Ralph Waldo Emerson

Since Waldo Emerson (as he preferred to be called) has provided me with so many wonderful quotes, it seems appropriate to celebrate him on his birthday. Emerson was born on May 25, 1803 in Boston. He was an American Transcendentalist poet, philosopher and essayist. Transcendentalists believe that each individual could transcend, or move beyond, the physical world of the senses into deeper spiritual experience through free will and intuition. They were very much into individualism, so struck a chord in the new country of the United States.

Emerson did various things, such as preaching and teaching, but he is best known for his essays and poetry. In his day, he was a favorite lecturer, and earned much of his money that way. He knew many of the famous people of his day, such as Daniel Webster, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Carlyle, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, and Amos Bronson Alcott.

He traveled in Europe, but later settled down in New Hampshire, where he became known as the Sage of Concord. Some of his best known writings are Essays, First and Second series, along with many individual essays and poems, such as “Nature,” “Self-Reliance,” and “The American Scholar.” He also wrote poetry, the most famous of which is probably “The Concord Hymn,” which begins:

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

Emerson died on April 27, 1882, leaving a rich legacy of wonderful words for us. Below are just a fraction of those which I have on my Website.


All great masters are chiefly distinguished by the power of adding a second, a third, and perhaps a fourth step in a continuous line. Many a man had taken the first step. With every additional step you enhance immensely the value of you first.

Cause and effect, means and ends, seed and fruit, cannot be severed; for the effect already blooms in the cause, the end pre-exists in the means, the fruit in the seed… You cannot do wrong without suffering wrong.

The definition of success – To laugh much; to win respect of intelligent persons and the affections of children; to earn the approbation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give one’s self; to leave the world a little better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition.; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm, and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – this is to have succeeded.

The difference between talent and genius is in the direction of the current: in genius, it is from within outward; in talent from without inward. (Journal, May 3, 1841)

The faith that stands on authority is not faith.

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

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

A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.

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

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

The line between failure and success is so fine that we scarcely know when we pass it – so fine that we often are on the line and do not know it.

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

People only see what they are prepared to see. (Journals)

The real and lasting victories are those of peace and not of war.

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

Find nearly 9000 inspirational quotes and a link to the Quote of the Day list, as well as quotation related merchandise, at http://www.quotelady.com.

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