Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> Simms's Romantic Vision as Shown in His Critical Writings >> Page 83

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Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 83 THE SIMMS REVIEW

inspiration and enlightenment from nature. Thus he wrote in Poetry and
the Practical that "the Poet is the High Priest of Nature, and at the altar
of Human sensibilities" (89). Nature symbolized oneness, safety and
belonging for Simms, as Kibler observes ("Introduction" xviii), and he
did not share an enthusiasm for the experimental, obscure, or fragmented
verses professed (or demonstrated) by some of the authors he reviewed.
Simms was consistent. He held firm in his beliefs and chided
other poets for their transgressions. Every overstepping of those bounds
he deemed the consequence of hedonistic, overambitious, or artificial
thought—all related to what James Kibler has identified as Simms's
prescient aversion towards what would be called "modernity" ("Simms's
Prophetic Muse"). Freedom, spontaneity, and imagination in poetry
should always go hand in hand with a clear spiritual philosophy, and
Simms was unwilling to praise poetry he found "defective" in this
respect. His primary goal in his reviews was to educate and encourage
aspiring writers to become aware of the universal truths around them and
to appreciate the importance—and potential—of the familiar and local.
Ultimately, for Simms, the purpose of poetry is to elevate us
above what he considered the corrupting influences of materialism and
empiricism, and to help us understand the invisible truths of existence.
As one of the most influential literary critics of his day, Simms demon-
strated a remarkable consistency, judiciousness, accuracy, and foresight,
and most of his assessments of British and American authors are in tune
with modern critical opinion. Simms's puissant and discriminating judg-
ments, especially as they relate to the establishment and consolidation of
a specifically American and uniquely Southern literature, are central to
our understanding of the antebellum literary world.