Yesterday a helpful lady helped me to board my train (actually it was the wrong one going all the way to East Croydon rather than to Gipsy Hill but that is, as they say another story)! During the course of the journey which was, as I say rather more protracted than expected! we chatted about life and our conversation moved onto the topic of religion. My travelling companion explained that she was a Christian to which I responded that I am an agnostic (I.E. I have an open mind on the subject of religion but remain unconvinced, though not wholly so as to whether God does, in fact exist). This conversation brought to mind Thomas Hardy’s poem, “The Oxen”
In “The Oxen”.
Hardy describes how as a child his elders would describe, on Christmas Eve how the Oxen would be kneeling at midnight and how he, Hardy would believe this. As an adult the poet would still go, of a Christmas Eve with his companions where they to suggest that they go and see the Oxen kneeling “hoping it might be so”. As an adult Hardy moved towards agnosticism (perhaps atheism), however the fact that he would go with his companion “hoping it might be so” suggests the former rather than the latter.
The poem is beautiful and runs as follows
THE OXEN BY THOMAS HARDY
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’