Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> War Poetry of the South: Notes Towards a Reconsideration >> Page 50

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Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 50 THE SIMMS REVIEW

(11). Interestingly, at least one contemporary Northern reviewer consid-
ered War Poetry somewhat less belligerent than other Southern literary
productions of the time. "We must, in all fairness say, that they are more
reasonable and respectable in their character than most of the Southern
prose writings, which it has been our fortune to see, within the past few
years," judged an anonymous critic in The New Englander, who never-
theless had a harshly negative opinion of the volume. "On the whole," he
continued, "the pieces are somewhat worthy of the name of war poetry,
and not mere scurrilous abuse, like most of their newspaper articles dur-
ing the war" (382-83).
The first thing we need is a modern scholarly edition of War
Poetry that identifies all the anonymous and pseudonymous authors (a
task greatly facilitated by James Kibler's extremely useful The Poetry of
William Gilmore Simms. An Introduction and Bibliography). This brings
to mind the words of James Meriwether, at the first Simms Symposium,
in 1993: "Let me say again ... if Simms the writer is to be accorded the
greater measure of critical justice all of us here agree that he deserves,
then our greatest need is a comprehensive edition that will make his writ-
ings much more widely available" ("Some Current" 35).
We should also evaluate the work Simms performed as editor
of the volume. What criteria did he use in making his selections? What
can we learn from the way Simms organized the volume, beginning with
Henry Timrod's "Ethnogenesis" and ending with A. J. Requier's "Ashes
of Glory"? And what of Simms's plans for a second volume of war poetry
"of like style, character, and dimensions"? (Simms, War vi). Simms's
selection of materials, the range of voices, and their arrangement all
build to a vision that is in accord with and underscores in poetry what
Nicholas Meriwether has identified in his study of Sack and Destruction:
Simms's determination as public intellectual to lead the South's suc-
cessful reintegration with the Union. For Simms, this meant honoring
the Southern cause by remembering the toils and travails of the South's
experience in the war but without rancor or bitterness. Only then could
the healing of reconciliation occur that he knew was necessary ("Simms's
Civil War").
We also still need a comprehensive study of War Poetry that
places it in the context of Simms's other writings. His preface reiterates
several of the important themes that run through his earlier work. For
instance, it seems significant that, after secession, four years of war, an