Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes

Ralph Waldo Emerson

US essayist & poet (1803 - 1882)

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

Categorized under Ability

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Strong men greet war, tempest, hard times. They wish, as Pindar said, to tread the floors of hell, with necessities as hard as iron.

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Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.

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The moment we indulge our affections, the earth is metamorphosed, there is no winter and no night; all tragedies, allennuis,vanish, - all duties even.

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America is another name for opportunity.

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

Categorized under Avarice

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Beauty without grace is the hook without the bait.

Categorized under Beauty

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A beautiful form is better than a beautiful face; it gives a higher pleasure than statues or pictures; it is the finest of the fine arts.

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Every hero becomes a bore at last.

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This whole business of Trade gives me to pause and think, as it constitutes false relations between men; inasmuch as I am prone to count myself relieved of any responsibility to behave well and nobly to that person who I pay with money, whereas if I had not that commodity, I should be put on my good behavior in all companies, and man would be a benefactor to man, as being himself his only certificate that he had a right to those aids and services which each asked of the other.

Categorized under Business

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A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesman and philosophers and divines.

Categorized under Change

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Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

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Half a man's wisdom goes with his courage.

Categorized under Courage

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What a new face courage puts on everything!

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Every man has his own courage, and is betrayed because he seeks in himself the courage of other persons.

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Every man finds a sanction for his simplest claims and deeds, in decisions of his own mind, which he calls Truth and Holiness.

Categorized under Decision

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

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

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

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

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

Categorized under Growth

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To fill the hour - that is happiness.

Categorized under Happiness

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

Categorized under History

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The louder he talked of his honor the faster we counted our spoons.

Categorized under Honor

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

Categorized under Imagination

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A good indignation brings out all one's powers.

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What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.

Categorized under Inspiration

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Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

Categorized under Inspiration

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All our progress is an unfolding, like the vegetable bud, you have first an instinct, then an opinion, then a knowledge, as the plant has root, bud and fruit. Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.

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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.

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To finish the moment, to find the journey

Categorized under Journey

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

Categorized under Kindness

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All mankind loves a lover.

Categorized under Love

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The senses collect the surface facts of matter...It was sensation; when memory came, it was experience; when mind acted, it was knowledge; when mind acted on it as knowledge, it was thought.

Categorized under Memory

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A sect or party is an elegant incognito devised to save a man from the vexation of thinking.

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All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen.

Categorized under Religion

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Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.

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Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force, that thoughts rule the world.

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

Categorized under Spirituality

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

Categorized under Success

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Hitch your wagon to a star.

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

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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.

Categorized under Thoughts

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The revelation of thought takes men out of servitude into freedom.

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The finest and noblest ground on which people can live is truth; the real with the real; a ground on which nothing is assumed.

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The desire of gold is not for gold. It is for the means of freedom and benefit.

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The sum of wisdom is that time is never lost that is devoted to work.

Categorized under Wisdom

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It is the privilege of any human work which is well done to invest the doer with a certain haughtiness.

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Children are all foreigners.

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

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Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.

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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 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.

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Give all to love; obey thy heart.

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Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good.

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The ancestor of every action is a thought.

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Hitch your wagon to a star.

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Every artist was first an amateur.

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In the highest civilization, the book is still the highest delight. He who has once known its satisfactions is provided with a resource against calamity.

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

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Wit makes its own welcome, and levels all distinctions. No dignity, no learning, no force of character, can make any stand against good wit.

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Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great.

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That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved.

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The less government we have the better.

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A child is a curly, dimpled lunatic.

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Being perfectly well-dressed gives a feeling of tranquility that religion is powerless to bestow.

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

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The people are to be taken in very small doses.

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We become what we think about all day long.

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

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

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I hate quotations.

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

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Nature magically suits a man to his fortunes, by making them the fruit of his character.

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The more he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.

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The world belongs to the energetic.

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A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesman and philosophers and divines.

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Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.

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Next to the originator of a good sentence is the first quoter of it. I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.

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

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What you are shouts so loud in my ears I cannot hear what you say.

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What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.

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

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

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Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others with out getting a few drops on yourself.

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Make yourself necessary to somebody. Do not make life hard to any.

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There is no den in the wide world to hide a rogue. Commit a crime and the earth is made of glass. Commit a crime, and it seems as if a coat of snow fell on the ground, such as reveals in the woods the track of every partridge, and fox, and squirrel.

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What omniscience has music! So absolutely impersonal, yet every sufferer feels his secret sorrow soothed.

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When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.

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Nothing, at last, is sacred; but the integrity of your own mind.

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Work and acquire, and thou hast chained the wheel of Chance.

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To be great is to be misunderstood.

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

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The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.

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Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

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Speak what you think today in hard words and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today.

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

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I see her not dispirited, not weak, but well, remembering that she has seen dark times before, indeed with a kind of instinct that she sees a little better in a cloudy day.

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Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet.

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A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

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We take care of our health, we lay up money, we make our roof tight and our clothing sufficient, but who provides wisely that he shall not be wanting the best property of all -- friends?

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Talent finds its models, methods, and ends in society, exists for exhibition, and goes to the soul only for power to work. Genius is its own end, and draws its means and the style of its architecture from within.

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There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us.

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Always do what you are afraid to do.

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Beauty without grace is the hook without the bait.

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Every man I meet is in some way my superior.

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A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

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Immortality. I notice that as soon as writers broach this question they begin to quote. I hate quotation. Tell me what you know.

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Next to the originator of a good sentence is the first quoter of it.

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When a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart.

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Wit makes its own welcome, and levels all distinctions. No dignity, no learning, no force of character, can make any stand against good wit.

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Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.

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To the body and mind which have been cramped by noxious work or company, nature is medicinal and restores their tone.

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Every hero becomes a bore at last.

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

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To be great is to be misunderstood.

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Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.

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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; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

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People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.

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Conversation is an art in which a man has all mankind for his competitors, for it is that which all are practising every day while they live.

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Let not a man guard his dignity, but let his dignity guard him.

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

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Whoever is open, loyal, true; of humane and affable demeanour; honourable himself, and in his judgement of others; faithful to his word as to law, and faithful alike to God and man....such a man is a true gentleman.

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Tis the good reader that makes the good book.

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

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Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

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The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the ordinary.

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The bitterest tragic element in life to be derived from an intellectual source is the belief in a brute Fate or Destiny.

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As soon as there is life there is danger.

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When you strike at a king, you must kill him.

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

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He who is in love is wise and is becoming wiser, sees newly every time he looks at the object beloved, drawing from it with his eyes and his mind those virtues which it possesses.

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We are students of words: we are shut up in schools, and colleges, and recitation-rooms, for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bag of wind, a memory of words, and do not know a thing.

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The true test of a civilization is not the census, nor the size of the cities, nor the crops

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The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eyes and the heart of the child.

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If eyes were made for seeing, then beauty is its own excuse for being.

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Insist on yourself; never imitate... Every great man is unique.

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I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new.

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The only gift is a portion of thyself.

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If I have lost confidence in myself, I have the universe against me.

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I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the Stern Fact, the Sad Self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from.

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Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.

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Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air

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

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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 beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better; whether by a healthy child, a garden patch of a redeemed social condition; to know that one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success.

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

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The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.

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I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.

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For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure.

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To be great is to be misunderstood.

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The teaching of politics is that the Government, which was set for protection and comfort of all good citizens, becomes the principal obstruction and nuisance with which we have to contend

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The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to have a friend is to be one.

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To be great is to be misunderstood.

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Imitation is suicide.

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All men are in some degree impressed by the face of the world; some men even to delight. This love of beauty is taste. Others have the same love in such success that, not content with admiring, they seek to embody it in new forms. The creation of beauty is art.

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What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.

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

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Men are conservatives when they are least vigorous, or when they are most luxurious. They are conservatives after dinner.

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This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.

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None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.

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As we grow old

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Big jobs usually go to the men who prove their ability to outgrow small ones.

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The first wealth is health.

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

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A friend is one before whom I may think aloud.

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

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All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.

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Character is higher than intellect... A great soul will be strong to live, as well as to think.

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Colleges hate geniuses, just as convents hate saints.

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Democracy becomes a government of bullies tempered by editors.

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Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

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Here is the world, sound as a nut, perfect, not the smallest piece of chaos left, never a stitch nor an end, not a mark of haste, or botching, or second thought; but the theory of the world is a thing of shreds and patches.

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...the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness, the independence of solitude.

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People only see what they are prepared to see.

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

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So of cheerfulness, or a good temper, the more it is spent, the more it remains.

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He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day who allows it to be invated by worry, fret and anxiety.

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

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If eyes were made for seeing,
Then Beauty is its own excuse for being.

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I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show for any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.

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Before we acquire great power, we must acquire wisdom to use it well.

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I hate quotations.

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The glory of friendship is not the outstreched 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.

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What can we see, read, acquire, but ourselves. Take the book, my friend, and read your eyes out, you will never find there what I find.

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Common sense is as rare as genius.

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Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing.

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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.

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Envy is ignorance, imitation is suicide.

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A friend might well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.

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Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.

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Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could.

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God enters by a private door into every individual.

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What a new face courage puts on everything.

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

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My evening visitors, if they cannot see the clock, should find the time in my face.

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Each man takes care that his neighbor shall not cheat him. But a day comes when he begins to care that he does not cheat his neighbor. Then all goes well -- he has changed his market-cart into a chariot of the sun.

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Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experience.

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People only see what they are prepared to see.

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We aim above the mark to hit the mark.

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Life is a perpetual instruction in cause and effect.

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Ideas must work through the brains and arms of men, or they are no better than dreams.

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

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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 well and serenely...

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The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.

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A friend might well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.

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Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.

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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 of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.

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By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight, we all quote. In fact, it is as difficult to appropriate the thoughts of others as it is to invent.

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Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.

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

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Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little course, and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice. Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.

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

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A man makes inferiors his superiors by heat; self-control is the rule.

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The faith that stand on authority is not faith.

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

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If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.

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There is nothing capricious in nature and the implanting of a desire indicates that its gratification is in the constitution of the creature that feel it.

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We are students of words; we are shut up in schools, and colleges, and recitation rooms, for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bag of wind, a memory of words, and do not know a thing

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Every great and commanding moment in the annals of the world is the triumph of some enthusiasm.

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Our knowledge is the amassed thought and experience of innumerable minds.

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If a man knows the law, find out, though he live in a pine shanty, and resort to him. And if a man can pipe or sing, so as to wrap the imprisoned soul in an elysium; or can paint a landscape, and convey into souls and ochres all the enchantments of Spring or Autumn; or can liberate and intoxicate all people who hear him with delicious songs and verses; it is certain that the secret cannot be kept; the first witness tells it to a second, and men go by fives and tens and fifties to his doors.

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Do the thing we fear, and death of fear is certain.

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Who so would be a man, must be a nonconformist.

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You must pay for conformity. All goes well as long as you run with conformists. But you, who are honest men in other particulars, know that there is alive somewhere a man whose honesty reaches to this point also, that he shall not kneel to false gods, and, on the day when you meet him, you sink into the class of counterfeits.

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

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A man of genius is privileged only as far as he is genius. His dullness is as insupportable as any other dullness.

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The peril of every fine faculty is the delight of playing with it for pride. Talent is commonly developed at the expense of character, and the greater it grows, the more is the mischief. Talent is mistaken for genius, a dogma or system for truth, ambition for greatest, ingenuity for poetry, sensuality for art.

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Those who cannot tell what they desire or expect, still sigh and struggle with indefinite thoughts and vast wishes.

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No great man ever complains of want of opportunity.

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

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Commit a crime and the earth is made of glass.

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

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What a searching preacher of self-command is the varying phenomenon of health.

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The essence of all jokes, of all comedy, seems to be an honest or well intended halfness; a non performance of that which is pretended to be performed, at the same time that one is giving loud pledges of performance. The balking of the intellect, is comedy and it announces itself in the pleasant spasms we call laughter.

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We are prisoners of ideas.

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The life of man is the true romance, which when it is valiantly conduced, will yield the imagination a higher joy than any fiction.

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Sooner of later that which is now life shall be poetry, and every fair and manly trait shall add a richer strain to the song.

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The power of love, as the basis of a State, has never been tried.

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Solitude, the safeguard of mediocrity.

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Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of our own mind.

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Money, which represents the prose of life, and which is hardly spoken of in parlors without an apology, is, in its effects and laws, as beautiful as roses.

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Nature is a mutable cloud, which is always and never the same.

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Nature hates calculators.

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Condense some daily experience into a glowing symbol, and an audience is electrified.

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Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet.

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Sooner of later that which is now life shall be poetry, and every fair and manly trait shall add a richer strain to the song.

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To the poet, to the philosopher, to the saint, all things are friendly and sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all men divine.

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There are two classes of poets - the poets by education and practice, these we respect; and poets by nature, these we love.

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The imbecility of men is always inviting the impudence of power.

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Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two. This you cannot do without temperance.

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Work is victory.

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All our progress is an unfolding, like a vegetable bud. You have first an instinct, then an opinion, then a knowledge as the plant has root, bud, and fruit. Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.

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Proverbs are the literature of reason, or the statements of absolute truth, without qualification. Like the sacred books of each nation, they are the sanctuary of its intuitions.

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The adventitious beauty of poetry may be felt in the greater delight with a verse given in a happy quotation than in the poem.

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The next thing to saying a good thing yourself, is to quote one.

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You cannot do wrong without suffering wrong.

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Truth is the summit of being; justice is the application of it to affairs.

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A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us "like the fabled specter-ships," which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind.

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Science does not know its debt to imagination. Goethe did not believe that a great naturalist could exist without this faculty.

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It is very easy in the world to live by the opinion of the world. It is very easy in solitude to be self-centered. But the finished man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

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Whatever games are played with us, we must play no games with ourselves.

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

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Without a rich heart, wealth is an ugly beggar.

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It makes a great difference in the force of a sentence, whether a man be behind it or no.

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I look on that man as happy, who, when there is question of success, looks into his work for a reply.

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Take egotism out and you would castrate the benefactors.

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

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There is always room for a man of force, and he makes room for many.

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He is great who confers the most benefits.

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Often a certain abdication of prudence and foresight is an element of success.

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There is no thought in any mind, but it quickly tends to convert itself into a power.

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The key to every man is his thought. Sturdy and defying though he look, he has a helm which he obeys, which is the idea after which all his facts are classified. He can only be reformed by showing him a new idea which commands his own.

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People wish to be settled. It is only as far as they are unsettled that there is any hope for them.

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Self-trust is the essence of heroism

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Do what you know and perception is converted into character.

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Trust your instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.

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Conversation is an art in which a man has all mankind for competitors.

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When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.

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