Shelley Sunday: ‘An Exhortation’

AN EXHORTATION
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
[Published with "Prometheus Unbound", 1820. Dated 'Pisa, April, 1820'
in Harvard manuscript (Woodberry), but assigned by Mrs. Shelley to
1819: Note by Thomas Hutchinson, MA]

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,                                         _5
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,                                        _10
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:                                         _15
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:                                     _20
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,                                          _25
Spirits from beyond the moon,
Oh, refuse the boon!

***

Image Credit: Frankenstein Unbound. Michael Hutchence as Percy Shelley. Film.
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