The following poem, written in 1915, is by Thomas Hardy. The background includes a belief by some of the country folk of the day that on the stroke of midnight of Christmas Day the animals in the barns would kneel for the baby Jesus. Being written during the Great War it could be seen, in part as longing for the past. The last line could also be seen as a plaintive cry for a lost faith.
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.