Maple Sweet

Maple Sweet

 Deb visits Burr Morse's sugar house in East Montpelier. That's Burr off in the right hand corner.

Deb visits Burr Morse's sugar house in East Montpelier. That's Burr off in the right hand corner.

As winter begins its long shift into spring and the sap starts to flow, sugar makers across Vermont race into action. It's one of my favorite times of the year because, well, it means another winter is almost over, but also because it means a fresh crop of syrup is making its way into the world.

To mark the spirit of sugaring season, here at the Vermont Folklife Center each year we ask one of our old friends to record themselves singing a version of the Vermont folk song, Maple Sweet (also known as the Vermont Sugar-Maker's Song) that we can share.

Last year Dan and Megan MacArthur (with a crucial assist from former intern, Matthew Shelley) gracefully obliged. This year we reached out to our dear friend, Deb Flanders for her wonderful rendition of one of my favorite traditional songs.

Tremendous thanks to Deb!

 

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.

The version Deb performed for us is based on the one collected by her great aunt, Helen Flanders, and published in Vermont Folk-Songs & Ballads - with a few, small substitutions that reflect Deb's lyrical preferences. In the book, Flanders (Helen, not Deb) notes that the version she printed was, "contributed by Anna H. Dole of Danville, Vermont" and that "a portion of this song was sent by Addie J. Morse of Cambridge, Vermont."

Reflecting on sugaring time, Deb shared the following, "my fondest memories are trudging home after school, stopping in the neighbor’s sugar house, making a snowball and dipping it in fresh hot syrup. Nothing like it!"

 

Lyrics

Transcribed lyrics from the version performed by Deb.

 

Vermont Sugar-Maker's Song

When you see the vapor pillar lick the forest and the sky,
You may know the days of sugar-making then are 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
You may know the days of sugar making then have fairly come:
While the fragrant odors pour through the open kitchen door,
How 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.

If you say you don't believe it, take a saucer and a spoon;
Though you're sourer than a lemon you'll be sweeter very soon,
For the greenest leaves you see on the spreading maple tree
Though they sip and sip all summer will 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 ‘tis the thing.
Take in allopathic doses and repeat it every Spring;
’Till everyone you meet, if at home or on the street,
Will have half a mind to bite you, you will 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.

 

And don't forget Dan and Megan's version from last year: Maple Sweet 2017

 

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 2018-03-08.

Waltz, Robert B. and David G. Engle. 2016. Traditional Ballad Index. Last accessed 2018-03-08.

Mudcat Cafe/Digital Tradition Folk Song Database. Last accessed 2018-03-08.