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.'

by Lascelles Abercrombie

Other poems of ABERCROMBIE (12)

Comments (11)

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.
A beautiful poem i enjoyed reading.
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.
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
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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