Edwin Arlington Robinson
Mr. Flood's Party (c. 1920)

 

Old Eben Flood, climbing alone one night

 

Over the hill between the town below

 

And the forsaken upland hermitage

4

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,

8

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,

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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,

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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

20

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

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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

28

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,

32

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

36

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:

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"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,

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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,

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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

52

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

56

That many friends had opened long ago.


11. The poet of reference is Omar Khayyám, author of The Rubáiyát.

20. Roland's ghost: A commander of Charlemagne's rear-guard in 778, Roland is urged to summon aid by sounding his horn, but from excess of pride he defers doing so until it is too late, and the entire rear-guard is killed.

37. convivially: jovially, festively.

39. acquiescent quaver: submissive shake or tremble.

42. auld lang syne: old times' sake.