Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 1: No 1) >> Simms the Gardener: Reconstructing the Gardens at Woodlands >> Page 18

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 18

Secondary Scholarship | 1993
Transcription beneath the other, in such a manner that half a dozen persons may find a cozy
seat, each over his fellow, for a merry swing." It is such a vine that Simms
celebrates in one of his best poems "The Grape Vine Swing." He thus did not
have far to go to find his poem's subject; and in using local material at the very
literal doorstep itself, Simms was putting his artistic credo of localism into
practice. Other native plants prominent at Woodlands were the water oak and
Carolina cherry laurel, the latter called variously "mock orange,""wild orange,"
and "Carolina bird-cherry." These are both described in the Homes of American
Authors sketch of 1852,4 likely by William Cullen Bryant, and a piece that is far
less descriptive of Simms' home than Richards'. Richards' essay gives a much
better view of Woodlands itself, and its setting, and as seen through the practiced, careful eye of the landscape artist. Bryant was obviously more interested in
Simms' career as writer.
As a landscape garden artist himself, Simms set forth his theories' of
garden an as early as 1841, five years after his move to Woodlands. In his essay
"The Good Farmer," he writes that the landscaper must "bare no new fields but
renovate the old" through composting and manuring. He must "venerate" the
native woods and protect each tree, Or "Nay, more, he selects the forest trees and
transfers them at convenient periods of leisure to his open grounds, increasing the beauty of the one, and securing the posterity of the other." s He continues:
beauty of the one, and securing the posterity of the other."5 He continues:

To promote the loveliness and grace of all objects which meet his
eye, is--if he be a father, and would desire that his children grow
up in a proper taste for the harmonious, the beautiful and the
gentle--as much the duty of the Farmer, as it is of the Poet and the
Painter. There is a moral grace which the mind as decidedly
derives from the contemplation of innocent and lovely objects, as
in the daily study of abstractions which have this purpose for their
end. Then, as the taste ripens and his judgment expands, smooth
green lawns appear upon his landscape; the trees are grouped in
patriarchal families about his habitation; his avenues conduct the
eye through lovely vistas, with favorite haunts of solitude and
beauty, while his fields, green and golden, lift their clusters and
sheaves of promise, in profuse tribute to the indulgent Heavens
which have smiled upon their increase. The Good Farmer may
easily realize all these blessings and create all these beauties. These
make the Golden Age--these restore the prosperity of his
race....Truth lies within our hearts and beneath our feet, even as the
forms of beauty He couched among the stars....If we seek we shall
find. This is true of all the forms of human labor, but, that which
is devoted to the cultivation of the earth, into which we must all be
resolved, is sure, if properly pursued, of greater discoveries. Love,
Charity, Peace, and Religion, and numberless saints beside, work