FACT CHECK: Did Ralph Waldo Emerson Say This Quote About Trailblazing?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

A post shared on Facebook alleges that New England writer Ralph Waldo Emerson once stated, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” – Ralph Waldo Emerson #TravelInspiration #TravelTuesday

Posted by Pentravel on Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Verdict: False

There is no evidence that Emerson ever penned this phrase. It may be a variation of a line written by poet Muriel Strode.

Fact Check:

Emerson was a philosopher, poet and essayist who featured prominently in the 19th century transcendentalist movement that emphasized intuitive, spiritual thinking over scientific, empirical thinking. He published a sizable body of work during his lifetime, including the well-known essay “Self-Reliance.”

The Daily Caller News Foundation searched a complete collection of his works, as well as his personal letters, for similar or matching phrases. However, the searches turned up no statements resembling the one attributed to Emerson in the Facebook post.

“That quote does not appear in Emerson’s works. It is a false attribution,” confirmed a spokesperson for the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society in an email to TheDCNF.

“It is definitely not an Emerson quotation, although it is attributed to him all over the Internet,” Jeffrey Cramer, editor of “The Portable Emerson,” said via email to TheDCNF. “I haven’t been able to track down its origin.”

Quote Investigator, a website dedicated to researching the sources of quotations, traced a variation of the phrase back to the 1903 poem “Wind-Wafted Wild Flowers,” written by Strode. The opening line of the poem reads as follows: “I will not follow where the path may lead, but I will go where there is no path, and I will leave a trail.”

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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