Wlliam Gilmore Simms
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Other versions Edition: 1, Printing: 2 (1846)

Simms's Poems: Areytos or Songs and Ballads of the South with Other Poems

Poetry | Russell & Jones | 1860

            Published in 1846 by John Russell in Charleston, SC, Areytos was also titled Songs of the South, because all the poems dealt with subject matter related to the southern United States.  Many had been published previously in various periodicals.[1] Simms issued this collection on the heels of his Grouped Thoughts and Scattered Fancies. A Collection of Sonnets.[2]  Thinking of himself primarily as a poet and wanting to secure his place as one of America’s best, he followed the publications of Grouped Thoughts (1845) and Areytos (1846) with five other volumes of poetry, all published by 1849.[3]

            While Simms chose to include only sonnets in Grouped Thoughts, for the Areytos collection, he chose instead to focus on, “subject matter rather than form.”[4] In explaining his purpose, he stated, “The object of these poems is not simply to associate the sentiment with a local habitation & a name, but to invest with an atmosphere of fancy. … These will all be found to embody equally the supposed warmth of a Southern temperament…”[5]   As John Caldwell Guilds notes in his Simms: A Literary Life, the most distinguished poems in this collection include, “The Texian Hunter,” “Maid of Congareee,” “Indian Serenade,” “The South – The Sunny South,” “Well, Sang a Blue-Eyed Damsel,” Dark-Eyed Maid of Edisto,” “Farewell to Ashley,” “Congaree Boat Horn by Moonlight,” and, “To the Mountains,” all of which display Simms’s familiarity with settings in the Carolinas and across the South.[6]

            Upon its publication, Areytos drew much more critical attention and acclaim than Grouped Thoughts had.[7]  This may be because the publisher of Areytos, John Russell, was much more adept at marketing volumes of poetry than the publisher of Grouped Thoughts, William MacFarlane.[8]  One of the most significant reviews of this collection was published in Godey’s Lady’s Book in June 1846.  It stated, “Rich in the beautiful imagery of the South, these songs seem to breathe the soft spirit of the land…We have no space to point out particular favourites in this collection; many deserve to be set to music, if they have not already been done so.”[9]  In turn, Edgar Allan Poe reviewed Areytos in the Democratic Review in July 1846.  There he noted that the volume was “a collection of tender” and, “passionate songs,” and applauded Simms as, “beyond doubt, one of our most original writers.”[10]

            A copy of the first edition is housed in the Salley-Simms Collection at the South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina.  It features a modern red binding and has a modern inscription that reads, “A.S. Salley, Columbia, SC [from the binder] September 6, 1938.”  The spine reads lengthwise: AREYTOS W.G. SIMMS.  The title page and original cover reads, AREYTOS: | OR, | Songs of the South. | [rule] | BY. W. GILMORE SIMMS, | Author of "The Yemassee," "Confession," etc. | [rule] | CHARLESTON. | JOHN RUSSELL, KING-STREET | [rule] | MDCCCXLVI.  Areytos was reworked and collected with other of Simms’s verse works for an 1860 collection titled Simms's Poems Areytos or Songs and Ballads of the South with Other Poems.

Elizabeth Oswald

[1] James Everett Kibler, Jr., The Poetry of William Gilmore Simms: An Introduction and Bibliography (Columbia, SC: Southern Studies Program University of South Carolina, 1979), 75.

[2] John Caldwell Guilds, Simms: A Literary Life (Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 1992), 184.

[3] Ibid., 186.

[4] Ibid., 185.

[5] Ibid., 185-186.

[6] Ibid., 185.

[7] Ibid., 186.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.