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"Mr. Flood's Party" doubtless stands in the Collected Poems as Edwin Arlington Robinson intended it, but a manuscript version of the poem included in the Lewis M. Isaacs Collection of Robinsoniana in the New York Public Library concludes in an entirely different manner from that of the printed version. Unfortunately, the manuscript is undated. It is, however, a signed, holographic fair copy. Probably it was written prior to the one that was published, and, since it is not a rough draft, one must assume that Robinson at one time seriously considered that version as the final form. Because the last stanza radically changes the interpretation of the poem, a comparison between the two versions is instructive.

The concluding stanza in the manuscript is as follows:

"For auld lang syne."—The weary throat gave out,

The last word perished, and the song was done.

He raised again the jug regretfully,

And without malice would have ambled on;

But hearing in the bushes a new sound,

He smote with new profanity the cause,—

And shook an aged unavailing fist

At an inhuman barrage of applause.

While minor variations exist in the first six stanzas of the manuscript and the published form of the poem, it is only in the last stanza that the change is significant. The first appearance of the poem concluded with this stanza:

"For auld-lang syne." The weary throat gave out,

The last word wavered; and the song being done,

He raised again the jug regretfully

And shook his head, and was again along.

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.

The poem was subsequently included in each edition of the Collected Poems. While minor revisions were made, the poem has not been substantially changed since its first publication.

The differences in the two concluding stanzas are obvious. From almost every point of view the two stanzas stand in direct contrast to each other: the Latinate, polysyllabic diction of the first is exchanged for simple monosyllables; rather than new action and dramatic content there is a reiteration of what has already been established; instead of ironic surprise there is a tone of nostalgia. And most significant is the change in the attitude toward Mr. Flood, from condescension and even mockery in the early version to sympathy with a note of admiration for Mr. Flood's stoic endurance.

"Mr. Flood's Party" is one of Robinson's most often anthologized poems. Emery Neff finds it "the short poem which perhaps best represents the quality of Robinson's personality and art." Robinson himself has been quoted as saying, "I suppose Mr. Flood is the best thing I ever did." The high opinion of this poem may be related to the quality of Robinson's revisions.