Ralph Waldo Emerson

Quotations

I should as soon think of swimming across Charles River when I wish to go to Boston, as of reading all my books in originals when I have them rendered for me in my mother tongue.

Books

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

Essays: First Series (1841), "Friendship"

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

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

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

Essays, First Series, "Self-Reliance"

Men achieve a certain greatness unawares, when working to another aim.

The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.

Essays: Second Series, New England Reformers (1844)

The measure of a master is his success in bringing all men round to his opinion twenty years later.

The Conduct of Life (1860)

A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us.

Essays, "Character," 1844

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

The first in time and the first in importance of the influences upon the mind is that of nature. Every day, the sun; and after sunset, night and her stars. Ever the winds blow; ever the grass grows.

Oration, August 31, 1837

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 or worse as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given him to till.

But hospitality must be for service, and not for show, or it pulls down the host. The brave soul rates itself too high to value itself by the splendor of its table and draperies. It gives what it hath, and all it hath, but its own majesty can lend a better grace to bannocks and fair water than belong to city feasts.

Essays, First Series, "Heroism"

If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, though he build his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.

Punishment is a fruit that unsuspected ripens within the flower of the pleasure which concealed it. Cause and effect, means and ends, seed and fruit, cannot be severed; for the effect already blooms in the cause, the end preexists in the means, the fruit in the seed.

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

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

Imagination is not a talent of some men but is the health of every man.

We are born believing. A man bears beliefs as a tree bears apples.

"Worship," The Conduct of Life (1860)

In art the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can inspire.

We ought to celebrate this hour by expressions of manly joy. Not thanks, not prayer seem quite the highest or truest name for our communication with the infinite,-but glad and conspiring reception,-reception that becomes giving in its turn, as the receiver is only the All-Giver in part and infancy.

Speech, August 11, 1841

The majority of men are bundles of beginnings.

Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.

Self-Reliance

Artists must be sacrificed to their art. Like bees, they must put their lives into the sting they give.

"Inspiration," Letters and Social Aims (1876)

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. No man has learned anything rightly until he knows that every day is Doomsday.

"Works and Days," Society and Solitude (1870)