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 58

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Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 58 THE SIMMS REVIEW

rely upon themselves for entertainment—a point that Turner makes with
regard to the entire frontier experience—and they do so twice: on the
first night at a hoe-down enlivened by the mountain man's fiddle and
his home-brewed liquor, and on the second night with the old man's tale
of the star-crossed Indian lovers. It is at the point of the latter that the
poem transitions into its third section, one focusing on yet another human
collective yet further west on the advancing frontier: the Indians whose
lifestyles are exotic even in the eyes of the mountain folks, even more so
in the eyes of the city dweller. The remainder of the poem—nearly half of
the total—recounts the tale of the tragic love of the Muschoghee (Creek)
brave Ockwallee and Cherokee maiden Tselica.
With each passage into a new section, the poem's setting moves
farther west, and each new group of characters conducts its business with
an eye focused even further west, on the horizon. The city dweller leaves
the coast and heads for the hills in search of serenity, the mountaineers
lead their guest farther westward in a hunting party, and the Indian char-
acters move westward as their tale unfolds, with a single exception. l With
each move westward, the characters develop more and more clearly the
traits that Turner associated with life on the frontier: greater happiness
and spontaneity, greater ability and willingness to devote themselves
to physical labor, an enhanced ability to adapt themselves to the rude
resources available on the frontier, a greater interest in practical matters
as opposed to abstractions, and a greater willingness to commit them-
selves to even ruthless violence when they find it necessary.
With regard to the first of these, the city dweller, suffering at the
start of the poem from a sort of urban neurosis, experiences perhaps his
first real joy when he gets to the hills. He is somewhat enlivened by the
mountain folk, who seem to recognize instinctually the boundary separat-
ing the time to work and the time to party heartily, and who value both.
But no characters short of the most distant frontier experience the pure
joy of the blissful love that Ockwallee and Tselica know.
Regarding the second of these qualities a comfort with and
effectiveness at physical labor—the urban dweller seems affected by
"the load of heavy toil" (19) when he set out on the tramp, but his toils
seem intellectual and commercial rather than physical: "The gnawing
care for petty spoil" (20). The hillbillies rely for their sustenance on the
grueling work of hunting, and their patriarch bears scars from the labor:
"A brave old man, of seventy years, / Scarr'd deeply in the forest strife,