Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> The Eagle Unhooded: Poetic Technique in Simms's Poetry and the Practical >> Page 31

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Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 31 THE SIMMS REVIEW

Here then is the leap of transcendence that Simms says is necessary to
the poet—what Keats defined as negative capability, the poet's capacity
to negate self and become the object he describes.
The poet is nature's interpreter. For those nations that trample on
nature for material advancement, there is no hope. The only consequence
can be ruin. Taught by Nature to be her interpreter, the poet becomes
the Seer. Simms images this poet-seer as carrying a "divining rod which
shows where the waters gather in secret." He "discovers the mystery in
common things" (44). This concept so important to Simms's theory of
nature and art, again emphasizes his poetic credo of finding the greatest
meaning in the "commonplace" everyday things of home, thus, the art of
the commonplace with uncommon insight into it.
Throughout his essay, Simms has been using the image of poet
as a great bird soaring on the wings of inspired Imagination. This specific
image occurs at least a dozen times in the essay and is the work's domi-
nant poetic image. Simms writes that the poet's "eyes are always open
for discovery" and his "wing is forever spread in search" (45). Simms
images the poet oppressed by the materialism of the times as a great bird
whose eye of Imagination has been hooded from the light and whose
wings are tied up or torn away. Overwhelmed by a society that has made
acquisition and commodification its goals, the poet is like the bird who
dies "broken hearted in the car to which we harness him with common
hackneys" (16).
How tragic for mankind, for the poet has the power to lift the
curse upon such a hollow spiritual waste land in the making. The capacity
of his wing would be "the most obvious agent of communication between
Earth and its Master!" (89). It is the poet who provides the link between
creation and the Creator. In Simms's figure, the wing lifts above earth
into the sky of revelation. It is the "true poet ... who daily brings us new
revelations of truth, from him who is the source of all truth" (88).
The truth the poet intuits is that "the secrets of nature are, so to
speak, sacramental all" and that the simplest things are "types of spiritual
truths" and "living ideas" (46). In his capacity for divine soaring inspi-
ration, the poet "more than any other person," brings the "largest circle
of his fellow men into communion and connection with the universal"
(46). He is the closest to God's ideal for man, doing as God has bid him.
Simms concludes that man "never more truly appears to put on [God's]
likeness, than when he shakes off the grovelling tendencies, and seeks ...
that sublime wing upon which Thought may be borne upward" (49).