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.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Although “Mr. Flood’s Party” is a short narrative poem of only fifty-six lines, Robinson includes aspects of the dramatic monologue in it. Eben Flood speaks in four of the seven stanzas, for a total of 113 words. His fragmentary snatches of talk thus constitute a soliloquy, during the delivery of which he thinks, or perhaps only pretends to think, that he is addressing his other self, who answers courteously. Moreover, the poem satisfies another requirement of the dramatic monologue: Eben’s words reveal his essential character at an epiphanic moment and in the presence of a listener.

Robinson combines generally simple diction and profound meaning. His most complex words here are “acquiescent,” “convivially,” “harmonious,” and “salutation.” Similarly, his meter and rhymes are basic and unvaried. For example, the following lines have ten syllables each, which when read aloud are found to be naturally accented on the even-numbered syllables: “Alone, as if enduring to the end” and “And there was nothing in the town below.” The words constituting Robinson’s rhyme scheme are also precise, with two exceptions, which are sight rather than sound rhymes: “come” and “home,” and “done” and “alone.”

The point of view in “Mr. Flood’s Party” is that of an objective, omniscient, third-person observer. He watches and listens as Eben is returning home, pausing, drinking, and talking to himself. This...

(The entire section is 508 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Anderson, Wallace L. Edwin Arlington Robinson: A Critical Introduction. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1968.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Edwin Arlington Robinson. New York: Chelsea House, 1988.

Coxe, Louis. Edwin Arlington Robinson: The Life of Poetry. New York: Pegasus, 1969.

Franchere, Hoyt C. Edwin Arlington Robinson. New York: Twayne, 1968.

Joyner, Nancy Carol. Edwin Arlington Robinson: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1978.

Murphy, Francis, ed. Edwin Arlington Robinson: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1970.

Smith, Chard Powers. Where the Light Falls: A Portrait of Edwin Arlington Robinson. New York: Macmillan, 1965.