Summary

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

“Mr. Flood’s Party” is a seven-stanza poem about a drunk man named Eben Flood who continues to drink on a hill alone, remembering times past. The first stanza addresses setting, stating that Eben has “climbed” the hill between town “below” and “upland hermitage,” or the more rural hilly lands surrounding. The stanza also identifies these geographical locations as the only home “he should ever know.” The reader begins to understand that Eben is elderly, has lived in this area a long time, and may not have much time left to linger there. He appears to live alone atop this hill without much of anyone to associate with. 

This idea of limited time remaining is reinforced in the second stanza when Eben begins talking to himself. He says that he might as well drink under this harvest moon, as there may not be many more for him. In other words, he does not expect to live another year. Readers may note that he is talking to himself because his friends have all passed away before him, and while this is true, there is also the possibility that he is hallucinating because he is already in a drunken state. In his drunken stupor, he is remembering times long past, essentially grieving and toasting to the good old days. He remembers when he was honored by old friends—the “phantom salutations” of friends who are no longer here.  At one point, Eben struggles to very carefully set down his jug because alcohol has disrupted his motor skills. His relationship with alcohol is further examined here; he lays the jug down with the care of a “mother lay[ing] her sleeping child.” This drink is something cherished, however unsettling the comparison is. Eben is well aware of how fragile life is and projects this onto the jug of alcohol. 

He gets up as if to welcome a friend into a party, though he plays both host and attendee. He insists that “Mr. Flood” have a drink with him, and he counters himself that he will only have “a very little…[f]or auld lang syne.”  "Auld Lang Syne" is a poem by poet Robert Burns, which means “time long past,” and is often read at commemorative ceremonies. The reader might infer that Eben drinks this night because the last of his old friends has passed away, making home feel a little less like home.

Over the remaining stanzas, the reader can see Eben become increasingly drunk. At a later point in the poem, he sees “two moons” instead of one, which shows the reader Eben is now drunk enough to see double. He is regretful, melancholy, and alone as he wearily finishes the song. The poem ends with a final toast to auld lang syne and the mournful thought that the town has become strange to him because so many friends have died. The town was once a place where friends opened their doors, and now it is where strangers shut him out. Clearly, life looks different than it used to for Eben Flood.

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