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Short poem

Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869-1935)

Mr. Flood's Party

              1Old Eben Flood, climbing alone one night
              2Over the hill between the town below
              3And the forsaken upland hermitage
              4That held as much as he should ever know
              5On earth again of home, paused warily.
              6The road was his with not a native near;
              7And Eben, having leisure, said aloud,
              8For no man else in Tilbury Town to hear:

              9"Well, Mr. Flood, we have the harvest moon
            10Again, and we may not have many more;
            11The bird is on the wing, the poet says,
            12And you and I have said it here before.
            13Drink to the bird." He raised up to the light
            14The jug that he had gone so far to fill,
            15And answered huskily: "Well, Mr. Flood,
            16Since you propose it, I believe I will."

            17Alone, as if enduring to the end
            18A valiant armor of scarred hopes outworn,
            19He stood there in the middle of the road
            20Like Roland's ghost winding a silent horn.
            21Below him, in the town among the trees,
            22Where friends of other days had honored him,
            23A phantom salutation of the dead
            24Rang thinly till old Eben's eyes were dim.

            25Then, as a mother lays her sleeping child
            26Down tenderly, fearing it may awake,
            27He set the jug down slowly at his feet
            28With trembling care, knowing that most things break;
            29And only when assured that on firm earth
            30It stood, as the uncertain lives of men
            31Assuredly did not, he paced away,
            32And with his hand extended paused again:

            33"Well, Mr. Flood, we have not met like this
            34In a long time; and many a change has come
            35To both of us, I fear, since last it was
            36We had a drop together. Welcome home!"
            37Convivially returning with himself,
            38Again he raised the jug up to the light;
            39And with an acquiescent quaver said:
            40"Well, Mr. Flood, if you insist, I might.

            41"Only a very little, Mr. Flood --
            42For auld lang syne. No more, sir; that will do."
            43So, for the time, apparently it did,
            44And Eben evidently thought so too;
            45For soon amid the silver loneliness
            46Of night he lifted up his voice and sang,
            47Secure, with only two moons listening,
            48Until the whole harmonious landscape rang --

            49"For auld lang syne." The weary throat gave out,
            50The last word wavered; and the song being done,
            51He raised again the jug regretfully
            52And shook his head, and was again alone.
            53There was not much that was ahead of him,
            54And there was nothing in the town below --
            55Where strangers would have shut the many doors
            56That many friends had opened long ago.


11] From Edward Fitzgerald's Rubáiyát.

20] Roland: in the medieval French poem, La Chanson de Roland, the heroic knight dies while defending the pass of Roncevaux because he rejects sounding of his horn for help from Charlemagne's forces until the last, when too little time remained.

49] For auld lang syne: Scottish phrase, literally "For old long ago" (i.e., "for the good old times").

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Collected Poems, with an introduction by John Drinkwater (London: Cecil Palmer, 1922): 573-75. PS 3535 O25A17 1922 Robarts Library.
First publication date: 24 November 1920
Publication date note: The Nation (Nov. 24, 1920).
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 2:2002/4/3

Rhyme: abcbdefe

Other poems by Edwin Arlington Robinson