An Exhortation

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!
 
This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on August 4, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Poems by This Author

Adonais, 49-52, [Go thou to Rome] by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Go thou to Rome,--at once the Paradise
England in 1819 by Percy Bysshe Shelley
An old, mad, blind, despised, and dying king
Lines: 'When the Lamp is Shattered' by Percy Bysshe Shelley
When the lamp is shattered
Love's Philosophy by Percy Bysshe Shelley
The fountains mingle with the river
Mutability by Percy Bysshe Shelley
We are as clouds that veil the midnight moon
Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley
O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
On the Medusa of Leonardo Da Vinci in the Florentine Gallery by Percy Bysshe Shelley
It lieth, gazing on the midnight sky
Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley
I met a traveller from an antique land
Stanzas Written in Dejection, Near Naples by Percy Bysshe Shelley
The sun is warm, the sky is clear
The Call of the Open by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Which yet joined not scent to hue
The Mask of Anarchy [Excerpt] by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Stand ye calm and resolute
To a Skylark by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Hail to thee, blithe Spirit
To Night by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Swiftly walk o'er the western wave
To the Moon [fragment] by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Art thou pale for weariness


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