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A Short Analysis of Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Oxen’

A critical reading of Hardy’s celebrated Christmas poem

‘The Oxen’ was published on Christmas Eve 1915 in The Times. It is one of Thomas Hardy’s best-loved poems, often anthologised. Below is ‘The Oxen’ with a few words of analysis.

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. Read the rest of this entry


A Short Analysis of T. S. Eliot’s ‘Journey of the Magi’

A critical reading of a classic Christmas poem

‘Journey of the Magi’ by T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) was the first of a series of poems written by the poet for his employer, the publisher Faber and Faber, composed for special booklets or greetings cards which were issued in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Eliot wrote ‘Journey of the Magi’ in 1927, on a single day, one Sunday after church. You can read the poem here. Below we offer some notes towards an analysis of this difficult and elusive poem, with particular focus on its meaning and imagery.

‘Journey of the Magi’ is told from the perspective of one of the Magi (commonly known as the ‘Three Wise Men’, though the Bible makes no mention of their number or gender) visiting the infant Christ. The poem examines the implications that the advent of Christ had for the other religions of the time, chiefly the Zoroastrianism of the Magi themselves. Read the rest of this entry

10 Great Christmas Poems

Stuck for a bit of festive-themed poetry this Christmas? Let us help. Here are our 10 quick holiday recommendations. These are, we reckon, 10 of the greatest poems for the Christmas holidays. They’re all quite short and make for ideal festive reading, so we’ve provided links to each of the poems, too. If you’re looking for the perfect Christmas gift for a book-lover and enjoy this post, we have lots more literary interestingness in our bargain book, The Secret Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey Through Curiosities of History.

Thomas Hardy, ‘The Oxen‘. Written in 1915 during WWI, this poem shows a yearning for childhood beliefs which the adult speaker can no longer hold. In other words, it highlights the yearning to believe, even – or perhaps especially – when we know that we cannot bring ourselves to entertain such beliefs. (Hardy had lost his religious faith early in life.) Read the rest of this entry