The Oxen by Thomas Hardy

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.
We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.
So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel,
“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.
This lovely poem by Thomas Hardy takes us back to the world of childhood nostalgia.  The things we once beloved, when younger and more innocent—if only they could be true.   The young speaker of the poem—probably Hardy himself—relates a folkloric story.  At 12 midnight on Christmas Eve the barnyard animals all get down on their knees to herald the coming of Christmas.    One need not be religious to be moved by the longing to go back to a place where things seemed more simple and more miraculous.   Hardy does alliteration like nobody else:  “So fair a fancy few would weave / in these years.”  Yes, that’s so, I think.  And when I sit in the city I long somehow for what never was in my life:  “the barton by yonder coomb.”  Hardy’s poetry and prose make such places visible still.

Author: Gubbinal

Bookish, tea-drinking cat-lady who loves great poetry and music and is in the midst of dying

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