Culture and Poetry (Part 2)

In my last post I included the last lines of the great poem, Casey at the Bat.

What does this poem tell us about the meaning of life?  The poem gives us a glimpse into what can send us careening off the road to happiness – the lack of the virtue of moderation or temperance.

This poem is one of the most beloved in American literature.  A baseball team from Mudville is losing the game.  Both the team and its fans are confident that they can win the game if Mighty Casey, the team’s star player, can get to bat.  He gets the chance with two men on base and two outs in the bottom of the ninth.  Casey is so confident of his abilities that he does not swing at the first two pitches, both called strikes. On the third pitch he swings, striking out, ending the game and sending the crowd home angry at his arrogance.

This poem represents a hero, the star player, who, with great athletic abilities, was given the opportunity to fight the many trials of an adventure in search of a great gift – a winning season and a winning team.  However, this hero lacks the virtue of moderation needed to fight the trials and win the game.  His lack of humility causes the game and the season to be lost.  As a result of his arrogance, Casey, the hero, returns to the everyday world and becomes another average player, and his society (his team and fans) are without the joy of a winning game.

So, Casey became a hero on an adventure due to his great athletic abilities.  But, he was destined to fail.  Why?  Because he lacked the virtue of moderation or humility.  He gave into the temptation of arrogance or pride.  He had some of the virtues needed to be a hero – perhaps wisdom and courage, but he lacked a third vital virtue.  Without this third virtue, he would soon lose his hero status and return to being an average baseball player, and his society would not benefit from the great gifts (a winning season) that Casey was sent to capture.

What is the lesson learned?  The virtue of moderation is needed to resist the temptations along our personal roads to happiness.

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