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"Poems, Prayers & Promises"(Featuring "The Box") by John Denver

John is a movie and music lover. He is especially interested in classic movies, cinema and music and related trivia.


A Change of Direction

Believe it or not I originally intended to write this hub about "Pandora's Box" but I found there was already other hubs about that and I couldn't really write anything new. While I was thinking about it, a song/poem "The Box" by John Denver kept invading my thoughts. I hadn't heard it for many years but it had quite an effect on me in my youth, so I decided to write this article about it and John Denver instead. I hope you find this interesting.


John Denver

Country-folk singer/songwriter John Denver ( Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr.) was one of the most popular recording artists of the 1970s. His gentle, environmentally conscious music established him among the most loved entertainers of his era. His appeal extended to fans of all ages and backgrounds, and led to parallel careers as both an actor and a humanitarian.

His first Greatest Hits package released in 1973 is now a 9 times platinum album and he has sold over 32.5 million albums and he remains 29th in the all time best selling list of solo artists in history. Then in 1975 he released the wonderful album "Windsong". Many of the songs on this album reflected his love of nature and the environment.

He wrote the music score for movies such as "Sunshine" and starred alongside George Burns in the popular 1977 comedy movie "Oh God!" He was even proclaimed state 'poet laureate' by the governor of Colorado.

During the 1980s John Denver's popularity began to wane as he began to focus more toward humanitarian work, primarily ecological concerns and space exploration. As part of John's environmental campaigning, he met Jacques Cousteau, who took him on many of his missions to map marine wildlife as part of the WWF conservation programmes. He toured Russia and China, and in 1987 performed in Chernobyl in the wake of that city's nuclear disaster.

Apparently every time he played a concert in a non English speaking country, John would learn Annie's Song in the language of the country he sang it in. He even performed it in Welsh during a concert in Cardiff. Now THAT'S impressive.

A low point in his life came in 1993 when he was arrested for drunk-driving and this seemed to attract more publicity than his music and humanitarian work. Then in 1994, he published his autobiography called "Take Me Home". Tragedy struck at the age of 53, when on October 12, 1997, John Denver's experimental aircraft suddenly crashed, killing him instantly.

The plaque marking the location of John Denver's plane crash in Pacific Grove, California

The plaque marking the location of John Denver's plane crash in Pacific Grove, California

Poems, Prayers, and Promises

John Denver had already had three previous albums as a solo artist without success (other than with his version of Peter, Paul, and Mary's song "Leaving On a Jet Plane" in 1969) before he released "Poems, Prayers, and Promises" in 1971. This album contained the songs "Sunshine On My Shoulders" and "Take Me Home, Country Roads" which were to become smash hits and stamp his name as one of the most popular country/folk singers of all time.

Other songs Denver did cover versions of on this album included The Beatles' "Let It Be" and James Taylor's "Fire and Rain". The last of the twelve tracks on this album was a poem called "The Box", and this little known track had a much more profound effect on me than any of the other million sellers.

"Poems, Prayers, and Promises" was the first of a number of John Denver albums that found their way into my record collection and have remained prized possessions.

The Box

by Kendrew Lascelles, recorded by John Denver

Once upon a time, in the land of Hushabye,

Round about the wondrous days of yore.

They came across a sort of box,

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bound up with chains and locked with locks,

And labeled "Kindly Do Not Touch, It's War."

A decree was issued round about all with a flourish and a shout,

and a gaily colored mascot tripping lightly on the fore,

"Don't fiddle with this box, or break the chains, or pick the locks,

And Please... don't ever play about with war."

Well, 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,

'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 sort of bouncy bumpy ball,

with flags and all the tears and horror that goes with war.

It bounced right out and went bashing all about,

and bumping into everything in store.

And what was sad and most unfair is 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 everyday... 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.

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 upon The Box,

bound up with chains and locked with locks...

and labeled "Kindly Do Not Touch, It's War."

"The Box"

Favorite Songs of Others Performed by John Denver

Lennon and McCartney

When I'm 64 (on Rhymes and Reasons)

Love of the Common People (on Rhymes and Reasons)

Eleanor Rigby (on Whose Garden Was This)

Golden Slumbers (on Whose Garden Was This)

Let It Be (on Poems, Prayers and Promises)

Junk <by Paul McCartney> (on Poems, Prayers and Promises)

Mother Nature's Son (on Rocky Mountain High)

James Taylor

Fire and Rain (on Poems, Prayers and Promises).

Carolina In My Mind (on Take Me To Tomorrow)

John also sang the James Taylor songs "Shower The People", "Sweet Baby James", and "Handyman" in concert but didn't record them.

Peter, Paul, and Mary

Leaving On A Jet Plane(on Rhymes and Reasons)

  • Although Peter, Paul, and Mary were first to record this world-wide hit song, the following is worth noting: In 1969, John Denver left The Mitchell Trio and embarked on a solo career and released his first album "Rhymes and Reasons". Two years before this, John had made a self-produced demo recording of songs he played at his concerts. He included in the demo a song called "Babe I Hate to Go". He made several copies and gave them out as Christmas presents.

Milt Okun, who produced records for the high-profile folk group Peter, Paul, and Mary, had become Denver's producer as well. Okun brought the unreleased song, as John Denver was not yet a big name, changed the name to "Leaving On A Jetplane" and gave it to Peter, Paul and Mary to record.Their version of the song hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

A Man and His Guitar

John Denver

John Denver

© 2014 John Hansen


John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on November 05, 2015:

Yes he did die too young. Thanks for reading Sandy.

Sandy Mertens from Wisconsin, USA on November 05, 2015:

Nice tribute to John Denver. He died too young.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on November 05, 2015:

Hi Jackie, I would have liked to have seen that biography but unfortunately don't have Netflix. He had so many beautiful songs such as "Annie's Song" and "Sunshine on My Shoulder". Thanks for sharing about John and his wife. Blessings.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on November 05, 2015:

I just watched a biography of sorts about John a few nights ago on Netflix. He wrote Annie for his wife after a spat (they still later divorced) and many of his songs just seemed to come so a renewed loss seeing him again. Some people just do not realize the joy they bring to people with their talents, and he was one of those.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on November 05, 2015:

Hello ps, thank you for reading this tribute to John Denver. Early on his music touched me and left an impact on my life. He will alway live on through his heartfelt music. Thank you for sharing also. Blessings.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on November 05, 2015:

Just a few days ago I watched John Denver An Intimate Performance on Netflix. He has always been one of my most favs....Rocky Mountain High has just been written on my heart I suppose.

You could not have done a more perfect sharing about such a multitalented individual who left us his gift of music.


Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on November 02, 2015:

Glad you enjoyed the songs Sujaya. Thanks for reading.

sujaya venkatesh on November 01, 2015:

nice to listen to

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on April 14, 2015:

Thanks for reading this tribute Audrey. Yes John is certainly missed. He was a great man.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on April 14, 2015:

The 1970s brought many happy times and john denvers songs were a very big part of It all. I was devestated the day he had his plane accident.

Thanks john for this wonferful tribute to a man who brought so much to so many.


John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 14, 2015:

Jackie, I changed the first two videos. No good me being able to watch them and nobody else. Thanks for letting me know.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on February 14, 2015:

Only the last one is working for me so isn't that strange? Well don't worry I am not a snitch! lol

What I had heard was he was depressed over trouble he and his wife were having and I felt so sorry for him; he is just the type of soul you want to protect. Guess it can never be proven so maybe I will try to wipe that notion away. So many beautiful songs we have missed since he has been gone I am sure that he would have written. I loved Country Roads.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 14, 2015:

Thanks Jackie. I had never considered that John may have killed himself...that sends shivers down my spine now to consider it. I know he'd been somewhat saddened that his later work wasn't being given the credit it deserved, especially as a lot of it was concerned with environmental causes etc. He was also arrested for drink driving and that headline received more attention than his music. Thinking of what happened with Robin Williams, it is a possibility. I hope that wan't the case though. Happy Valentine's Day to you. p.s. all the videos work for me, so don't know what's up.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 14, 2015:

Thank you for reading Peg and your wonderful comment. His songs were a calming influence in my life as well. Sunshine on My Shoulders and Annie's Song were the first of his songs I heard and fell in love with when I watched the movie "Sunshine." I checked all three videos and all worked for me, so don't know what's up with them. Sometimes they can only be viewed in certain countries...maybe that's it.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on February 14, 2015:

I so loved John Denver and still pray today he did not kill himself! We will always have him in sing. I will listen again. Oops; couple of your videos are out.

Thanks and Happy Valentine's Day!

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on February 14, 2015:

He was definitely one of my favorite performing artists of that era during a time when his hits were ever present and my life was in turmoil. I love all his music and still enjoy listening to it. Annie's song and Sunshine on My Shoulders always comes to mind, along with Take Me Home Country Roads. He's one of those who passed much too young. Thanks for this great tribute to his music and memory.

Just FYI, I couldn't get The Box video to play.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 13, 2015:

Thank you Debbie. Yes they are two wonderful songs among many. So glad you enjoyed this.

Debbie Villines from Iowa on February 12, 2015:

Annie's Song, such a great song; and Rocky Mountain High, 2 of my favorites sung by John Denver; enjoyed this article, and pictures of a great artist.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 11, 2015:

Thanks for reading Catherine. Too many great singers have lost their lives in plane crashes. John Denver in particular is missed.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 11, 2015:

Thanks Catherine, I'll check that out and replace if necessary.

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on February 10, 2015:

Thanks for the memories. John Denver was part of the soundtrack of my youth too. I knew he was gone, but I didn't remember about the plane crash. How sad to have lost such a great person too soon.

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on February 10, 2015:

Your video link to the song is broken. It was removed from YouTube.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 07, 2015:

Thank you for that wonderful comment Jo. His music was an inspiration to me growing up and he deserved a tribute. The Box is one of my favourite pieces of poetry. I hope this did him justice. Thank you for the vote up and share.

Jo_Goldsmith11 on February 07, 2015:

You really shine on Rocky Mountain High with this article! :-)

Seriously, you have mentioned some of my favorite songs and I was a fan of John Denver. And I thank you for sharing the poem as I never heard of it before. Interesting, beautiful and useful reading here. :-)

I really enjoy how you bring to life a talented artist who has left a mark in this world for generations to come! Well done, my friend.

Up ++++and shared of course.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 04, 2015:

Glad you enjoyed this Raine, he was one of my favourite singers and a good person who care about the environment and our planet. It's great that you want to add him to your list.

Rayne123 on February 04, 2015:

Love this hub, I will have to add his name into my list. In my last part of History of Music, I give quite a few iconic names from the past, as too many to write about, and I forgot his name. He has quite the impressive life, he was a genuine man.

My favorite songs were "leaving on a jet plane" and "fire and rain".

Love the blue guitar. The box actually looks quite beautiful.

Thank you for posting the beautiful poetry and giving me another name for my list.

Great work again.

Fredouille on January 16, 2015:

of course your peanosrl inturpretation is important so do whatever makes you happy - if your actual country road is muddy pot holes - photos could be very interesting.... did you listen to the John dever song - there can be emotional inturpretations also....

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on January 15, 2015:

Thank you for reading and for your interesting comment Sarah. Glad this brought back pleasant memories.

Sarah on January 15, 2015:

This song has a special meninag for me. During my class's 28th reunion in 1999, first one ever, in Methodist School Borneo, we invited our teachers. One of them, Miss. F lives in Maryland. She was my guest in Singapore before we went to Borneo.One of the boys sang,"Take me home." Little did we know, West Virgina was Miss F's home. We were all in tears when she told us about it. We were all emotional, because these teachers gave up the comfort of 1st world living in USA and UK, to come to the third world to teach us. We knew it was unlikely we would see them again as they were in their late 60s and by themselves, ex missionary teachers do not have a lot of money, needless to say, to visit Borneo again.Thanks, GingerV.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on December 26, 2014:

Thank you for that wonderful comment Billie. I can well understand why the words of "Leaving on a Jetplane" will never leave you. As long as I can remember I was a John Denver fan. His songs spoke from the heart. I still don't think many of his later songs received the appreciation they deserved. You were probably right about his soul being sad at that concert you attended not ong before he died. He had been doing so much for the environment and wrote some of his most important songs at that time but the media focussed more on things like a drink driving charge than his music. It is sad and he is dearly missed but his music and legacy lives on.

Billie Kelpin from Newport Beach on December 26, 2014:

Thank you for this, Jodah. I ABSOLUTELY LOVED John Denver and followed his music through the years, but NEVER heard his recitation of this poem.

I loved his lesser known songs and his political views. His lyrics are lovely and meaningful to me: "The oil king sits on his arrogant throne

Away and above and apart. Lawyers have warned him he mustn't speak

And greed has made silent what once was a heart..."

Other aspects of his songs appeal to me. "Whispering Jesse" speaks to me for some reason. "A Wild Heart Looking for a Home" ("the wind shuts the open door, the wind shuts the open door") . Of course, when driving my husband to the induction center during the VietNam war, "Leaving on a Jet Plane" was playing on the radio. There is nothing that can erase that memory from me.

If it's possible to love someone you don't know, then I loved John Denver. The winder before his plane crased, we went to a Christmas concert of his in Mpls and I said to my husband that I felt his soul was very sad. My husband said, "No, no, it was a great concert, Billie". My sense was that he perhaps was grieving about his life and sorrowful that all his most important songs were often overlooked. (Everyone just wanted to hear "Annie's Song again and again and "Rocky Mountain High" and "Calypso". He was so much more than all of that. The older I become, the more I love "Poems, and Prayers and Promises"...

I'm glad your mind traversed from "Pandora's Box" to this narrated version of "The Box"!

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 16, 2014:

Thank you bluebird for your kind comment. I will try.

bluebird on March 16, 2014:

Very good! You did well! Keep up the good works!

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 14, 2014:

Thank you bluebird. I agree with everything you said. His albums were among some of the first I owned as well. The sad thing is you very rarely hear any of his music played on the radio these days. I needed to write a hub to refresh people's memories.

bluebird on March 14, 2014:

You did well with this, it seems everyone loved John Denver. I'm originally from Colorado and his albums were the first ones I ever owned and listened to and memorized and cried to and laughed and sang to.

There will never be another like him, he was in a class all his own, a beautiful man with a beautiful spirit.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 12, 2014:

Thanks for your lovely comment Genna. If liking John Denver makes one a square then I have four corners. Yes, Annie's Song is touching also, and I am glad you checked out his reading of "The Box" moves me.

Truthfornow, thank you for reading this hub. What's in the box? "It's war."

Marie Hurt from New Orleans, LA on March 12, 2014:

Very interesting read. I was intrigued by the title and wanted to find out what was in "the box."

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on March 12, 2014:

I am probably a “square” but I love John Denver. (RIP) So much of his music takes me into the nature that I love so much… and ‘Annie’s Song’ is one of my all-time favorites. I couldn’t help but become a little tear-eyed when reading this lovely tribute, and listening to him read the extraordinary, “The Box,” through your link. We lost John too early, and tragically. Thank you for this hub, Jodah.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 12, 2014:

Thanks for reading and enjoying this hub Eddy. Lots of love back at you from Queensland.

Eiddwen from Wales on March 12, 2014:

Brilliant read Jodah which I through enjoyed. Here's to wishing you a great day and lots of love from Wales.


John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 11, 2014:

Thanks for reading it again Phyllis. I had to alter the name and delete most of the words of the poem, and add a few other things. It is going ok though.

Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on March 11, 2014:

This hub is doing well, Jodah. I just came back to make sure my ghostly image was gone. I apologize for haunting your page like that. LOL

As long as I was here, I read the hub again and enjoyed it a second time.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 11, 2014:

Thank you Flourish. The more I studied John the more interesting facts I found out about the man I had never heard. Like that he was the original writer of "Leaving On a Jetplane". I was also surprised at just how many albums he wrote, and that unlike other estates of famous singers, his family has not continually re-released his music since his death. Thanks for stopping by to read.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 11, 2014:

This was a nice look back; I haven't thought of his comforting music in years but remember it well from my childhood. I didn't know about his performance in Chernobyl or his learning to sing "Annie's Song" in other languages. That takes some dedication and talent. It's sad that his personal situation later in life may have colored any public perceptions and even sadder how he perished. Too young. Thanks for profiling him. It was a great choice for a retrospective.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 11, 2014:

Hi Joelle, thank you for taking the time to rewrite your comment a second time after your first didn't save. Yes, I was a little surprised the direction this hub ended up taking too, but I'm glad it ended up being about John Denver. He deserves to be remembered. You have a good day too.

kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on March 11, 2014:

I tried to write a message yesterday and I forgot to press the "post comment" button ;-) I suppose I was distracted by something!

Anyway... I find interesting that you started your hub with one idea in mind and finished with something totally different!

Great hub about John Denver! I found very interesting that he would learn one of his song in the language of the countries he would give a concert in. I think it shows quite a respect for others!

He had an interesting life but unfortunatelly to short!

Tahnk you for sharing, John!

Enjoy your day!

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 10, 2014:

Thanks MsDora, I think it's good to turn back time occasionally and remember and remember the contributions of talented and caring people like John Denver. Yes, Let It Be is a very famous song.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 10, 2014:

Let it Be is probably my favorite (the one I know best) of John Denver's songs. Thank you for helping us remember this good soul.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 10, 2014:

This hub was "unpublished" due to "duplicate content, so I had to alter it quite a bit to get it passed. The main part had been the poem "The Box" but I had to delete most of that except the first stanza. The full poem can be found on my blog.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 09, 2014:

Thanks for visiting Eric. Yes he was a big part of our generation and peace rallies and stuff. He was a great environmental ambassador, though I never had the pleasure of meeting him. Yes, you are right, I guess those are now the days of yore. Help me shut the box.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 09, 2014:

My pleasure Ryem. I guess John Denver was before your time, but you should check out his music. It was from the heart. Thanks for reading.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 09, 2014:

My pleasure to share this Shauna. I admit I hadn't heard his music or thought about him for years, then this poem suddenly came into my head and I was drawn to listen to him once more. His music and message is so pure and beautiful. I remember when I was young it wasn't cool to be a John Denver fan, but I was even if I kept it quiet. Thank you for your generous comment. I hope someone manages to lock the box and throw away the key.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on March 09, 2014:

John, John Denver was danged near a way of life in the early 70's. We attended peace and environmental protests/demonstrations. And we traveled to places like Aspen and Telluride Colorado. And met him. And when we traveled Europe every time in the youth hostels we had to sing at least 3 Denver songs on demand.

It just struck me,,,, those are now the days of yore.

Ryem from Maryland on March 09, 2014:

I learned quite a bit from this hub, Jodah. Thank you for sharing!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on March 09, 2014:

What a beautiful hub, Jodah. I never heard this poem by John Denver. He is a wonderful orator. The message of The Box is awesome and sad at the same time. Will the box ever be closed and locked? Probably not.

To be honest, I'd forgotten all about John Denver. You have reminded me how much I love his music, clear voice and love for the world in general. Thank you!

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 09, 2014:

Bk42author, Glad I could introduce you to a song you weren't familiar with. Thanks for your kind comment and vote up.

Thanks Bill, his music touched a lot of hearts. glad it brought back memories for you too.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 09, 2014:

He was always one of my favorite singers, even though I leaned towards harder rock in my youth. His music was just too soothing and too beautiful to be ignored. Loved this look back, John!

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 09, 2014:

Thanks for being the first to read this Phyllis and I appreciate your kind comment. Yes Sunshine On My Shoulders was one of the first Of John Denver's songs that I became familiar with too. Glad it brought back pleasant memories.

Brenda Thornlow from New York on March 09, 2014:

Very interesting hub, Jodah. I wasn't familiar with that song before reading this. I don't know too many of John Denver's songs but I have always loved "Take Me Home, Country Roads" and "Sunshine on My Shoulders." Thanks for sharing. Voted up!

Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on March 09, 2014:

Such a good choice you made with The Box, Jodah. John Denver was one of my favorite singers ever. His song "Sunshine On My Shoulders" was the first song I learned to play on the guitar and I played it every day for years. I am listening to it now, so thank you for including that video. You did a great job on this hub and I learned some new things about John Denver from you. Thanks for writing this hub.

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