poet Lascelles Abercrombie

Lascelles Abercrombie

#468 on top 500 poets

The Box

Once upon a time, in the land of Hush-A-Bye,
Around about the wondrous days of yore,
They came across a kind of box
Bound up with chains and locked with locks
And labeled 'Kindly do not touch; it's war.'
A decree was issued round about, and all with a flourish and a shout
And a gaily colored mascot tripping lightly on before.
Don't fiddle with this deadly box,Or break the chains, or pick the locks.
And please don't ever play about with war.
The children understood. Children happen to be good
And they were just as good around the time of yore.
They didn't try to pick the locksOr break into that deadly box.
They never tried to play about with war.
Mommies didn't either; sisters, aunts, grannies neither
'Cause they were quiet, and sweet, and pretty
In those wondrous days of yore.
Well, very much the same as now,
And not the ones to blame somehow
For opening up that deadly box of war.
But someone did. Someone battered in the lid
And spilled the insides out across the floor.
A kind of bouncy, bumpy ball made up of guns and flags
And all the tears, and horror, and death that comes with war.
It bounced right out and went bashing all about,
Bumping into everything in store.And what was sad and most unfair
Was that it didn't really seem to care
Much who it bumped, or why, or what, or for.
It bumped the children mainly. And I'll tell you this quite plainly,
It bumps them every day and more, and more,
And leaves them dead, and burned, and dying
Thousands of them sick and crying.
'Cause when it bumps, it's really very sore.
Now there's a way to stop the ball. It isn't difficult at all.
All it takes is wisdom, and I'm absolutely sure
That we can get it back into the box,And bind the chains, and lock the locks.
But no one seems to want to save the children anymore.
Well, that's the way it all appears, 'cause it's been bouncing round
for years and years
In spite of all the wisdom wizzed since those wondrous days of yore
And the time they came across the box,
Bound up with chains and locked with locks,
And labeled 'Kindly do not touch; it's war.'

Poem Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002
Poem Edited: Monday, January 9, 2012

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The Box # 465 poem on top 500 Poems
4,1 out of 5
76 total ratings
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Comments about The Box by Lascelles Abercrombie

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  • Dr Tony BrahminDr Tony Brahmin (4/12/2020 4:29:00 PM)

    In spite of all the wisdom wizzed since those wondrous days of yore
    And the time they came across the box,
    Bound up with chains and locked with locks,
    And labeled 'Kindly do not touch; it's war.' a very fine poem

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  • Harley WhiteHarley White (4/12/2020 7:54:00 AM)

    This poem beckoned me to read it, which I did, all the way through. And I found it well worth reading...

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  • Kumarmani MahakulKumarmani Mahakul (4/12/2020 3:08:00 AM)

    The story is so touchingly delineated. Beautiful poem.

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  • Shaun CronickShaun Cronick (4/12/2020 2:58:00 AM)

    Who is the REAL author/writer/poetess/poet of this magnificent poem.

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  • Dominic WindramDominic Windram (4/12/2020 2:56:00 AM)

    Imaginative use of metaphor in the form of a box to highlight the horrors of war...very impressive!

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  • Edward Kofi LouisEdward Kofi Louis (4/12/2020 1:07:00 AM)

    Across the box! ! ! !
    Musing along.


    Thanks for sharing this poem with us.

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  • Dr Tony BrahminDr Tony Brahmin (12/23/2019 5:21:00 AM)

    In spite of all the wisdom wizzed since those wondrous days of yore
    And the time they came across the box,
    Bound up with chains and locked with locks,
    And labeled 'Kindly do not touch; it's war.' very good poem

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  • Janice handy (12/6/2018 3:37:00 PM)

    Can i buy a framed print of the box

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  • Richard Simkin (10/29/2018 1:12:00 PM)

    Wrong attribution! ! ! Not sure if Kendrew Lascelles or Lisa Carder's Mum wrote the Box
    Lascelles Abercrombie died in 1938. His poems were published in one volume by Oxford University Press in 1930. Come to Dymock and find out more! www.dymockpoets.org.uk

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  • Donna Blazek (9/3/2018 9:55:00 AM)

    This was my declam piece when I was a Senior in High School in Winner, SD,1972 George McGovern was running for president. I made it to regionals with it. If ever want someone to do a Production of This, I can NAIL this one! (and I worked on McGovern's Campaign! ! ! !)

    Would love

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  • Lisa Carder (8/31/2018 11:24:00 AM)

    I remember the first time I heard this poem.It was 1969 just after my mother wrote it.
    She never put her name on it. My mom didn't write The Box to be a published poet. She wrote it because she was profoundly affected by our experience, and the world she saw her young children were going to grow up in. She wrote it for us. She wasn't interested in credit. But we all know the true story of,
    The Box written by Melinda Wilhelmsen (8/19/44 - 7/21/18)

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  • Susan WilliamsSusan Williams (5/17/2018 12:05:00 AM)

    There are so many fascinating comments below concerning the authorship of this poem and its being read on Laugh In. I have nothing to add to their splendid memories and words except I have fallen in love with this poem and whoever wrote it is deserving of the highest honors given to writers.

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    Lisa Carder(8/31/2018 11:30:00 AM)

    Please read my post, and if you would like to know more about the circumstances that inspired my mother to write it, and how it's authorship has become controversial, let me know. lmariedesign at hotmail

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  • Alison mujati (1/7/2018 5:30:00 AM)

    A beautiful poem i enjoyed reading.

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  • M Asim NehalM Asim Nehal (1/9/2016 12:32:00 PM)

    Nice poem, I really enjoyed it....I am not sure when this was written but in today's context this poem is so true and natural.

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  • K See (6/12/2010 10:27:00 AM)

    The author is Kendrew Lascelles- posted by Mary Heibeck (below) has the correct facts. I happen to own a 1st Edition book that was published in 1974 by Nash Publishing, Los Angeles. Library of Congress catalog card #73-92960. It should be read every day on the nightly news

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    Donna Blazek(9/3/2018 9:59:00 AM)

    I am from Winner, SD. As a Senior in High school in l972 this was my declam piece. I went to regionals with it and the next day I was with George McGovern at his Election Party, which we all know how that turned out. Donna Blazek

    Lisa Carder(8/31/2018 1:17:00 PM)

    K See, I was there when it was written by my 'one hit wonder' mother in 1969. She wrote it for us and would read it to us. She gave a lot of typed copies on request without her name to credit. Inspired by a young American mother with very young children living in a foreign country at a time of revolution and during the Vietnam War. My mom may have been a 'one hit wonder', but it was her hit. She never wrote it to be published. That didn't even occur to her.

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  • Scott Becker (10/25/2009 7:43:00 PM)

    I remember both Smothers Brothers shows. The Smothers Brothers were my favorite and I clearly remember Geoffrey Lewis reading The Box for the first time and also Jack Lemmon reading it during the later show. I fell in love with the poem and have a written copy I keep. I do not know the author. Henry Gibson did some similar poems, but I don't think he ever read The Box. For a generation that struggled with the Vietnam War this poem was very powerful.

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