself; and this through the metamorphosis again."p.73

"She makes a man; and having brought him to ripe age, she will no longer run the risk of losing this wonder at a blow, but she detaches from him a new self, that the kind may be safe from accidents to which the individual is exposed. So when the soul of the poet has come to ripeness of thought, she detaches and sends away from it its poems or songs,--a fearless, sleepless, deathless progeny, which is not exposed to the accidents of the weary kingdom of time: a fearless, vivacious offspring, clad with wings(such was the virtue of the soul out of which they came), which carry them fast and far, and infix them irrecoverably in to the hearts of men. These wings are the beauty of the poet's soul. The songs, thus flying immortal from their mortal parent , are pursued by clamorous flights of censures, which swarm in far greater numbers, and threaten to devour them; but these last are not winged. At the end of a very short leap they fall plump down, and rot, having received from the souls out of which they came no beautiful wings. But the melodies of the poet ascend, and leap, and pierce into the deeps of infinite time."p.74


"It is a secret which every intellectual man quickly learns, that, beyond the energy of his possessed and conscious intellect, he is capable of a new energy (as of an intellect doubled on itself), by abandonment to the nature of things; that, beside his privacy of power as an individual man, there is a great public power, on which he can draw, by unlocking, at all risks, his human doors, and suffering the ethereal tides to roll and circulate through him: then he is caught up into the life of the Universe, his speech is thunder, his thought is law, and his words are universally intelligible as the plants and animals."p.75

"The poet knows that he speaks adequately, then, only when he speaks somewhat wildly, or, "with the flower of the mind;" not with the intellect, used as an organ, but with the intellect released from all service, and suffered to take its direction from its celestial life."p.75

"The spirit of the world, the great calm presence of the creator, comes not forth to the sorceries of opium or of wine. The sublime vision comes to the pure and simple soul in a clean and chaste body."p.76

"I think nothing is of any value in books, excepting he transcendental and extraordinary. If a man is inflamed and carried away by his thought, to that degree that he forgets the authors and the public, and heeds only his one dream, which holds him like an insanity, let me read his paper"p.78

"how mean to study, when an emotion communicates to the intellect the power to sap and upheave nature: how great the perspective! Nations, times, systems, enter and disappear, like threads in tapestry of large figure and many colors; dream delivers us to dream, and, while the drunkenness lasts, we will sell our bed, our philosophy, our religion, in our opulence."

"On the brink of the waters of life and truth, we are miserably dying. The inaccessibleness of every thought but that we are in, is wonderful. What if you come near to it-you are as remote, which you are nearest, as when you are farthest. Every thought is also a prison; every heaven is also a prison. Therefore we love the poet, the inventor, who in any form, whether in an ode, or in an action, or in looks and behavior, has yielded us a new thought. He unlocks our chains, and admits us to a new scene."

"But the quality of the imagination is to flow, and not to freeze. The poet did not stop at the color, or the form, but read their meaning, neither may he rest in this meaning, but he makes the same objects exponents of his new thought."

"Swedenborg, of all men in the recent ages, stands eminently for the translator of nature into thought. I do not know the man in history to whom things stood so uniformly for words. Before him the metamorphosis continually plays. Everything on which his eye rests, obeys the impulses of moral nature. The figs become grapes whilst he eats them. When some of his angels affirmed a truth, the laurel twig which they held blossomed in their hands. The noise which, at a distance, appeared like gnashing and thumping, on coming nearer was found to be the voice of disputants. The men, in one of his visions, seen in heavenly light, appeared like dragons, and seemed in darkness: but, to each other, they appeared as men, and, when the light from heaven shone into their cabin, they complained of the darkness, and were compelled to shut the window that they might see."p.79

"We do not, with sufficient plainness, or sufficient profoundness, address ourselves to life, nor dare we chaunt our own times and social circumstance. If we filled the day with bravery, we should not shrink from celebrating it."p.80

"Art is the path of the creator to his work. The paths, or methods, are ideal and eternal, though few men ever see them, not the artist himself for years, or for a lifetime, unless he come into the conditions. … to express themselves symmetrically and abundantly, not dwarfishly and fragmentarily."p.80

"He hears a voice , he sees a becokoning. Then he is apprised, with wonder, what herds of daemons hem him in. He can no more rest; he says, with the old painter, "By God, it is in me, and must go forth of me." He pursues a beauty, half seen, which flies before him. The poet pours out verses in every solitude. Most of the things he says are conventional, no doubt; but by and by he says something which is original and beautiful. That charms him. He would say nothing else but such things."p.81

"Once having tasted this immortal ichor, he cannot have enough of it"

"Stand there, baulked and dumb, stuttering and stammering, hissed and hooted, stand and strive, until, at last, rage draw out of thee that dream-power which every night shows thee is thine own; a power transcending all limit and privacy, and by virtue of which a man is the conductor of the whole river of electricity. Nothing walks, or creeps, or grows, or exists, which must not in turn arise and walk before him as exponent of his meaning. Comes he to that power, his genius is no longer exhaustible."

"O poet! A new nobility is conferred in grooves and pastures, and not in castles, or by the sword-blade, any longer. The conditions are hard, but equal. Thou shalt leave the world, and know the muse only. Thou shalt not know any longer the times, customs, graces, politics, or opinions of men, but shalt take all from the muse."p.81

"And this is thy reward: that the ideal shall be real to thee, and the impressions of the actual world shall fall like summer rain, copious, but not troublesome, to thy invulnerable essence. Thou shalt have the whole land for thy park and manor, the see for thy bath and navigation, without tax and without envy; the woods and the rivers thou shalt own; and thou shalt possess that wherein others are only tenants and boarders. Thou true land-lord! sea-lord! air-lord! Wherever snow falls, or water flows, or birds fly, wherever day and night been in twilight, wherever the blue heaven is hung by clouds, or sown with stars, wherever are forms with transparent boundaries, wherever are outlets into celestial space, wherever is danger, and awe, and love, there is Beauty, plentous as rain, shed for thee, and though thou shouldest walk the world over, thou shalt not be able to find a condition inopportune or ignoble.