The sense that everything is poetical is a thing solid and absolute; it is not a mere matter of phraseology or persuasion. It is not merely true, it is ascertainable. — Chesterton
Robert Louis Stevenson
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!
Kindleth God’s tapers clear,
With ashen staff the lamplighter
Passeth along the darkling streets
To light our earthly lamps;Lest, prowling in the darkness,
The thief should haunt with quiet tread,
Or men on evil errands set;
Or wayfarers be benighted;
Or neighbours bent from house to house
Should need a guiding torch.He is like a needlewoman
Who deftly on a sable hem
Stitches in gleaming jewels;
Or, haply, he is like a hero,
Whose bright deeds on the long journey
Are beacons on our way.
And when in the East cometh morning,
And the broad splendour of the sun,
Then, with the tune of little birds
Ringing on high, the lamplighter
Passeth by each quiet house,
And putteth out the lamps.
As Told by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch (from chabad.org)
In 1907, Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch was staying in Würzburg, Germany, and a group of chassidim came to spend a Shabbat with the rebbe. Among them were Reb Yosef Yuzik Horowitz, his son-in-law Reb Feivel Zalmanov, and Reb Elimelech Stoptzer.
The rebbe prayed for many hours that Shabbat morning, as was his manner. In the meantime, the chassidim recited kiddush and consumed a quantity ofl’chaims. Later, when the rebbe had finished and they sat with him to the Shabbat meal, Reb Yosef Yuzik asked:
“Rebbe, what is a chassid?”
Replied the rebbe: “A chassid is a lamplighter. The lamplighter walks the streets carrying a flame at the end of a pole. He knows that the flame is not his. And he goes from lamp to lamp to set them alight.”
Asked Reb Yosef Yuzik: “What if the lamp is in a desert?”
“Then one must go and light it,” said the rebbe. “And when one lights a lamp in a desert, the desolation of the desert becomes visible. The barren wilderness will then be ashamed before the burning lamp.”
Continued the chassid: “What if the lamp is at sea?”
“Then one must undress, dive into the sea, and go light the lamp.”
“And this is a chassid?” Reb Yosef Yuzik asked.
For a long while the rebbe thought. Then he said: “Yes, this is a chassid.”
“But Rebbe, I do not see the lamps!”
Answered the rebbe: “That is because you are not a lamplighter.”
“How does one become a lamplighter?”
“First, you must reject the evil within yourself. Start with yourself: cleanse yourself, refine yourself, and you will see the lamp within your fellow. When a person is himself coarse, G-d forbid, he sees coarseness; when a person is himself refined, he sees the refinement in others.”
Reb Yosef Yuzik then asked: “Is one to grab the other by the throat?”
Replied the rebbe: “By the throat, no; by the lapels, yes.”