by: T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)

      HE broad-backed hippopotamus
      Rests on his belly in the mud;
      Although he seems so firm to us
      He is merely flesh and blood.
      Flesh-and-blood is weak and frail,
      Susceptible to nervous shock;
      While the True Church can never fail
      For it is based upon a rock.
      The hippo's feeble steps may err
      In compassing material ends,
      While the True Church need never stir
      To gather in its dividends.
      The 'potamus can never reach
      The mango on the mango-tree;
      But fruits of pomegranate and peach
      Refresh the Church from over sea.
      At mating time the hippo's voice
      Betrays inflexions hoarse and odd,
      But every week we hear rejoice
      The Church, at being one with God.
      The hippopotamus's day
      Is passed in sleep; at night he hunts;
      God works in a mysterious way--
      The Church can sleep and feed at once.
      I saw the 'potamus take wing
      Ascending from the damp savannas,
      And quiring angels round him sing
      The praise of God, in loud hosannas.
      Blood of the Lamb shall wash him clean
      And him shall heavenly arms enfold,
      Among the saints he shall be seen
      Performing on a harp of gold.
      He shall be washed as white as snow,
      By all the martyr'd virgins kist,
      While the True Church remains below
      Wrapt in the old miasmal mist.

"The Hippopotamus" is reprinted from Poems. T.S. Eliot. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1920.




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