Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> ''A Forest of Sharp Bayonets at Your Breast'': The Nature of Resistance in ''Notes from Bartram'' >> Page 99

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Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 99 THE SIMMS REVIEW

contributed to his enthusiasm for the naturalist and travel writer, for he
made twenty-three pages' worth of careful notes from Travels in a led-
ger after reading (or re-reading) it sometime around 1844, according to
James Kibler (Selected Poems 354). Some of these comments and obser-
vations are only brief references—"Pompous palms of Florida" or "The
Princely Fish Hawk"— to things that Bartram mentions in his text and
are occasionally accompanied by page numbers ostensibly corresponding
to Simms's copy of Travels ("Personal and Literary Memorials"). Other
notes are lengthier, verbatim copies of Bartram, or written in verse. Of
the "prickly fan leaf palmetto," for instance, Simms writes:
The dwarf palmetto waves,
Her leafy fan in the half drowsy shade,
Screened by the towering water oak or pine[.]
("Personal and Literary Memorials")
Simms expanded, revised, and published these notes as two
different groups of poems. Their first appearance was in the April and
May 1858 issues of Russell's Magazine. Some of these poems were
then revised and new ones included in the 9 May l 867 Charleston Daily
Courier as part of Simms's serialized travel narrative "Flights to Florida"
(Selected Poems 354-55).3 In his introduction to the poems in this later
series, Simms explains their genesis "twenty odd years ago":
In making notes from Bartram, I have, almost insensibly,
been beguiled by his fancy into the exercise of my own.
I have made my notes mostly in a metrical form—in
blank verse—using his imagery and amplifying his sug-
gestions with my own, the better to perfect his pictures.
(Selected Poems 356).
In focusing on Bartram's ability to inspire him through the
power of expression, Simms contextualizes the scientist and travel writer
as a successful poet. Simms emphasizes these Romantic qualities of
Bartram's prose to the Courier's readers, explaining:
He was not merely a naturalist, but possessed of a decid-
ed fancy and enthusiasm, which perpetually lifted him
into the purple atmosphere of Poesy. He colored richly;
dipped his brushes in the rainbow, and borrowed wings
for vision from the imagination, which enabled him to
rise always above the clouds. (Selected Poems 356)