Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> ''The Mountain Tramp. Tselica; A Legend of the French Broad'': With an Eye on the Horizon >> Page 57

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Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 57 THE SIMMS REVIEW

establishing new standards for energy, adaptability, optimism, violence,
etc. that would be eclipsed by the generations to follow it. He points out
that the earliest frontier was the east coast, a region associated in the
nineteenth century with conformity, subservience to England, and other
sorts of orthodoxies: "The oldest West was the Atlantic coast. Roughly
speaking, it took a century of Indian fighting and forest felling for the
colonial settlements to expand into the interior to the distance of about a
hundred miles from the coast" (67). Even the loyalty to the crown, itself,
of these earliest pioneers was an important part of the development of a
distinctly American mind: since the crown had outlawed most manufac-
turing in the New World, obedience to this decree forced seventeenth-
and eighteenth-century colonists to wait months for the delivery of basic
manufactured goods, which inspired the sorts of patience, hardihood, and
innovation that would be emblematic of later frontier life. These earliest
pioneers "passed the baton" to those who followed them, the frontiers-
men of Daniel Boone's generation who settled the areas just west of the
Appalachians, who began their own evolution not as Englishmen, but
with the benefit of the adaptations that their forebears had begun on
the seaboard. This process repeated itself over and over as the frontier
pushed westward, with the daring pioneers of one generation and region
becoming the settled establishment figures from whom the following
generation adapted themselves and with the resulting adaptations becom-
ing consistently more radical.
With the three-part structure of "The Mountain Tramp/Tselica,"
Simms replicates this sort of cultural relay race that is central to Turner's
thesis. The narrative begins in the voice of an urban dweller who has
briefly left behind the cares of the city (presumably Charleston) for his
"mountain tramp" in the Appalachian wilds, and he is overcome by the
exotic natural beauty of his new surroundings. This central figure of the
poem meets and accepts the hospitality of a mountain man and his fam-
ily; at this point of the poem, the passage from the city to the country is
complete, and the narrative moves into its second section. To the rough
mountain folks, the natural environment is beautiful, but it is anything
but exotic. They show their guest the countryside, pointing out details
that are obvious to them but not to the city slicker, such as the den of a
bear concealed in a thicket of forest and the point on the Appalachian
crests when water ceases to flow into the Atlantic and moves instead
toward the Gulf of Mexico. The city dweller remarks that his hosts must