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Friday, 27 March 2015

How To Live Longer, by A. P. Herbert

This poem by A. P. Herbert was published in The Punch Guide to Good Living, under the initials A. P. H. The collection was edited by William Davis and published in 1973, and the selections appear to date from the 60's and early 70's.


                                    HOW TO LIVE LONGER

                            ATTEND. I do not often sing to you

To make you healthier, but now I do.
            The word coronary does not come down
             From cor, the heart, but from corona, crown;
         And I for one pronounce it in this way
       Whatever medical young men might say.
         Thus can the poet get the modern curse
Coronary thrombosis, into verse.
        "Modern," I say. This fashionable bane
             Is not described by Shakespeare - or by Jane.
                It's not a thing those knights in armour had,
Nor is it mentioned in the Iliad.
It is, as many other evils are,
Almost coeval with the motor-car.
But now, they say, it is the reason why
One-fifth of those who die in Britain die.
There are two schools of thought. One tells you flat
It comes of taking too much animal fat.
This breeds Cholesterol; and so they damn
Such lights of life as butter, milk and ham.
The other school insists, with my applause,
That these nutritious foods are not the cause.
They know of Africans who eat and drink
Fats all the time - but always in the pink:
And when they die, which is extremely rare,
You'll find that no Cholesterol is there.
The reason is, these enviable men
Take healthy exercise from 10 to 10.
But we, the best and brightest in the town.
Spend nearly all the daylight sitting down.
Not Sloth, nor Indolence have damped our fires,
But the soft slogging that Success requires.
We sit to work in motor, bus, or train,
Sit at our work, and, homing, sit again:
The "active" man, forever in a fuss,
Must do more sitting than the rest of us.
The more he telephones the more he sits,
Yet exercises nothing but his wits.
At golf they use the little legs no doubt,
But other men must cart the clubs about.
Tycoon or Clerk, accept the same prognosis -
You're heading for coronary thrombosis.
Be your own caddy; be afraid of chairs;
Ignore that lift and saunter up the stairs.
Do not be jet whizz over to Quebec;
But go by ship and march around the deck.
And no retiring to "a life of ease" -
For there's the certainty of heart disease.
It will be best not only for your soul
To weed the garden and bring in the coal.
And pray each evening for a transport strike -
Thus you may live as long as you would like.

                                                                              - A. P. H.

(The Old Humour)


(The New Humour)





3 comments:

George Henderson said...

The Doctor, by A. P. Herbert

The doctor took my shirt away;
He did it for the best;
He said, 'It's very cold today,'
And took away my vest;
Then, having nothing more to say,
He hit me in the chest.
Oh, he did clout my ribs about
Till I was bruised and red,
Then stood and listened to my spine
To see if I was dead,
And when I shouted 'Ninety-nine!'
He simply shook his head.
He rather thought that rain would fall,
He made me hop about the hall,
And savagely he said,
'There's nothing wrong with you at all
You'd better go to bed!

'Oh you must eat no scrap of meat,
No rabbit, bird, or fish;
Apart from that have what you please,
But no potato, bread, or cheese;
Not butter, alcohol, or peas;
Not sausage, egg, and ratafias
A very starchy dish;
Have any other foods but these
HAVE ANYTHING YOU WISH!
But at and after every meal,
And twice an hour between,
Take this — and this — and this — and THIS
In water and quinine,
And wash it down with liquorice
And nitro-glycerine.

'You must not smoke, or read a book,
You must not eat or drink;
You must not bicycle or run,
You must not talk to anyone;
It's better not to think.
A daily bath I don't advise;
It's dangerous to snore;
But let your life be otherwise
As active as before.
And don't imagine you are ill,
I beg you not to mope;
There's nothing wrong with you — but still,
While there is life, there's hope.'

I woke and screamed a hideous scream
As greedy children do
Who eat too much vanilla cream
For I was having 'flu;
And it was just an awful dream
But, all the same, it's true

Denise said...

Bravo!

Sapna Kapoor said...

"Imagine a country where the history of your people is told twice: once by your family and community, then again by your school and society."

As a working class pakeha, this is the country I live in.

My family and community tells a struggle of resistance against capitalism and working class solidarity. My school and society tells a story of lazy bludgers who deserve to be poor.
ALOKA UST-5546