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Quotes by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Updated on October 1, 2014

Who was Ralph Waldo Emerson?

Ralph Waldo Emerson, famous poet, lecturer, and essayist during the 1800s, was born on May 25, 1803 in Boston, Massachusetts. Emerson's father died when he was eight, leaving his mother, Ruth, to raise him and his four brothers alone; three other Emerson children died in childhood. Ruth had help from the women in the family with raising her sons, including a very eccentric, death obsessed aunt, Mary Moody Emerson who was a big influence on Emerson throughout his life.

Ralph Waldo Emerson's formal schooling began at the age of nine. A young child prodigy, Emerson entered Harvard College at the age of fourteen. During his junior year of college, Emerson began keeping a journal that would be called Wide World . By his senior year, Emerson decided to go by his middle name, Waldo. He graduated from Harvard in the exact middle of his class of 59 people.

Emerson was a Transcendentalist (and a leader in the Transcendentalism movement in America) who believed that writing and reading was an experience that connected both the reader and writer with the divine and with nature. Emerson's book, Nature, was published anonymously because Transcendentalism was a controversial topic at the time of publication.

Known for his impressive intellect and sharp wit, sadly he lived the remainder of his last years in a state of confusion. Emerson lost his memory as he aged, sometimes forgetting his own name. Ralph Waldo Emerson stopped appearing in public three years prior to his death. Emerson died in 1882 at his home in Concord, Massachusetts.

~ We are always getting ready to live, but never living.~

~ What you are comes to you.~

~ Life is a progress, and not a station. ~

~ Always do what you are afraid to do. ~

~ Make yourself necessary to somebody. ~

~ We must be our own before we can be another's. ~

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

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

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

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

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

~ To be great is to be misunderstood. ~

~ As soon as there is life there is danger. ~

~ Solitude is impractical and yet society is fatal. ~

~ A few strong instincts and a few plain rules suffice us. ~

~ The quality of the imagination is to flow and not to freeze. ~

~ What we seek we shall find; what we flee from flees from us.~

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

~ Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow. ~

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

~ We gain the strength of the temptation we resist. ~

~ Hitch your wagon to a star.~

~ Nature always wears the colors of the spirit. ~

~ Real action is in silent moments. ~

~ Knowledge is knowing that we cannot know. ~

~ The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it. ~

~ There is an optical illusion about every person we meet.~

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

~ A man is usually more careful of his money than he is of his principles.~

~ The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization. ~

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

~ The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. ~

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

~ There are as many pillows of illusion as flakes in a snow-storm. We wake from one dream into another dream. ~

~ Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience. ~

~ We are wiser than we know.~

~ The eye is easily frightened.~

~ A fly is as untamable as a hyena. ~

~ Insist on yourself; never imitate. ~

~ The ancestor of every action is a thought. ~

~ How much of human life is lost in waiting. ~

~ Nobody can bring you peace but yourself. ~

~ The one thing in the world, of value, is the active soul. ~

~ Nothing can bring you happiness but yourself. ~

~ Discontent is want of self-discipline; it is infirmity of will.~

~ As a cure for worrying, work is better than whiskey. ~

~ Courage consists in the power of self-recovery. ~

~ A woman's strength is the irresistible might of weakness. ~

~ Love of beauty is Taste. The creation of beauty is Art. ~

~ No sensible person ever made an apology. ~

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

~ Can anybody remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce? ~

~ The chief mourner does not always attend the funeral. ~

~ For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness. ~

~ Character - a reserved force which acts directly by presence, and without means. ~

~ We are a puny and fickle folk. Avarice, hesitation, and following are our diseases. ~

~ Little minds have little worries, big minds have no time for worries. ~

~ All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. ~

~ No one can cheat you out of ultimate success but yourself. ~

Jeff Dunham & Walter Talking about Love & Marriage

Quotes about Marriage

~ A man's wife has more power over him than the state has. ~

~ Marriage is the perfection of what love aimed at, ignorant of what it sought. ~

~ Is not marriage an open question, when it is alleged, from the beginning of the world, that such as are in the institution wish to get out, and such as are out wish to get in?~

Jeff Dunham and Walter Talking about the Old Ball & Chain

~ Getting old is a fascination thing. The older you get, the older you want to get. ~

~ The only gift is a portion of thyself. ~

~ As we grow old, the beauty steals inward. ~

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

~ Proportion is almost impossible to human beings. There is no one who does not exaggerate. ~

~ There are no days in life so memorable as those which vibrated to some stroke of the imagination. ~

~ Life consists in what a man is thinking of all day. ~

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

~ The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn. ~

~ A cynic can chill and dishearten with a single word. ~

~ Take egotism out, and you would castrate the benefactor. ~

~ I hate the giving of the hand unless the whole man accompanies it. ~

~ Some will always be above others. Destroy the inequality today, and it will appear again tomorrow. ~

~ Thoughts come into our minds by avenues which we never left open, and thoughts go out of our minds through avenues which we never voluntarily opened.~

~ Men are what their mothers made them. ~


~ A man in debt is so far a slave. ~

~ Every hero becomes a bore at last. ~

~ Every man is entitled to be valued by his best moment. ~

~ There are some men above grief and some men below it. ~

~ Every man in his lifetime needs to thank his faults. ~

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

~ In the morning a man walks with his whole body; in the evening, only with his legs. ~

~ If the tongue had not been framed for articulation, man would still be a beast in the forest. ~

~ The cultivated man, wise to know and bold to perform, is the end to which nature works.~

~ When a man is pushed, tormented, defeated, he has a chance to learn something. ~

~ All history is but the lengthened shadow of a great man. ~

~ Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect. ~

~ A man builds a fine house; and now he has a master, and a task for life is to furnish, watch, show it, and keep it in repair the rest of his life. ~

~ A man finds room in a few square inches of his face for the traits of all his ancestors; for the expression of all his history, and his wants. ~

~ 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. ~

Friends Bloopers

~ It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. ~


~ How casually and unobservedly we make all our most valued acquaintances. ~

~ Friendship requires more time than poor busy men can usually command. ~

~ Friendship, like the immortality of the soul, is too good to be believed. ~

~ Happy is the house that shelters a friend. ~

~ A friend is one before whom I may think aloud. ~

~ We talk of choosing our friends, but friends are self-elected. ~

~ Every man passes his life in the search after friendship. ~

~ A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature. ~

~ A man's growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends.~

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

Ralph Waldo Emerson House in Concord, Massachusetts
Ralph Waldo Emerson House in Concord, Massachusetts

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


~ Money often costs too much.~

~ We all boil at different degrees. ~

~ A child is a curly, dimpled lunatic. ~

~ Whatever limits us we call Fate. ~

~ Beauty without grace is the hook without the bait. ~

~ It is as easy for the strong man to be strong, as it is for the weak to be weak. ~

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

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

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

~ Do what you know and perception is converted into character. ~

~ Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes. ~

~ Progress is the activity of today and the assurance of tomorrow. ~

~ Our chief want in life is somebody who shall make us do what we can.~

~ Win as if you were used to it, lose as if you enjoyed it for a change. ~

~ There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant.~

~ People only see what they are prepared to see. ~


~ The eyes indicate the antiquity of the soul. ~

~ A good indignation brings out all one's powers. ~

~ Without the rich heart, wealth is an ugly beggar. ~

~ Beware what you set your heart upon. For it shall surely be yours. ~

~ He has not learned the first lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear. ~

~ The age of a woman doesn't mean a thing. The best tunes are played on the oldest fiddles.~

~ What would be the use of immortality to a person who cannot use well a half an hour.~

~ Happiness is a perfume which you cannot pour on someone without getting some on yourself. ~

~ The years teach much which the days never know. ~

~ No member of a crew is praised for the rugged individuality of his rowing. ~

~ The best effect of fine persons is felt after we have left their presence.~

~ A sufficient measure of civilization is the influence of good women. ~

~ The shoemaker makes a good shoe because he makes nothing else.~

~ We can see well into the past; we can guess shrewdly in to the future; but that which is rolled up and muffled in impenetrable folds is today. ~

~ 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. ~

~ Curiosity is lying in wait for every secret. ~


~ The surest poison is time. ~

~ A day is a miniature eternity.~

~ Blame is safer than praise. ~

~ When there is no vision, people perish. ~

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

~ We change, whether we like it or not. ~

~ Fame is proof that people are gullible. ~

~ Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures. ~

~ Genius always finds itself a century too early. ~

~ Fate is nothing but the deeds committed in a prior state of existence. ~

~ Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door. ~

~ Extremes meet, and there is no better example than the naughtiness of humility.~


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    • profile image

      Ipin 3 years ago

      Here are some I made up:Einstein told Chuck Norris his round house kick could not break the speed of light. Chuck Norris rebuttal by round house kckiing him from the Future.Chuck Norris doesn't believe in surgery, he believes in rounds house kicks to the face.Satellite images of Chuck Norris started the war in Iraq.Tiger Woods imitates his swing after Chuck Norris' round house kick.Chuck Norris walks on water because the water is scared of Chuck Norris.Chuck Norris killed a shark when he told it to not breath.When a man farts, the fart scurries back into the man and the man explodes because Chuck Norris doesn't like stink.

    • cwarden profile image

      cwarden 6 years ago from USA

      GREAT hub - had to bookmark this!


    • Seakay profile image

      Seakay 7 years ago from Florida

      Great Hub! Entertaining and informative. Always loved that period of history. Thank you!