Doris Darbyshire

The Lantern Show

On the evening of Good Friday, many years ago,
The Vicar of our Parish would give a Lantern Show.

From choir staff to choir staff, a sheet stretched large and white,
On which to show the pictures by the lantern light.

The Vicar stood beside the sheet, explaining every picture,
In simple words for those too young to understand the scripture.

From the manger to the cross, Jesus’ life was shown,
To all the older children, His story was well known.

They were happy with the pictures of Jesus as a child,
And of the few in boyhood, were pleasantly beguiled.

In his triumphant manhood, with him they did rejoice,
To have him triumphant always, would have been their choice.

For youth would always happy be, would fling away all care,
And the journey to the cross, is very hard to bear.

One year, when the lantern show was only half way through,
The cord that held the long white sheet, snapped and broke in two.

The Vicar taken unaware, was enveloped in the sheet,
Which billowed down so heavily, it took him off his feet.

Throughout the church, a startled gasp, the adults in dismay,
But youth just saw the funny side, a comical display.

Came the sound of muffled laughter, which could not be suppressed,
As helpers freed the Vicar, who was obviously distressed.

He soon regained composure, his sense of humour pulled him through.
For he smiled and then laughed with them, and the adults all laughed too

On the youthful congregation, this had a great effect,
And when everyone stopped laughing, they eyed him with respect.

He smiled again and raised his hand, they listened with attention,
He was sorry that the lantern show had not fulfilled intention.

He hoped that when the sheet was mended,
He could another time portray, what they had mised this evening,
But now – shall we all pray?

And so after the blessing, when out of church they filed,
There were no saddened faces, for everybody smiled.

How wonderful youth’s logic, what they did not see or hear,
Had not happened, and so Jesus was not crucified that year.


Notes on this poem

Written in 1986. The Lantern Show describes events that occurred around 1920 according to a handwritten annotation by Doris.

The Lantern, or “Magic Lantern” as it was more commonly called, was an early slide projector that was widely used to project images in Victorian times.