Time for another poem, and I’m going back to one of my all-time favourites, Thomas Hardy.    This one always makes me catch my breath – I think it captures the pure essence of Christmas.

Snowdon panorama

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, 1915

Photo of Snowdonia, North Wales © Colin Woolf