Another literature review with classic poetry. In this article I will give you my interpretation of Thomas Hardy’s The Oxen.
The poem goes as follows:
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.
The poem is four-line four stanzas with a rhyme scheme ABAB that is lacking any imperfections. I always see literary works in a way that the easier the literary work the deeper is the meaning, so this poem is easy and understandable to the readers. In this age, one of the most prominent features is nostalgia that is a wistful affection for a period in the past in which the speaker misses things that he/she used to do in the past.
Particularly, when the poet says (we pictured the meek mild creatures ……. strawy pen), the speaker uses the past tense reflecting memory here; they used to be told a story about Christmas Eve where there were oxen kneeling; most importantly, they believed in this without any doubt, but when they got older and understood things differently, they knew that it was just a story.
Worth mentioning, the speaker says(nor did it occur to one of us there to doubt they were kneeling then) indicating and emphasizing that they totally believed in this in the past; the poet uses the word “there” reflecting the past. Another thing that I have noticed is the use of direct speech which, in my opinion, reflect the good memory of the speaker that remembers everything in detail.
To combine the perfect rhyme with the last point, I think that the perfect rhyme in the poem along with the direct speech is both a strong piece of evidence about the good memory of the speaker and how he loves the past and loves telling stories about his life in the past.
Also, the use of “they” at the beginning of the poem no sooner did I realize the use of the pronoun “I” which I think indicating that when he was a child “they” have the control of thinking; I mean the elderly people were the ones who convinced the speaker of the story and there is no “I” in there indicating that he was controlled and lead by them.
Also, the word “flock” supports the last point where these words mean sheep symbolizing that they are lead by the elderly who are the shepherds. At the end of the poem, the use of the pronoun “I” as if the speaker is telling us that he is no longer lead by anyone, he is the one who takes his decisions by imposing the pronoun “I”.
One last point, the speaker says in the last line of the poem ( hoping it might be so ) meaning that he knew that it was a myth although he hopes that it is real, and that indicates two things, one of which is how the speaker is obsessed with the past strengthening the idea of nostalgia, and two is that how much he had believed in this story in the past. Indeed, I see three important features involved in this poem: nostalgia, progress, and realism as all explained above.