Words: Thomas Hardy,
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.
In addition to the recording above, this poem has been recorded by seven other volunteers at LibriVox.org: The Oxen by Thomas Hardy. Here is a ZIP of these seven recordings: The Oxen.
A public domain source for the text is http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16143 Poets.org also has a biography of Hardy: http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/110
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).