This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Saturday Rave: The Oxen, by Thomas Hardy.

One of the questions examiners like to ask about Thomas Hardy is whether he's a fatalist or a pessimist.

For myself, I rather think that Hardy-the-novelist was a rather different person from Hardy-the-poet; and Hardy-the-poet seems to have been quite a different person from Hardy-the-countryman.

Which Hardy is the one that matters?

Well, all of them, of course: all three wise men.

Here's one of Hardy's poems, where the poet and the countryman seem to be working together.

It's called 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.

File:Andrea Previtali - Nativity - WGA18404.jpg
Andrea Previtali

But then perhaps Christmas makes optimists of us all.
Word To Use Today: ox. This word comes from the Old English oxa, so it's been with us for over a thousand years.


  1. What a lovely post - Hardy as three wise men! Thankyou Sally!

    1. Thank you Katherine. I am glad you liked it. Isn't amazing what comes to mind if we can only find a moment to stop and think?

      While I'm here, I do encourage everyone to have a look at Katherine's amazing series of essays on Narnia at Seven Miles of Steel Thistles (see blogroll).

  2. I seem to remember the Chief Rabbi defining an optimist as one who thinks that this is the best of all possible worlds and a pessimist as one who thinks it is the worst. He added that he believes it is the worst - but still there is hope.