Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

A rhyme and reason for every coincidence, as my daughter proved

Sometimes coincidences happen and are nearly too much for me. The latest example occurred when I was researching a picture story about the lamplighters of Belfast.

No, the poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, called indeed The Lamplighter, didn't flutter from a shelf onto the desk in front of me before my very eyes as I typed the intro.

But the next best thing did happen. Daughter Zara gazed over my shoulder to acquaint herself with my latest piece and reminded me of how I used to read this poem – which Robert Louis wrote when he was 33 – to her at beditme on many a winter evening.

Stevenson (1850-1894) was author of Treasure Island and Kidnapped, two great adventure stories, but he wrote The Lamplighter to remind him of his childhood. He was weakly and spent many months in bed recovering his health. And his parents read poetry to him too.

You can read The Lamplighter to this day in a copy of his book A Child's Garden Of Verse first published 129 years ago in 1885. Editions of the book are available to this day.

My tea is nearly ready and the sun has left the sky.

It's time to take the window to see Leerie going by;

For every night at teatime and before you take your seat,

With lantern and with ladder he comes posting up the street.

Now Tom would be a driver and Maria go to sea,

And my papa's a banker and as rich as he can be;

But I, when I am stronger and can choose what I'm to do,

O Leerie, I'll go round at night and light the lamps with you!

For we are very lucky, with a lamp before the door,

And Leerie stops to light it as he lights so many more;

And oh! before you hurry by with ladder and with light;

O Leerie, see a little child and nod to him to-night.

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