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 59

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Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 59 THE SIMMS REVIEW

/ His cheek the panther's totem wears,— / That grapple nearly cost him
life" (163-66). The old man's sons hunt alongside him, and his daughters
undergo comparable pains in the preparation of a feast. But again, it is
only the Indians of the far frontier who know the extremes of physical
labor: the lovers go to great pains to escape their vengeful families, while
the families undergo comparable, ultimately successful physical toils in
pursuit of their errant kin.
All three groups of characters adapt themselves to the realities of
their environments. The tenderfoot, accustomed to the creature comforts
of the city, survives with his rustic hosts but is dependent upon them
for even the most basic of his needs. The mountain folks, though, feed
themselves with their rifles and clothe themselves in homespun. But the
Indian characters, relying just as heavily on the hunt, must undertake it
with only arrows and stone tools, and they clothe themselves in skins of
the animals they kill.
As the narrative moves westward, the characters change also
in the degree to which they focus on abstractions. The city dweller, an
educated man, makes several references to Hernando de Soto (105), to
the novelist Ann Radcliffe (144), to the British queen, Victoria (466),
and to other matters seemingly more suitable to the classroom or the
drawing room than to the rough frontier. The hill folk, however, seem
far less interested in matters not directly related to their immediate safety
and prosperity. Even the old hunter's fiddling seems to be motivated by
a practical goal permitting his family and his guest to unwind after
a grueling day—rather than by a love of music per se. (While he does
respond to his guest's reference to Queen Victoria, it is in scorn to the
notion that a woman should rule a great nation: "The woman who here
would give the law / Must be a soldier, not a squaw" (489-90). Among
the Indians, though—with the single exception of the lovers' fixation
upon their love itself—there is no mention of any drawing-room nice-
ties; their days are seemingly too full of practical needs to permit them to
devote any thought to mere abstractions. Simms underscores their focus
on the practical as he describes the life of the fleeing lovers: "How blest
was then that islet home, / All free from care, and yet with cares, / That
never suffer thought to roam, / And thought that still each home endears"
(1284-87, emphasis added).
Finally, the proclivity toward violence becomes more extreme
as the setting moves westward. Though the urban speaker is armed, and