Hippopatamus

The first stanza introduces the scene and tone of the poem. We are given the time as ?Twelve o?clock?, ie. midnight, which is in a sense the witching hours of the day. The walk the narrator embarks on is dramatised in the next few lines as the street is described as ?Held under a lunar synthesis whispering lunar incantations.? This personification of the moon suggests that the moon is possibly acting like a witch casting a spell on the street, allowing the narrator to abolish all rational thoughts and enter an almost dream-like sequence in which a series of irrational thoughts and memories arise. The first mentioning of a ?street lamp? introduces many different ideas. To begin with, the time of the day is midnight, the darkest time of the day. This sets the tone to a rather bleak and dark view of life but the street lamp acts as small patches of light in the street suggesting hope. These small patches of light are also a catalyst for a sequence of thoughts, memories and images that we are presented with throughout the entire poem. Thus in a way, the street lamp forms a significant motif as it represents hope while stimulates all the thoughts the narrator conjures up. The line ?Beats like a fatalistic drum? gives us the first insight that the narrator may be in a drunken haze causing a possible headache, which explains all the hallucinations though this is never confirmed. The last lines of the first stanza introduces the sense of pandemonium that we should expect throughout the rest of the poem as Eliot compares the narrator?s state of mind with how ?a madman shakes a dead germanium.? A germanium is a flower that is adept at survival yet the fact that it is dead further emphasises the chaotic state of the narrator?s mind. The technique of juxtaposition is used here since on the one hand, Eliot illustrates an external and rational landscape of a street while on the other hand; an internal and irrational landscape of chaotic thoughts is suggested.
The second stanza takes the time to one and a half hours later. The repetition of the word ?street-lamp? brings us back to the motif of a catalyst for thoughts. Onomatopoeia and rhyme is used here with ?sputtered?muttered.? This creates a rhythm of walking that reminds us that the narrator is still walking down a street. The street-lamp is also personificated to speak as it evokes the first of a series of thoughts. For the first time in the poem, another person is mentioned, a woman in fact. However, even though the sense of isolation and loneliness is broken, this woman is suggested to be seductive giving us an idea that the narrator has had bad experiences with women and relationships in the past. This is further exemplified in the last line words like ?Twists? and ?crooked pin? which create a sense of emptiness and agony.
The third stanza depicts another thought or memory, this time with two very desperate and pessimistic images of life. The first one is of a ?twisted branch? that is eaten up and is compared to the world giving up ?the secret of its skeleton.? This suggests that life simply causes pain and wears people down. The repetitive use of the word twisted evokes pain upon the reader and the fact that the world?s skeleton is ?Stiff and white? implies that the world has no goodness and that there is no miracle of ?magic? involved. .The second image we are given is the ?broken spring in a factory yard.? This metaphor denotes people?s lives as broken and pushed to the limit. It portrays the vulnerability of humanity as the broken spring is only hanging on by rust. This reference to rust shows the corrosive nature of life and brings us back to how life wears us down. The last words ?ready to snap? is very striking as it further shows the fragile nature of life and suggests that humanity is on the verge of breaking.
The next stanza takes us forward once more in time, as it is now half-past two. This time we are given three desperate images that further demonstrate Eliot?s view of life, all which are introduced with the motif of the street-lamp personification again. These images are the cat, the child