Thomas Hardy’s THE OXEN

Thomas Hardy's cottage in Dorset
Thomas Hardy’s cottage in Dorset

An author I often turn to when I am in a nostalgic mood is Thomas Hardy – both for his novels and for his less well-known poems. If anyone is curious, my favourite novel of his is The Return of the Native. (Now it has come up I’ll post a review of it here as soon as I can get round to it, explaining why I like it so much.) But for now, as it is Christmas – Happy Christmas to you all! – here is his beautiful little Christmas poem, The Oxen.

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.

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