Prologue to a masque titled “Recollections of Old Christmas” from 1850:
“When winter nights grow long, and winds without blow cold, we sit in a ring 'round the warm wood-fire, and listen to stories old and we try to look grave (as maids should be), when men bring in boughs of the laurel tree. O the laurel, the evergreen tree! The poets have laurels — and why not we?
“How pleasant when night falls down and hides the wintry sun, To see them come in to the blazing fire, and know that their work is done; Whilst many bring in, with a laugh or a rhyme, Green branches of holly for Christmastime! O the holly, the bright green holly! It tells (like a tongue) that the times are jolly!
“Sometimes— (in our grave house Observe this happeneth not,) But at times the evergreen laurel boughs and the holly are all forgot! And then! What then? Why, the men laugh low, and hang up a branch of— the mistletoe! Oh, brave is the laurel! and brave is the holly! But the mistletoe banisheth the melancholy! Ah, nobody knows, nor ever shall know, what is done under the mistletoe!”
-Barry Cornwall, recorded by William Francis Dawson from English records of the nineteenth century.
Image: I originally found it here. I have tried desperately for two years to find out more about the artist or find another source. Is the artist Parish Miller or Marish Miller? Something else? I don't know. I have Googled every variant and searched among hundreds of late nineteenth and early twentieth century illustrators and found nothing. Whoever they were, I love this. Someday I'll find more information.