I would go along with Hardy “hoping it might be so”.
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.
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.
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