James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

September 12

At the Grave of Walker

By Joaquin Miller (1841–1913)

  • General William Walker, after an eventful career in Central America, invaded Honduras and was there captured and shot by the authorities on Sept. 12, 1860.

  • HE lies low in the levelled sand,

    Unsheltered from the tropic sun,

    And now of all he knew not one

    Will speak him fair in that far land.

    Perhaps ’twas this that made me seek,

    Disguised, his grave one winter-tide;

    A weakness for the weaker side,

    A siding with the helpless weak.

    A palm not far held out a hand,

    Hard by a long green bamboo swung,

    And bent like some great bow unstrung,

    And quivered like a willow wand.

    Perched on its fruits that crooked hang

    Beneath a broad banana’s leaf,

    A bird in rainbow splendor sang

    A low, sad song, of tempered grief.

    No sod, no sign, no cross nor stone,

    But at his side a cactus green

    Upheld its lances long and keen;

    It stood in sacred sands alone,

    Flat-palmed and fierce with lifted spears;

    One bloom of crimson crowned its head,

    A drop of blood, so bright, so red,

    Yet redolent as roses’ tears.

    In my left hand I held a shell,

    All rosy lipped and pearly red;

    I laid it by his lowly bed,

    For he did love so passing well

    The grand songs of the solemn sea.

    O shell! sing well, wild, with a will,

    When storms blow loud and birds be still,

    The wildest sea-song known to thee!

    I said some things with folded hands,

    Soft whispered in the dim sea-sound,

    And eyes held humbly to the ground,

    And frail knees sunken in the sands.

    He had done more than this for me,

    And yet I could not well do more:

    I turned me down the olive shore,

    And set a sad face to the sea.