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45 Sensationa Henry Thoreau Quotes on Civil Disobedience, Walden and Nature

“Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.”



Henry David Thoreau is a popular name in the world of literature and poetry.

His works like Life in the Woods, Civil Disobedience and Wild Apples are classics in every literature library around the world.

Not only his written pieces, but Henry David Thoreau’s quotes(Henry Thoreau Quotes) are very famous among the lovers of literature as well.

Here is best list of Henry Thoreau Quotes

1.“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.”

Henry Thoreau Quotes
Source: Feebin

2.“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”

3.“It’s the beauty within us that makes it possible for us to recognize the beauty around us. The question is not what you look at but what you see.”

4.“The universe is wider than our views of it.”

5.“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

6.“Dreams are the touchstones of our characters.”

7.“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

8.“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.”

9.“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”

10.”Every man is the builder of a temple called his body.”

11.“Life isn’t about finding yourself; it’s about creating yourself. So live the life you imagined.”

12.“Let us first be as simple and well as Nature ourselves, dispel the clouds which hang over our brows, and take up a little life into our pores. Do not stay to be an overseer of the poor, but endeavor to become one of the worthies of the world.”

13.“Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.”

14.“What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook.”

15.“Dwell as near as possible to the channel in which your life flows.”

16.“Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify.”

17.“The world is but a canvas for our imagination.”

18.“There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in the infinite leisure and repose of nature.”

19.“How does it become a man to behave toward this American government to-day? I answer, that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it.”

20.“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

21.“If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal, — that is your success.”

22.“The steadfast shores never once turned aside for us, but still trended as they were made; why then should we always turn aside for them?”

23.“Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.”

24.“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

25.“Simplify your life. Don’t waste the years struggling for things that are unimportant. Don’t burden yourself with possessions. Keep your needs and wants simple and enjoy what you have. Don’t destroy your peace of mind by looking back, worrying about the past. Live in the present. Simplify!”

26.“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”

27.“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.”

28.“Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life so. Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.”

29.“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

30.“Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.”

31.“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”

32.“To be awake is to be alive.”

33.“The language of friendship is not words but meanings.”

34.“I had three pieces of limestone on my desk, but I was terrified to find that they required to be dusted daily, when the furniture of my mind was all undusted still, and threw them out the window in disgust.”

35.“If I seem to boast more than is becoming, my excuse is that I brag for humanity rather than for myself.”

36.“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.”

37.“Goodness is the only investment that never fails.”

38.“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

39.“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”

40.“Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.”

41.“I heartily accept the motto, — ‘That government is best which governs least’; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically.”

42.“An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.”

43.“We are all sculptors and painters, and our material is our own flesh and blood and bones. Any nobleness begins at once to refine a man’s features, and meanness or sensuality to imbrute them.”

44.“There are secret articles in our treaties with the gods, of more importance than all the rest, which the historian can never know.”

45.“If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.”

Brief Introduction

Born on 12 July, 1817, in Concord, Thoreau was an exceptional writer, poet and philosopher.Originally named as David Thoreau, he changed his name to Henry because everyone used to call him that.

In 1828, he went to the Concord Academy. After graduating, he got enrolled at the Harvard University in 1833. After graduating from Harvard in 1837, he worked as a teacher at a school in Concord, from which he resigned very soon. Next, he went to work for his father in his pencil-making business.

In July 4, 1845 Thoreau decided to give his poetry and writing some individual attention and moved into a small house in a forest around Walden Pond.He died of tuberculosis at the age of 44 on May 6, 1862. He was buried in Concord. 

Friendship with Emerson

In 1837, Thoreau became friends with Emerson while he was in Harvard.
In 1841, he was invited to live in the Emerson household where he assisted Emerson with this writing. During this time, he was very inspired to start writing on his own. He lived there for a few years before he decided to move out to focus on his own poetry.  

Henry’s Life in Walden

In 1845 Thoreau decided to build himself a hut to live in the woods.
In spring, he picked a spot by the Walden Pond and began chopping down trees to build his home.
Once settled, he only ate fruits and vegetables that he found growing in the woods and the beans that he planted.
He became occupied with his gardening, fishing, rowing and swimming and at the same time, gave more time to his writings.

It was here that he realized how the simpler things in life were more important and more beautiful than anything else man-made. He became more self-aware and peaceful during this time of his life.

He lived here for two years before moving out and living with the Emerson family again.


This was one of the most important movements of the 19th century and both Thoreau and Emerson were a huge part of it.
Transcendentalism proposed the individuality of every writer and poet and gave a new perspective to look at literature through. It suggested that nature, emotions and spirits all are separate concepts. It also claimed that reform began with an individual rather than a group of people. 

Thoreau’s Life as a Poet and a Writer

In 1840, Thoreau officially became a poet. The transcendentalists started a magazine called, The Dial. It was this magazine that published the early writings of Thoreau. His infamous nature writings “Sympathy”, “Natural history of Massachusetts”, “To the maiden in the East” and “A winter walk” were all published in this magazine.

Thoreau also kept a journal with him through many years of his life. While near death, he published the essays pieces of writings from that journal.
In 1846, Thoreau was arrested for not paying poll tax intended to support America’s war in Mexico. He spent a night in jail and his famous essay “Civil Disobedience” originated through this experience.

This journal also became a source of his famous writing “Walden” when he moved to his self-built house in the woods. A lot of the famous David Thoreau’s quotes are from this time of his life.

Henry’s social work

Not only was Thoreau a nature-lover, he was also a very kind-hearted individual.
With time he became more of an activist. Thoreau helped many slaves flee to the North. He also wrote and lectured against slavery in his piece “Slavery in Massachusetts”. During the activist phase of his life, Thoreau met a father-like figure John Brown. When John was hanged as a result of a failed raid, Thoreau took the shock very badly and his health deteriorated very quickly.  

Henry’s Personal life

In 1840, he fell in love with an attractive visitor in Concord named Ellen Sewall, who he soon proposed for marriage. She agreed at first but then broke off the engagement very soon because of pressure from her parents. He then moved to Emerson’s house. Thoreau remained a bachelor for the rest of his life.
A few years later, his brother John died of tetanus after cutting a finger. This broke Thoreau’s heart even more and he became increasingly restless. He became very disappointed with the life in the city and went back to Concord in 1843.


Even though Thoreau himself was not awarded much and he barely made his ends meet throughout his life as a writer, there is now an award named after him.
The Henry David Thoreau Prize is given to a writer annually who displays an extraordinary talent in nature writing.

Final Thought

He may have died of sickness but Henry David’s quotes are always very life affirming. He believed that life should be lived among nature and in the best way possible as the best version of one’s self. Eventhough he faced a lot of hardships regarding his writings during his lifetime, his work gained major recognition after his death and made him immortal.