Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

This week’s choice is by Thomas Hardy and seems appropriate for Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
‘Now they are all on their knees’

Thomas Hardy (1840—1928)

Poem 195. 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.

This is another meeting of the magical and the mundane, like last week’s choice. Hardy recalls his boyhood: one of the old folks sitting around the fire repeats the legend that farm animals kneel in their stalls at midnight on the anniversary of Christ’s birth to the children, who all believe it. Returning to his present, he muses on the ebbing of this belief in adulthood and feels that even so, should someone invite him to see the animals kneeling on Christmas Eve, he would go with them to the “lonely barton by yonder coomb” (the cattle byre in the valley) in the hope of seeing something miraculous in a mundane world.

I like this poem because it encourages us to look for the marvellous, even in a humdrum existence, and to seek out those moments that inspire us, whatever they may be.

I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year.