Chase the Shadows

For we are very lucky, with a lamp before the door,
And Leerie stops to light it as he lights so many more;
And O, before you hurry by with ladder and with light,
O Leerie, see a little child and nod to him tonight!

Last night I read the words of the poem The Lamplighter, penned by Robert Louis Stevenson more than a century ago and, as frequently happens, my mind wandered back several decades.

No.  I don’t remember any lamplighters on the street corners of my youth, electricity having been in common usage for all of my life and well before.  The orange glow emanating from mercury-vapor bulbs is a vivid memory from a childhood spent playing games on dark summer nights.

But, the joy of seeing a light on dark, dreary nights?  That, I can easily identify with.  

It’s odd that the picture which popped into my head was of an event which happened on just this date, one wild September evening forty-nine years ago.  

We watched and listened as a major hurricane, Beulah by name, wended its way up the course of the Rio Grande, leaving devastation and massive flooding in its wake.  One hundred sixty mile-per-hour winds do a lot of destruction.  So does a rainfall of twenty to thirty inches in a two-day period.

For days afterward (weeks for some), there was no electricity and no running water.

Do you know how dark it gets when there is no power as far as the eye can see?  Then you understand the popularity of the lamplighter of the nineteenth century.  

You would also understand the relief it was, after the hurricane, to have Dad light the old Coleman lantern every night as the sun fell behind the western horizon and the old creaky house fell dark.  

He would fill the tank with kerosene and, pumping up the pressure on the tank, would carefully lift the globe that protected the two little cloth mantles.  The mantles were miniature cloth bags that hung down inside the top section of the lamp which, when lit, burned with a bright white light not unlike the incandescent bulbs we were used to.  

I made the mistake of trying to light that lamp once—only once.  I poked the match through the side of one of the mantles and it burned up immediately.  It was a mistake I wouldn’t make again.

Dad lit the lamp.  Every night.  

His steady hand knew just where to hold the match to have the vaporized fuel catch the spark and spread the flame around the edges of the mantles.  They burned with a bright light, but weren’t burned up themselves.

If you were watching at just the right moment, you could see it.  In the dark, the match flared; then the mantles caught the flame.  Almost as if in slow motion, you could see the shadows disappear.  Really.

From the table on which the lamp sat, the darkness skipped away into the corners, and then, even the corners were no safe haven for it.

Light had come!

light-965652_640I loved seeing the light of that little lantern.

I loved having my father light it.

I understand the youngster in Mr. Stevenson’s poem.  Who wouldn’t want to be the one who carried the light to every corner of the house?  Or the city? 

We live in a dark world.  Darker every day, it seems to me.

And still, our Father banishes the shadows with light. There is no way the darkness can hold back the light.  None.  (John 1:4,5)

There is no way the darkness can hold back the light. None. Click To Tweet 

It never could.

Funny.  I couldn’t help but notice the name of the device that makes the light brilliant and white.  A mantle.

Frequently, the word mantle is used to describe something dreary and fear-instilling.  We use the phrase under a mantle of darkness to describe a place without hope.  A dim place, full of terror and hidden from sight.

But, there was another mantle, you know.  I learned about this mantle as a child in Sunday School.  You may have, too.  Elijah dropped it from the chariot of fire.  His protegé picked it up and it became a symbol of God’s power and authority.  (2 Kings 2)

I’m not any good with mantles.  I never was.  My Father, on the other hand—He can make one shine with a bright light like you’ve never seen.

It’s not my light or my mantle.  It never was.


With His light.  Clothed in His glory.


Chase the shadows.




The people who sat in darkness
    have seen a great light.
And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow,
    a light has shined.
(Matthew 4:16 ~ NLT)


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 O, before you hurry by with ladder and with light,
O Leerie, see a little child and nod to him to-night!
(The Lamplighter ~ Robert Louis Stevenson ~ Scottish poet ~ 1850-1894)





© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved. 

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