Paul Muldoon

(20 June 1951 / County Armagh / Northern Ireland)

Hedgehog Poem by Paul Muldoon


The snail moves like a
Hovercraft, held up by a
Rubber cushion of itself,
Sharing its secret

With the hedgehog. The hedgehog
Shares its secret with no one.
We say, Hedgehog, come out
Of yourself and we will love you.

We mean no harm. We want
Only to listen to what
You have to say. We want
Your answers to our questions.

The hedgehog gives nothing
Away, keeping itself to itself.
We wonder what a hedgehog
Has to hide, why it so distrusts.

We forget the god
under this crown of thorns.
We forget that never again
will a god trust in the world.


from 'Poems 1968-1998'

Submitted: Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Edited: Wednesday, October 5, 2011

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Comments about this poem (Hedgehog by Paul Muldoon )

  • Rookie - 0 Points Zug Standing Bear (12/26/2014 7:21:00 PM)

    For the past 18 years have been operating a nationwide nonprofit hedgehog rescue. I have cared long-term for nearly 400 hedgehogs during that time with our resident population usually ranging between 30 and 50. Looking at Muldoon’s collected works, it does not appear that he is especially interested in hedgehogs, but, of course, has had the benefit of being around them in nature in his home country, Ireland. The hedgehog is unusual as a wild animal for several reasons. First they are among the very oldest live-bearing mammals on earth, having hung out with dinosaurs, and second, among virtually all wild animals, they do not flee or attack at the approach of a human, but simply roll into a ball of protective quills, and then only if made nervous. I thought so much of the poem that I used it as the frontispiece of Volume 1 of my “Hedgehog Chronicles” titled “The Gathering: Secretly Saving the World, ” which is a metaphorical series on the ethics of warfare featuring hedgehogs. To me, knowing hedgehogs as I do, the poem resonated with a number of issues long considered (back to the Greek lyric poet Archilochus – c.680 to c.645 BCE) by humans in the hedgehog-human relationship. The so-called “hedgehogs dilemma” (Schopenhauer and Freud) concerning the problems of intimacy only adds to the mystery of these defensive animals that have somehow survived ice ages. They are, at once, zany yet predictable; defensive yet endlessly curious; affectionate but sometimes aggressive. So, to an experienced hedgehog caretaker, the startling end to the Muldoon poem makes absolute sense. Con cordiali saluti, Z. G. Standing Bear at The Flash and Thelma Memorial Hedgehog Rescue, Inc., in Divide, Colorado, USA (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 135 Points Gary Corseri (10/24/2014 9:24:00 PM)

    This poem is safe in every sense of the word! One would hope for a lot more from the Poetry Editor of The New Yorker! A lot more cleverness, oomph, and originality! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 182 Points Karen Sinclair (10/24/2014 1:58:00 AM)

    I loved the first two stanzas they to me could be a poem in their own right. (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 585 Points Ramesh T A (10/24/2013 4:06:00 AM)

    Indeed like the snail and hedgehog men of world never seem to trust on God!
    That was why crucifixion might have taken place! (Report) Reply

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