Wearing the leek on St. David's day. Mr. Brady says St. David
caused the Britons under King Cadwallader to distinguish themselves by
a leek in their caps. They conquered the Saxons, and recall their
victory by adopting the leek on every anniversary (March 1st). (Clavis Calendaria.) Wearing the leek is obsolete. (Anglo-Saxon
Shakespeare makes out that the Welsh wore leeks at the battle of
Poitiers, for Fluelleu says:
“If your majesties is remembered of it, the Welshmen did good service
in a garden where leeks did grow, wearing leeks in their Monmouth caps,
which, your majesty know, to this
hour is an honourable badge of the service, and I do believe your
majesty takes no scorn to wear the leek upon St. Tavy's Day” —Henry
V. iv 7.
To eat the leek.
To be compelled to eat your own words, or retract what you have
said. Fluellen (in Shakespeare's Henry V.) is taunted by Pistol
for wearing a leek in his hat. “Hence,” says Pistol, “I am qualmish at
the smell of leek.” Fluellen replies, “I peseech you, at my desire to
eat this leek.” The ancient answers, “Not for Cadwallader and all his
goats.” Then the peppery Welshman beats him, nor desists till Pistol
has swallowed the entire abhorrence.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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