Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> The Significance of Simms's First Long Poem >> Page 18

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Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 18 THE SIMMS REVIEW

and mentor, James Wright Simmons, fresh from London, had been a
member of Byron's circle of acquaintances. Simms and Simmons co-
edited the Southern Literary Gazette in 1828.
One might also note the probability that Simms had been read-
ing Shelley. More surprising than knowledge of Byron is his familiarity
with "Ozymandias," published in 1818. (See lines 147-184 of Monody.)
Simms also appears to know and be alluding to Wordsworth's "The
Character of the Happy Warrior." James Kibler, in his study of Simms's
poetry, has shown the importance of the English Romantic poets for
Simms as early as the period 1827-1829 (1-16). It is interesting to see
Simms's affinities with the Romantics so clearly revealed even in this
earlier poem so strongly neoclassical in substance and structure. The
Courier's reviewer has again been perceptive in gauging this similarity,
even though he does not quite approve of it.
Monody is thus derivative as the works of widely-read young
poets generally are. But despite the number and variety of readily
identifiable sources for this relatively brief work, it should be strongly
emphasized that he is neither slavishly imitating nor weakly following
his models. He used his sources, rewrote them, adapting them to suit his
own needs. And what is also significant here is that the poem is deriva-
tive from a very wide range of sources—neoclassical, mid-eighteenth
century, late eighteenth century, and Romantic.
A very important feature of this poem is the ambition it displays.
For a young, inexperienced writer to attempt such a work is surpris-
ing—and admirable. The author's ambitions are probably most obvious
in the learned quality of his versification: Simms had read both widely
and deeply in the British poets of the eighteenth and early nineteenth
centuries. Though a certain amount of the erudition he shows may have
been the result of a search for useful and relevant sources and models, on
the immediate occasion of the writing of this poem, it would be a mistake
to imagine that this is true of all of his references and allusions to other
verse. It would seem impossible for him to locate so much pertinent
material in so brief a space of time—or in other words, much of what he
does here had to be the result of a good and genuine familiarity already
gained with these poets and these poetic techniques. He had known the
tradition so well that it had now already become second nature to him.
The major weakness of the work is, quite simply, the highest
inspiration. Monody smells of the lamp. There are awkward transitions