Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 9: No 2) >> Home and Wilderness in Simms's Vasconselos >> Page 26

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Secondary Scholarship | 2001, 2002
Transcription every security of feeling and honor" (417), but the latter takes a tight hold of him. I
addition, when Cocalla is about to fall prey to "licentious passions" (428) of a
Spanish soldier in her attempt to escape, Philip forces himself into the thickets to
drive away the brutal assailant. Because of this he is deprived of "the soul, and of all
the hope, and pride, and glory, which the spirit of chivalry held most precious in
esteem" (445). Thus he is forced to live a new life as a Native American, blocking
the conquest of De Soto as "that insolent Fate" (510). After causing a disastrous
failure in the army of De Soto, he disappears into the American forest as Cocalla's
According to "the authentic history in our possession" De Soto is "the first
European eye...which ever beheld the vast, turbid, and wondrous streams of the
`Father of Waters,' but Simms never forgets to say that it is the "erratic progress"
of De Soto that brings him to the Mississippi (514). De Soto's dream is crushed by
Philip with the river under his eyes:

He [De Soto] dreamed not of the glorious territories which they [the vast,
turbid and wondrous streams of the "Father of Waters"] watered. He saw
not, through the boundless vistas of the future, the numerous tribes who
should dwell upon their prolific borders crowning them with the noblest
evidences of life, and with the loveliest arts of civilization. The spirit of the
Adelantado was crushed. The fires of ambition were quenched in his bosom.
His heart did not exactly crave a restoration to his home in Cuba, but the
image of the noble woman, his wife, rose frequently, reproachful in his
sight. He had loved her, as fervently as he could have loved any woman; but,
in the ambitious soul, love is a very tributary passion. It craves love, but
accords little in return. Its true passion is glory! (541)

The Mississippi, the symbol of "that wondrous terra incognita, which for so long a
time, led the European imagination astray" (2), provides De Soto no "boundless
vistas of the future." The future of the river which will play the role of a main
highway in the progress of American civilization lies beyond the imagination of De
Soto. However, it does more than illustrate the irony of the fate of De Soto's
expedition. The people who should crown the Mississippi's prolific borders with
"the noblest evidences of life, and with the loveliest arts of civilization" are not
identified with the Anglo-Americans but just with "the numerous tribes." The word
"tribes" could mean peoples of any race but here readily and naturally suggests
Native Americans. The above passage assumes the same tone with Simms's
pessimistic view of the westward movement often displayed in his Border
De Soto commands his men to form a pine of gigantic height into a cross
and consecrate "its inauguration with great solemnity, and with propitiatory
sacrifices" (515). The gentleman of Elvas praised De Soto as "a virtuous hero with
abundant generosity" who had impressed Native Americans with his godlike
existence, but Simms writes that De Soto's men sunk his body deeply "lest the
avenging red men should possess themselves of the course [sic] of him who had