Casey on the Strip

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The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the foil squad that night;

The score stood seven bouts to five, with three more left to fight,

And after Cooney’s body cord had snapped – and so he lost –

The third-to-last opponent to the strip had calmly crossed.

The fifty people watching were enthralled in thick suspense.

They thought, “If only now were mighty Casey’s turn to fence,

He’d win the bout – he’s beat this man two times before, or three,

And Flynn can fence the last man, who is even worse than he.”

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Black,

And the former never parried and the next could not attack.

There was little chance that they’d win, so in spite of Casey’s tricks,

The tournament would still be lost by nine bouts to their six.

But Flynn let fly a mighty fleche with feats of daring-do,

And Jimmy Black, the much despised, won by five to two,

And when the lights stopped flashing, all the audience was awed,

For now the score was tied, with seven bouts to either squad.

Then from the fifty people there arose a lusty yell:

It rumbled through the valley and it rattled in the dell:

The epees and the sabres joined this show of fellowship,

For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the strip.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped behind the line;

They gently tested weapons, and his smile was benign,

And when his hand closed, tightening, around his pistol-grip,

No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey on the strip.

One hundred eyes were waiting for the battle to commence.

The two saluted graciously and heard a “Ready, fence!”

Then Casey lunged like lightening, the machine one light gave out,

And Casey very soon amassed four touches in the bout.

Now the opponent’s foil plunged at Casey through the air,

And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.

Unparried, it impacted his lamé’s metallic weft.

“That’s not my style,” said Casey. The director said, “touch left.”

From the fifty watching people, there went up a muffled roar

Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.

“Test weapons once again!” one cried. “There must be something wrong!”

And there might have been a riot had not Casey calmed the throng.

Between director and the crowd did Casey intercede,

He stilled the rising tumult, and he bade the bout proceed.

So three more times against him his opponent’s weapon fell,

And Casey thrice ignored it. The director said, “La Belle.”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened fifty, and the echo answered, “Fraud!”

But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.

His face was stern behind his mask; they saw his muscles strain,

And knew that Casey would not let himself be hit again.

His face is clenched in hate as he salutes and stands en garde.

The director calls out, “Ready, fence!” and Casey’s eyes are hard.

Forth comes the other foil like a gleaming metal ghost,

And now the air is shattered by his parry and riposte!

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,

And somewhere birds are singing, and somewhere hearts are light.

And somewhere men are laughing, and little children play,

But there’s no joy on the foil squad since Casey’s mal parre.

by Aaron J. Dinkin (with apologies to Ernest L. Thayer)

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