T.S. Eliot: Poems

The Hippopotamus

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.


And when this epistle is read among you, cause

that it be read also in the church of the


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, 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 inliexions 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 kiss, While the True Church remains below Wrapt in the old miasmal mist.