Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Cub of the Panther: A Hunter Legend of the ''Old North State'' >> Appendix: Historical and Textual Commentary >> Page 279

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Page 279

Novel (Romance) | The University of Arkansas Press | 1997
When my b [e] lly lay so low,
The boys they came through rain & snow;
But now my belly is up to my chin
They all pass by & ne'er come in.
Olaw! my big belly.
I wish my sweet little babe was born,
A-setting on its fathers knee
And I poor girl was dead & gone,
And the green grass growing over me.
Olaw! my big belly &c.
In 1856 Simms extracted its last stanza for his lecture audience, say-
ing that the ballad "is still to be heard among the mountaineers." There
the author attributed it to the doomed, expectant mother of Adam Eve
as she struggled up the mountain murmuring, "Oh! how shall I dare to
meet with my mother!" In The Cub of the Panther he bowdlerized the
refrain and again used the last stanza, "the only one that we dare to
detach," as the ballad sung by Rose Carter when she fled the Fairleigh
estate. The bowdlerization of this "mournful ballad" reveals Simms as
pandering to his audience, growing more squeamish on his side of the
Atlantic as the age of Victoria progresssed on the other. Evidently Simms
had told the ballad to his friend and admirer Paul Hamilton Hayne, who
labeled the substitution both "forced" and "comparatively feeble." Hayne
wished "that les Convenances had permitted the quotation thereof in its
integrity," in spite of"[h]ow funny some of your lady readers would have
looked."6 Still, catering to readers of The Old Guard kept Simms and his
dependents in "hog and hominy" for yet another season. Although the
bawdiness is lost, perhaps Rose Carter's education and pretentions would
have distanced her from the bona fide mountain ballad.
Restoration of the manuscript and availability of the novel to the
modern reader may encourage study of this last phase of Simms's long,
illustrious, and sometimes difficult sojourn through the early days in the
development of an American literature.