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The Study of Poetry and Literature for Children & Young Adults

Poetry Module 1: The Poetry Environment

Poetry Break #1---A "Classic" Poem

Baseball

Introduction: In my first poetry break I chose a classic poem to correspond with the excitement of the baseball season that is winding down here in upstate New York. This poem I think I have always known. My mother memorized it when she was in high school and would recite it to the six of us after our afternoon naps (we never slept) before we went out to play in the summer.
 

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 that 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 despised, 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 through 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 t'was 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 has fled from Casey's lip, the 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 favored land the sun is shining bright.

The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light.

And, somewhere men are laughing, and little children shout,

 

but there is no joy in Mudville --

mighty Casey has struck out.

caseyatthebat.jpg

Poetry Extension: Read slowly to a group of 3rd through 5th graders with quiet attention to the cadence of the poem. Then next day read again with children chosen to act the parts of Cooney, Barrows, Flynn, Jimmy Blake, Casey, the umpire and the crowds. The six playing the parts could patomine the actions and exagerate the emotions. The rest of the class can act as the crowd and shout "Fraud" when the ump calls Casey out. Best done before a free period on the playground. When they come in from the playground ask them what they thought of Casey at the Bat and be prepared for an interesting and lively discussion. Then tell them that this "sports story" is poetry.
 
Thayer, Ernest Lawrence. 1988. Casey at the Bat. Boston, Massachusetts: David R. Godine. ISBN 0879237728

Click on the following link to progress to the next poetry break.

Module #1--Poetry Break #2