William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)
1I will teach you my townspeople
2how to perform a funeral --
3for you have it over a troop
5unless one should scour the world --
6you have the ground sense necessary.
7See! the hearse leads.
8I begin with a design for a hearse.
9For Christ's sake not black --
10nor white either -- and not polished!
11Let it be weathered -- like a farm wagon --
12with gilt wheels (this could be
13applied fresh at small expense)
14or no wheels at all:
15a rough dray to drag over the ground.
16Knock the glass out!
17My God-glass, my townspeople!
18For what purpose? Is it for the dead
19to look out or for us to see
20how well he is housed or to see
21the flowers or the lack of them --
23To keep the rain and snow from him?
24He will have a heavier rain soon:
25pebbles and dirt and what not.
26Let there be no glass --
27and no upholstery phew!
28and no little brass rollers
29and small easy wheels on the bottom --
30my townspeople what are you thinking of?
31A rough plain hearse then
32with gilt wheels and no top at all.
33On this the coffin lies
34by its own weight.
35 No wreathes please --
36especially no hot house flowers.
37Some common memento is better,
38something he prized and is known by:
39his old clothes -- a few books perhaps --
40God knows what! You realize
41how we are about these things
42my townspeople --
43something will be found -- anything
44even flowers if he had come to that.
45So much for the hearse.
46For heaven's sake though see to the driver!
47Take off the silk hat! In fact
48that's no place at all for him --
49up there unceremoniously
50dragging our friend out to his own dignity!
51Bring him down -- bring him down!
52Low and inconspicuous! I'd not have him ride
53on the wagon at all -- damn him --
54the undertaker's understrapper!
55Let him hold the reins
56and walk at the side
57and inconspicuously too!
58Then briefly as to yourselves:
59Walk behind -- as they do in France,
60seventh class, or if you ride
61Hell take curtains! Go with some show
62of inconvenience; sit openly --
63to the weather as to grief.
64Or do you think you can shut grief in?
65What -- from us? We who have perhaps
66nothing to lose? Share with us
67share with us -- it will be money
68in your pockets.
69 Go now
70I think you are ready.
1] The spaces dividing lines mark line-breaks in the 1916 edition.
15] dray: low cart lacking sides.
54] understrapper: underling, someone who harnesses the horses.
60] seventh class: the cheapest kind of fare for public transportation (exaggerated).
Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department
of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services,
University of Toronto Libraries.
Original text: William Carlos Williams, A Book of Poems. Al Que Quiere! (Boston: The Four Seas Company, 1917): 26-28. York University Library Special Collections 5773.
First publication date:
Publication date note: Others 2.2 (Feb. 1916)
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/20
Form note: unrhyming lines usually spaced at mid-point
Other poems by William Carlos Williams