THE HIPPOPOTAMUS


                                     T. S. Elliot


          The broad-back 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 clear(

And him shall heavenly arms enfold,

Among the saints he shall be seen

Performing on a harp of gold.


                              lie 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.



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