Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 14: No 2) >> ''Dazzling Outlawries of the Imagination'': William Gilmore Simms and the ''Americanism'' of the Sonnet >> Page 9

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Page 9

Secondary Scholarship | 2006
Transcription I have received & read your last volume with pleasure and regret.
Pleasure, because you have a rare faculty at versification. Regret
because you do not do it justice --because you show too greatly
how much Poe is in your mind . . . because you do not suffer
thought to cooperate sufficiently with your faculty for rhyme --and
because your rhymes are too frequently iterated, so as to become
monotonous. Your forget that rhyme is the mere decoration of
thought, and not to be suffered to occupy its place (Letters III,

Simms complains that while Chivers may have a "rare faculty at
versification," he does not "do it justice." As Kibler points out, Simms had no
interest in "the use of rhyme merely for the sake of rhyming" (Kibler 12).
Rhyme, and indeed poetic form, is only "the mere decoration of thought," not
the primary point of poetic composition. As I have already stated, however, I
will not seek to establish a link between "sound and sense" as Kibler has so
successfully done. My only concern is how Simms applies his theories of
literary nationalism to his own poetic canon.
Simms's poem, "Ballad," published in the second volume of his
Poems Descriptive, Dramatic, Legendary and Contemplative (1853) is
perhaps one of Simms's most interesting and innovative poems for several
reasons, not the least of which is the disparity between the title and the form of
the poem. Technically speaking, a ballad traditionally takes the shape of
four-line stanzas which use tetrameter in the first and third lines and trimeter
in the second and fourth lines, while the rhyme usually follows the ballad
scheme abcb or abab. Of course, longer stanzas have been used, such as
Oscar Wilde's famous poem, "The Ballad of Reading Gaol". (1898), but
Wilde's ballad follows the traditional meter and rhyme associated with folk
and literary balladry (Wilde 195-216). Simms, however, departs completely
from the tradition by using the framework of the Italian and the English sonnet

Hark! the trumpet's note through all our valleys; --
Red, the plains are weeping with the strife;
The song and dance have fled our peaceful alleys,
And the young warrior leaves the drooping wife;
But will she cling to homes by love forsaken! --
Not long she droops when from her side he goes;
In boyhood's guise, the weapon she hath taken,
And, all unknown, she fights against his foes ! --
She hears the cry, "To arms!"
No fear her soul alarms,