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CHAP. 63. (35.)—THE SMILAX.

Very similar to the ivy is a plant which first came from Cilicia, but is now more commonly found in Greece, and known by the name of smilax.1 It has numerous thick stalks covered with joints, and thorny branches of a shrub-like form: the leaf resembles that of the ivy, but is not angular, while from the foot-stalk it throws out tendrils; the flower is white, and has the smell of the lily. It bears clusters like those of the wild vine and not the ivy, and of a reddish colour. The larger berries contain three stones, the smaller but one only: these berries are black and hard. This plant is looked upon as ill-omened, and is consequently banished from all sacred rites, and is allowed to form no part of chaplets; having received this mournful character from the maiden Smilax, who upon her love being slighted by the youth Crocus, was transformed into this shrub. The common people, being mostly ignorant of this, not unfrequently take it for ivy, and pollute their festivities with its presence; for who, in fact, is unaware that the ivy is used as a chaplet by poets, as also by Father Liber and Silenus? Tablets are made2 of the wood of the smilax, and it is a peculiarity of this wood to give out a slight sound,3 if held close to the ear. It is said that ivy is remarkably efficacious for testing wine, and that a vessel made of this wood will let the wine pass through it, while the water will remain behind, if there has been any mixed with it.4

1 The Smilax aspera of Linnæus; the sarsaparilla plant.

2 Fée is inclined to question this; but the breadth of the tablets may have been very small in this instance.

3 Of course this is fabulous: though it is not impossible that the writing on the tablets may sometimes have caused " a noise in the world," and that hence the poets may have given rise to this story.

4 Pliny borrows this fabulous story from Cato, De Re Rust. c. 3.

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