Thomas Hardy: 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’
I couldn't resist posting this poem again as it is included with the Dylan Thomas' story, 'A Child's Christams in Wales' in Angela Macmillan's superb Get Into Reading inspired, 'A Little Aloud 'collection and who can resist the tentative promise at the poem's end? Thomas Hardy's atheism, like Larkin's in Arundel Tomb, seems finally to argue itself into some fragile faith. The delicacy of the last line seems without ego, without complacency or dogma. The present participle stretches out the possibilities of faith...
like a long step, a stride that goes on after the poem's end...
...even our own end...
It seems a prayer to me...