Subscribe: by Email | in Reader

The Hippopotamus -- Oliver Herford

Adding to our regular army of hippopotami...
(Poem #844) The Hippopotamus
 "Oh, say, what is this fearful, wild,
 Incorrigible cuss?"
 "This *creature* (don't say 'cuss,' my child;
 'Tis slang)--this creature fierce is styled
 The Hippopotamus.
 His curious name derives its source
 From two Greek words: hippos--a horse,
 Potamos--river. See?
 The river's plain enough, of course;
 But why they called *that* thing a *horse*,
 That's what is Greek to me."
-- Oliver Herford
There's something about hippopotamuses that appeals to writers of humorous
verse, particularly children's verse. Whether it's the comical aspect of the
beast itself, or the delightfully long and euphonious word 'hippopotamus',
or both, the fact remains that the beast has worked its way into a number of
poems, ranging from Carroll's [1]

   He thought he saw a Banker's Clerk
   Descending from the bus:
   He looked again, and found it was
   A Hippopotamus:
   "If this should stay to dine," he said,
   "There won't be much for us!"

to Flanders' bold hippopotamus on the banks of the Shalimar[2], and almost
always for comic effect.

Today's poem is a pleasant if not outstanding example of the genre. The
punch line works - though the 'Greek to me' line loses a bit from having
been done to death - but the poem itself does not really rely on it for a
make-or-break effect. The poem is instead cheerfully and trippingly humorous
throughout - indeed, my favourite bit is the parenthetical admonishment in
the third and fourth lines. And, as some of the best children's poems are,
it is (almost as an afterthought) educational as well - if you didn't know the
etymology of 'hippopotamus' you do now <g>.

Biographical Snippet:

  Oliver Herford (1863-1935)
  English-born American poet, illustrator, and wit; published over 50
  volumes of light verse and prose
        -- Poets' Corner

  In the United States an older generation of humorists somewhat
  of the upper-class Punch style lingered briefly after World War
  I. Of such were Oliver Herford, whose Alphabet of Celebrities
  and other comic verses with pictures were published as small
  books; Peter Newell, whose highly original Slant Book, Hole
  Book, etc., had a sharp eye to late prewar costume, and Gelett
  Burgess, whose Goops for children were spaghetti-like little
  figures whose behaviour illustrated a moral. (See Burgess,
        -- EB (which had no entry on the man himself)


[1] poem #265
  (Does anyone read Sylvie and Bruno these days? Painful in places, but
  worth at least one readthrough, IMO)
[2] [broken link]

And the other hippo poem we've run on Minstrels: poem #124


20 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Alon Bernstein said...

A brief etymological note -- the Hebrew word for hippopotamus is "soos ye'or", meaning "horse of the Nile". "Hippopotamus" is much more common in everyday Hebrew though. Great poem, by the way.


Penis Enlargement Pills said...

The author has written an excellent article. You have made your point and there is not much to argue about. It is like the following universal truth that you can not argue with: No truth is universal, everything has its exception. Thanks for the info

Space Matters Real Estates said...

Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I will definitely return. Plots for sale in Hyderabad
Plots for sale in Banjara Hills
Plots for sale in Jubilee Hills
Plots for sale in Manikonda
Plots for sale in Madhapur
Plots for sale in kondapur
Plots for sale in Gachibowli
Plots for sale in Kukatpally

Daniel Clark said...

your blog is good and nice post. Business Services | Home Cleaning Products | I learn something more challenging on distinct blogs everyday.

alat bantu wanita said...

I previously had a sassy apologize if the info-borne no relation to the content you created this. but I would be very ber thank you once would you give me permission to various info which I understand. about. alat bantu sex sebuah peralatan yang dapat di manfaatkan oleh pria wanita dewasa, alat bantu sex pria dan toko alat bantu sex wanita.

Obat Herbal said...

Seberat apapun beban masalah yang kamu hadapi saat ini, percayalah bahwa semua itu tidak pernah melebihi batas kemampuan kamu.

Post a Comment