William Carlos Williams

I will teach you my townspeople
how to perform a funeral--
for you have it over a troop
of artists--
unless one should scour the world--
you have the ground sense necessary.

See! the hearse leads.
I begin with a design for a hearse.
For Christ's sake not black--
nor white either--and not polished!
Let it be weathered--like a farm wagon--
with gilt wheels (this could be
applied fresh at small expense)
or no wheels at all:
a rough dray to drag over the ground.

Knock the glass out!
My God--glass, my townspeople!
For what purpose? Is it for the dead
to look out or for us to see
how well he is housed or to see
the flowers or lack of them--
or what?
To keep the rain and the snow from him?
He will have a heavier rain soon:
pebbles and dirt and what not,
Let there be no glass--
and no upholstery! phew!
and no little brass rollers
and small easy wheels on the bottom--
my townspeople what are you thinking of!
A rough plain hearse then
with gilt wheels and no top at all.
On this the coffin lies
by its own weight,

No wreaths please--
especially no hot-house flowers,
Some common memento is better,
something he prized and is known by:
his old clothes--a few books perhaps--
God knows what! You realize
how we are about these things,
my townspeople--
something will be found--anything--
even flowers if he had come to that.
So much for the hearse.

For heaven's sake though see to the driver!
Take off the silk hat! In fact
that's no place at all for him
up there unceremoniously
dragging our friend out to his own dignity!
Bring him down--bring him down!
Low and inconspicuous! I'd not have him ride
on the wagon at all--damn him--
the undertaker's understrapper!
Let him hold the reins
and walk at the side
and inconspicuosly too!

Then briefly as to yourselves:
Walk behind--as they do in France,
seventh class, or if you ride
Hell take curtains! Go with some show
of inconvenience
; sit openly--
to the weather as to grief.
Or do you think you can shut grief in?
What--from us? We who have perhaps
nothing to lose? Share with us
share with us--it will be noney
in your pockets.
Go now
I think you are ready.

Editor’s note: The first pulication date for Tract was February 1916 the following year it appeared in William Carlos Williams A Book of Poems. Al Que Quiere! (Boston: The Four Seas Company, 1917): 26-28.

Tract (?), n. [ tractate.]

A written discourse or dissertation, generally of short extent; a short treatise, especially on practical religion.

The church clergy at that writ the best collection of tracts against popery that ever appeared. Swift.

Tracts for the Times. See Tractarian.


© Webster 1913.

Tract, n. [L. tractus a drawing, train, track, course, tract of land, from trahere tractum, to draw. Senses 4 and 5 are perhaps due to confusion with track. See Trace,v., and cf. Tratt.]


Something drawn out or extended; expanse.

"The deep tract of hell."



A region or quantity of land or water, of indefinite extent; an area; as, an unexplored tract of sea.

A very high mountain joined to the mainland by a narrowtract of earth. Addison.


Traits; features; lineaments.


The discovery of a man's self by the tracts of his countenance is a great weakness. Bacon.


The footprint of a wild beast.




Track; trace.


Efface all tract of its traduction. Sir T. Browne.

But flies an eagle flight, bold, and forthon, Leaving no tract behind. Shak.


Treatment; exposition.




Continuity or extension of anything; as, the tract of speech.




Continued or protracted duration; length; extent.

"Improved by tract of time."


9. R. C. Ch.

Verses of Scripture sung at Mass, instead of the Alleluia, from Septuagesima Sunday till the Saturday befor Easter;-so called because sung tractim,or without a break, by one voice, instead of by many as in the antiphons.

Syn. -- Region; district; quarter; essay; treatise; dissertation.


© Webster 1913.

Tract, v. t.

To trace out; to track; also, to draw out; to protact.


Spenser. B. Jonson.


© Webster 1913.

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