"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.
A HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL READERS OF THE BLOG
Hardy’s beautiful poem refers to a folk myth that at midnight on Christmas Eve the animals in the stable kneel down to honour the baby Jesus, marking their alleged presence at the original nativity scene in Bethlehem.
The picture is by Meister Francke, and was painted in 1424. It came from the Athenaeum website.