Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock

Wednesday, 24 December, 2014

The language of Thomas Hardy is filled with the dialect the English West Country. For example, “In the lonely barton by yonder coomb” becomes “In the lonely farmyard by that small valley over there” when deciphered.

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.

Thomas Hardy (1840 — 1928)


Comments (1)

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  1. Geoffrey Capner says:

    I read this poem this morning in the Pyrénées and remembered a French friend, who lived in a nearby valley, who mentioned that the cows in their stable knelt at midnight of Christmas Eve. It is thus a country tradition in the valleys of the Pyénées.