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

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Comment 28 of 48, added on March 14th, 2012 at 9:48 PM.

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nintne perittu vilikkamayirunnu aroa ezhuthiya kavithayanu. ? purathu
mazha peyyunnundu . chila penkuttikal thulawarsha mazhapoleyanu hridayathil

Syukur from Germany
Comment 27 of 48, added on March 12th, 2012 at 10:44 PM.

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Joice from South Africa
Comment 25 of 48, added on February 23rd, 2011 at 10:54 AM.

I think this poem is quite siimple, Eliot wrote this poem before he
converted to christianty. He feels odd between the layers of the society
like a hippo in a mud , mud here symbolizes sins and symbolicy states his
believe in god but not that earthly church

Faisal Abuzeani from Palestine
Comment 24 of 48, added on September 26th, 2010 at 1:57 AM.
T S Eliot - The Hippopotamus

Two things not raised in what I have read here.
Firstly the poem is addressed to the Laodecians.
To quote another source: "the pejorative term Laodicean is used in the
English language to refer to those neutral or indifferent in matters of
Perhaps Eliot thought this poem would rock this tepid indifference?
Secondly, the Church (Catholic at least) does not believe that animals can
ascend to heaven. His vision is an affront to such believers.

David Mortimerthe pejorative term Laodicean is used in the English language to refer to those neutral or indifferent in matters of faith from Australia
Comment 23 of 48, added on June 11th, 2010 at 9:59 AM.
destroy of chuch

i sure that this poem shows invalidity of the church.This admitation from
this poet expresses the stute of peopl with church.The substitution is Islm

Naif alarabi from Yemen
Comment 22 of 48, added on November 21st, 2009 at 11:02 PM.
"The Hippopotamus" by T.S. Eliot

The Hippopotamus seems to me to be a satirical view of the
institutionalized church and its stereotyped utterances…Mankind is weak and
frail whereas the church claims to be strong and timeless…when man gathers
possessions he is sinful but when the church does it, it is honorable…the
ludicrousness of the resurrection story…the church’s fervent claims of a
physical location, virgin-filled heaven…The capital letters on True Church
suggest to me that he saw it as an untrue church wrapped in the miasmal
mist of all its deceptions and false claims through the ages.

Evan Clingman from United States
Comment 21 of 48, added on September 8th, 2009 at 9:21 AM.

This poem came early in Mr. Eliot's career. In December 1917, he read it
out loud at a Red Cross charity benefit -- a poetry reading chaired by the
pompous Sir Edmund Gosse and attended by Robert Graves, Aldous Huxley, the
Sitwell's and other luminaries.

It is important to note that Eliot was never an atheist. He grew up in a
Unitarian household of old New English stock, and quickly became
disenchanted with the leading Transcendental Movement lights of Emerson and
Matthew Arnold. These gods of western intellectuality, who are still
adored, could not account for Eliot the concrete experiences of Time and

So you have in Eliot's Hippopotamus a clear hope for an actual Church, a
place of "atonement" with a real God, juxtaposed with a nagging frustration
at the pettiness of the Church's clergy and laity. Thus, the Church is
built upon the Rock of faith in Jesus Christ as Son of God, but still
anchored in the fallen human experience of her acolytes.

There is a difference between "material ends" and the "dividends" that
accrue to the True Church. The former are the things we complain about, and
rightly so. No one should have gold commodes and call himself an apostle of
Jesus, the One Who had nowhere to lay His head except in the soul of a
disciple. But at the same time, the real "dividends" are the "daily bread"
prayed for in the Lord's Prayer, which is nothing less than the Eucharist.

"The mango on the mango-tree" is meant to suggest the nightmare of
Tantalus. Greedy men and women in the Church will stretch out their grubby
hands to lesser, material things, like dignities of the world and the
praises of lesser powers. There is a horrible truism in Church history:
that which is lower which you reach for will be pulled ever higher out of
your reach (just like Tantalus) ... but if you reach for the highest, you
will attain (after all, "Ask and it shall be given unto you"). Hence:
"fruits of pomegranate and peach/ Refresh the Church from over sea."

The mating of hippo's must be an unattractive sight, as is every moment
when Church magistrates and rulers and leaders and bureaucrats "mate with
the world" by involving themselves in lesser things and lesser ethics. When
the churchmen practice the art of Macchiavel and engage in realpolitik and
the Jesuitical arts -- this is the "mating of hippo's" when "the hippo's
voice/ Betrays inflexions hoarse and odd ..."

But at the Liturgy, at the true marriage of human nature with the Divine:
"... every week we hear rejoice/ The Church, at being one with God."

The Church is always "at rest" in the Sabbath peace of God's fellowship.
You may disagree with this, but this is what we know. Thus we rest and are
fed in God's "mysterious way," and some of us have died -- but our Lord
careful to rename "death" as "sleep."

It is as difficult, I'm sure, to believe this about the Church as it is to
believe that Eliot saw "the 'potamus take wing" -- a reference, by the way,
to the River (i.e., "potamus" in Greek) of Baptism. And rising from
repentance and baptism, we are told, every Christian is greeted with
rejoicing angels in heaven.

The Sacraments, Eliot says poetically, must take hold and be effective,
sending those who want Sacraments and receive into the beginning of Heaven
here and now, and into the fulfillment of it at the Last Day.

All the while, "the True Church remains below/ Wrapt in the old miasmal

It is still amazing to me that Eliot, who had not yet entered the Church,
could understand what the Church needed to be and her relation to the
Trinity and what the Sacraments had to mean.

He must have looked around at the carnage of the Great World, and have seen
the death of the old Emersonian and Arnoldian dreams of a Christianity-less

Jonathan from United States
Comment 20 of 48, added on July 18th, 2009 at 6:23 PM.

This may be way off track, however interesting in itself. A statue of Tsar
Alexander 3rd, by P.N. Trubetskoi, was, at the time which Eliot wrote this
poem, displayed in St. Petersburg. (the old Russian capital) A gigantic
depiction of the Tsar on horseback, to which it was nicknamed
"hippopotamus" because of its unwieldy, weighty, and inert mass. The Tsar's
relationship to the church was unequivocal, being as he was God's
representative on earth, despotic, autocratic and beyond reproach. 'blood
of the lamb shall wash him clean' yet 'washed as white as snow'. is this an
ironic play between the red of blood, the bolshevik red's and the, so
called, purity of the spotless Tsarist whites? Incidentally, Tsar Nicholas
(the last one!) replicated this statue in Moscow, facing the Kremlin, and
with its back to the church. Where are they now? Also the russian
revolution was in 1917, so just few years before this poem, it was hot news
back then. its just a thought!

terry from United Kingdom
Comment 19 of 48, added on June 21st, 2009 at 12:10 AM.

I believe that the whole poem mocks the earthly church, what it stands for
and its hipocrasy.

While the hippo struggles the church rakes in its "dividents". The church
imports and has access to fruit that the hippo has no access to.

We are then given the slightly ridiculous image of the hippo ascending into
heaven and being washed clean and white. Even the fact of a hippo being in
a poem about the church is slightly rediculous.

Still, the hippo ascends into heaven while the greedy church remains earth
bound. We are therby shown who is the more worthy of the two.

jacqueline from United Kingdom

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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: 27415 times
Poem of the Day: Apr 2 2007

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