The Lady Of The Grave.
 

Today`s the day, I always walk around the Cemetery.
To honour those,who gave their all, so that I might ever be.
For there is one grave, that I must see, each time I visit here,
Where President Jefferson Davis, has lain one hundred years.

Twas there I went, this very day, in uniform so proud.
To kneel, and there to talk to him, in voice that`s not too loud.
I wandered all across this place, in fields that stretch for miles,
To talk to him once more dear friend, to try, to make him smile.

As I approached, mid afternoon, a sight befell my eye,
A Southern gal, in period dress, his grave was standing by.
She spoke to me, in gentle tones, her voice like bluebird sweet,
Of how she`d waited many years, this day, for me, to meet.

She told of how it was for her, so sad for little Joe,
Told me things, I swear dear friend, that I did never know.
How Winnies broken heart did leave her pained and so upset,
She spoke as though I was her kin, and yet we never met.

Then said how pleased the family were, to be together now,
Out here in Virginia, `neath leaf filled hanging bough.
How every day, she can look out, to see that angel fine,
She knew exactly where it was, and said "the plan was mine"

How long there? I`ll never know, I just stood there, in a daze,
Transfixed by words and lost in time, held fast in her sweet gaze.
As she did tire, I realized, the time had come to go,
To say farewell, to this fair one, who had enthralled me so.

On bended knee, I kissed her hand, as I bade her goodbye,
With eyes closed tight, for I was so, afraid that I would cry.
With open eye, once more I looked, to gaze upon her face,
But here I was, so all alone, in solitary place.

Yet I do know, what happened there, in Hollywood that day,
I`ll ne`er forget that Lady`s face, nor words she had to say.
For Mrs Davis, I did see, Varina so divine,
This memory will stay with me, forever, and all time.

I go back now, as oft I can, vacations do I save,
In hope to catch, just one more glance, 
Of the lady, 
Of the grave.


 



 
 
 


Copyright: Roy Rawlinson, Oct, 1999

 

Story behind the poem.

The following is the e-mail message from a special friend, who wrote and told
us of her experience at Hollywood Cemetery.   The poem, The Lady of the Grave  was formed
from those wonderful moments that Annette has generously shared with us. .


11/02/99 : 0129hrs. 



Don't know whether y'all will be interested or not, but I spent yesterday
afternoon in Hollywood Cemetery. That's in Richmond, where 18,000
Confederate soldiers are buried, along with the unknown dead from
Gettysburg, the Veteran's who died at the R. E. Lee Camp, UCV Soldier's
Home, Longstreet's children who died during the War, Stuart, Fitz Lee,
Imboden, Pickett, and, oh, just a whole bunch of Confederate history lies
there.

Anyhow, the trees were gorgeous, in all their fall colors, the weather
was in the low 80's, not a cloud in the sky, and it was what we call a
"blue diamond day." It was also the last "walking tour of Richmond" for
the season. We do these tours from 2 to 4 PM on the first and last
Sundays of each month, April through October. The first Sunday is always
a different area of Confederate Richmond. The last Sunday is always
Hollywood Cemetery.

Sometimes I'm at the Pyramid, the first monument built to memorialize the
Confederate soldier - known back in 1868 as "the memorial granite pile!"
Over there, I'm a woman of the original Ladies Hollywood Memorial
Association. Sometimes I'm a grieving widow in the "unknown dead from
Gettysburg" section.  Sometimes, I'm at the Stuart monument. Once, I was
at the poet John Randolph Thompson's grave, but yesterday, I was in
1860's mourning attire in the Davis family section, where Jefferson and
Varina and their six children are buried. 

The Davis section is the farthest back into the Cemetery, so, even
though the walk started at the gate at 2 PM, I knew it would be at least
3:30 before they reached my station. I had planned to study up a bit on
the subject of the Davis family plot. But, there must have been 300
people walking, driving, or riding bikes through Hollywood yesterday.
Soon as they saw me sitting there, they'd pull over, or stop, to ask what
notables were buried around there, or just to see what was happening. By
the time I "did my thing," there must have been 30 people standing
around, even though only 12 of them had actually paid for the tour. We
don't mind - that's more customers for the next time, maybe. 

I was supposed to be just a generic mourner, and was supposed to talk
about mourning customs during the War, and to only casually mention a few
things about the Davis family. 

However, when the guide arrived with our walkers, the wild idea suddenly
struck me that I'd try to be Varina Davis - never tried "first person"
before, successfully, but yesterday, everything came together at the
right time, and the words just flowed out. It was so easy - I knew about
the children's illnesses and deaths, about "Little Joe's" accidental
death during theWar, how she worried about being poor, and about selling
Beauvoir, how she was upset over Winnie's broken engagement, how she was
present for Davis' re-interrment, when her children's bodies were moved
to Hollywood, how she decided on the Zolney monument to Davis, and the
angel monument for Winnie, how she was glad to be able to plan the family
section, how she had looked forward to being present for the unveiling of
the monument to Davis on Monument Avenue, how she was glad to finally
have all the family around her...Those tourists were looking over my
shoulder toward Varina's grave like she really had come back to talk to
them! I kind of wanted to sneak a glance, also. 

It will probably never happen like that again - even Jim, who owns the
tour company, and who is nervous as a cat about everything he's involved
with, (he's learned to be, around me, since he never knows what I might
say!), was just standing there amazed. 

But the best thing, I guess, was the young reenactor who came out for the
tour - uniform, back pack, Enfield, brogans, and all. I saw him when he
signed up, and I thought, "Son, you'd best lighten that load if you
expect to make it over all these hills." But, there he was, fresh as a
daisy. And, after I was finished, he took off his kepi, dropped down on
his knees, kissed my hand, and said, "Mrs. Davis, God bless you, Ma'am,
it's an honor to meet you. Will you tell the President that the war is
going hard for us in the field?" And he was crying, but so was I,
underneath all that black crepe veil! So I said, "God bless you, son,
I'll tell your Mother that I saw you,  and God bless the Southern
Confederacy." 

Well, that was a magic moment, and I wanted to tell y'all about it.
Annette

P.S. Did you know that William Davis (Billy) died on October 16, 1872,
Jefferson, Jr. died on October 16, 1878, and Varina died on October 16,
1906? Some kind of coincidence, isn't it?