The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Mr. Flood’s Party” by Edward Arlington Robinson consists of seven eight-line iambic pentameter stanzas, each rhyming in an abcbdefe scheme. The rhythm is steady, natural, and unobtrusive. The rhymes are simple and precise, never forced or ostentatious. Thus, in the first stanza, lines 2, 4, 6, and 8 end, respectively, “below,” “know,” “near,” and “here.”

The poem presents an ambivalent verse portrait of an old man named Eben Flood. As he is walking up a hill one night back to his humble little house, he halts in the moonlit road to have a drink or two from the jug he refilled in the village, called Tilbury Town, down below. The first stanza of the poem alerts the reader at once to “Old” Eben’s solitary status: He is “climbing alone”; it is dark; and he is returning to his “forsaken upland hermitage,” which holds “as much as he should ever know/ On earth again of home.” Thus, he has no wife, has no family, is companionless, and undoubtedly has few possessions. The possibility that he is an alcoholic looms quickly—it is said that he “paused warily” to note that there was no “native near.” He can safely have a quick drink, not simply for the road but while actually on it.

Instead of lugubriously lamenting that he is close to death, Eben phrases his thoughts aloud in this stoic manner: “The bird is on the wing, the poet says/ And you and I have said it here before.” The “I,”...

(The entire section is 473 words.)