Dec. 24, 2000

The Oxen

by Thomas Hardy

Broadcast date: SUNDAY, 24 December 2000

Poem: “The Oxen,” by Thomas Hardy.

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.

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 lonely barton by yonder coomb
   Our childhood used to know,'
I should go with him in the gloom,
   Hoping it might be so.

Today is Christmas Eve—in Christian homes, the night before the infant Jesus, son of God, was born in Bethlehem. In Mexico, Christmas Eve is the last of nine nights of processions called Las Posadas, which reenact the journey to Bethlehem by Mary and Joseph. In other parts of America, it's traditional to light fires or candles to light the way for Mary and Joseph and their visitors. Cajuns in Louisiana still build large wooden structures all along the Mississippi River levee and light them on Christmas Eve, creating enormous bonfires that can be seen for miles.

On this day in 1943, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was named the Allied Supreme Commander of British and American forces. The appointment was announced during President Franklin D. Roosevelt's fireside chat for Christmas Eve. In that same broadcast, FDR expressed confidence that the Allies would be victorious: "Last year I could not do more than express a hope. Today I express a certainty, though the cost may be high and the time may be long."

It's the birthday of journalist and author I.F. Stone, born Isidor Feinstein, in Philadelphia (1907). He was best known for The I.F. Stone Weekly, a four-page paper that he wrote and published, with his wife Esther, for nearly two decades. During his career, Stone decried the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War Two and the treatment of migrant farm workers; he pled the cause of Palestinians as well as Israelis; and he exposed lies by big business. He was also an early critic of McCarthyism and of the Vietnam War.

On this day in 1906, a U.S. Weather Service scientist named Reginald Fessenden made the world's first wireless radio broadcast. Fessenden—broadcasting over the Atlantic Ocean from a 400-foot tower at Brant Rock, Massachusetts—sent out a holiday message that reached ships within a radius of 5 miles. At precisely 9 o'clock that evening, Fessenden sent out, using Morse code, a call to all stations within range. He then got on the air, gave a short speech, sang "O Holy Night," accompanying himself on the violin, then passed the microphone to his wife, who read part of the Christmas story from the Bible.

It's the birthday of artist Joseph Cornell, born in Nyack, New York (1903) who made sculpture using found objects. His signature was the Cornell box—small, wood-framed rectangles holding a wide range of objects, such as Hollywood publicity photos, lunar maps, pressed butterflies, small glass bottles, children's jacks, tiny plastic lobsters, pocket-watch faces, postage stamps, stuffed birds, and magazine pictures. His material came from all over—beaches, junk shops, Asian markets, and dime stores: "Everything can be used," he wrote, "but of course one doesn't know it at the time.”

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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