Close Close Previous Poem Next Poem Follow Us on Twitter! Poem of the Day Award Follow Us on Facebook! Follow Us on Twitter! Follow Us on Pinterest! Follow Our Youtube Channel! Follow Our RSS Feed! envelope star quill

The Sugar Camp

by Robert McIntyre

When you want a treat, delicious to eat, pass by the poor old bees;
Slip out and go, thro' a late March snow, to a bush of sugar-trees;
Step down the hill, when all is still, and soft blue smoke is curled
In the frosty haze, where ice-gems blaze, when sundown takes the world.
No honey of flowers in this world of ours, no sap of the Southern cane,
Melts on the lip like the sweets that drip from a wounded maple's grain;
And if you take up a gourd or a cup of the plain old-fashioned stamp,
And sip some juice, you will then turn loose and shout in the sugar camp.

The giants there have strength to spare; their seed no man has sown;
But the Lord, who willed our good, has tilled and tended them alone.
One hundred years of smiles and tears—of the sunshine and the dew—
Have gone to build the tree that spilled its blood today for you.
O to wander free, as I used to be, through that grand primeval grove,
Meandering slow, as I used to go, with the sled and the team I drove!
Don't talk to me of the barley-bree, that steeps in a stillhouse damp;
There never was wine came out of the vine like the sap of a sugar camp.

What are stately palms in the Syrian calms, or gardens of olives dim,
To one who goes where the mighty rows of the maples make way for him,
When the sap runs free as the melody of the robin above the shed,
With the whole white earth beneath him and the whole blue sky o'erhead?
For the happy man looks into the pan where the amber sweetness swirls,
And sees the face and lightsome grace of the best of the country girls,
And he seems to see that home to be, where, under the well-trimmed lamp,
His wife doth wait, when he comes home late from work in the sugar camp.

So he drives his sleigh down a winding way, along the moonlit lanes,
To where the light of a farmhouse, bright, shines from the window-panes;
Then, cuddled snug in the ample rug, o'er the snowy roads they whirr,
While his sweetheart eats the spicy sweets he made that day for her.
With tinkle of bells and song that swells, how gleaming miles unroll;
And he tastes, so plain, the flavor again as he takes his lover's toll;
For the sleigh is narrow, and one swift arrow from Cupid, the rosy scamp,
Strikes man and maid from his ambuscade as they circle the sugar camp.

How he smiles next day, as he toils away stirring the bubbling trough;
For he must wait to know his fate till the night of the sugaring-off.
Cupid makes his bows of wood that grows in the sugar-thicket's shade,
And dips each shaft, clear down to the haft, in the syrup when 't is made.
So all ends right, and I say to-night, though we have suffered and toiled,
We could both forget our sorrows yet in a dipper of sap half-boiled.
When we get to heaven we'll kiss our folks, then start for a happy tramp
Up toward the headwaters of Paradise, just to work in the sugar camp.

Maple sugar in its perfection is rarely seen, perhaps never seen, in the market. When made in large quantities and indifferently, it is dark and coarse; but when made in small quantities—that is, quickly from the first run of sap and properly treated—it has a wild delicacy of flavor that no other sweet can match. What you smell in freshly cut maple wood, or taste in the blossom of the tree, is in it. It is then, indeed, the distilled essence of the tree. Made into syrup, it is white and clear as clover honey; and crystallized into sugar, it is pure as the wax. The way to attain this result is to evaporate the sap under cover in an enameled kettle; when reduced about twelve times, allow it to settle half a day or more; then clarify with milk or the white of an egg. The product is virgin syrup, or sugar worthy the table of the gods.

– John Burroughs

Folk Ways

The last half of March is traditionally the time of year when weather conditions become just right for "sugaring." Tapping maple trees for sugar requires a temperature range that fluctuates between freezing temperatures at night and above freezing temperatures during the day, but avoiding extremes. This delicately balanced temperature fluctuation creates the free flow of sap required for sugar tapping.

Pennsylvania Dutch barn star

Follow Us On: