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Contents > Author > Thomas Stearns Eliot > The Hippopotamus 1888- 1965
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Thomas Stearns Eliot
The Hippopotamus
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"Similiter et omnes revereantur Diaconos, ut mandatum Jesu Christi;
et Episcopum, ut Jesum Christum, existentem filium Patris; Presbyteros
autem, ut concilium Dei et conjunctionem Apostolorum. Sine his Ecclesia
non vocatur; de quibus suadeo vos sic habeo." -- S. Ignatii Ad Trallianos.

"And when this epistle is read among you, cause that
it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans."

The 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, (5)
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, (10)
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 (15)
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. (20)

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 (25)
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, (30)
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 (35)
Wrapt in the old miasmal mist.

(from "Poems," 1920)

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