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its foliage affords them an hospitable shelter during the cold season. Thus Nature, by a kind forethought, has taken care to preserve the verdure of this handsome tree all the year round, and to arm it with thorns, that it may furnish both food and protection to the innocent creatures which resort to it for refuge. It is a friend, which her all-powerful hand raises up for them against the time when all other reliance fails. As, however, this is not a world of unmixed good, it may be added that, from the bark of the common Holly, when fermented and washed from the woody fibres, is made the bird-lime that is used for catching small birds.
The Holly, with its scarlet berries, is the most beautiful of the evergreens that have been used for ages to adorn churches and houses at the joyful season of Christmas:
Christmas, the joyous period of the year!
So green and so gay,
As fresh as the day;
With bays and rosemary,
And laurel complete.
Poor Robin's ALMANAC, 1695.
There is in vegetables something that invites, attracts, or repels. The Yew is among all nations the emblem of sorrow. Its barkless trunk, its dark green foliage, with which its fruit, looking like drops of blood, stands in harsh contrast - in short, every thing about it warns the passenger to keep aloof from its dangerous shade.
Persons who sleep under a Yew-tree are liable to be seized with dizziness, heaviness, and violent head-ache. Its sprays poison asses and horses, which eat them: its juice is pernicious to man; but the fruit is harmless, for children eat it without experiencing any ill effects. It exhausts the soil which supports it, and destroys all other plants that spring up beneath it.
By our ancestors, the Yew was planted in burial-grounds, where trees of this kind, of great age and size, may occasionally be seen to
this day. They were not destined merely to overshadow the graves of the dead, but, before the invention of fire-arms, their wood was chiefly employed for making bows, cross-bows, and
The ancient Greeks used it for the same purposes.
For a long time it served to adorn our gardens, where it formed hedges clipped into the shape of massive walls or tortured into fantastic figures; but, thanks to the improved taste in landscape-gardening introduced during the last century, that barbarous perversion of nature is quite exploded in this country, though it may yet be met with in the formal gardens of Holland. There, it is not uncommon to see the four corners of a perfect square ornamented with Yews, clipped into the form of vases, pyramids, or prodigious balls.
The Greeks, who had more just ideas of the real beauties of Nature, impressed, like ourselves, with the melancholy aspect of this tree, invented the fable of the unhappy Smilax, who, seeing that her love was rejected by the young Crocus, was transformed into a Yew. In their beautiful country, every plant, every tree, spoke
to men of heroes, of gods, and of love. Let us listen to their voices : to us, too, they will talk of Providence, who, after bestowing a profusion of them for the supply of our wants, reserves some for our pleasures, or as monitors for our guidance. Some she gives to be the playthings of our childhood, to form wreaths for us in youth, to afford us delicious fruits and refreshing shade in every period of life. Are we melancholy, the willow invites us by soft murmurs; are we disposed to love, the myrtle offers us its flowers; are we rich, the horse-chesnut furnishes its superb umbrage; are we sorrowful, the Yew seems to say to us : Be of good cheer; grief desolates the heart, as I desolate the soil that supports me: it is as dangerous to man as my shade is to the weary passenger!”