Actor portraying Henry David Thoreau & the site of Thoreau's cabin marked by a cairn in 1908.

QUOTES: Wisdom & wit – Henry David Thoreau

Actor portraying Henry David Thoreau & the site of Thoreau's cabin marked by a cairn in 1908.

Henry David Thoreau died 154 years ago today, aged 44 (b. 12 July 1817 – d. 6 May 1862).

Thoreau was an American author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, surveyor, historian – and other things. I don’t always agree with his thoughts and some I agree with but fall short on – but most are worth hearing and chewing over.

Here are 10 of my favourite Thoreau quotes:

10. “Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.”

9. “Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.”

8. “The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?”

7. “Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.”

6. “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.”

5. “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.”

4. “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

3. “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”

2. “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.”

1. “Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.”

Have you any favourite Thoreau quotes or thoughts about the man/his life?


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