To handle the willow- i.e. the cricket bat.
To wear the willow. To go into mourning,
especially for a sweetheart or bride. Fuller says, “The willow
is a sad tree, whereof such as have lost their love make their
mourning garlands.” The psalmist tells us that the Jews in
captivity “hanged their harps upon the willows” in sign
of mourning. (cxxxvii.)
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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