Percy Bysshe Shelley

Aug. 4, 1792 - July 8, 1822

 

An Exhortation

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Chameleons feed on light and air:
Poets' food is love and fame:
If in this wide world of care
Poets could but find the same
With as little toil as they,
Would they ever change their hue
As the light chameleons do,
Suiting it to every ray
Twenty times a day?

Poets are on this cold earth,
As chameleons might be,
Hidden from their early birth
In a cave beneath the sea;
Where light is chameleons change:
Where love is not, poets do:
Fame is love disguised: if few
Find either, never think it strange
That poets range.

Yet dare not stain with wealth or power
A poet's free and heavenly mind:
If bright chameleons should devour
Any food but beams and wind.
They would grow as earthly soon
As their brother lizards are.
Children of a sunnier star,
Spirits from beyond the moon,
Oh, refuse the boon!

Written Pisa, April 1820.
Published 1820.

Source:

The Lyrics and Shorter Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley
Copyright 1907, reprinted 1913
London: J.M. Dent and Sons, Ltd.
New York: E.P. Dutton and Co.
 
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