The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Oxen

Words: Thomas Hardy, 1915
Vocal Recording by Douglas D. Anderson: MP3 / OGG

Source: Anne Thaxter Eaton, ed., Welcome Christmas! A Garland Of Poems. New York: The Viking Press, 1955.

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.

Editor's Note:

In addition to the recording above, this poem has been recorded by seven other volunteers at The Oxen by Thomas Hardy. Here is a ZIP of these seven recordings: The Oxen.

A public domain source for the text is also has a biography of Hardy:

According to an article on Wikipedia, "The Oxen" is incorporated into a Christmas service, "Hodie," by Vaughan Williams. They note that" his movement features the baritone soloist, and is introduced by quiet and atmospheric woodwinds." The following is the introductory paragraph to the Wikipedia article.

Hodie (This Day) is a cantata by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Composed between 1953 and 1954, it is the composer's last major choral-orchestral composition, and was premiered under his baton at Worcester Cathedral, as part of the Three Choirs Festival, on September 8, 1954. The piece is dedicated to Herbert Howells. The cantata, in 16 movements, is scored for chorus, boys' choir, organ and orchestra, and features tenor, baritone, and soprano soloists.

See: "Hodie." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 25 Feb. 2012. Web. 23 Oct. 2012.

It was noted that "Hodie" is sometimes paired with another Vaughan Williams composition, Fantasia on Christmas Carols (Stainer and Bell, 1912).

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