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An Exhortation by Percy Bysshe Shelley | Poets.org

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!

About This Poem
"An Exhortation" was written in Pisa, Italy, a city in which the Shelleys spent a great deal of time toward the end of Percy's life.
Today is the anniversary of Percy Shelley's birth.
Percy Bysshe Shelley was born on August 4, 1792, near Horsham, England. Considered one of the major poets of the Romantic movement, he is also well-known for his marriage to Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. Shelley died in 1822.
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