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"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 by "From Vashti," a poem really written by Lascelles Abercrombie. Compare the styles and decide for yourself.

The Box
by Kendrew Lascelles

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."

From Vashti
by Lascelles Abercrombie

WHAT thing shall be held up to woman's beauty?
Where are the bounds of it? Yea, what is all
The world, but an awning scaffolded amid
The waste perilous Eternity, to lodge
This Heaven-wander'd princess, woman's beauty?
The East and West kneel down to thee, the North
And South; and all for thee their shoulders bear
The load of fourfold space. As yellow morn
Runs on the slippery waves of the spread sea,
Thy feet are on the griefs and joys of men
That sheen to be thy causey. Out of tears
Indeed, and blitheness, murder and lust and love,
Whatever has been passionate in clay,
Thy flesh was tempered. Behold in thy body
The yearnings of all men measured and told,
Insatiate endless agonies of desire
Given thy flesh, the meaning of thy shape!
What beauty is there, but thou makest it?
How is earth good to look on, woods and fields,
The season's garden, and the courageous hills,
All this green raft of earth moored in the seas?
The manner of the sun to ride the air,
The stars God has imagined for the night?
What's this behind them, that we cannot near,
Secret still on the point of being blabbed,
The ghost in the world that flies from being named?
Where do they get their beauty from, all these?
They do but glaze a lantern lit for man,
And woman's beauty is the flame therein.

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Lascelle Abercrombie

He was one of a group of writers, including Rupert Brooke, who gathered near the Gloucestershire village of Dymock just before the First World War. They called themselves the Dymock Poets and walked the countryside discussing their poems and writing new ones. learn more

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The Box

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Lascelles Abercrombie
Kendrew Lascelles

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