Monday, December 17, 2012

Prose and poetry for the festive season

Two texts always spring to my mind at Christmas.

The first is a prayer (a grace, actually) written by J.S. Woodsworth, one of the founders of the CCF party, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (forerunner of the New Democratic Party.)

"We are thankful for these and all the good things in life. We recognize that they are a part of our common heritage and come to us through the efforts of our brothers and sisters the world over. What we desire for ourselves, we wish for all. To this end, may we take our share in the world's work and the world's struggles."

The second is a poem by Thomas Hardy, written in 1915.  Hardy refers to a folk belief that farm animals kneel at midnight on Christmas Eve. I must admit that, as a child growing up on a farm with cattle, I was always tucked in my bed at midnight so never checked to see if they did.


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 younder coomb
Our childhood used to know",
I should go with him in the gloom
Hoping it might be so.

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