Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes

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Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, philosopher, lecturer, and poet in the mid-19th century. He was the leader of the transcendentalist movement, believing in the inherent goodness of both people and nature.

Through dozens of published essays and over 1,500 public lectures, Emerson championed individualism and criticized the pressures placed on American society in his time.

Emerson’s most important essays were published together in two collections that represent the core of his thinking: Essays: First Series (1841) and Essays: Second Series (1844).

He wrote on such themes as nature, self-reliance, and experience; greatly influencing writers, thinkers, and poets in his own generation and those that came after.

Some of the world’s most famous quotes were written by Ralph Waldo Emerson so we’ve collected over 330 of the best Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes so you can always find the inspiration you need.

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.

Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.

Thought is the blossom; language the bud; action the fruit behind it.

He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.

There is properly no history; only biography.

Respect the child. Be not too much his parent. Trespass not on his solitude.

“It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed.

Every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.

There never was a child so lovely, but his mother was glad to get him asleep.

Scholarship is to be created not by compulsion, but by awakening a pure interest in knowledge.

Good luck is another name for tenacity of purpose.

Valor consists in the power of self recovery.

“It is not the length of life, but the depth.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force, that thoughts rule the world.

Our strength grows out of our weakness.

Let us draw a lesson from nature, which always works by short ways. When the fruit is ripe, it falls.

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

Conservatism stands on man’s confessed limitations; reform on his indisputable infinitude; conservatism on circumstance; liberalism on power; one goes to make an adroit member of the social frame; the other to postpone all things to the man himself; conservatism is debonair and social; reform is individual and imperious.

“Whatever limits us we call fate.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The god of the cannibals will be a cannibal, of the crusaders a crusader, and of the merchants a merchant.

A nation never falls but by suicide.

Alcohol, hashish, prussic acid, strychnine are weak dilutions. The surest poison is time.

What a new face courage puts on everything!

That what we seek we shall find; what we flee from flees from us.

“What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.

Your goodness must have some edge to it — else it is none.

The good news is that the moment you decide that what you know is more important than what you have been taught to believe, you will have shifted gears in your quest for abundance. Success comes from within, not from without.

Things are pretty, graceful, rich, elegant, handsome, but, until they speak to the imagination, not yet beautiful.

No great man ever complains of want of opportunity.

“The characteristic of a genuine heroism is its persistency.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

God enters by a private door into every individual.

When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.

Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.

Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

Self Reliance and Other Essays
“Happy is the house that shelters a friend.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect.

If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.

“All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.

Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.

A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I may think aloud.

I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine.

The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.

Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

“Always do what you are afraid to do.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The heroic cannot be the common, nor the common the heroic.

Children are all foreigners.

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

Skill to do comes of doing.

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

“The things taught in schools and colleges are not an education, but the means to an education.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.

Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.

He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.

A man must consider what a rich realm he abdicates when he becomes a conformist.

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

“The earth laughs in flowers.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

We judge of man’s wisdom by his hope.

Great men exist that there may be greater men.

Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much.

Speak what you think today in hard words and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today.

Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

“Blame is safer than praise.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whatever games are played with us, we must play no games with ourselves, but deal in our privacy with the last honesty and truth.

Every man alone is sincere. At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins. We parry and fend the approach of our fellow-man by compliments, by gossip, by amusements, by affairs. We cover up our thought from him under a hundred folds.

Belief consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; Unbelief, in denying them.

The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence.

“Beware what you set your heart upon. For it surely shall be yours.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

What am I? And what is? Asks the human spirit with a curiosity new-kindled, but never to be quenched.

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

What I need is someone who will make me do what I can.

Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.

The best lightning rod for your protection is your own spine.

Envy is ignorance, imitation is suicide.

“Scatter joy!” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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.

Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.

The only way to have a friend is to be one.

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.

Conduct of Life: A Philosophical Reading

Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.

Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.

We call the tree good from its fruits, and the man, from his works.

The meaning of good and bad, of better and worse, is simply helping or hurting.

“Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting some on yourself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Heroism feels and never reasons and therefore is always right.

For every grain of wit there is a grain of folly.

Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.

Better to know a few things which are good and necessary than many things which are useless and mediocre.

The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.

“We aim above the mark to hit the mark.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Solitude, the safeguard of mediocrity, is to genius the stern friend.

You shall have joy, or you shall have power, said God; you shall not have both.

Life is our dictionary.

Trust instinct to the end, even though you can give no reason.

In the highest civilization, the book is still the highest delight. He who has once known its satisfactions is provided with a resource against calamity.

“An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new.

A great man is always willing to be little.

Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

Make the most of yourself….for that is all there is of you.

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is a happy talent to know how to play.

Religion is to do right. It is to love, it is to serve, it is to think, it is to be humble.

The less government we have, the better — the fewer laws, and the less confided power.

When a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and the purity of its heart.

Conservatism makes no poetry, breathes no prayer, has no invention; it is all memory. Reform has no gratitude, no prudence, no husbandry.

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Manners require time, and nothing is more vulgar than haste.

With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.

God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.

It is one of the beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.

Life consists of what man is thinking about all day.

“Every artist was first an amateur.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions.

The reward of a thing well done is having done it.

The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.

For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.

When friendships are real, they are not glass threads or frost work, but the solidest things we can know.

To be great is to be misunderstood.

“It is easy to live for others, everybody does. I call on you to live for yourself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes, rainbows to follow the clouds, laughter to kiss your lips, sunsets to warm your heart, hugs when spirits sag, beauty for your eyes to see, friendships to brighten your being, faith so that you can believe, confidence for when you doubt, courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth, Love to complete your life.

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.

We are too civil to books. For a few golden sentences we will turn over and actually read a volume of four or five hundred pages.

“Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Men are what their mothers made them.

The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.

The college, which should be a place of delightful labour, is made odious and unhealthy, and the young men are tempted to frivolous amusements to rally their jaded spirits.

Friendship, like the immortality of the soul, is too good to be believed. When friendships are real, they are not glass threads or frost work but the solidest things we know.

“Be good to your work, your word, and your friend.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

We are students of words: we are shut up in schools, and colleges, and recitation -rooms, for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bag of wind, a memory of words, and do not know a thing.

Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers in it.

There is one other reason for dressing well, namely that dogs respect it, and will not attack you in good clothes.

Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and once it has done so, he/she will have to accept that his life will be radically changed.

“We don’t grow old. When we cease to grow, we become old.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.

And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

A moment is a concentrated eternity.

Grow angry slowly – there’s plenty of time.

To fill the hour – that is happiness.

“Without a rich heart, wealth is an ugly beggar.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

People wish to be settled: only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.

The eyes indicate the antiquity of the soul.

He needs no library, for he has not done thinking; no church, for he is himself a prophet; no statute book, for he hath the Lawgiver; no money, for he is value itself; no road, for he is at home where he is.

The soul active sees absolute truth; and utters truth, or creates.

Our faith comes in moments; our vice is habitual.

“Money often costs too much.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.

The invariable mark of a dream is to see it come true.

Life is a progress, and not a station.

Work and acquire, and thou hast chained the wheel of chance.

The artist always has the masters in his eyes.

“Every wall is a door.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

In order for one to learn the important lessons of life, one must first overcome a fear each day.

Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.

Life is a train of moods like a string of beads; and as we pass through them they prove to be many colored lenses, which paint the world their own hue, and each shows us only what lies in its own focus.

There are books which rank in our life with parents and lovers and passionate experiences.

The ancestor of every action is a thought.

“Nature and books belong to the eyes that see them.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.

Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.

Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to illusion. Life is like a train of moods like a string of beads, and, as we pass through them, they prove to be many-colored lenses which paint the world their own hue.

Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.

“The best effect of fine persons is felt after we have left their presence.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed but that our power to do has increased.

Stay at home in your mind. Don’t recite other people’s opinions.

Good thoughts are no better than good dreams, unless they be executed.

Thought is all light, and publishes itself to the universe. It will speak, though you were dumb, by its own miraculous organ. It will flow out of your actions, your manners, and your face. It will bring you friendships. It will impledge you to truth by the love and expectation of generous minds.

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness.

“Beauty without grace is the hook without the bait.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

So is cheerfulness, or a good temper, the more it is spent, the more remains.

Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis.

Life is a series of surprises and would not be worth taking or keeping if it were not.

We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents.

Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection.

“I dream of a better tomorrow, where chickens can cross the road and not be questioned about their motives.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nature hates monopolies and exceptions.

It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, — “always do what you are afraid to do”.

We find delight in the beauty and happiness of children that makes the heart too big for the body.

Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing.

Society is a wave. The wave moves onward, but the water of which it is composed does not.

Self Reliance and Other Essays

I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.

Colleges hate geniuses, just as convents hate saints.

“The first wealth is health.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The world makes way for the man who knows where he is going.

Traveling is a fool’s paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty, and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I seek the Vatican, and the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go.

Do the thing and you will have the power.

Life is short, but there is always time enough for courtesy.

“We are always getting ready to live but never living.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is success? To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate the beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch Or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!

An original sentence, a step forward, is worth more than all the censures.

What your heart thinks is great, is great. The soul’s emphasis is always right.

I do not wish more external goods, — neither possessions, nor honors, nor powers, nor persons. The gain is apparent; the tax is certain.

“If a man owns land, the land owns him.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I no longer wish to meet a good I do not earn, for example, to find a pot of buried gold, knowing that it brings with it new burdens.

We wish to be self-sustained. We do not quite forgive a giver. The hand that feeds us is in some danger of being bitten.

Nature is a mutable cloud which is always and never the same.

The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.

These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence.

“We must be our own before we can be another’s.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Self-trust is the first secret of success.

Happy is the hearing man; unhappy the speaking man.

Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can offer with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation, but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession.

Science does not know its debt to imagination.

Every genuine work of art has as much reason for being as the earth and the sun.

“Of all the ways to lose a person, death is the kindest.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Each man has his own vocation; his talent is his call. There is one direction in which all space is open to him.

Every man in his lifetime needs to thank his faults.


Next to the originator of a good sentence is the first quoter of it.

But genius looks forward. The eyes of men are set in his forehead, not in his hindhead. Man hopes. Genius creates.

In a library we are surrounded by many hundreds of dear friends imprisoned by an enchanter in paper and leather boxes.

All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients.

“Love, and you shall be loved.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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.

Even in the mud and scum of things, something always, always sings.

Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, and faith looks up.

You are constantly invited to be what you are.

Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.

“Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.

You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.

People only see what they are prepared to see.

Let us be silent, that we may hear the whisper of God.

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.

Essays: First Series

There is creative reading as well as creative writing.

In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.

Be not the slave of your own past – plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with new self-respect, with new power, and with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.

People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.

Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.

“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.

Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.

He that does not fill a place at home, cannot abroad. He only goes there to hide his insignificance in a larger crowd.

If we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last.

He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.

There can be no excess to love; none to knowledge; none to beauty, when these attributes are considered in the purest sense.

“Every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child.

To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven.

We are immersed in beauty, but our eyes have no clear vision.

Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.

Beauty rests on necessities. The line of beauty is the result of perfect economy.

Don’t choose the better person, choose the person who makes a better you.

“Tis the good reader that makes the good book.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.

The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.

Nothing external to you has any power over you.

If you would lift me you must be on higher ground. If you would liberate me you must be free. If you would correct my false view of facts, — hold up to me the same facts in the true order of thought, and I cannot go back from the new conviction.

Society and Solitude

What can we see, read, acquire, but ourselves. Take the book, my friend, and read your eyes out, you will never find there what I find.

“Be an opener of doors.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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.

Every spirit builds itself a house; and beyond its house, a world; and beyond its world a heaven. Know then, that the world exists for you: build, therefore, your own world.

If I have lost confidence in myself, I have the universe against me.

There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us.

Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good.

“The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Books are the best of things, well used; abused, the worst. What is the right use? What is the end which all means go to effect? They are for nothing but to inspire.

The American Scholar

The good news is that the moment you decide that what you know is more important than what you have been taught to believe, you will have shifted gears in your quest for abundance. Success comes from within, not from without.

You become what you think about all day long.

Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.

Some people will tell you there is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea.

Letters and Social Aims
“Nothing is more simple than greatness; indeed, to be simple is to be great.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.

None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.

Beauty without expression is boring.

What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.

Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.

A child is a curly, dimpled lunatic.

“Fear always springs from ignorance.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The wise man in the storm prays God not for safety from danger but for deliverance from fear.

Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object.

We acquire the strength we have overcome.

Go oft to the house of thy friend, for weeds choke the unused path.

Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live as well as think.

“Violence is not power, but the absence of power.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

‘Tis not important how the hero does this or that, but what he is.

By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight, we all quote.

The reason why the world lacks unity, and lies broken and in heaps, is, because man is disunited with himself.

My evening visitors, if they cannot see the clock should find the time in my face.

Every burned book enlightens the world.

Each man is a hero and an oracle to somebody.

“Each of us sees in others what we carry in our own hearts.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A cynic can chill and dishearten with a single word.

Every really able man, in whatever direction he work,—a man of large affairs, an inventor, a statesman, an orator, a poet, a painter,—if you talk sincerely with him, considers his work, however much admired, as far short of what it should be.

Everything in the universe goes by indirection. There are no straight lines.

The dull pray; the geniuses are light mockers.

Representative Men

No matter how you seem to fatten on a crime, there can never be good for the bee which is bad for the hive.

We are reformers in spring and summer; in autumn and winter, we stand by the old; reformers in the morning, conservers at night.

“We boil at different degrees.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

We do what we must, and call it by the best names we can.

Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning, and under every deep a lower deep opens.

The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next.

The world belongs to the energetic.

There can never be deep peace between two spirits, never mutual respect until, in their dialogue, each stands for the whole world.

“Hitch your wagon to a star.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The love that you withhold is the pain that you carry.

He who has put forth his total strength in fit actions, has the richest return of wisdom.

The American Scholar

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.

Make yourself necessary to somebody. Do not make life hard to any.

The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship.


Some books leave us free and some books make us free.

“The years teach much the days never know.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil. It is not for you to choose what he shall know, what he shall do. It is chosen and foreordained and he only holds the key to his own secret.

Whatever course you decide upon there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.

No man should travel until he has learned the language of the country he visits. Otherwise he voluntarily makes himself a great baby – so helpless and so ridiculous.

“Our minds travel when our bodies are forced to stay at home.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Never read any book that is not a year old.

In Praise of Books

Want is a growing giant whom the coat of Have was never large enough to cover.

The Conduct of Life

When you were born you were crying and everyone else was smiling. Live your life so at the end, you’re the one who is smiling and everyone else is crying.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this huge collection of Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes! Though this American writer died in 1882, his advice on knowing yourself, the value of education, and living life to the fullest is still just as relevant today.

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Natalie Seale

Natalie Seale is a writer, researcher, and editor for keepinspiring.me. She holds an MA, MSc, and PhD in History from the University of Edinburgh, and has started two businesses since 2011. Natalie is an avid reader, a keen traveller, and enjoys cooking and walking with her English Spaniel. Her posts focus on inspiring others to live healthy, happy, and active lives.