A two-page fill-n-the-blanks handout in which your students will analyze the structure and themes of Williams’s “Tract,” a poem which should set your students to thinking about and debating the artificial aspects of the traditional funeral ceremony.
An Answer Key, which begins on a separate page, follows the student handout.
After it I have included four pages of detailed line-by-line commentary on the poem: Definitions of difficult vocabulary words and phrases; for example, what does Williams mean by “seventh class” in line 59?; the technical aspects of the horse-drawn funeral carriage, which I believe are examined in more detail than any discussion of “Tract” on the internet (for instance, what are the “brass rollers / and small easy wheels” in lines 28-29?); the little-noticed misspelling by Williams’s of funeral “wreaths,” a textual error never corrected during his lifetime; the symbolic importance of the religious terminology sprinkled throughout the poem; its skillful use of ambiguity; and so forth. Some of these you may wish to incorporate into your class period devoted to “Tract.”
The student handout is suitable as an in-class activity or for homework.
Prepared by Professor William Tarvin, Ph.D., who has published many articles on literature in scholarly journals.