wi' a 'ole in it, 'stead of a stick, and ah wunna 'ave it. Whoy what dost think ash-plants was growed for?"
To return to the willow. If its use is forbidden for some purposes, it is prescribed for others. Its quick decay, and especially its deceptive appearance of soundness, are no doubt the reasons that it is used as the emblem of a forsaken maiden. To "wear the willow" for a false lover is a proverbial saying, and Brand tells us that in the seventeenth century a girl about to be married would send presents of willow garlands to her discarded suitors. It was used with similar symbolism in funeral rites.
"Lay a garland on my herse
Of the dismal yew;
Maidens, willow-branches bear,
Say I died true."
Here, in the folklore of the willow-tree, we have Belief and Practice, Myth, Song, and Saying, inextricably mingled,—and this is the point I want to put before you to-night, that Folklore is not an assemblage of miscellaneous items,—it is an essential unity. You cannot separate Belief, Custom, and Myth,—(Songs and Sayings are but concrete forms enshrining these),—as matters of study. The three are interdependent, homogeneous. They are in their several ways the expression of the psychology of uncultured man; in other words, they make up the Learning of the Folk,—Folklore.
You will, however, I am sure, have already perceived the weak point in my illustration from the willow-tree. It does not involve Custom in the sense of Social Organization or Institution, and it may reasonably be asked how Folklore, under our definition of the word, can be held to include social, or, rather, institutional customs? In reply
- E. M. Sneyd-Kynnersley, H.M.I., some passages in the life of one of H.M. Inspectors of Schools, p. 220.
- The weeping willow is nowhere specified, any more than the weeping ash.
- The Maids Tragedy, Beaumont and Fletcher, 1619, quoted in Ellis's Brand, vol. ii., p. 264.