December 2nd – “The Oxen”

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.

Published: December 1915

After the shepherd’s visited the Christ child they left the manger and “made it known abroad” to everyone they could spread the news to. Put yourself in the shoes of those people. If you were told by shepherds that you’ve never met that the Savior of the world was born in a manger, with oxen as an audience, would you believe? Thomas Hardy here says that “in these years” that “few would weave” a tale like that, or believe one. And this was written in 1915! But he ends by saying that he feels that he would go looking, “hoping it might be so.” I hope that I would do the same.

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