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 102

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 102

Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 102 THE SIMMS REVIEW

Bartram's description of the snow drop is another instance of
nature having redemptive qualities analogous to human experience.
Simms's interpretation of these qualities in "The Snow Drop" begins
with a traditional symbol of a white flower to emphasize the purity and
value of chastity:
Oh! precious, with a crest of pure white flowers,
Showing the blest virginity in Hope,
That, midst the work of Winter's violent shocks,
Promises Spring; and, rising through the snow,
Asserts its triumph, over all assault,
And right to sunshine! And the green spear hedges,
With which it fences its sweet virgin flowers,
Declare the warrior-legions, set to rise,
And guard the shrines she consecrates to love.
(Selected Poems 117)
Simms translates the "The Snow Drop" into an icon of traditional virtue
in a world corrupted by utilitarian values. Simms valorizes the flower's
apparent conviction by highlighting the strength of its "blest virginity"
and "Hope," and how they withstand the "violent shocks" of cold, per-
sonified as a season laboring to undermine the flower's perseverance.
The Snow Drop is not a passive defender of its virtue, either. Its aggres-
siveness is revealed by its "assert[iveness] ... over all assault." Likewise,
the Snow Drop's leaves are militantly protective of the plant's virtue. In
contrast to the innocence associated with the flower's "pur[ity],""virgin-
ity," and "hope," martial "spear[s]" and insistent "warrior-legions" guard
the Snow Drop's "sweet virgin flowers." They fence in its "shrines" to
protect its integrity against anything other than what the chaste flower
"consecrates to love."
Like the quiet dignity of old age represented by the cypress, the
Snow Drop's zealous chastity was a traditional value that merited cele-
bration in a new age of market capitalism where morality seemed pliable.
Beyond just offering beautiful objects for pleasant reflection, Simms's
poems transform the tree and the plant into metaphors of model conduct,
converting their physical qualities into symbolic characteristics of virtue
that merit emulation. These two poems are characteristic, notes Kibler, of
how "Simms yokes the outer world to the inner world, or ... the world of
external physical nature with the mind of the individual or the spiritual
world to which it is allied" ("Perceiver and Perceived" 108). "Yokes" is