The poem The Oxen was published in the second part of World War I (1915). This poem is more than a hundred years old, but has not lost its quality. This is a beautiful Christmas poem, that was first published on Christmas Eve 1915 and was written by Thomas Hardy.
About The Oxen
The poem starts with a recollection of memories of the childhood of Hardy. This poem is not his only written down memory. In 1898 he wrote about the way the people of Dorset (UK) celebrated Christmas in the countryside. This letter was sent to Sir Edmund Gosse.
At midnight on Christmas Day, the people living in Dorset went to the sheds where the animals were kept and celebrated Christmas there. As if these sheds (and stables) were the same as during the birth of Jesus. Hardy was touched by these traditions. He saw that it united families, from old to young. Children were allowed to stay up and witnessed this celebration.
The contrast with the problems in the world was very great. At the time Hardy wrote this poem, the world was at war.
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.
— Thomas Hardy