Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. III. Addison to Blake
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. III. The Eighteenth Century: Addison to Blake
 
Black-eyed Susan
By John Gay (1685–1732)
 
ALL in the Downs the fleet was moored,
  The streamers waving in the wind,
When Black-eyed Susan came aboard,
  ‘Oh! where shall I my true love find?
Tell me, ye jovial sailors, tell me true,        5
If my sweet William sails among the crew?’
 
William, who high upon the yard
  Rocked with the billow to and fro,
Soon as her well-known voice he heard
  He sighed, and cast his eyes below:        10
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—        15
  And drops at once into her nest.
The noblest captain in the British fleet
Might envy William’s lips those kisses sweet.
 
‘O Susan, Susan, lovely dear,
  My vows shall ever true remain;        20
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 landsmen say,        25
  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.        30
 
‘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,        35
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.        40
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;        45
  They kissed—she sighed—he hung his head.
Her lessening boat unwilling rows to land,
‘Adieu!’ she cries, and waved her lily hand.
 
 
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