Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


An Exhortation

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!

Credit


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

Author


Percy Bysshe Shelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley, whose literary career was marked with controversy due to his views on religion, atheism, socialism, and free love, is known as a talented lyrical poet and one of the major figures of English romanticism. 

Date Published: 2013-08-04

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/exhortation