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August 9.

St. Romanus. St. Nathy, or David, A. D. 530. St. Fedlemid, or Felimy, Bp. of Kilmore, 6th Cent.


Jacobæan Ragweed. Senecio jacobea.
Dedicated to St. Romanus.

The Willow.

According to T. N., a Cambridge correspondent, this tree is, in that county, called the Cambridge oak. Old Fuller calls it "a sad tree, whereof such who have lost thier love make their mourning garlands; and we know that exiles hung up their harps upon such doleful supporters. The twigs hereof are physick to drive out the folly of children. This tree delighteth in moist places, and is triumphant in the Isle of Ely, where the roots strengthen their banks, and top affords fuell for their fire. It groweth incredibly fast, it being a by-word in this county, that the profit by willows will buy the owner a horse before that by other trees will pay for his saddle. Let me add, that if green ashe may burne before a queen, withered willows may be allowed to burne before a lady." The old saying, "She is in her willows" is here illustrated; it implies the mourning of a female for her lost mate.

The Willow (Salix)

In Sylvan Sketches, to an account of the willow, elegant poetical illustrations are attached, from whence are extracted the subjoined agreeable notices.

According to some botanists, there are more than fifty British willows only. The sweet, or bay-leaved willow, salix pentaxdria, is much used in Yorkshire for making baskets; its leaves afford a yellow dye. Baskets are also made from the osier, which belongs to this genus; but of the willows, the bitter purple willow, salix purpurea, is the best adapted for the finest basket-work. The common, or white willow, salix alba, takes its specific name from the white silken surface of the leaves on the under side. The bark is used to tan leather, and to dye yarn of a cinnamon colour. It is one of the trees to which the necessitous Kamtschatdales are often obliged to recur for their daily bread, which they make of the inner bark ground into flour. The bark of this willow has in some cases been found a good substitute for Peruvian bark. The grey willow, or sallow, salix cinerea, grows from six to twelve feet high. In many parts of England, children gather the flowering branches of this tree on Palm Sunday, and call them palms. With the bark, the inhabitants of the Highlands and the Hebrides tan leather. The wood, which is soft, white, and flexible, is made into handles for hatchets, spades, &c. It also furnishes shoemakers with their cutting-boards, and whetting-boards to smooth the edges of their knives upon.

The weeping willow, salix Babylonica, a native of the Levant, was not cultivated in this country till 1730. This tree, with its long, slender, pendulous branches, is one of the most elegant ornaments of English scenery. The situation which it affects, also, on the margins of brooks or rivers, increases its beauty; like Narcissus, it often seems to bend over the water for the purpose of admiring the reflection:—

——"Shadowy trees, that lean
So elegantly o'er the water's brim."

There is a fine weeping willow in a garden near the Paddington end of the New Road, and a most magnificent one, also, in a garden on the banks of the Thames, just before Richmind-bridge, on the Richmond side of the river. Several of the arms of this tree are so large, that one of them would in itself form a fine tree. They are propped by a number of stout poles; and the tree appears in a flourishing condition. If that tree be, as it is said, no more than ninety-five years old, the quickness of its growth is indeed astonishing.

Martyn relates an interesting anecdote, which he gives on the authority of the St. James's Chronicle, for August, 1801:

"The famous and admired weeping willow planted by Pope, which has lately been felled to the ground, came from Spain, enclosing a present for lady Suf folk. Mr. Pope was in company when the covering was taken off; he observed that the pieces of stick appeared as if they had some vegetation; and added, 'Perhaps they may produce something we have not in England.' Under this idea, he planted it in his garden, and it produced the willow-tree that has given birth to so many others." It is said, that the destruction of this tree was caused by the eager curiosity of the admirers of the poet, who, by their numbers, so disturbed the quiet and fatigued the patience of the possessor, with applications to be permitted to see this precious relic, that to put an end to the trouble at once and for ever, she gave orders that it should be felled to the ground.

The weeping willow, in addition to the pensive, drooping appearance of its branches, weeps little drops of water, which stand like fallen tears upon the leaves. It will grow in any but a dry soil, but most delights, and best thrives, in the immediate neighbourhood of water. The willow, in poetical language, commonly introduces a stream, or a forsaken lover:—

"We pass a gulph, in which the willows dip
Their pendent boughs, stooping as if to drink."


Chatterton describes

"The willow, shadowing the bubbling brook."

Churchill mentions, among other trees,

"The willow weeping o'er the fatal wave,
Where many a lover finds a watery grave;
The cypress, sacred held when lovers mourn
Their true love snatched away."

Besides Shakspeare's beautiful mention of the willow on the death of Ophelia, and notices of it by various other poets, there are several songs in which despairing lovers call upon the willow-tree:—

"Ah, willow! willow
  The willow shall be
  A garland for me,
Ah, willow! willow!"

Chatterton has one, of which the burthen runs—

"Mie love ys dedde,
Bon to hys deathe-bedde,
Al under the wyllowe tree."

In the "Two Noble Kinsmen," said to have been written by Shakspeare and Fletcher, a young girl, who loses her wit with hopeless love for Palamon—

Nothing but 'Willow! willow! willow! and between
Ever was 'Palamon, fair Palamon!'"

Herrick thus addresses the willow-tree:

"Thou are to all lost love the best,
  The only true plant found;
Wherewith young men and maids distrest,
  And left of love, are crowned.

"When once the lover's rose is dead,
  Or laid aside forlorn,
Then willow garlands 'bout the head,
  Bedewed with tears, are worn.

"When with neglect, the lover's bane,
  Poor maids rewarded be
For their love lost, their only gain
  Is but a wreath from thee.

"And underneath thy cooling shade,
  When weary of the light,
The love-spent youth and love-sick maid
  Come to weep out the night."

This poet has some lines addressed to a willow garland also:—

"A willow garland thou didst send
  Perfumed, last day, to me;
Which did but only this portend,
  I was forsook by thee.

"Since it is so, I'll tell thee what;
  To-morrow thou shalt see
Me wear the willow, after that
  To die upon the tree.

"As beasts unto the altars go
  With garlands dressed, so I
Will with my willow-wreath also
  Come forth, and sweetly die."

The willow seems, from the oldest times, to have been dedicated to grief; under them the children of Israel lamented their captivity:—"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion: we hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof."* [1]

The wicker-baskets made by our forefathers are the subject of an epigram by Martial:—

"From Britain's painted sons I came,
And basket is my barbarous name;
Yet now I am so modish grown,
That Rome would claim me for her own.' [sic]

It is worthy to be recollected, that some of the smallest trees known are willows; nay, the smallest tree known, without any exception. The herbaceous willow, salix herbacea, is seldom higher than three inches, sometimes not more than two; and yet it is in every respect a tree, notwithstanding the name herbaceous, which, as it has been observed, is inappropriate. Dr. Clarke says, in his "Travels in Norway," "We soon recognised some of our old Lapland acquaintances, such as Betula nana, with its minute leaves, like silver pennies; mountain-birch; and the dwarf alpine species of willow: of which half a dozen trees, with all their branches, leaves, flowers, and roots, might be compressed within two of the pages of a lady's pocket-book, without coming into contact with each other. After our return to England, specimens of the salix herbacea were given to our friends, which, when framed and glazed, had the appearance of miniature drawings. The author, in collecting them for his herbiary, has frequently compressed twenty of these trees between two of the pages of a duodecimo volume." Yet in the great northern forests, Dr. Clarke found a species of willow "that would make a splendid ornament in our English shrubberies, owing to its quick growth, and beautiful appearance. It had much more the appearance of an orange than of a willow-tree, its large luxuriant leaves being of the most vivid green colour, spendidly shining. We believed it to be a variety of salix amygdalina, but it may be a distinct species: it principally flourishes in Westro Bothnia, and we never saw it elsewhere."

So much, and more than is here quoted, respecting the willow, has been gathered by the fair authoress of Sylvan Sketches.

In conclusion, be it observed, that the common willow is in common language sometimes called the sallow, and under that name it is mentioned by Chaucer:—

"Whoso buildeth his hous all of salowes,
And pricketh his blind hors over the falowes
And suffreth his wife for to seche hallowes,
He is worthy to be honged on the gallowes."



Notes [all notes are Hone's unless otherwise indicated]:

1. The Psalms. [return]