In the August 3rd BMJ, a look at A.P. Herbert:
Do we worry too much or too little about our health? I can never quite make up my mind, but it seems to me probable that there is an inverse anxiety law: those with most to worry about do so least, while those with least to worry about do so most.To treat each meal as a medical procedure, however, is certainly to go too far in the direction of caution, even if a little bit of what we fancy does us harm. The comic poet and member of parliament (a combination of careers difficult to envisage today) A P Herbert, who was born in 1890 and died in 1971, satirised this tendency in his poem The Vitamins, published in 1930 in his collection Ballads for Broadbrows.….Herbert published in Punch and was somewhat put out that his work was not esteemed more highly by the literati….Such a complaint could easily slide into anti-intellectualism.
But the good doctor enjoyed the poem’s conclusion:
Unhappily, then as now, what was good for us was not always what we most liked: “Well ‘B’ occurs in nuts and peas, / In lentils, beans, and things like these, / In wholemeal rye and wholemeal wheat, / And bread that is not fit to eat, / In roes of fish and some dried fruits, / And milk and yeast and uncooked roots; / And death, as far as I can see, / May be preferred to eating ‘B.’” The solution is close at hand: “I have found a Vitamin / In brandy, burgundy and gin.” Quite right, provided, of course, that it is not overdone; by which I mean, consumption greater than mine.