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English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

John Gay

276. Black-Eyed Susan

ALL in the Downs the fleet was moor’d,

The streamers waving in the wind,

When black-eyed Susan came aboard;

‘O! where shall I my true-love find?

Tell me, ye jovial sailors, tell me true

If my sweet William sails among the crew.’

William, who high upon the yard

Rock’d with the billow to and fro,

Soon as her well-known voice he heard

He sigh’d, and cast his eyes below:

The cord slides swiftly through his glowing hands,

And quick as lightning on the deck he stands.

So the sweet lark, high poised in air,

Shuts close his pinions to his breast

If chance his mate’s shrill call he hear,

And drops at once into her nest:—

The noblest captain in the British fleet

Might envy William’s lip those kisses sweet.

‘O Susan, Susan, lovely dear,

My vows shall ever true remain;

Let me kiss off that falling tear;

We only part to meet again.

Change as ye list, ye winds; my heart shall be

The faithful compass that still points to thee.

‘Believe not what the landmen say

Who tempt with doubts thy constant mind:

They’ll tell thee, sailors, when away,

In every port a mistress find:

Yes, yes, believe them when they tell thee so,

For Thou art present wheresoe’er I go.

‘If to fair India’s coast we sail,

Thy eyes are seen in diamonds bright,

Thy breath is Afric’s spicy gale,

Thy skin is ivory so white.

Thus every beauteous object that I view

Wakes in my soul some charm of lovely Sue.

‘Though battle call me from thy arms

Let not my pretty Susan mourn;

Though cannons roar, yet safe from harms

William shall to his Dear return.

Love turns aside the balls that round me fly,

Lest precious tears should drop from Susan’s eye:

The boatswain gave the dreadful word,

The sails their swelling bosom spread,

No longer must she stay aboard;

They kiss’d, she sigh’d, he hung his head.

Her lessening boat unwilling rows to land;

‘Adieu!’ she cries; and waved her lily hand.