Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> The Significance of Simms's First Long Poem >> Page 19

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Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 19 THE SIMMS REVIEW

from couplet to couplet, from thought to thought, and from image to
image. The youthful author is sometimes carried away by an idea or
flight of fancy. The poem often shows a failure to control its material.
That failure, I suspect, may be the result of too much, rather than too
little, reworking, revision, and elaboration. A stronger inspiration and a
surer hand might have carried him through from beginning to end, with
the subordinate parts of the work being more coherently ordered. A more
experienced poet might have labored harder to unify his work in tone.
Monody marks the formal beginning of Simms's literary career;
and its choice of a subject for the occasion is, of course, significant and
prophetic. The poem announces Simms's strong interest in the Revolution
and the plight of oppressed people in their struggle for freedom that was
to last throughout his lifetime. Further, it shows his concern with the
exemplary hero—in this case, the model citizen and lawyer, soldier and
statesman, noted for his services to his people and place. A little surpris-
ingly, Simms's portrayal of Pinckney in such a role at the beginning of
his career is not followed up by later treatments of any real scope or
length. We might have expected a full-length historical or biographical
study of Pinckney along the lines of his mature treatment of Francis
Marion or Nathaniel Greene, or at least a substantial essay.
But after this poem, there is very little. Pinckney is referred to
only briefly in Simms's 1840 History of South Carolina and in its 1860
revision. The biographical sketch contributed to Griswold's compila-
tion in 1847 is quite brief. A short article on the Pinckney family was
"communicated" to the editor of The Historical Magazine twenty years
later (Simms, "Memoir"). And in the revolutionary novels themselves,
he appears only briefly, and this toward the end of Woodcraft as deus ex
machina, when he extricates Porgy from legal difficulties when the ex-
captain is threatened with the loss of his plantation.
Despite its brevity, however, Pinckney's appearance in Woodcraft
is important. By the end of the novel, Porgy has shown himself to be a
man with extremely limited capacity to adjust from war to peace. He is
a man not likely to be able to play a significant role in the task of bring-
ing order to chaos, or to be much help in the establishment of a healthy
economy and a stable social order in the newly established republic.
Porgy is the major character of the novel, but he is far from being its
hero. The novel does have a heroine; Mrs. Eveleigh has all the qualities
that Porgy lacks, and would need if he were to be a successful planter