Culture and Poetry

In my last few posts I have talked about how important it is to study the humanities to see how those great thinkers and artists before us dealt with the many issues in life.  More importantly, these great thinkers and artists have spent their lives thinking about the one question that all of us ask: “What is the meaning of life?”

There is perhaps no greater question that demands an answer.  The humanities have given us the answer, but it needs to be uncovered.  If it were that easy to see, then no one would need the question answered and we would all be happy and content in life.

I would like to spend the next several posts discussing how great poetry helps us find the meaning of life.

Let’s start with a poem well-known to most Americans.  The following are the last lines of the poem.

Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888, 37-52

(Thayer, 1888)

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 spheroid 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 favored 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.

In my next post, an analysis of this great poem.

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