A man is what he thinks about all day long. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Nothing is more simple than greatness; indeed, to be simple is to be great. Ralph Waldo Emerson
If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Beware what you set your heart upon. For it surely shall be yours. 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
Good luck is another name for tenacity of purpose. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams. 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
I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching. Ralph Waldo Emerson>
A man must consider what a rich realm he abdicates when he becomes a conformist. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Solitude, the safeguard of mediocrity, is to genius the stern friend. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true. Ralph Waldo Emerson
If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years how man would marvel and adore. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much. Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Best Ralph Waldo Emerson
Make the most of yourself for that is all there is of you. Click to tweet
It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.
Speak the truth, and all nature and all spirits help you with unexpected furtherance.
Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis. (Journals 1822–1863)
Thought is the blossom; language the bud; action the fruit behind it.
The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.
We judge of man’s wisdom by his hope.
The first wealth is health.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.
Great men exist that there may be greater men. (Representative Men)
Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.
The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough. (Nature, Essay)
God will not have his work made manifest by cowards. Always, always, always, always, always do what you are afraid to do. Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.
We walk alone in the world. Friends, such as we desire, are dreams and fables.
Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.
Better to know a few things which are good and necessary than many things which are useless and mediocre.
Wherever a man comes, there comes revolution. The old is for slaves.
You shall have joy, or you shall have power, said God; you shall not have both.
The soul active sees absolute truth; and utters truth, or creates.
Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force, that thoughts rule the world.
Be silly. Be honest. Be kind.
Part 2. Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes That Are…
The Most Famous Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes
Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.
Our strength grows out of our weakness. (Compensation, Essay)
Every artist was first an amateur.
I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new.
We become what we think about all day long.
A great man is always willing to be little. (Compensation, Essay)
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Life is a succession of lessons, which must be lived to be understood.
An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.
Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.
The years teach much which the days never know. (Essays: Second Series)
The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.
Hitch your wagon to a star.
Fake Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes (And Most Are Famous Too)
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. More info (quoteinvestigator.com)
What you are comes to you. More info
Our greatest strength lies not in never having fallen, but in rising every time we fall. More info
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. More info
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. More info
When it is dark enough, you can see the stars. More info
Life is a journey, not a destination. More info
Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow. More info
Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail. More info
Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.
Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.
For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.
Short Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes
One-liners, short Emerson quotes, thoughts and captions for your bio, social status, self-talk, motto, mantra, signs, posters, wallpapers, backgrounds.
We acquire the strength we have overcome.
Imitation is suicide.
Life is our dictionary.
The one prudence in life is concentration.
Truth is our element.
Valor consists in the power of self recovery.
Blame is safer than praise.
I hate quotations. Tell me what you know. (The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Live well, learn plenty, laugh often, love much.
Genius is religious. (The Over-Soul)
Life is a progress, and not a station.
Our faith comes in moments; our vice is habitual. (Essays: First Series)
A man is a god in ruins.
Science does not know its debt to imagination. (Letters and Social Aims)
Do the thing and you will have the power. Click to tweet
The wise through excess of wisdom is made a fool.
Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, faith looks up.
This world belongs to the energetic.
Thought is the seed of action.
Inspirational Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes
Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. Click to tweet
There is something which you can do better than another. Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that. Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for.
Even in the mud and scum of things, something always, always sings.
Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self. (Self-Reliance and Other Essays)
He needs no library, for he has not done thinking; no church, for he is himself a prophet; no statute book, for he hath the Lawgiver; no money, for he is value itself; no road, for he is at home where he is.
But genius looks forward. The eyes of men are set in his forehead, not in his hindhead. Man hopes. Genius creates. Click to tweet
Each man has his own vocation; his talent is his call. There is one direction in which all space is open to him.
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, with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.
This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.
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. (Self-Reliance and Other Essays)
A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.
No facts are to me sacred; none are profane; I simply experiment, an endless seeker with no past at my back.
The invariable mark of a dream is to see it come true.
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 gave only an extemporaneous, half possession. Click to tweet
The one thing which we seek with insatiable desire is to forget ourselves, to be surprised out of our propriety, to lose our sempiternal memory and to do something without knowing how or why; in short to draw a new circle.
The way of life is wonderful. It is by abandonment. The great moments of history are the facilities of performance through the strength of ideas, as the works of genius and religion.
Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object.
Every genuine work of art has as much reason for being as the earth and the sun.
‘Tis not important how the hero does this or that, but what he is.
It will never make any difference to a hero what the laws are. His greatness will shine and accomplish itself unto the end, whether they second him or not.
Work and acquire, and thou hast chained the wheel of chance.
Each man is a hero and an oracle to somebody. (Letters and Social Aims)
See also: Emerson Central – Selected Works And Essays (emersoncentral.com)
Funny And Surprising Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes
Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.
Next to the originator of a good sentence is the first quoter of it.
A great man quotes bravely, and will not draw on his invention when his memory serves him with a word just as good. (Letters and Social Aims)
My evening visitors, if they cannot see the clock should find the time in my face. Click to tweet
We do what we must, and call it by the best names we can. (Essays: Second Series)
Do what we can, summer will have its flies: if we walk in the woods, we must feed mosquitos: if we go a-fishing, we must expect a wet coat. (Essays: First Series)
Every really able man, in whatever direction he work,—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.
The dull pray; the geniuses are light mockers. (Representative Men)
Related: Funny Quotes To Make You Laugh Out Loud (wisdomquotes.com)
Deep Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes
People only see what they are prepared to see. Click to tweet
Each of us sees in others what we carry in our own hearts.
Every burned book enlightens the world.
The reality is more excellent than the report.
You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.
Money often costs too much.
I chide society, I embrace solitude, and yet I am not so ungrateful as not to see the wise, the lovely and the noble-minded, as from time to time they pass my gate.
The reason why the world lacks unity, and lies broken and in heaps, is, because man is disunited with himself.
Violence is not power, but the absence of power.
We are reformers in spring and summer; in autumn and winter, we stand by the old; reformers in the morning, conservers at night.
Can anybody remember when the times were not hard and money not scarce?
A cynic can chill and dishearten with a single word.
Masses are rude, lame, unmade, pernicious in their demands and influence, and need not to be flattered, but to be schooled. I wish not to concede anything to them, but to tame, drill, divide, and break them up, and draw individuals out of them.
Go put your creed into the deed, nor speak with double tongue.
Be as beneficent as the sun or the sea, but if your rights as a rational being are trenched on, die on the first inch of your territory.
Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning, and under every deep a lower deep opens.
Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine. Click to tweet
Conversation is a game of circles. In conversation we pluck up the termini which bound the common of silence on every side.
Everything in the universe goes by indirection. There are no straight lines.
Do not believe that possibly you can escape the reward of your action.
Public opinion, I am sorry to say, will bear a great deal of nonsense. There is scarcely any absurdity so gross, whether in religion, politics, science or manners, which it will not bear.
No matter how you seem to fatten on a crime, there can never be good for the bee which is bad for the hive.
Shall we then judge a country by the majority, or by the minority? By the minority, surely.
For what avail the plough or sail, or land or life, if freedom fail?
The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.
Wise Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes
We aim above the mark to hit the mark. Click to tweet
The eyes indicate the antiquity of the soul.
Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes.
People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.
Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.
As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.
Every actual State is corrupt. Good men must not obey laws too well.
If you would lift me you must be on higher ground. If you would liberate me you must be free. If you would correct my false view of facts, — hold up to me the same facts in the true order of thought, and I cannot go back from the new conviction. (Society and Solitude)
Every excess causes a defect; every defect an excess. Every sweet hath its sour; every evil its good. (Compensation, Essay)
Heroism feels and never reasons and therefore is always right.
The good are befriended even by weakness and defect. As no man had ever a point of pride that was not injurious to him, so no man had ever a defect that was not somewhere made useful to him. (Compensation, Essay)
Every man in his lifetime needs to thank his faults. (Compensation, Essay) Click to tweet
No man thoroughly understands a truth until he has contended against it, so no man has a thorough acquaintance with the hindrances or talents of men, until he has suffered from the one, and seen the triumph of the other over his own want of the same. (Compensation, Essay)
He who has put forth his total strength in fit actions, has the richest return of wisdom. (The American Scholar)
For every grain of wit there is a grain of folly.
It is the duty of men to judge men only by their actions. Our faculties furnish us with no means of arriving at the motive, the character, the secret self. We call the tree good from its fruits, and the man, from his works.
The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.
An original sentence, a step forward, is worth more than all the censures.
People wish to be settled: only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.
For every thing you have missed, you have gained something else; and for everything you gain, you lose something else.
The meaning of good and bad, of better and worse, is simply helping or hurting.
To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom. (Essays: Second Series)
Want is a growing giant whom the coat of Have was never large enough to cover. (The Conduct of Life)
The thing done avails, and not what is said about it.
Part 3. Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes About…
Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes About Life, Happiness
To fill the hour – that is happiness. Click to tweet
You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.
Life is 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 aint the world their own hue, and each shows us only what lies in its own focus. (Essays: Second Series)
We are always getting ready to live but never living. (Journals 1822–1863)
A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace.
Happy is the hearing man; unhappy the speaking man.
And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.
All the good of nature is the soul’s, and may be had, if paid for in nature’s lawful coin, that is, by labor which the heart and the head allow.
I no longer wish to meet a good I do not earn, for example, to find a pot of buried gold, knowing that it brings with it new burdens.
I do not wish more external goods, — neither possessions, nor honors, nor powers, nor persons. The gain is apparent; the tax is certain.
Explore, and explore, and explore. Be neither chided nor flattered out of your position of perpetual inquiry. Neither dogmatise yourself, nor accept another’s dogmatism. Why should you renounce your right to traverse the star-lit deserts of truth, for the premature comforts of an acre, house, and barn? Truth also has its roof, and bed, and board.
Make yourself necessary to the world, and mankind will give you bread, and if not store of it, yet such as shall not take away your property in all men’s possessions, in all men’s affections, in art, in nature, and in hope.
But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future.
All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. Click to tweet
He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.
What your heart thinks is great, is great. The soul’s emphasis is always right.
Do not be too timid and squeamish about your reactions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.
‘Tis curious that we only believe as deeply as we live.
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.
There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.
Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing.
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.
Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting some on yourself.
It is not length of life, but depth of life.
See also: How to Be Happy: The 6 Happiness Pillars You Must Know (wisdomquotes.com)
Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes About Love, Marriage, Peace
Love and you shall be loved. Click to tweet
We must be our own before we can be another’s.
The least defect of self-possession vitiates, in my judgment, the entire relation.
There can never be deep peace between two spirits, never mutual respect until, in their dialogue, each stands for the whole world.
Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.
Without a rich heart, wealth is an ugly beggar.
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?
The real and lasting victories are those of peace and not of war.
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.
Truth is handsomer than the affectation of love.
I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be the happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should. (Self-Reliance and Other Essays)
If you are true, but not in the same truth with me, cleave to your companions; I will seek my own. I do this not selfishly, but humbly and truly. It is alike your interest, and mine, and all men’s, however long we have dwelt in lies, to live in truth.
There can be no excess to love; none to knowledge; none to beauty, when these attributes are considered in the purest sense. (Compensation, Essay)
The love that you withhold is the pain that you carry. Click to tweet
All mankind love a lover.
This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes, rainbows to follow the clouds, laughter to kiss your lips, sunsets to warm your heart, hugs when spirits sag, beauty for your eyes to see, friendships to brighten your being, faith so that you can believe, confidence for when you doubt, courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth, love to complete your life.
Don’t choose the better person, choose the person who makes a better you.
Make yourself necessary to somebody. Do not make life hard to any.
The only gift is a portion of thyself.
Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes About Nature, Mountains, Flowers
Nature always wears the colors of the spirit. Click to tweet
The earth laughs in flowers.
The charming landscape which I saw this morning is indubitably made up of some 20 or 30 farms. Miller owns this field, Locke that, and Manning the woodland beyond. But none of them owns the landscape.
There is a property in the horizon which no man has but he whose eye can integrate all the parts, that is, the poet.
What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.
The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship. (Nature, Essay, Amazon Book)
Nature is a mutable cloud which is always and never the same.
Everything in nature contains all the power of nature. Everything is made of one hidden stuff.
If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods.
The ancient precept, “Know thyself”, and the modern precept, “Study nature”, become at last one maxim. (The American Scholar)
If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown.
Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection.
Nature never became a toy to a wise spirit. The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected the wisdom of his best hour, as much as they had delighted the simplicity of his childhood.
To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing.
The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child.
The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. His intercourse with heaven and earth, becomes part of his daily food. (Nature, Essay)
These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence.
Nature hates monopolies and exceptions.
Every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn. Click to tweet
The world globes itself in a drop of dew.
Let us draw a lesson from nature, which always works by short ways. When the fruit is ripe, it falls.
The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.
But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate between him and vulgar things. (Nature, Essay)
It is one light which beams out of a thousand stars. It is one soul which animates all men. (The American Scholar)
The power of Nature predominates over the human will in all works of even the fine arts, in all that respects their material and external circumstances. Nature paints the best part of the picture, carves the best part of the statue, builds the best part of the house, and speaks the best part of the oration. (Society and Solitude)
The greatest wonder is that we can see these trees and not wonder more.
The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.
Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes About Beauty
Let him go where he will, he can only find so much beauty or worth as he carries. Click to tweet
Beauty without expression is boring.
Beauty is the mark God sets upon virtue. (Nature, Essay)
We are immersed in beauty, but our eyes have no clear vision. (The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Do not waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good.
To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same fields, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again. (Nature, Essay)
There are many beauties; as, of general nature, of the human face and form, of manners, of brain, or method, moral beauty, or beauty of the soul.
The moral sense reappears today with the same morning newness that has been from of old the fountain of beauty and strength.
We find delight in the beauty and happiness of children that makes the heart too big for the body.
On stars: Every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.
The poet, the painter, the sculptor, the musician, the architect, seek each to concentrate this radiance of the world on one point, and each in his several work to satisfy the love of beauty which stimulates him to produce. (Nature, Essay)
We ascribe beauty to that which is simple; which has no superfluous parts; which exactly answers its end. […] It is the most enduring quality, and the most ascending quality.
Beauty rests on necessities. The line of beauty is the result of perfect economy.
Beauty without grace is the hook without the bait.
Truth, and goodness, and beauty are but different faces of the same all.
See also: Emerson on What Beauty Really Means (brainpickings.org)
Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes About Self-Reliance, Independence
Self-trust is the first secret of success. Click to tweet
Self-command is the main elegance.
Self-reliance, the height and perfection of man, is reliance on God.
None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.
Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles. (Self-Reliance and Other Essays)
If the single man plant himself indomitably on his instincts, and there abide, the huge world will come round to him.
We wish to be self-sustained. We do not quite forgive a giver. The hand that feeds us is in some danger of being bitten.
Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing.
I have been writing and speaking what were once called novelties, for twenty five or thirty years, & have not now one disciple. Why? Not that what I said was not true; not that it has not found intelligent receivers but because it did not go from any wish in me to bring men to me, but to themselves.
Do not yet see, that, if the single man plant himself indomitably on his instincts, and there abide, the huge world will come round to him.
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. (Essays: First Series)
Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason. It is vain to hurry it. By trusting it to the end it shall ripen into truth, and you shall know why you believe.
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.
A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his.
It is easy to live for others, everybody does. I call on you to live for yourself. Click to tweet
We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents.
Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so.
I will so trust that what is deep is holy, that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever only rejoices me, and the heart appoints.
A complete man should need no auxiliaries to his personal presence.
On Henry David Thoreau: He chose to be rich by making his wants few, and supplying them himself.
Self-trust is the essence of heroism. […] It speaks the truth, and it is just, generous, hospitable, temperate, scornful of petty calculations, and scornful of being scorned.
Discontent is the want of self-reliance: it is infirmity of will.
If a man own land, the land owns him.
Related article: Inspirational Quotes For Men (For Life And Success)
Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes About Fear, Courage
Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world. Click to tweet
Our distrust is very expensive.
It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, — “always do what you are afraid to do”. (Essays: First Series)
He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.
Don’t waste life in doubts and fears; spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour’s duties will be the best preparation for the hours and ages that will follow it.
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.
What a man does, that he has. What has he to do with hope or fear? In himself is his might. Let him regard no good as solid but that which is in his nature, and which must grow out of him as long as he exists. The goods of fortune may come and go like summer leaves; let him scatter them on every wind as the momentary signs of his infinite productiveness.
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.
Fear is an instructor of great sagacity, and the herald of all revolutions.
What a new face courage puts on everything!
The wise man throws himself on the side of his assailants. It is more his interest than it is theirs to find his weak point.
In general, every evil to which we do not succumb is a benefactor. (Compensation, Essay)
Great men, great nations, have not been boasters and buffoons, but perceivers of the terror of life, and have manned themselves to face it.
Whatever limits us we call fate.
That what we seek we shall find; what we flee from flees from us.
Action is with the scholar subordinate, but it is essential. Without it, he is not yet man. Without it, thought can never ripen into truth.
What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do. Click to tweet
Free should the scholar be, — free and brave… Brave; for fear is a thing, which a scholar by his very function puts behind him. Fear always springs from ignorance… The world is his, who can see through its pretension.
Courage charms us, because it indicates that a man loves an idea better than all things in the world, that he is thinking neither of his bed, nor his dinner, nor his money, but will venture all to put in act the invisible thought of his mind.
That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed but that our power to do has increased.
The characteristic of a genuine heroism is its persistency.
The heroic cannot be the common, nor the common the heroic.
At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock at once at thy closet door and say,—’Come out unto us.’ But keep thy state; come not into their confusion. (The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson)
The best lightning rod for your protection is your own spine.
In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed.
Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes About Education, Teaching, Knowledge, Children
The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil. Click to tweet
Every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.
The things taught in schools and colleges are not an education, but the means to an education.
In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.
Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.
The boy wishes to learn to skate, to coast, to catch a fish in the brook, to hit a mark with a snowball or a stone; and a boy a little older is just as well pleased to teach him these sciences.
The search after the great men is the dream of youth, and the most serious occupation of manhood.
Books are the best of things, well used; abused, the worst. What is the right use? What is the end which all means go to effect? They are for nothing but to inspire. (The American Scholar)
Colleges… can only highly serve us, when they aim not to drill, but to create; when they gather from far every ray of various genius to their hospitable halls, and, by the concentrated fires, set the hearts of their youth on flame.
There is properly no history; only biography.
Children are all foreigners.
Many times the reading of a book has made the future of a man.
Never read any book that is not a year old. (In Praise Of Books)
Books are the best type of the influence of the past… The theory of books is noble.
Respect the child. Be not too much his parent. Trespass not on his solitude.
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.
There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better for worse as his portion.
We are too civil to books. For a few golden sentences we will turn over and actually read a volume of four or five hundred pages.
Some books leave us free and some books make us free.
The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions. Click to tweet
There never was a child so lovely, but his mother was glad to get him asleep.
Respect the child. Wait and see the new product of Nature. Nature loves analogies, but not repetitions. Respect the child. Be not too much his parent. Trespass not on his solitude.
Poetry teaches the enormous force of a few words, and, in proportion to the inspiration, checks loquacity.
Literature is the effort of man to indemnify himself for the wrongs of his condition.
See in college how we thwart the natural love of learning by leaving the natural method of teaching what each wishes to learn, and insisting that you shall learn what you have no taste or capacity for.
The college, which should be a place of delightful labour, is made odious and unhealthy, and the young men are tempted to frivolous amusements to rally their jaded spirits.
Scholarship is to be created not by compulsion, but by awakening a pure interest in knowledge. The wise instructor accomplishes this by opening to his pupils precisely the attractions the study has for himself. The marking is a system for schools, not for the college; for boys, not for men; and it is an ungracious work to put on a professor.
The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.
The measure of a master is his success in bringing all men round to his opinion twenty years later.
Shall I tell you the secret of the true scholar? It is this: Every man I meet is my master in some point, and in that I learn of him.
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.
Genius borrows nobly. When Shakespeare is charged with debts to his authors, Landor replies: “Yet he was more original than his originals. He breathed upon dead bodies and brought them into life”.
The intellect is vagabond, and our system of education fosters restlessness.
There is no knowledge that is not power.
Men are what their mothers made them.
Skill to do comes of doing.
Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes About Thinking, Mind
Life consists of what man is thinking about all day. Click to tweet
The ancestor of every action is a thought.
Good thoughts are no better than good dreams, unless they be executed.
The Gods we worship write their names on our faces; be sure of that.
When we have new perception, we shall gladly disburden the memory of its hoarded treasures as old rubbish.
A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will come out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping, we are becoming.
To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven. (Journals 1822–1863)
Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Click to tweet
Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet.
Do not say things. What you are stands over you the while, and thunders, so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary. (Letters and Social Aims)
Every man alone is sincere. At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins. We parry and fend the approach of our fellow-man by compliments, by gossip, by amusements, by affairs. We cover up our thought from him under a hundred folds.
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.
What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness.
Stay at home in your mind. Don’t recite other people’s opinions.
What am I? And what is? Asks the human spirit with a curiosity new-kindled, but never to be quenched.
Belief consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; Unbelief, in denying them.
Judge of your natural character by what you do in your dreams.
A painter told me that nobody could draw a tree without in some sort becoming a tree; or draw a child by studying the outlines of its form merely… but by watching for a time his motions and plays, the painter enters into his nature and can then draw him at every attitude.
The purpose of life seems to be to acquaint a man with himself and whatever science or art or course of action he engages in reacts upon and illuminates the recesses of his own mind.
The best effect of fine persons is felt after we have left their presence.
The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence.
We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds… A nation of men will for the first time exist, because each believes himself inspired by the Divine Soul which also inspires all men.
Thought is all light, and publishes itself to the universe. It will speak, though you were dumb, by its own miraculous organ. It will flow out of your actions, your manners, and your face. It will bring you friendships. It will impledge you to truth by the love and expectation of generous minds.
Circles, like the soul, are never-ending and turn round and round without a stop
Things are pretty, graceful, rich, elegant, handsome, but, until they speak to the imagination, not yet beautiful.
Men love to wonder, and that is the seed of our science.
A good symbol is the best argument, and is a missionary to persuade thousands.
All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients. Click to tweet
See also: Emerson: The Mind on Fire (Amazon book)
Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes About Success, Character, Consistency
Your goodness must have some edge to it — else it is none. Click to tweet
The world makes way for the man who knows where he is going.
So is cheerfulness, or a good temper, the more it is spent, the more remains.
No great man ever complains of want of opportunity.
Power ceases in the instant of repose; it resides in the moment of transition from a past to a new state, in the shooting of the gulf, in the darting to an aim.
Success treads on every right step. For the instinct is sure, that prompts him to tell his brother what he thinks. He then learns, that in going down into the secrets of his own mind, he has descended into the secrets of all minds.
Character is higher than intellect.[…] A great soul will be strong to live, as well as strong to think. (The American Scholar)
It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own.
The great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. Click to tweet
Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. (Self-Reliance and Other Essays)
Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.
Shallow men believe in luck or circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect.
The imitator dooms himself to hopeless mediocrity. The inventor did it because it was natural to him, and so in him it has a charm.
The man who renounces himself, comes to himself.
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. (See also: 10 Habits of Successful People, yurielkaim.com)
I hate to be defended in a newspaper. As long as all that is said is said against me, I feel a certain assurance of success. But as soon as honeyed words of praise are spoken for me, I feel as one that lies unprotected before his enemies. (Compensation, Essay)
The sublime is excited in me by the great stoical doctrine, obey thyself.
When you strike at a king, you must kill him.
When you were born you were crying and everyone else was smiling. Live your life so at the end, your’re the one who is smiling and everyone else is crying.
In failing circumstances no one can be relied on to keep their integrity.
The good lawyer is not the man who has an eye to every side and angle of contingency, and qualifies all his qualifications, but who throws himself on your part so heartily, that he can get you out of a scrape.
We must be as courteous to a man as we are to a picture, which we are willing to give the advantage of a good light.
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.
Whatever games are played with us, we must play no games with ourselves, but deal in our privacy with the last honesty and truth.
The mark of the man of the world is absence of pretension. He does not make a speech; he takes a low business-tone, avoids all brag, is nobody, dresses plainly, promises not at all, performs much, speaks in monosyllables, hugs his fact.
The greatest homage we can pay to truth is to use it.
As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way.
Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes About Friendship
Happy is the house that shelters a friend. Click to tweet
The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to have a friend is to be one.
Friendship should be surrounded with ceremonies and respects, and not crushed into corners. Friendship requires more time than poor busy men can usually command.
The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.
Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great.
A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I may think aloud. Click to tweet
I am arrived at last in the presence of a man so real and equal that I may drop even those undermost garments of dissimulation, courtesy, and second thought, which men never put off, and may deal with him with the simplicity and wholeness, with which one chemical atom meets another.
The other element of friendship is tenderness. We are holden to men by every sort of tie, by blood, by pride, by fear, by hope, by lucre, by lust, by hate, by admiration, by every circumstance and badge and trifle, but we can scarce believe that so much character can subsist in another as to draw us by love.
Life is short, but there is always time enough for courtesy.
Can another be so blessed, and we so pure, that we can offer him tenderness? When a man becomes dear to me, I have touched the goal of fortune.
Two may talk and one may hear, but three cannot take part in a conversation of the most sincere and searching sort.
Always scorn appearances, and you always may.
The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.
He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare, and he who has one enemy will meet him everywhere.
A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.
The highest compact we can make with our fellow is, “Let there be truth between us two forever more”.
Friends seem to be only mirrors to draw out and explain to us ourselves; and that which draws us nearer our fellow man, is, that the deep Heart in one, answers the deep Heart in another, — that we find we have (a common Nature) — one life which runs through all individuals, and which is indeed Divine.
The condition which high friendship demands is ability to do without it.
See also: Emerson on the Two Pillars of Friendship (brainpickings.org.)
Our intellectual and active powers increase with our affection. The scholar sits down to write, and all his years of meditation do not furnish him with one good thought or happy expression; but it is necessary to write a letter to a friend, and, forthwith, troops of gentle thoughts invest themselves, on every hand, with chosen words.
I must feel pride in my friend’s accomplishments as if they were mine, and a property in his virtues. I feel as warmly when he is praised, as the lover when he hears applause of his engaged maiden.
I do not wish to treat friendships daintily, but with roughest courage. When they are real, they are not glass threads or frost-work, but the solidest thing we know.
I hate the prostitution of the name of friendship to signify modish and worldly alliances.
Friendship is for aid and comfort through all the relations and passages of life and death.
It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. Click to tweet
It is fit for serene days, and graceful gifts, and country rambles, but also for rough roads and hard fare, shipwreck, poverty, and persecution.
We are to dignify to each other the daily needs and offices of man’s life, and embellish it by courage, wisdom and unity.
It should never fall into something usual and settled, but should be alert and inventive, and add rhyme and reason to what was drudgery.
Friendship demands a religious treatment. We talk of choosing our friends, but friends are self-elected. Reverence is a great part of it.
The essence of friendship is entireness, a total magnanimity and trust.
Other men are lenses through which we read our own minds. (Representative Men)
Let your greatness educate the crude and cold companion.
Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes About Spirituality, Religion, God, The Bible
Men are better than their theology. Click to tweet
Let us be silent, that we may hear the whisper of God.
God enters by a private door into every individual.
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.
The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next.
The progress of religion is steadily to its identity with morals. Strength enters just as much as the moral element prevails.
The god of the cannibals will be a cannibal, of the crusaders a crusader, and of the merchants a merchant.
The religion that is afraid of science dishonors God and commits suicide.
In the matter of religion, people eagerly fasten their eyes on the difference between their own creed and yours; whilst the charm of the study is in finding the agreements and identities in all the religions of humanity.
A sect or party is an elegant incognito devised to save a man from the vexation of thinking.
In how many churches, by how many prophets, tell me, is man made sensible that he is an infinite Soul; that the earth and heavens are passing into his mind; that he is drinking forever the soul of God?
Religion is to do right. It is to love, it is to serve, it is to think, it is to be humble. Click to tweet
When a man lives with God, his voice shall be as sweet as the murmur of the brook and the rustle of the corn.
God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose.
All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen.
The faith that stands on authority is not faith.
Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes About Society, People, Politics, Humanity
The less government we have, the better — the fewer laws, and the less confided power. Click to tweet
Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of everyone of its members.
A nation never falls but by suicide.
Man exists for his own sake and not to add a laborer to the state.
The two parties which divide the state, the party of Conservatism and that of Innovation, are very old, and have disputed the possession of the world ever since it was made.
These rabble at Washington … see, against the unanimous expression of the people, how much a little well-directed effrontery can achieve, how much crime the people will bear, and they proceed from step to step…
Conservatism stands on man’s confessed limitations; reform on his indisputable infinitude; conservatism on circumstance; liberalism on power; one goes to make an adroit member of the social frame; the other to postpone all things to the man himself; conservatism is debonnair and social; reform is individual and imperious.
Reform is affirmative, conservatism negative; conservatism goes for comfort, reform for truth.
Conservatism is more candid to behold another’s worth; reform more disposed to maintain and increase its own.
Conservatism makes no poetry, breathes no prayer, has no invention; it is all memory. Reform has no gratitude, no prudence, no husbandry.
When a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and the purity of its heart.
The true test of civilization is, not the census, nor the size of the cities, nor the crops – no, but the kind of man the country turns out.
From Washington, proverbially ‘the city of distances,’ through all its cities, states, and territories, it is a country of beginnings, of projects, of designs, and expectations.
Those who stay away from the election think that one vote will do no good: ‘Tis but one step more to think one vote will do no harm.
There is always a certain meanness in the argument of conservatism, joined with a certain superiority in its fact.
These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world.
Society is a wave. The wave moves onward, but the water of which it is composed does not. (Self-Reliance and Other Essays)
All men plume themselves on the improvement of society, and no man improves.
Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes About Time
With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now. Click to tweet
Let us leave hurry to slaves.
We ask for long life, but ’tis deep life, or noble moments that signify. Let the measure of time be spiritual, not mechanical. (Society and Solitude)
Time dissipates to shining ether the solid angularity of facts.
Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost, — and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment. (Self-Reliance and Other Essays)
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.
Alcohol, hashish, prussic acid, strychnine are weak dilutions. The surest poison is time.
I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.
Life is not so short but that there is always time enough for courtesy. (Letters and Social Aims)
Who hears me, who understands me, becomes mine, a possession for all time.
Nature is methodical, and doeth her work well. Time is never to be hurried.
The imagination and the senses cannot be gratified at the same time.
Manners require time, and nothing is more vulgar than haste. Click to tweet
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.
This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.
The sum of wisdom is that time is never lost that is devoted to work.
Today is a king in disguise.
Grow angry slowly – there’s plenty of time.
Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two. This you cannot do without temperance.
Tobacco, coffee, alcohol, hashish, prussic acid, strychnine, are weak dilutions. The surest poison is time.
So much of our time is spent in preparation, so much in routine, and so much in retrospect, that the amount of each person’s genius is confined to a very few hours.
A moment is a concentrated eternity.
What would be the use of immortality to a person who cannot use well a half an hour?
See also: Ralph Waldo Emerson Timeline (From 1803 to 1882) (shmoop.com)
Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes About Health
Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air. Click to tweet
Health is the first muse, and sleep is the condition to produce it.
Give me health and a day, and I will make the pomp of emperors ridiculous. (Nature, Essay)
The imagination is not a talent of some men but is the health of every man.
Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.
The one thing in the world, of value, is the active soul. (The American Scholar)
When I go into the garden with a spade, and dig a bed, I feel such an exhilaration and health that I discover that I have been defrauding myself all this time in letting others do for me what I should have done with my own hands.
Sickness is poor-spirited, and cannot serve anyone; it must husband its resources to live. But health or fullness answers its own ends, and has to spare, runs over, and inundates the neighborhoods and creeks of other men’s necessities.
We forget ourselves and our destinies in health, and the chief use of temporary sickness is to remind us of these concerns.
Prudence is the virtue of the senses. […] It is content to seek health of body by complying with physical conditions, and health of mind by the laws of the intellect.
I will say, get health. No labor, pains, temperance, poverty, nor exercise, that can gain it, must be grudged.
The best part of health is fine disposition. It is more essential than talent, even in the works of talent.
Whenever you are sincerely pleased, you are nourished. The joy of the spirit indicates its strength. All healthy things are sweet-tempered.
Intellectual tasting of life will not supersede muscular activity.
We don’t grow old. When we cease to grow, we become old.
Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes About Travelling
What is true anywhere is true everywhere. Click to tweet
Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not. (The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson)
The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency. (Self-Reliance and Other Essays)
Travelling is a fool’s paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places.
At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty, and lose my sadness. 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. I seek the Vatican, and the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go.
The most advanced nations are always those who navigate the most.
I am not much an advocate for traveling, and I observe that men run away to other countries because they are not good in their own, and run back to their own because they pass for nothing in the new places. For the most part, only the light characters travel.
For the most part, only the light characters travel. Who are you that have no task to keep you at home?
No man should travel until he has learned the language of the country he visits. Otherwise he voluntarily makes himself a great baby – so helpless and so ridiculous.
Everything good is on the highway.
It is for want of self-culture that the superstition of travelling, whose idols are Italy, England, Egypt, retains its fascination for all educated Americans.
Our minds travel when our bodies are forced to stay at home.
The soul is no traveler; the wise man stays at home, and when his necessities, his duties, on any occasion call him from his house, or into foreign lands, he is at home still.
I have no churlish objection to the circumnavigation of the globe, for the purposes of art, of study, and benevolence, so that the man is first domesticated, or does not go abroad with the hope of finding somewhat greater than he knows.
He who travels to be amused, or to get somewhat which he does not carry, travels away from himself, and grows old even in youth among old things.
The antidotes against this organic egotism, are, the range and variety of attractions, as gained by acquaintance with the world, with men of merit, with classes of society, with travel, with eminent persons, and with the high resources of philosophy, art, and religion: books, travel, society, solitude.
He that does not fill a place at home, cannot abroad. He only goes there to hide his insignificance in a larger crowd.
You do not think you will find anything there which you have not seen at home? The stuff of all countries is just the same.
The phrase ‘to know the world,’ or to travel, is synonymous with all men’s ideas of advantage and superiority. No doubt, to a man of sense, travel offers advantages.
The uses of travel are occasional, and short; but the best fruit it finds, when it finds it, is conversation; and this is a main function of life.
A foreign country is a point of comparison, where from to judge his own. Click to tweet
Part 4. Top 7 Ralph Waldo Emerson Poems
Poetry must be new as foam, and as old as the rock.
I hung my verses in the wind,
Time and tide their faults may find.
Life is too short to waste
The critic bite or cynic bark,
Quarrel, or reprimand;
‘Twill soon be dark;
Up! mind thine own aim, and
God speed the mark!
But all sorts of things and weather
Must be taken in together
To make up a year,
And a sphere.
Give all to love;
Obey thy heart;
Friends, kindred, days,
Estate, good fame,
Plans, credit, and the muse;
The music that can deepest reach,
And cure all ill, is cordial speech.
Some of your hurts you have cured,
And the sharpest you still have survived,
But what torments of grief you endured
From evils which never arrived.
Part 5. Conclusion
If we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last. Click to tweet
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Table Of Contents
Top 7 Emerson Poems