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Analysis and comments on The Hippopotamus by T.S. Eliot

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Comment 11 of 31, added on April 5th, 2007 at 5:26 AM.

note that TS Eliot turned Anglican 10 yrs after this poem was published

Debbie from United States
Comment 10 of 31, added on April 1st, 2007 at 10:15 PM.

I believe the poem shows how, the hippo, any human, is frail and shall die,
be forgotten, while ideas, in this case the Christian religion, is forever
there,engraved, while the people who use it change. The last two stanzas
give an interesting twist, that though humans are forgotten, they can break
loose from humanity for that reason, allowing them to be then, above that
idea, stuck below. maybe, just a thought.

human from United States
Comment 9 of 31, added on March 27th, 2007 at 9:00 PM.

I believe the message that Eliot is trying to communicate in this poem is
that by working hard all your life, as the Hippo does, and trying even if
you don't succeed, salvation is reached. But, as the church remains in one
spot, has everything brought to it and never lifts a finger, it stays on
the dismal earth. The message is similar to that of Hollow Men and
Prufrock, where the men in question all in fact were soulless because, they
really did nothing with their lives.

Ariela from Canada
Comment 8 of 31, added on March 3rd, 2007 at 12:26 PM.

I believe that Eliot is talking about the establishment versus the body of
believers which I believe to be "The Church." The religious rituals and
practices are those designed by man and many believe these are the ticket
to heaven when in actuality, the
true Church is "wrapt in the poisonous mist."

Barb Gedman from United States
Comment 7 of 31, added on February 26th, 2007 at 4:40 AM.

this is gangsta ja writer i think t.s elliot is simply critisizing how
outdated the church is and in my lastest rymes you can see how i was
inspired by the great ts elliot my homy brother who had the balls to
critisize what was then the most important organizesation of his time i
being a gangsta and all do not agree with his views but repsect him because
he has balls.

JA writer
Comment 6 of 31, added on February 20th, 2006 at 10:53 PM.

I think that the hippo represents someone who is living a hard life and
never knew of god and never could, but he went to heaven. The church is
powerful and great but the church still stays on earth.

James from United States
Comment 5 of 31, added on January 27th, 2006 at 9:09 AM.

The poem contrasts earthly realities (flesh and blood, susceptible to
nervous shock) with a false conception of the church as untroubled and
invulnerable. The 'True Church' in this sense is an idol which is left
behind while it is the messy reality that is redeemed. This is certainly a
criticism of hypocrisy and it is reasonable to see it as addressing the
humble and the marginal (not those who think they know who is saved), but I
do not think that one should see the Hippopotamus as non-believers or
isolated individual belivers. In contast to the unreal 'True Church' the
Hippopotamus is surely the church as she actually is - messy and lumbering,
with liturgies which are, in a musical sense, often lacking in harmony or
beauty (think of the ordinary bread and butter church services, not the
occasional splendid celebrations). The poem reminds Christians not to talk
of 'The Church' (or the sma ething could be said of one's country or one's
familly) in a way that is unconnected from reality, or to despair if the
reality seems so much more tedious and humdrum than the supposed ideal. It
is this messy visible reality with boring parish priests, only partly
coverted parishers, disharmony among famillies and 'communities' (another
word that can be used in an idealised way to disguise reality) that God
will redeem. The poem is ultimately positive while using humour to
deconstruct the over-seriousness which gives a distorted view of the true
church and ultimately presents an obstacle to redemption.

David Jones from United Kingdom
Comment 4 of 31, added on November 29th, 2005 at 12:11 AM.

i think that this poem is using teh poem to contrast thosee that believe in
God to those that don't and is using the hippopotamus as unclean as a
symbol of unclean people who haven't been introduced to the Lord.

cassie reid from United States
Comment 3 of 31, added on October 15th, 2005 at 6:43 PM.

The message of this poem is quite simple. It is the simple and the humble
who are saved. It is the hypocritical who are left behind in the "old
miasmal mist," and Eliot included the Institution that was the Church,
which he was obviously cynical about throughout the poem, in the latter

Rebekka from United States
Comment 2 of 31, added on June 16th, 2005 at 1:02 PM.

I believe the poem is meant to contrast people's conception of an idealized
church with the actual result of belief in God. The hippopotamus is
portrayed as slovenly and dirty, coarse, feeble, odd, etc. While the church
is always shown as a strong and joyous institution. In the end, however,
the hippopotamus is the one which is truly glorified while the church is
left behind in a haze which blinds it from the salvation the hippo
recieved. A few thematic observations: salvation is personal, and not
wholly dependent upon an organization, no matter how strong; and while the
church seems to be doing everything perfectly with a joyous attitude, the
lazy, disgusting hippopotamus is the one recieved into choirs of angels and
saints. I believe this reflects the Bible's message that Jesus 'the Lamb'
came to save those who are most in need of salvation. open to more points
of view, of course.

Ben Thomason from United States

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Information about The Hippopotamus

Poet: T.S. Eliot
Poem: 8. The Hippopotamus
Volume: Poems
Year: 1920
Added: Jan 31 2004
Viewed: 25585 times
Poem of the Day: Apr 2 2007

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