In Robinson's poem, "Mr. Flood's Party," what is a simile for the jug?  

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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:

Edwin Arlington Robinson's poem "Mr. Flood's Party" is a tribute to one man's experience of the fading days of his life. In it Robinson constructs a complex metaphor around a simile that compares a mother's sleeping child to Mr. Flood's jug of alcohol "that he had gone so far to fill, ...." In the complex metaphor of which the child/jug simile is a part, Robinson describes the uncertainty of life by comparing the jug to both the sleeping child and life’s uncertainty.

In the stanza-length metaphor, Mr. Flood set the jug down gently, as a mother would lay a sleeping child down, fearfully lest it be disturbed. The mother is fearful lest the child awaken. Mr. Flood is fearful lest the jug topple over on uneven ground; he is careful to see that it is on "firm ground." The metaphor turns then from the sleeping child simile, which uses the comparative “as,” to men's lives on firm ground. In a sweeping image, Robinson first settles the jug on firm ground, then speaks of "uncertain lives of men" which are "assuredly" not on firm ground:

assured that on firm earth
It stood, as the uncertain lives of men
Assuredly did not,

So the metaphor that the child/jug simile is part of moves from a gentle comparison of the jug to a sleeping child to a surprisingly bitter realization that includes the knowledge "that most things break," including "the uncertain lives of men," especially those of the “phantom salutations” from friends from “long ago.”

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Mr. Flood's Party

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