The Oxen - Ed Frazier Davis

The Oxen - Ed Frazier Davis
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Price: $1.90
Product ID : SY414
Weight: 0.06 lbs
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8 pgs., 8.5" x 11"
Minimum Order of 4

"The Oxen" (3'10") was composed by Ed Frazier Davis for SATB choir, a cappella (January, 2011). The English text is by Thomas Hardy (December, 1915). It was premiered by the St. James Cathedral Choir under the direction of Brandon Dumas at the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols at St. James Cathedral in Chicago, Illinois (December 20, 2015).


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.


Hardy's poem, "The Oxen," was written when the author was 75 years old. It recalls a memory of his childhood in Dorset, where pious tradition held that, on the stroke of midnight as Christmas Day began, the cattle in their sheds and byres would kneel on the ground in supplication to the Baby Jesus, following the pattern of the animals in the stable on the night of Christ's Nativity when they paid their  homage to the Newborn King of Kings.

Hardy recalls how the children of Dorset were allowed to sit up late to welcome the start of Christmas Day, and how the older members of the family would have told them stories as they sat in front of the fire in a country cottage. This charming tradition remained with Hardy for many years, and, in the midst of World War I, this poem, published on Christmas Eve, 1915, was a way to warm the cold world with the loving warmth of Bethlehem. 

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