The Box and From Vashti

“The Box” is a wonderful poem often credited to Lascelles Abercrombie. Thanks to one of our visitors, Stephanie, we have satisfied ourselves the true author is Kendrew Lascelles. On this page we have “The Box”, followed on page two by an excerpt from “Vashti,” a poem really written by Lascelles Abercrombie. Compare the styles and decide for yourself.

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 locks
Or break into that deadly box.
They never tried to play about with war.

Mommies didn’t either;
sisters, aunts, grannies neither
‘Cos 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.
‘Cos 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,
‘Cos 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.”

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