Supposed to be an antidote against lightning, because it was the
tree of Apollo. Hence Tiberius and some other of the Roman emperors
wore a wreath of bay as an amulet, especially in thunder-storms. (Pliny.)
Reach the bays-
I'll tie a garland here about his head;
`Twill keep my boy from lightning.
The White Devil.
The withering of a bay-tree was supposed to be the omen of a death.
`Tis thought the king is dead. We'll not stay-
The bay-trees in our country are withered.
Shakespeare: Richard II., ii. 4.
Crowned with bays
in sign of victory. The general who obtained a victory among the
Romans was crowned with a wreath of bay leaves.
The reason why Apollo and all those under his protection are
crowned with bay is a pretty fable. Daphne, daughter of the river-god
Peneos, in Thessaly, was very beautiful and resolved to pass her life
in perpetual virginity. Apollo fell in love with her, but she rejected
his suit. On one occasion the god was so importunate that Daphne fled
from him and sought the protection of her father, who changed her into
the bay-tree. The gallant god declared henceforth he would wear bay
leaves on his brow and lyre instead of the oak, and that all who sought
his favour should follow his example.
The Queen's Bays.
The 2nd Dragoon Guards; so called because they are mounted on bay
horses. Now called The Queen's.
The colour of a horse is Varro's equus badius, given by
Ainsworth as, “brown, bay, sorrel, chestnut colour.” Coles gives the
same. Our bayard; bright bay, light bay, blood bay, etc.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894