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 100

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Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 100 THE SIMMS REVIEW

This characterization of Bartram coincides with Simms's own descrip-
tion of the properties every successful poet possessed: imagination,
fancy, and enthusiasm. Imagination was "the conceptive and creative"
capacity at the heart of a poet's "special endowment," Simms explained
in Poetry and the Practical (56). Its powers of discovery and invention
were responsible for a poet's ability to conceive of and communicate the
environment's aforementioned "revelations of truth" (88). Likewise, a
poet must have "fancy," which Simms explained was the "colouring or
decorative property" of poetry that contributed to its artfulness and pleas-
ing qualities (56). Coupled with imagination's "two broad wings, Faith
and Enthusiasm," Simms claimed these qualities "constitute what men
call `Genius"' (19-20).
Simms's account of how Travels "lifted [Bartram] into the purple
atmosphere,""borrowed wings for vision," and "enabled him to rise
always above the clouds" also echoes his own definition of poetry as
"winged Thought." Simms explains in Poetry and the Practical that this
was the rarified category of language that "prepare[s] the soul for still
nobler conditions than any which it has yet enjoyed" (49). This was the
affective quality of Bartram's prose Simms alluded to in his admission
that he had "almost insensibly, been beguiled by his fancy into the exer-
cise of my own" (Selected Poems 356). Just like poetry, Travels did not
diminish nature's ability to inspire others.
Equally poetic was Bartram's ability to "suggest ... correspond-
ing and sympathetic fancies to the mind" from the scenes he described
(357). Encouraging such epiphanies was another important responsibil-
ity of the poet, explains Simms in Poetry and the Practical. If there are
"moral and spiritual uses ... of winds and waters, trees and flowers," then
"the Poet is the Interpreter who can best reveal their import, as he is the
person most largely connected, in every way, with the universal nature"
(44, 46). This was part of a "constant struggle to grasp at the most univer-
sal and inflexible of the laws of nature," but Bartram was successful on
all accounts, according to Simms (67). The latter, by "using [Bartram's]
imagery and amplifying his suggestions with my own," sought "to per-
fect his pictures" and convey their "moral and spiritual uses" for another
generation of readers.
A handful of the poems in the "Notes from Bartram" series coin-
cide with this traditional Romantic relationship between nature, poet,
and mankind. "The Cypress," for instance, is characteristic of Simms's