by George R. Sims
Much of the sentimental verse of the Victorian poet George R. Sims was used by the makers of magic lantern slides.
The verses were designed to be read aloud and when used in conjunction with the slides had a powerful emotional effect on the audience.
Special effects using a Biunial lantern could superimpose one image over another or with the aid of a cloth roller-blind slide which was pierced with holes could create the effect of snow falling.
Billy's dead and gone to glory - so has Billy's sister Nell:
There's a tale I know about them were I poet I would tell
Soft it comes, with perfume laden like a breath of country air
Wafted down that filthy alley bringing fragrant odours there
In that vile and filthy alley long ago one Winter's day
Dying quick of want and fever ,hapless ,patient Billy lay
while beside him sat his sister, in the garret's dismal gloom
Cheering with her gentle presence Billy's pathway to the tomb
Many a tale of elf and fairy did she tell the dying child
Till his eyes lost half their anguish and his worn, wan features smiled
Tales herself she heard hap-hazard, caught amid the Babel roar
Lisped about by tiny gossips playing round their mother's door
Then she felt his wasted fingers tighten feebly as she told
How beyond this dismal alley lay a land of shining gold,
Where when all the pain was over - when all the tears were shed -
He would be a white frocked angel , with a gold thing on his head.
Then she told some garbled story of a kind-eyed Saviour's love
How he built for little children great big playgrounds up above
Where they sang and played at hop-scotch and at horses all the day
And where the beadles or policemen never frightened them away
This was Nell's idea of heaven - just a bit of what she'd heard,
With a little bit invented, with a little bit inferred.
But her brother lay and listened, and he seemed to understand,
For he closed his eyes and murmured he could see the Promised Land
"Yes" he whispered " I can see it sister Nell;
Oh the children look so happy, they are all so strong and well;
I can see them there with Jesus-He is playing with them too!
Let us run away and join them, if there's room for me and you"
She was eight this little maiden,
and her life had all been spent
In the garret and the alley
where they starved to pay the rent
When a drunken father's curses
and a drunken mother's blows
Drove her forth into the gutter
from the day's dawn to its close.
But she knew enough, this outcast,
just to tell the sinking boy,
"You must die before you are able
all these blessings to enjoy.
You must die," she whispered,
"Billy I am not even ill;
But I will come to you dear brother,
- yes, I promise that I will.
"You are dying, little brother, you are dying ,oh so fast;
I heard father say to mother that he knew you couldn't last
They will put you in a coffin, then you'll wake and be up there
While I am left alone to suffer, in this garret bleak and bare."
"Yes I know it," answered Billy." Ah - sister I do not mind.
Gentle Jesus will not beat me he's not cruel or unkind.
But I can't help thinking, Nelly I should like to take away
Something sister that you gave me I might look at every day
"In the Summer you remember how the mission took us out
To that great green lovely meadow, where we played and ran about
and the van that took us halted by a bright green patch of land,
Where the fine red blossoms grew dear, half as big as mother's hand.
"Nell I asked the good kind teacher what they called such flowers as those
And I remember that he told me that the pretty name was rose
I have never seen them since ,dear- how I wish that I had one
Just to keep and think of you dear, when I am up beyond the sun."
Not a word spoke little Nelly but at night when Billy slept,
On she flung her scanty garments and then down the stairs she crept.
Through the silent streets of London running nimbly as a fawn,
Running on and running ever till the night had changed to dawn.
When the foggy sun had risen, and the mist had cleared away,
All around her, wrapped in snowdrift, there the open country lay
She was tired, her limbs were frozen, and the roads had cut her feet,
But there came no flowery gardens her poor tearful eyes to greet.
She had found the road by asking she had learnt the way to go
She had found the cruel meadow - it was wrapped in cruel snow,
Not a buttercup or daisy not a single verdant blade
Showed its head above its prison. Then she knelt her down and prayed.
With her eyes up cast to heaven, down she sank upon the ground
And she prayed to God to tell her where the roses might be found
Then the cold blast numbed her senses, and her sight grew strangely dim;
And a sudden awful tremor seem to seize her every limb.
"Oh , rose !" she moaned," good Jesus - just a rose to take to Bill !"
And as she prayed a chariot came thundering down the hill.
A lady sat there toying with a red rose rare and sweet;
As she passed she flung it from her, and it fell at Nelly's feet.
Just a word her lord had spoken caused her ladyship to fret
And the rose had been his present, so she flung it in a pet.
But the poor half blinded Nelly thought it had fallen from the skies
And she murmured," Thank you Jesus ! " as she clasped the dainty prize.
Lo that night from out the alley did a child's soul pass away,
From dirt and sin and misery to where God's children play
Lo that night, a wild fierce snowstorm burst in fury o'er the land
And at morn they found Nell frozen, with the red rose in her hand.
Billy's dead and gone to glory - so has Billy's sister Nell;
Am I bold to say this happened in the land where angels dwell :-
That the children met in heaven after all their earthly woes,
And that Nelly kissed her brother and said," Billy , here's your rose"