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The Hippopotamus -- Ogden Nash

I never knew there were so many hippopotamusings in the world...
(Poem #848) The Hippopotamus
 Behold the hippopotamus!
 We laugh at how he looks to us,
 And yet in moments dank and grim,
 I wonder how we look to him.

 Peace, peace, thou hippopotamus!
 We really look all right to us,
 As you no doubt delight the eye
 Of other hippopotami.
-- Ogden Nash
It's fitting that the last word [1] on hippos should fall to Ogden Nash; the
hippo is nothing if not a Nash creature, an improbability on four legs. And
yet, as the poet points out, we humans must look equally absurd in its eyes:
thin-skinned, anorexic, and always on the verge of falling over...

On a purely technical note, I do think the poem would have been better had
Nash stopped after the first quatrain. The second stanza needlessly
belabours the joke of the first, while not adding much in the way of humour.
Or maybe that's just me.


[1] Yes, this really is the last poem in this theme. Really.

[Minstrels Links]

Poem #124, "The Hippopotamus",  Hilaire Belloc
Poem #844, "The Hippopotamus", Oliver Herford
Poem #845, "Recipe for a Hippopotamus Sandwich", Shel Silverstein
Poem #846, "The Hippopotamus", T. S. Eliot
Poem #847, "On the Death of Smet-Smet, the Hippopotamus-Goddess", Rupert


I'm back online after a fortnight spent travelling; my thanks go to Martin
and various guest Minstrels for covering while I was away.


Hippopotami really is the plural of hippopotamus (though hippopotamuses is
also acceptable).

42 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Ja.Grosskurth said...

I agree that the second quatrain does not add much in terms of humor. But if
you imagine the poem being recited to an audience of hippopotami, it does
have great additional value. The first quatrain is anthropocentric, the
second quatrain is ecocentric. The first emphasizes the ability of
self-reflection. The second emphasizes the value of mutual respect.

garland.simon said...

MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! -CAMERON SIMON AGE 12


I Had a Hippopotamus

I had a hippopotamus; I kept him in a shed
And fed him upon vitamins and vegetable bread.
I made him my companion on many cheery walks,
And had his portrait done by a celebrity in chalks.

His charming eccentricities were known on every side.
The creature's popularity was wonderfully wide.
He frolicked with the Rector in a dozen friendly tussles,
Who could not but remark on his hippopotamuscles.

If he should be affected by depression or the dumps
By hippopotameasles or hippopotamumps
I never knew a particle of peace 'till it was plain
He was hippopotamasticating properly again.

I had a hippopotamus, I loved him as a friend
But beautiful relationships are bound to end.
Time takes, alas! our joys from us and robs us of our blisses.
My hippopotamus turned out to be a hippopotamissus.

My housekeeper regarded him with jaundice in her eye.
She did not want a colony of hippopotami.
She borrowed a machine gun from her soldier-nephew, Percy
And showed my hippopotamus no hippopotamercy.

My house now lacks the glamour that the charming creature gave.
The garage where I kept him is as silent as a grave.
No longer he displays among the motor-tires and spanners
His hippopotamastery of hippopotamanners.

No longer now he gambols in the orchard in the Spring;
No longer do I lead him through the village on a string;
No longer in the mornings does the neighborhood rejoice
To his hippopotamusically-modulated voice.

I had a hippopotamus, but nothing upon the earth
Is constant in its happiness or lasting in its mirth.
No life that's joyful can be strong enough to smother
My sorrow for what might have been a hippopotamother.

--Patrick Barrington

Are there copyright issues ?


Prabhash Gokarn
Head Planning
Bearings M&S, Kolkata

garland.simon said...

This is the most amazing poem ever! I love reading it to my friends because
they get such a kick out of it. I have even memorized it!! It¹s my favorite
poem ever! :^) :^) :^) :^)
~Cameron Simon

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