Last Updated on September 19, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 409
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
In this passage, Eben addresses himself, referring to himself as "Mr. Flood," and he notes that the harvest moon is in the sky. The harvest moon appears late in the agricultural cycle, and it denotes the end of the year's fruitful days. Like the moon, Old Eben is nearing the end of his days. "The bird is on the wing" is from Edward FitzGerald's translation of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. The line refers to the passage of time, which is likened to a bird. This passage establishes the idea that Eben is, in his old age, looking back on his life.
Alone, as if enduring to the end
A valiant armor of scarred hopes outworn,
He stood there in the middle of the road
Like Roland's ghost winding a silent horn.
Eben wears his old, worn hopes as if they are armor. He is clad in them, and he stands like Roland in the epic poem The Song of Roland (Roland was one of Charlemagne's military leaders). Though others may look at Eben and only see a battered old man, he harbors secret battles and victories that others do not see. He plays a "silent horn," as others cannot hear it or know about his triumphs.
And only when assured that on firm earth
It stood, as the uncertain lives of men
Assuredly did not, he paced away
Eben places his jug down on the earth, and he only steps away from it when he is sure it is stable. The poet contrasts the jug's stability on the ground with the uncertainty of life. The jug is able to balance itself on the earth, but people cannot always do so.
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
That many friends had opened long ago.
At the end of the poem, Eben is standing and looking down on the town. There is not much left to him, as he is near the end of his days. He has walked most of the path of life. No one knows him anymore, and the people in the town have shut their doors to him. His friends are long gone, and he lives a lonely life.