Hippo – a poem

This is my first attempt at a Shakespearian sonnet with its iambic pentameters. I found the rhyming scheme and the rhythm difficult as I seem to think in rhyming couplets and had to shake off this habit. I hope that you endorse the love theme as appropriate for a sonnet although I couldn’t go too cerebral.

Oh, when did my sweet love of thee begin?
Hippo dear, was it thy tiny eye and ear?
Surely it wasn’t thy wrinkled tough skin
Or the plunge thou takes when I draw near.
Is it envy of thy water-hole day?
Or ev’ntide, when I see thee lumber on shore,
Carefree, no enemies upon thee to prey
Then thou eats ‘til thou can eat no more
Oft times thy mouth gapes open at me
No loving kiss but yellow teeth inside
Then thy roar matches in ferocity
And I know that ‘tis best I go and hide.
Come now, why is my love not returned,
Even when methinks that it is earned?

Copyright © 6/6/2013 Jane Stansfeld

8 thoughts on “Hippo – a poem

  1. I think this is a delight! Your brother’s right—most of the lines don’t beat as five iambs but hey….it’s a solid poem anyway. Did you do all the “thees” and “thous” and “methinks” because you figured it was Shakespearean, or just for the humor of it ?

    • Hi Cynthia: you ask good question about that the “thees”, “thous” and “methinks”. I am not sure why I used them. Perhaps Shakespeare had some influence, but I think that I did it because I felt that these archaic words denote more tenderness. The love is intended to contrast with the essence of a hippopotamus and I find these words to accentuate that contrast.
      Do you have any advice on how I can learn to work out the beats? Cheerio, Jane.

      • Hmmmm…I believe the natural cadence of ordinary English speech is iambic, that is we tend to speak tuh DAH, tuh DAH, tuh DAH…..and about five of those to a line is a comfortable breath span (I read somewhere). The tricky thing is, when one tries to measure it out too fanatically one tends to lose the cadence of ordinary speech. It’s a bit like dancing a waltz or a samba….important to get the steps, but if you start counting too self-consciously, grace flies out the window. I usually just speak the lines aloud (trusting that natural cadence idea ) and stop when I have five accented syllables. Just a matter of practice, probably, and good to remember that absolutely strict meter in every single line is boring. Hope I’ve confused you sufficiently!

        • Thank you for this very helpful information, and no I am not confused. I am also glad to have your advice in which you relate poetry to dance – so true. Words written by a true poetess such as yourself mean a lot. I am going to have to try to write another sonnet, perhaps I might get it right! Of course I’ll have to wait until the right subject pops into my mind. Again I thank you, cheerio, Jane.

    • According to my brother I didn’t accomplish the iambic pentameter. I find it hard to measure the one / two beat. However, I agree that the Summit format is a good one.
      Cheerio, Jane

    • Glad you enjoyed it Lydia. My dad had a thing going for hippos and I inherited his collection which inspired the poem – and at least I didn’t compare Dan to one which might have upset the equilibrium in our home!

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