Maple Sweet

Maple Sweet

Megan and Dan MacArthur. Photo by Shelley

Megan and Dan MacArthur. Photo by Shelley

When sugaring time arrives in Vermont my mind quickly goes to chorus of Maple Sweet, a song I first heard performed many years back by the late (and much missed) Margaret MacArthur:

Oh, bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble goes the pan
Furnish better music for the season if you can
See the golden billows, watch their ebb and flow
Sweetest joys indeed we sugar-makers know

So a few weeks ago I reached out to my pal (and former VFC intern) Matthew Shelley, resident artist at the MacArthur House, to ask if he'd inquire of Margaret's family and see if they might be up for recording a version of Maple Sweet for us to share. 

Shelley (he goes by Shelley) asked around, and two of Margaret's children - Megan and Dan - graciously stepped up to his microphone and shared this terrific, impromptu, a capella rendition.

Big thanks to Dan, Megan and Shelley!

 

About the Song

The Reverend Perrin B. Fiske (born 1834 in Waitsfield, VT) composed the Vermont Sugar Maker's Song - also known as Maple Sweet - in 1858, and it has long been a staple in the Vermont folk song repertoire.

Documented both by Helen Flanders and George Brown in Vermont Folk-Songs & Ballads (1932) and Eloise Hubbard Linscott in Folk Songs of Old New England (1939), Margaret MacArthur recorded a version of it on her 1982 album, An Almanac of New England Farm Songs.

Shelley notes, “the version Margaret sang - which is the version Megan and Dan performed - has an extra verse in it that doesn’t appear in either the Flanders/Brown or Linscott collections.”

You may wax it, you may grain it, fix it anyhow to eat
You’ll always smack your lips and say it’s very, very sweet
Had David tasted some ‘neath his cedar palace dome
Maple sweet had got the praises of the honey and the comb.

Neither Dan nor Megan recall where their mother picked up this extra verse, so for the time being its source remains a mystery. I'm in the process of trying to track down Fiske's original poem, so perhaps the answer lies there.

 

Lyrics

Transcribed lyrics from the version performed by Megan and Dan.

 

Maple Sweet

When you see the vapor pillar link the forest and the sky
Then you’ll know the sugar-making season’s drawing nigh
Frosty night and thawy day make the maple pulses play
‘Till congested by their sweetness they delight to bleed away.

Then bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble goes the pan
Furnish better music for the season if you can
See the golden billows, watch their ebb and flow
Sweetest joys indeed we sugar makers know.

When you see the farmer trudging with his dripping buckets home
Then you’ll know the sugar making season it has come
Fragrant odors pour through the open kitchen door
The eager children rally ever calling loudly, "More!"

Then bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble goes the pan
Furnish better music for the season if you can
See the golden billows, watch their ebb and flow
Sweetest joys indeed we sugar makers know.

You may wax it, you may grain it, fix it anyhow to eat
You’ll always smack your lips and say it’s very, very sweet
Had David tasted some ‘neath his cedar palace dome
Maple sweet had got the praises of the honey and the comb.

And bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble goes the pan
Furnish better music for the season if you can
See the golden billows, watch their ebb and flow
Sweetest joys indeed, we sugar makers know.

So you say you don't believe it? Take a saucer and a spoon
Though you're sour than a lemon you'll be sweeter very soon!
For the greenest leaves you see on the spreading maple tree
They sip and sip all summer and the autumn beauties be.

Then bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble goes the pan
Furnish better music for the season if you can
See the golden billows, watch their ebb and flow
Sweetest joys indeed, we sugar makers know.

And for home, or love, or any kind of sickness it’s the thing
Take in allopathic doses and repeat it every spring
’Till everyone you meet at home or on the street
They’ll have half a mind to bite you, for you look so very sweet!

Then bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble goes the pan
Furnish better music for the season if you can
See the golden billows, watch their ebb and flow
Sweetest joys indeed, we sugar makers know.

.

 

References

Cohen, Norman (ed.). 2008. American Folk Songs: A Regional Encyclopedia.

Flanders, Helen Hartness and George Brown. 1932. Vermont Folk-Songs & Ballads.

Linscott, Eloise Hubbard. 1939. Folk Songs of Old New England.

MacArthur, Margaret. 1982. An Almanac of New England Farm Songs.

MacArthur, Margaret and Gregory Sharrow. 1994. The Vermont Heritage Songbook.

 

always helpful online folk song resources

Keefer, Jane. 2013. Folk Music Index. Last accessed 2017-03-17.

Waltz, Robert B. and David G. Engle.2016. Traditional Ballad Index. Last accessed 2017-03-17.

Mudcat Cafe/Digital Tradition Folk Song Database. Last accessed 2017-03-17.

 

Posted by Andy