Eliot, T. S. "The Hippopotamus".
- introduced by a quotation from an apostolic letter in Latin with a note asking this epistle to be read also in the church of Laodiceans ("Epistle to the Laodiceans", a fake)
- the speaker describes the hippopotamus and diminishes his seeming solidity and firmness by comparing him to the Church in its essential stability
- throughout the poem dismisses the hippopotamus for its being earthbound and made of flesh x praises the heavenly qualities and abilities of the Church
- turning point: suddenly the speaker relates how he saw angels coming to the hippopotamus and accepting him to heaven to dwell there with the saints
- conclusion: turns the whole poem on its head by announcing that while the hippopotamus retires to heaven, the "True Church" remains earthbound in mud and dirt
- roughly ABAB rhyme, regular stanza and poetic line, linguistic playfulness (the variously shortened word "hippopotamus") yet relative simplicity (for Eliot)
- mastery of sarcasm: the final statement laughs at each of the preceding lines of what originally seemed to be a sincere devotional poem
- intermixture of sadness, scorn, and anger about the present condition of the Church
AuthorEliot, Thomas Stearns. (1888 - 1965).
Full Title"The Hippopotamus".
First PublishedIn: Poems. Richmond: The Hogarth Press, 1920.
Eliot, T. S. "The Hippopotamus". (1920). Collected Poems 1909 - 1935. London: Faber and Faber, 1946.