Old Eben Flood, climbing alone one night
Over the hill between the town below
And the forsaken upland hermitage
That held as much as he should ever know
On earth again of home, paused warily.
The road was his with not a native near;
And Eben, having leisure, said aloud,
For no man else in Tilbury Town to hear:

“Well, Mr. Flood, we have the harvest moon
Again, and we may not have many more;
The bird is on the wing, the poet says,
And you and I have said it here before.
Drink to the bird.” He raised up to the light
The jug that he had gone so far to fill,
And answered huskily: “Well, Mr. Flood,
Since you propose it, I believe I will.”

Alone, as if enduring to the end
A valiant armor of scarred hopes outworn,
He stood there in the middle of the road
Like Roland’s ghost winding a silent horn.
Below him, in the town among the trees,
Where friends of other days had honored him,
A phantom salutation of the dead
Rang thinly till old Eben’s eyes were dim.

Then, as a mother lays her sleeping child
Down tenderly, fearing it may awake,
He set the jug down slowly at his feet
With trembling care, knowing that most things break;
And only when assured that on firm earth
It stood, as the uncertain lives of men
Assuredly did not, he paced away,
And with his hand extended paused again:

“Well, Mr. Flood, we have not met like this
In a long time; and many a change has come
To both of us, I fear, since last it was
We had a drop together. Welcome home!”
Convivially returning with himself,
Again he raised the jug up to the light;
And with an acquiescent quaver said:
“Well, Mr. Flood, if you insist, I might.

“Only a very little, Mr. Flood —
For auld lang syne. No more, sir; that will do.”
So, for the time, apparently it did,
And Eben evidently thought so too;
For soon amid the silver loneliness
Of night he lifted up his voice and sang,
Secure, with only two moons listening,
Until the whole harmonious landscape rang —

“For auld lang syne.” The weary throat gave out,
The last word wavered; and the song being done,
He raised again the jug regretfully
And shook his head, and was again alone.
There was not much that was ahead of him,
And there was nothing in the town below —
Where strangers would have shut the many doors
That many friends had opened long ago.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Edwin Arlington Robinson's poem Mr Flood’s Party

15 Comments

  1. stephen says:

    he has been doing this for years he wasn’t at his first rodeo. he is another example of unfulfilled people’s dreams and makes this long trek for booze regularly. NOT a bleeding heart.

  2. jill weissich says:

    Mr. Flood had quit drinking (perhaps after alienating the folks in Tilbury Town). Then, he relapsed. He can’t wait until home before he drains the jug “he had gone so far to fill.”
    He pretends he was tempted by “the bird on the wing,” or poetry, or “auld lang syne,” which momentarily dulls his sense of shame. “Welcome home” says the alcoholic upon tasting his first sip. He has lost home, friends, work, and is now debating with himself or singing on a lonely cold night. The irony is in the title: “Mr. Flood’s Party.” A party of one.

  3. Missy says:

    auld lang syne is the song that plays at New Years!!!!! but i dont think the poem is actually on new years, hes just thinking of past times and is very drunk…

  4. Sarah G says:

    This poem is set in the fall, hence “Harvest Moon”, NOT new years eve, despite the song he sings.

  5. Steve says:

    well, take a deep breath, and upon exhaling, realize that, in the grandest of metaphors, Mr. Flood is all of us. We are all, at the very core of life, as “alone” as Mr. Flood appears to be to those who have commented thus far. What does it say about our cultures when “alone” is perceived to be such a bad thing. We always feel sorry for the person alone at a restaurant or movie … why? We constantly strive to surround ourselves with others, and all too often, merely to distract us from the fact that we are “alone” – – – even in a crowd, we have all felt alienated, disaffected, or alone. Enough of the rant: if you’ve made it this far, to me; Mr. Flood is alone, and in a moment of gracious surrender to that existential angst, he chooses to embrace the feeling and reflect on a point that we all will arrive at – or die too early to understand. Goodnight Mr. Flood — it’s been a wonderful party!

  6. Richard says:

    Can someone please explain the allusion, “Auld Lang Syne”

  7. EBEN says:

    As an Eben (yes, it’s an old Yankee name, EH-ben, not EE-ben) I was delighted that in early 1984 our freshman English class at Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusetts, covered a poem about someone named Eben. That’s all I’ll say for now.

  8. Celeste says:

    Mr Flood’s party is not about a drunk lonley old man who has outlived his friends. Mr. Flood is just a man who has willing left his old life and friends. His friends were not dead. His old friends were in town below him.(20). The friends of “other days had honored him/ A phantom salutation of the dead”(2o). Meaning, honored as a privilege, phantom as the past and salutation as good bye. So he talks about a privlilege from the past he left behind “his drinking buddies”. It has been a long time scence he has had a drink. “Well Mr. Flood, we have not met like this in a long time” (35) So the man is not drunk. He starts arguing with himself not to drink.”He set the jug down…” (25)/ “With his hand extended out paused again:” (30). Then finally he gives in. “Welcome home!” (35). So Mr. Flood’s Party is not about a drunk old man, it is about a man who is strugeling whith changing his life.

  9. Tabitha says:

    I absolutly love E.A. Robinson’s poetry! He is the best American writer ever!!!

  10. Trevor says:

    To the post below: Are you freaking serious?

  11. Shanita says:

    At first this poem seemed to be confusing but after reading it again it became apparent that this is an old drunk man who is sad and lonely.

  12. Lori says:

    this poem is a bit confusing at first but once you read it a couple of times you start to get the gist of it.

  13. Sarah says:

    I only read it because of english class but i love the poem once I did read it!

  14. Denise says:

    To analyze this poem correctly, you have to know the author’s other poem’s, because Edwin Arlington Robinson wrote about very somber and melancholy things. He made “Tilbury Town” because he needed a place for all of the outcasts of his poems. Mr. Flood, who lives in Tilbury town, is no exception. He writes about isolationism and people who feel alone for some reason. According to Robinson, Eben Flood is alone because he has outlived his youthfulness and in turn has outlived all his friends.

    I love “Mr. Flood’s Party” simply because I love the idea of an elderly man alone on a hilltop drunk and talking to himself. I don’t however like the overall pathos created throughout the poem with Robinson’s tone and views of old age. However, if Robinson’s intentions had been to give everyone a sense of sorrow over Eben Flood’s pithetic life, I applaud him as he has accomplished his goal.

  15. David Goldblatt says:

    The accompanying essay speaks of “the mooed of the poem,” suggesting that a few cows, at least, came to the party. Nice to think he wasn’t entirely alone with his other self.

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