Williams, William Carlos

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita
  • Date of entry: Jul-05-2001


The speaker proposes that traditional practices of burying the dead are too sober and should be replaced by simpler practices. Townspeople are as skilled as "artists" and able to "perform a funeral." Instead of the lugubrious black hearse, a farm wagon will do. There is no need for "windows," "upholstery," or "brass rollers."

Nor are formal "wreaths" or "Hot house flowers" appropriate; more suitable are mementos such as a prized book or old clothes. The silk hatted driver is overdressed and should wear more ordinary attire and walk at the wagon's side. Whatever the weather, mourners, who soon will follow the dead person's lead, should abandon their cars and follow the wagon on foot--and grieve openly.

On one level the poem urges a more honest funeral, one without pomp and circumstance. On another level, Williams is addressing the need for an American idiom devoid of pretension and borrowed imagery.


For those reading Williams in a literature and medicine context, Hugh Crawford's book, Modernism, Medicine, & William Carlos Williams (annotated in this database), may be of interest.


First published: 1917

Primary Source

The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, Vol. 1


New Directions

Place Published

New York




A. Walton Litz & Christopher MacGowan