Vitamins in verse

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.
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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.

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