ralph waldo emerson quotes

200+ Wise Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes

Ralph Waldo Emerson was a 19th-century American essayist, poet, lecturer, and philosopher. He is best known for his works, Self Reliance, Nature, and a number of poetry collections. He also initiated the transcendentalist movement, the belief system about creation, and the innate goodness of humanity. Keep reading for some inspirational and thought-provoking Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes from his writing.

Emerson: Biography

Famous American lecturer, poet, and essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, was born on May 25th, 1803, in Boston, Massachusetts. During his schooling, his intellectual talents and abilities were quickly recognized, sending Emerson to Harvard. Briefly after graduating, he taught at the Harvard Divinity School but soon after, in 1829, he became ordained and preached in the Unitarian community. During that same year, Emerson married his first wife, Ellen Louisa Tucker. Ellen died of tuberculosis a few years later, altering Emerson’s life forever.

His wife’s death caused Emerson to question his Christian beliefs and profession, leading him to resign from the ministry in 1832. After leaving the church, he began to work on many lectures and writings. He allowed himself time to grieve, become a strong man once more, and rediscover his beliefs. In 1835, he married his second wife, Lydia Jackson, who then was along for the ride as Emerson initiated the Transcendentalist movement. Emerson grew to be a prescient critic of society’s standards and booming materialism. With his anonymous publication of Nature in 1836, Transcendentalism was created, boasting ideas about introspection and focussing on one’s intuition vice outward understanding.

Emerson: Writing

Throughout his later years, before his death on April 27th, 1882, Emerson established himself as an incredible American essayist, lecturer, poet, and philosopher. From his work in the 1840 Transcendentalist magazine The Dial to his famous published essays and his vast number of poems, Emerson was deemed the American tributary of European Romanticism and a main leader of the Transcendentalist movement.

His writing moved people and continued to for centuries to come, leaving us with beautiful Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes to share today. Read the article below to find a profound Emerson quote to share and cherish.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes on Love and Friendship

“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.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“There can never be deep peace between two spirits, never mutual respect until, in their dialogue, each stands for the whole world.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Happy is the house that shelters a friend.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The only way to have a friend is to be one.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Be good to your work, your word, and your friend.”

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

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

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

“Don’t choose the better person; choose the person who makes a better you.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

“One of the most beautiful compensations in life is that no person can help another without helping themselves.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We walk alone in the world. Friends, such as we desire, are dreams and fables.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

silhouette of man and woman holding hands while walking on beach during sunset

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes on Growth and Healing

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” -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.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Every man in his lifetime needs to thank his faults.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

“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.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“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 same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Every really able man, in whatever direction he works—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.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Valor consists in the power of self-recovery.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Our strength grows out of our weakness.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

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

“You are constantly invited to be what you are.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We acquire the strength we have overcome.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

“The love that you withhold is the pain that you carry.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Even in the mud and scum of things, something always, always sings.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes on Life

“Life is our dictionary.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“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.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“With the past, I have nothing to do, nor with the future. I live now.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

“Life is a progress and not a station.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“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.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Life is a series of surprises and would not be worth taking or keeping if it were not.” -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.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

“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.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“How much of human life is lost in waiting.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“This time, like all times, is a very good one if we but know what to do with it.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

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

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

“Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

woman in yellow dress sitting on brown wicker chair

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes on Happiness

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

“That what we seek we shall find; what we flee from flees from us.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“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.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

“Many eyes go through the meadow, but few sees the flowers in it.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“People wish to be settled: only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, and faith looks up.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Happy will the house be in which the relationships are formed from character.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Sprinkle joy.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Live well, learn plenty, laugh often, love much.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

“A man’s years should not be counted until he has something else to count.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

person sitting on the edge of a cliff over looking mountains during daytime

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes on Man and Character

“A man is what he thinks about all day long.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“No great man ever complains of want of opportunity.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“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.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Peace cannot be achieved through violence; it can only be attained through understanding.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“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.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We call the tree good from its fruits, and the man, from his works.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We are to dignify to each other the daily needs and offices of man’s life and embellish it by courage, wisdom, and unity.” -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.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Beauty without expression is boring.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The world makes way for the man who knows where he is going.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“You shall have joy, or you shall have power, said God; you shall not have both.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“A great man is always willing to be little.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live as well as think.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“But genius looks forward. The eyes of men are set in his forehead, not in his hind head. Man hopes. Genius creates.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The wise man in the storm prays God not for safety from danger but for deliverance from fear.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We judge of man’s wisdom by his hope.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“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.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

“The greatest homage we can pay to truth is to use it.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Make the most of yourself….for that is all there is of you.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The reward of a thing well done is having done it.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

“The world belongs to the energetic.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

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

“Be silly. Be honest. Be kind.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Wherever a man comes, there comes revolution. The old is for slaves.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“A man is a god in ruins.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Great men exist that there may be greater men.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

“A man must consider what a rich realm he abdicates when he becomes a conformist.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that, I learn from him.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes About Faith, Beliefs, and the Universe

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“What you are comes to you.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“You become what you think about all day long.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Thought is the seed of action.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“This world belongs to the energetic.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“What you are comes to you.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“People destined to meet will do so, apparently by chance, and precisely at the right moment.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Good luck is another name for tenacity of purpose.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Belief consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; unbelief, in denying them.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force, that thoughts rule the world.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The ancestor of every action is a thought.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Truth is our element.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Our faith comes in moments; our vice is habitual.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The soul active sees absolute truth; and utters truth, or creates.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Imagination is a very high sort of seeing.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Speak the truth, and all nature and all spirits help you with unexpected furtherance.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Wise men put their trust in ideas and not in circumstances.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

view of mountain being shine with sunlight

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes About Nature and Beauty

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

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

“Throw a stone into the stream, and the ripples that propagate themselves are the beautiful type of all influence.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Nature is reckless of the individual. When she has points to carry, she carries them.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We are by nature observers, and thereby learners. That is our permanent state.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

“If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years, how man would marvel and adore.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

“Let us draw a lesson from nature, which always works by short ways. When the fruit is ripe, it falls.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We are immersed in beauty, but our eyes have no clear vision.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Thought is the blossom; language the bud; action the fruit behind it.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

books in bookshelves

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes About Wisdom and Learning

“Some books leave us free, and some books make us free.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“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.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

“The secret in education lies in respecting the student.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The sum of wisdom is that time is never lost that is devoted to work.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Little minds have little worries; big minds have no time for worries.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Knowledge is the antidote to fear.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

“Better to know a few things which are good and necessary than many things which are useless and mediocre.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

“I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Science does not know its debt to imagination.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Big jobs usually go to the men who prove their ability to outgrow small ones.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Before we acquire great power, we must acquire wisdom to use it well.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“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.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

silhouette of person standing on cliff during sunset

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes About Hard Work and Success

“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!” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Self-trust is the first secret of success.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it, nothing great was ever achieved.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Our greatest strength lies not in never having fallen, but in rising every time we fall.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Without ambition, one starts nothing. Without work, one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Other Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes

“The only reward of virtue is virtue.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I do not wish more external goods, –neither possessions, nor honors, nor powers, nor persons. The gain is apparent; the tax is certain.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

“All the good of nature is the soul’s, and maybe had, if paid for in nature’s lawful coin, that is, by labor which the heart and the head allow.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“What your heart thinks is great, is great. The soul’s emphasis is always right.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Economy does not consist in saving the coal, but in using the time while it burns.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The real and lasting victories are those of peace and not of war.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The last change in our point of view gives the whole world a pictorial air.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We cannot overstate our debt to the past, but the moment has the supreme claim.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Concentration is the secret of strength in politics, in war, in trade, in short in all management of human affairs.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

“The one produce in life is concentration.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Do the thing, and you will have the power.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“People only see what they are prepared to see.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Nothing is simpler than greatness; indeed, to be simple is to be great.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Solitude, the safeguard of mediocrity, is to genius the stern friend.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Sometimes, a scream is better than a thesis.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes From Self Reliance

“Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency, a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Envy is ignorance; imitation is suicide.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“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.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“My life is not an apology, but a life. It is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, so it is genuine and equal, than that it should be glittering and unsteady.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Famous Works by Emerson for Further Reading

Enjoy an essay or poem written by the famous Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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