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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


  • Author

    Eliot, Thomas Stearns. (1888 - 1965).
  • Full Title

    "The Hippopotamus".
  • First Published

    In: Poems. Richmond: The Hogarth Press, 1920.
  • Form


Works Cited

Eliot, T. S. "The Hippopotamus". (1920). Collected Poems 1909 - 1935. London: Faber and Faber, 1946.


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