The Chameleon

A Chameleon assumed and was seen by others in different colors. Those who saw argued among themselves. The Chameleon, revealed, said they were all fools.

Learn diffidence and moderation in your opinions.

JBR CollectionJBR Collection


Ernest Griset (1874)

Two travellers happened on their journey to be engaged in a warm dispute about the colour of the Chameleon. One of them affirmed it was blue, that he had seen it with his own eyes upon the naked branch of a tree, feeding on the air in a very clear day. The other strongly asserted it was green, and that he had viewed it very closely and minutely upon the broad leaf of a fig-tree. Both of them were positive, and the dispute was rising to a quarrel; but a third person luckily coming by, they agreed to refer the question to his decision. “Gentlemen,” said the arbitrator, with a smile of great self-satisfaction, “you could not have been more lucky in your reference, as I happen to have caught one of them last night; but, indeed, you are both mistaken, for the creature is totally black.” “Black, impossible!” “Nay,” quoth the umpire, with great assurance, “the matter may be soon decided, for I immediately enclosed my chameleon in a little paper box, and here it is.” So saying, he drew it out of his pocket, opened his box, and, lo! it was as white as snow. The positive disputants looked equally surprised and equally confounded; while the sagacious reptile, assuming the air of a philosopher, thus admonished them: “Ye children of men, learn diffidence and moderation in your opinions. ‘Tis true, you happen in this present instance to be all in the right, and have only considered the subject under different circumstances, but, pray, for the future allow others to have eyesight as well as yourselves; nor wonder if every one prefers the testimony of his own senses to those of another.”

Taylor RhymesJefferys Taylor

Taylor - Chamelion 0055Two friends, B and A, were disputing, one day,
On a creature they’d both of them seen;
But who would suppose the debate that arose
Was whether ’twas scarlet or green.

Said B, “If your’re right, I will own black is white,
Or that two, with two added, make eight;”
“And so will I too,” replied A, “when you show
That that creature is green, as you state.”

“Sir, it was, I maintain; I affirm it again;
Am I not to believe my own eyes?”
“It was not,” replied A; “it was scarlet, I say,
Which none but a madman denies.”

Then said C, “My good fellow, you’ll find it is yellow;
You surely have never been near it:”
“That cannot be true, for I’m certain ’twas blue,”
Said another who happen’d to hear it.

“O!” said D, “it’s absurd! if you’ll credit my word,
The creature was brown as a berry:”
“Not brown, sir” said Jack, “when I saw it, ’twas black;”
Their the neighbours began to be merry.

“Come,” said E, “hold your tongue, you are all of you wrong,
Or, at least, you are none of you right:”
Then a box he display’d, where the creature was laid,
When this marvellous lizard was white!

“Good people,” said I, “a chameleon his dye
Can change any colour to suit;
Now if this had been known, all must candidly own
You would not have commenced the dispute.”

This great altercation show’d small information,
As such disputes constantly do;
For ignorant minds, one most commonly finds,
Are excessively positive too.