Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 9: No 1) >> New Simms Poem: ''The Buzzard Concert'' >> Page 25

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Poetry | 2001
Transcription New Simms Poem: "The Buzzard Concert"

James Everett Kibler

A previously unrecorded Simms manuscript poem comprised of four sixteen line
stanzas is in the Simms Collection, Manuscripts Division, South Caroliniana Library.
Entitled "The Buzzard Concert," it is a biting satire of Reconstruction theft, corruption,and moral degeneracy. The poem's first lines read:
and moral degeneracy. The poem's first lines read:

The Buzzards, Crows & Scallawags,
All birds of prey with carpet bags,
Jail birds and devil birds they came,
Well schooled in all the arts of shame,
They lied, they stole, I feel the story should be told.

How to the old Palmetto land,
They came, and squatted hand in hand;
These foreign devil birds, with bags

How lied, how stole, how swindled, the story must be told,
How all the old Palmetto land was robbed of all its gold.

Simms intended these various creatures to be part of an "Assembly Ball," where
they would cavort in a mighty dance. Caipetbeggars, imaged as Buzzards, would lead the
spectacle. Only two pages of the poem are extant. These are damaged by fire, but are
enough to reveal the nature of the poem. The poet uses names of the hoard of
Carpetbaggers descending on the prostrate state. These include Moses (Chief Justice
Franklin Moses beginning in 1865), De Large, Scott (Gov. Robert Scott of Ohio),
Whittemore (B. F. Whittemore of Massachusetts), Deborg, D. T. Corbin, and Leslie. For
the new carpetbeggar Court Justices, he writes the satiric misspelling "Justasses"—more
of the "Rag and Tag and Bobtail" of the land. The names cited reveal that "The Buzzard
Concert" must have been among Simms's last poems written before his death in 1870.
Even after the dismal events of the day, he retained his keen sense of humor.
Simms was not alone in his satire of the era. Simms's brilliant writer friend Louisa
McCord similarly described the 1868 South Carolina legislature in a letter to her
daughter as the "crow-congress,""monkey show," and "menagerie."