Life and Death Quotations


We live but a fraction of our life.

Journal, 13 June 1851


There are infinite degrees of life, from that which is next to sleep and death, to that which is forever awake and immortal. We must not confound man and man. We cannot conceive of a greater difference than between the life of one man and that of another.

Journal, 13 January 1857

He is the true artist whose life is his material; every stroke of the chisel must enter his own flesh and bone and not grate dully on marble.

Journal, 23 June 1840

This life is not for complaint, but for satisfaction.

Thoreau to Daniel Ricketson, 4 November 1860

One moment of serene and confident life is more glorious than a whole campaign of daring. We should be ready for all issues, not daring to die but daring to live.

Journal, June 1850

I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to love, and could not spare any more time for that one.


Some men endeavor to live a constrained life, to subject their whole lives to their wills, as he would said he would give a sign if he were conscious after his head was cut off-but he gave no sign. Dwell as near as possible to the channel in which your life flows.

Journal, 12 March 1853

I am not afraid that I will exaggerate the value and significance of life, but that I shall not be up to the occasion which it is. I shall be sorry to remember that I was there, but noticed nothing remarkable-not so much as a prince in disguise; lived in the golden age as a hired man; visited Olympus even, but fell asleep after dinner, and did not hear the conversation of the gods.

Thoreau to Harrison Blake, 3 April 1850

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.


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