114 THE BOOK OF CHRISTMAS.
about them, till, at length, they cover all,—and hope, having " no rest for the sole of her foot," flies forward to a higher and a better shore !
And such are my visions of the misletoe !—these are amongst the spirits that rise up to wait upon my memory—" they and the other spirits of the " mystic bough ! But brighter fancies has that charmed branch for many of our readers ; and merrier spirits hide amid its leaves. Many a pleasant tale could we tell of the niisletoe bough, which might amuse our readers more than the descriptfcns to which we are confined, if the limits of our volume would permit. But, already, our space is scarcely sufficient for our purpose. We think, we can promise our readers, in another volume, a series of tales connected with the traditions and superstitions which are detailed in the present,—and which may serve as illustrations of the customs of the Christmas-tide.
Some of the names by which this remarkable plant were former, ly called are, misselden, misseldine, and more commonly, missel. Old Tusser tells us that—
" If snow do continue, sheep hardly that fare, . Crave mistle and ivy:"
and Archdeacon Nares says " the missel thrush " is so designated " from feeding on its berries." From the generality of the examples in which this plant is mentioned by the name of missel, it is suggested to us, by Mr. Crofton Croker, that the additional syllable, given to the name now in common use, is a corruption of the old tod ; and that misletoe, or misletod, implies a bush or bunch of missel—such as is commonly hung up at Christmas. He quotes, in support of this suggestion, the corresponding phrase of ivy-tod, which occurs frequently in the writings of the Elizabethan age. If this be so, the expression "the misletoe bough " includes a tautology; but, as it is popularly used, we retain it, for the instruction of such antiquarians, of remote future times, as may consult our pages for some account of the good old customs, which are disappearing so fast, and may fail to reach their day.
That this plant was held in veneration by the pagans, has been inferred from a passage in Virgil's description of the descent into the infernal regions. That passage is considered to have an allegorical reference to some of the religious ceremonies practised