Poetry Analysis of "Casey at the Bat"
Hot dogs, peanuts, Cracker Jack and poetry don't usually go together, but in "Casey at the Bat," Ernest Thayer has created a poem as prolific and American as baseball itself. As former baseball player and executive Albert Spalding said, "Love has its sonnets galore. War has its epics in heroic verse. Tragedy its sombre story in measured lines. Baseball has Casey at the Bat." This fun loving-poem, written in 1888, has stood the test of time with measured verse and readable language.
The content of this poem is America's sacred pastime: baseball. The author creates a tone that mirrors the sacrosanct nature of the sport. Tone is the author's attitude toward what he is writing, and Thayer definitely portrays a respectful, thoughtful tone. He shows the universality and importance of baseball with the line "Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright; / The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light."
The language is simple to understand, and the way Thayer sets the scene brings an energy to the poem. He uses strong verbs that keep the narrative line flowing, such as "rumbled," "rattled," "pounded" and "recoiled." He also creates pictures with his language that are easily captured by the reader. One example: "Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip." Another very vivid line is "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." The combination of clever adjectives like "muffled" and "stern," with the word "beating," creates the picture of a storm.
Thayer uses several poetic devices to create a vibrant picture. He uses a metaphor, a comparison of two unlike things, to compare the poor baseball game performance to death. He mentions when "Cooney died at first" and "A pall-like silence fell." This shows that the game really was life and death for the people involved. He also uses personification, giving human qualities to objects, when he says "So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat." Melancholy, or sadness, would not be sitting like a human would. Thayer also employs hyberbole, exaggeration for effect, when he says "Ten thousand eyes were on him." This magnification shows just how important the game of baseball was to the little town of Mudville.
The poem is a narrative, a poem that tells a story with a beginning, middle and end. The story is clearly set up with 13 stanzas and a definitive rhyme scheme. Rhyme scheme is the pattern of rhyme for the last word of each line. In this case it is aabb. In stanza one, for instance, the last words of the first two lines rhyme with each other -- day/play -- and the last words of the third and fourth lines rhyme -- same/game. The rhythm is also set up clearly. By measuring the meter of this poem, the set of unstressed/stressed syllables, the reader can see that there are seven sets of unstressed/stressed syllables. This is known as iambic heptameter.
Kathryne Bradesca has been a writing teacher for more than 15 years. She has also contributed to newspapers and magazines such as "The Morning Journal" and "The Ignatius Quarterly." Bradesca received a master's degree in teaching from Kent State University.