Thursday, 24 December 2015

The Oxen

There`s an ancient tradition that the beasts of the field kneel at midnight on Christmas Eve to honour the birth of Christ in a lowly stable. British novelist and poet Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) told the story of Christmas Eve in his poem `The Oxen`written in 1915.

I learned this poem when I was at school, and it has always meant Christmas Eve to me, and I wonder if the animals really do kneel at midnight. I`ve never looked. I don`t want to be disappointed.

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.


  1. I have not heard of that poem before so I thank you. It's very moving and I can see why it would be meaningful to you. Best wishes for a very Merry Christmas!

  2. It is beautiful. Probably the only thing I have ready by Hardy which I do appreciate. Thank you.
    Happy Christmas to you and yours.

  3. I could take a wander up to the fields and have look later on, but would bullocks do instead of oxen? We just don't see many Oxen in Oxford nowadays!!!

  4. I love the idea of the Oxen kneeling.....A really lovely Poem, too.....
    A Very Merry Christmas to you, my dear, and a wonderful Happy & Healthy 2016!!!

  5. I was unaware of that poem, but you triggered in me a memory of hearing of that tradition, when I was very young. I thought it lovely then and still do now. Merry Christmas! May the New Year find you abundantly aware of His blessings!

  6. Never heard that one before, but I am glad to have read it now. Merry Christmas.

  7. Very good !! Merry Christmas to you and yours!! A wonderful new year ahead, cheers!!


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