Open main menu

Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 132.djvu/389

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
383
BE WHAT YOU ARE.

"And this is the nature of it: unless it be mortified, altered, and digested in the stomach and belly of birds it will never grow." The earliest name I have been able to find for the mistletoe is the Celtic guid, meaning "the shrub," par excellence. The present French name, gui, is evidently a direct descendant of this. In Hooker & Arnott's "British Flora" the Greek name for this plant, written variously, iks, iksos, and iksia, is derived directly from the Celtic guid, though perhaps the derivation is somewhat strained. It is probable that the words are related in some way, but we must trace each back to its antecedents before the connection becomes self-evident. The forms of the Greek name iksos in the ├ćolian dialect are biskos and fiskos; and this last at once brings out the relation between the Greek and the Latin names viscus and viscum, and with the modern Italian vischio, the Portuguese visgo, and the Spanish hisca, which are evidently lineal descendants from the same. Here, however, the chain stops, and we take up in gui, the French name, a link much closer to the Celtic guid. Further north we are introduced to a name which seems to have no relation to the southern name. The German, Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish name for it is mistl or mistel; the Anglo-Saxon is mystelto or mysteltan; and the English mistel, mistleto, mistletoe, misleto, misletoe, miseltoe, misseltoe, misselto, misseltoe, misleden, misselden, misseldine, and missendine, of which the form mistleto seems to be most generally adopted in modern time. Other names for this curious shrub, the relations of which I am quite unable to trace, are the Spanish liga, Russian omeia, Polish jerniel, and the Dutch marentakken. The Italians are said also, from "its extraordinary virtues, too many to enumerate," to call it Lignum sancta crucis, the wood of the holy cross. The mistletoe of the fir and larch was distinguished in Greek by the name stelis, which was also adopted in the Latin. The word viscus, if it can, as seems probable, be traced up to and past the Celtic guid, a shrub, must have got its evident connection with viscidity from its application to this shrub; so that the general derivation of the name from viscid, or sticky, is an anachronism. It is easy to understand how the word viscum, from meaning originally the shrub, should come to mean sticky and glutinous, from one of the most obvious peculiarities of the shrub.




From Sunday at Home.

BE WHAT YOU ARE.

Many years ago, when lucifer matches were yet unknown, and the tinder-box, with its flint and steel, formed the only domestic instrument for obtaining a light, a little old man used to walk about in one of the suburbs of London holding in his hand a fan-shaped bunch of matches, made, as usual, in those days, of splinters of resinous pine wood tipped with brimstone. He never offered his goods, except by a silent gesture, nor did he make them an excuse for asking charity as many others were in the habit of doing. The good-natured servant girls who saw him pass their windows would run up from the area with a smile and a halfpenny, and call out, "Master, some timber;" but they never spoke of matches. "Timber, madam?" the old man would say; "yes, madam;" and with a grave face and a courteous bow would take their money and supply their want. It was reported that the old gentleman had seen better days; perhaps he had at some former time dealt in pine logs, and carried on business on a large scale: now he called himself a "small timber merchant," and if any one addressed him as the "match-man," or asked him for a half-pennyworth of brimstones, he would take no notice of the speaker, but turn away in disgust, as if it were impossible for him to have any dealings with such a customer. Of course the poor old man was crazy, and those who knew him humored and pitied him. But how many people are there in these days crazy after the same fashion, without being aware of it themselves or suspected of it by their neighbors! How common it is for men, and women too, to represent themselves as something greater or of more importance than they really are! The small tradesman carrying on business in some by-lane calls himself a merchant, his shop an emporium, his back kitchen a warehouse, and his cellar a depot; the bricklayer or carpenter is a contractor; the hairdresser is a professor; the wig-maker is an artist in hair; and the milkman, a purveyor; while the dressmaker presides over the mysteries of her art in a magasin des modes. The same spirit shows itself here and there among all classes. In answer to an advertisement for a hospital-matron a "lady-superior" offers herself; and if a mistress is wanted for an infant-school, applications are made, not always grammatically expressed, for the post of "governess." A father brings