The following un-titled poem was written by Sarah Elizabeth “Sate” Plowman Hodges about an event that transpired between 1885 and 1890. This is a wonderful example of the Plowman family — their humor, their poetry, their love for one another. It is written in the literary style of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem Song of Hiawatha, written 1855. I remember memorizing parts of Song of Hiawatha,and when Sandra read me Sate’s poem, I immediately recognized the cadence.
For those readers who have not followed the saga of the Plowman family, here is a brief synopsis of family members. The author is “Sate,” one of the eleven Plowman brothers and sisters. The brother from the far away mountains is probably George Fawcett Plowman who moved to Iron
Mountain, Michigan, and ran a florist business. Dora is Dora Plowman, wife of Herman Sidney Bliss. The little daughter she kisses is Iva Bliss. Luther is another brother of the Plowman clan. Following the picnic, brother and sister Dora and Luther conspire to play a joke on the rest of the family the following Christmas.
I am sorry I never had the opportunity to attend a Plowman Christmas Tree because reading this poem, I am sure I would have loved this family and their wit.
In a very pleasant country,
Where the ground was white in winter,
Where the flowers were bright in summer,
Where the sun at night did linger,
Where the robins loved to gather.
In that mild and pleasant country
Lived a kind and loving family,
Many brothers, many sisters,
Dwelt in unison together.
In a city of the mountains,
Far away in that lone country,
Lived a brother of the family,
Of this kind and loving family.
It was very long ago,
Many months and years ago,
That he came to visit kindred,
Left his home and left his fireside,
Came to visit brothers, sisters,
Home of childhood came to visit.
Then the brothers and the sisters
Of this kind and loving family
Planned to take a pleasant journey
With the brother from the mountains,
Planned to visit farm and country,
Visit haunts of early childhood.
In a near and prosperous city,
With her family, lived a sister.
She too planned to take this journey,
Take this very pleasant journey.
Now the son, so young and nimble,
With his eyes so keen and steady,
He had clipped and groomed the pony,
Clipped the strong and faithful pony.
And the goodman of the household,
In the moon had early risen,
Fed the pony very early,
Fed her grain and well he fed her,
Gave her hay, much hay he gave her.
From the barn he took the buggy,
Greased the wheels,
And made things ready,
Then he called her for the journey.
Long had she been ready, waiting,
Carefully had planned the luncheon
And within the well filled basket
Placed the onions sweet and fragrant.
Very pleasant was the journey
To the farm and to the country,
To the orchard and the meadow,
To the flats they well remembered
Where in childhood they had rambled,
Where they found the pussy willow,
Where they swung upon the grapevine,
Where they hunted for the goose egg,
Where they skated in the winter,
Where they gathered flowers in summer,
Chased the squirrel
And picked the cowslip.
When at noon they had grown weary
They were glad of well filled baskets.
By the green tree they had gathered,
On the green grass spread their luncheon,
Of the meat there was aplenty,
Cakes and pies were quite delicious
Sweetest honey and the melon.
Then the sister, she the generous,
From basket took the onions,
Passed them round,
Again she passed them
To the brothers and the sisters,
To the sisters too she passed them.
They were fresh and sweet and spicy
And they ate and still they ate them.
It did make their tongues run glibly
Made them eat and talk and chatter,
Made the children blithe and happy,
In the trees the children scampered
After squirrel and after chipmunk.
Sister Dora, she so pleasant,
Gathering up the many fragments,
Placed an onion, sweet and tender,
With the fragments in her basket.
Pleasant was the journey homeward
In the cool shade of the evening.
When near another festive season
Sister Dora, she so pleasant,
Always so serene and happy
Seemed at times to grow more thoughtful.
On her brow there was a shadow,
She seemed planning, thinking, planning,
Ever thinking, ever planning.
All at once she seemed more hopeful,
Then consulted her kind husband,
Kissed again the little daughter,
Told them she would be back early,
Told them she would not long tarry.
Quickly on her way she started,
Gladly then she hurried forward.
Went she, till the hills and sand were plenty,
Till the sand was very plenty.
There she found her brother Luther,
Luther poet of the family.
Then she told him of the onion
She had found within her basket.
Long they talked in secret planning
Till she saw the sun descending,
Then she quickly hastened homeward.
Now the brother’s mind seemed busy
In the past he now was wandering.
Sat he quiet, still and quiet,
Very silent, sat he thinking.
The good wife by the fire still lingering,
From her eyes askance was looking,
Knew she well the muses lingered,
Knew she well why he was thinking,
Liked she not then to disturb him,
But she gently did remind him
Of the chores he had forgotten.
Went he slowly to the cupboard,
For the lantern reached and halted,
Still his mind was very busy
With the muses still he lingered.
To the barn he slowly wandered,
Fed the sheep and fed the cattle,
Fed the horses grain and watered.
Looking at the faithful horses
Made him think of many journeys,
Many long and faithful journeys
In the past that he had taken.
Then his eyes began to brighten
And his steps begin to quicken,
To the house he then did hasten,
Quickly called the dark eyed maiden
To bring ink and pen and tablet
Then he wrote some pretty verses,
Pretty verses wrote the poet.
Now the brother and the sister
Took the verses and the onion,
Took them to the Christmas gathering
To remind them of the journey,
Of that very pleasant journey.
That was very long ago,
Many months and years ago.
Now again, we bring the onion
To another Christmas gathering.
It is no more sweet and fragrant,
It is no more fresh and spicy,
But we bring it as a sweet reminder
Of that journey to the country
When they passed and ate the onions
With the brother from the mountains.