Casey at the Bat
By Ernest Lawrence Thayer
The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.
A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, “If only Casey could but get a whack at that—
We’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.”
But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.
But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despisèd, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.
Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.
There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile lit Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ‘twas Casey at the bat.
Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.
And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one!” the umpire said.
From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.
With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, “Strike two!”
“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered “Fraud!”
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.
The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.
Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.
Summary of Casey at the Bat
- Popularity of “Casey at the Bat”: Written by Ernest Lawrence Thayer, “Casey at the Bat” was first published in the San Francisco Examiner in 1888, but it was not until years later that the poem gained widespread recognition and became a household name. The poem’s enduring popularity lies in large part to its universal themes of hope, triumph, and defeat, which continue to resonate with readers and listeners of all ages. Thayer’s vivid descriptions and colorful characters, including the larger-than-life figure of Casey himself, have also contributed to the poem’s lasting fame. Over time, “Casey at the Bat” has been adapted into numerous forms, including films, plays, and musical compositions.
- “Casey at the Bat” As a Representative of Human Failure: The poem “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Lawrence Thayer represents a timeless and enduring theme of human failure and the fallibility of even the most talented individuals. The poem uses the story of the confident and renowned baseball player Casey as a representation of human pride and overconfidence. Despite his reputation as a skilled player, Casey ultimately fails to deliver when it matters the most. This aspect of the poem reflects the reality of life, where even the most talented individuals can fail to meet expectations or achieve their goals.
Through Casey’s failure, the poem also emphasizes the importance of humility and the dangers of arrogance. The poem is a reminder that success and failure are both parts of the human experience and that no one is immune to the consequences of their actions. Thus, “Casey at the Bat” is representative of the human condition, where success and failure are two sides of the same coin.
- Major Themes in “Casey at the Bat”: The poem “Casey at the Bat” explores several major themes through the tale of a baseball game in Mudville. The first theme that emerges is that of despair, as the Mudville Nine are losing 4-2 with only one inning left to play. This feeling of despair is amplified when Cooney and Barrows die at first, leading to a “pall-like silence” among the patrons of the game (line 4). However, the second theme of hope arises, as some still cling to the belief that if Casey were to bat, they could still win (lines 5-8). This is followed by the third theme of disappointment when Flynn and Blake precede Casey, and it appears that Casey may not even have the chance to bat (lines 9-12).
However, the fourth theme of triumph emerges when Flynn and Blake hit impressive shots, leading to a “lusty yell” from the crowd (lines 16-17). Finally, the fifth and most significant theme of the poem is that of the fall of the mighty, as Casey, who was previously regarded as invincible, strikes out and brings disappointment to Mudville (lines 49-52). Through these various themes, Thayer creates a story that resonates with readers and captures the essence of the highs and lows of life.
Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Casey at the Bat
Ernest Lawrence Thayer used various literary devices to enhance the intended impact of his poem. Some of the major literary devices are analyzed below.
- Allusion: It is a reference to a well-known person, place, or thing in history or literature that helps the reader understand the subject in the poem in lines 7-8, 49-52, the poet mentions Casey as a well-known baseball player, which helps the reader understand the importance of his appearance in the game.
- Assonance: It is the repetition of vowel sounds within words that are close together in a poem; as in lines 2-3, the words “score” and “four” have similar vowel sounds of /o/ as in “stood” and “two.”
- Consonance: It is the repetition of consonant sounds within words, such as /m/ sound in line 11 “So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat” in words “multitude” and “Melancholy” creates a harmonious effect.
- Hyperbole: It is an exaggeration or overstatement used to emphasize a point in the poem. The phrase “straggling few” in line 5 exaggerates the number of people who left the game.
- Imagery: It is the use of words or phrases that appeal to the senses in order to create a mental image or sensory experience in the poem. The lines 25-26, visualize Casey rubbing his hands with dirt and wiping them on his shirt and hearing the applause of the crowd.
- Irony: It is a situation or statement in which the actual outcome or meaning is opposite to what was expected or intended in the poem. Lines 11-12 note the “little chance” of Casey getting to the bat, but in fact, Casey does get to bat, and the game changes.
- Metaphor: It is a comparison between two things without using “like” or “as” in the poem. Line 4 shows the silence that falls upon the patrons of the game is compared to a “pall,” which is a heavy cloth used to cover a coffin, creating a solemn mood.
- Onomatopoeia: It is a word that imitates a sound in the poem. In lines 18-19, the word “rumbled” imitates the sound of thunder, while “pounded” imitates the sound of a beating heart.
- Personification: It gives human qualities to non-human things in the poem. Lines 29-30 show the described as “unheeded” as if it has a will of its own.
- Symbolism: It is the use of symbols or objects to represent abstract ideas or concepts. In this example, “Mighty Casey” symbolizes the idealized hero figure in American culture, representing strength, power, and the ability to rise to the occasion. However, Casey’s failure to deliver suggests a critique of this ideal, symbolizing the idea that even the most powerful figures can fail.
- Simile: A simile is a figure of speech that compares two things using “like” or “as” to create a vivid description. The poem shows the use of similes such as;
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore” (line 34)
“Like the tumult and the shouting” (line 52)
Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Casey at the Bat
Poetic devices are a sub-category of literary devices with distinct characteristics. They allow the poet to establish the atmosphere and tone of the poem and convey a hidden meaning. The following is an analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.
- Diction: It refers to the choice and use of words and phrases in writing or speech. Ernest Lawrence Thayer uses a range of diction to create an image of the baseball game, the characters, and their emotions such as in lines 1-2, the word “brilliant” is used to describe the outlook for the Mudville team, emphasizing the high hopes of the fans, while in lines 35-36, the word “kill” is used to describe the anger of the fans towards the umpire, creating a tone of violence and hostility.
- End Rhyme: End rhyme is a literary technique that occurs when the final words in two or more lines of poetry rhyme with each other such as Thayer employs end rhyme in the first stanza, “day” and “play” and “same” and “game” rhyme in the second.
- Meter: Meter is the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a poem. In “Casey at the Bat,” the meter is predominantly iambic, which means that each line consists of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable.
- Rhyme Scheme: Rhyme scheme is the pattern of rhymes that occurs in a poem. In “Casey at the Bat,” the rhyme scheme is AABB. This means that the first and second lines of each stanza rhyme with each other, as do the third and fourth lines.
- Poem Type: “Casey at the Bat” is a narrative poem. This type of poem tells a story through the use of verse.
- Stanza: “Casey at the Bat” is divided into six stanzas, each consisting of four lines. This type of stanza is known as a quatrain.
- Tone: Tone refers to the attitude or mood conveyed by a writer or speaker in a piece of writing or speech. In “Casey at the Bat,” the tone shifts throughout from melancholy and despairing, as the Mudville team is losing, to hopeful and excited. Finally, after Casey strikes out, the tone becomes mournful and disappointed.
Quotes to be Used
This quote can be used as a reminder to stay positive and hopeful, even in difficult times. It emphasizes that while things may not be going well in one particular situation, there are other parts of the world where happiness and joy still exist.
Oh, Somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light.