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Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803–82
American philosopher and poet. See also Stanley 

  1. If the red slayer think he slays,
    Or if the slain think he is slain,
    They know not well the subtle ways
    I keep, and pass, and turn again.
    ‘Brahma’ (1867); see Upanishads
  2. I am the doubter and the doubt.
    ‘Brahma’ (1867)
  3. Here once the embattled farmers stood,
    And fired the shot heard round the world.
    ‘On the Completion of the Monument at Concord, April 1836’
  4. Things are in the saddle,
    And ride mankind.
    ‘Ode’ inscribed to W. H. Channing (1847)
  5. He builded better than he knew;—
    The conscious stone to beauty grew.
    ‘The Problem’ (1847)
  6. The frolic architecture of the snow.
    ‘The Snowstorm’ (1847)
  7. When Duty whispers low, Thou must,
    The youth replies, I can.
    ‘Voluntaries’ no. 3 (1867)
  8. Make yourself necessary to someone.
    The Conduct of Life (1860) ‘Considerations by the way’
  9. Live in the sunshine, swim the sea,
    Drink the wild air's salubrity.
    The Conduct of Life (1860) ‘Considerations by the Way’
  10. All sensible people are selfish, and nature is tugging at every contract to make the terms of it fair.
    The Conduct of Life (1860) ‘Considerations by the way’
  11. You send your child to the schoolmaster, but 'tis the schoolboys who educate him.
    Conduct of Life (1860) ‘Culture’
  12. The first wealth is health.
    The Conduct of Life (1860) ‘Power’
  13. Art is a jealous mistress.
    The Conduct of Life (1860) ‘Wealth’
  14. The louder he talked of his honour, the faster we counted our spoons.
    The Conduct of Life (1860) ‘Worship’; see Johnson, Shaw
  15. People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.
    The Conduct of Life (1860) ‘Worship’
  16. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.
    Essays (1841) ‘Circles’
  17. People wish to be settled: only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.
    Essays (1841) ‘Circles’
  18. Two may talk and one may hear, but three cannot take part in a conversation of the most sincere and searching sort.
    Essays (1841) ‘Friendship’
  19. The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to have a friend is to be one.
    Essays (1841) ‘Friendship’
  20. It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, ‘Always do what you are afraid to do.’
    Essays (1841) ‘Heroism’
  21. There is properly no history; only biography.
    Essays (1841) ‘History’; see Disraeli
  22. The faith that stands on authority is not faith.
    Essays (1841) ‘The Over-Soul’
  23. In skating over thin ice, our safety is in our speed.
    Essays (1841) ‘Prudence’
  24. Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.
    Essays (1841) ‘Self-Reliance’
  25. 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.
    Essays (1841) ‘Self-Reliance’
  26. 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.
    Essays (1841) ‘Self-Reliance’
  27. To fill the hour—that is happiness.
    Essays. Second Series (1844) ‘Experience’
  28. The years teach much which the days never know.
    Essays. Second Series (1844) ‘Experience’
  29. Flowers…are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world.
    Essays. Second Series (1844) ‘Gifts’
  30. The reward of a thing well done, is to have done it.
    Essays: Second Series (1844) ‘New England Reformers’
  31. Every man is wanted, and no man is wanted much.
    Essays. Second Series (1844) ‘Nominalist and Realist’
  32. Language is fossil poetry.
    Essays. Second Series (1844) ‘The Poet’
  33. What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not been discovered.
    Fortune of the Republic (1878)
  34. Next to the originator of a good sentence is the first quoter of it.
    Letters and Social Aims (1876)
  35. Every hero becomes a bore at last.
    Representative Men (1850) ‘Uses of Great Men’
  36. I like to be beholden to the great metropolitan English speech, the sea which receives tributaries from every region under heaven.
    Society and Solitude (1870) ‘Books’
  37. Hitch your wagon to a star.
    Society and Solitude (1870) ‘Civilization’
  38. We boil at different degrees.
    Society and Solitude (1870) ‘Eloquence’
  39. No man can have society upon his own terms. If he seeks it, he must serve it too.
    Journal 28 May 1833
  40. There never was a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him asleep.
    Journal 1836
  41. All diseases run into one, old age.
    Journals, 1840
  42. I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.
    Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks (1961) May 1849
  43. Hospitality consists in a little fire, a little food, and an immense quiet.
    Journal 1856
  44. Glittering generalities! They are blazing ubiquities.
    on Rufus Choate
    attributed; see Choate
  45. If a man write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mouse-trap than his neighbour, tho' he build his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.
    attributed to Emerson in Sarah S. B. Yule Borrowings (1889); the quotation was the occasion of a long controversy owing to Elbert Hubbard's claim to its authorship

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