Black-Eyed Susan

Melody - Richard Leveridge

John Gay ~1720

All in the downs the fleet was moor'd,
The streamers waving in the wind,
When black-eyed Susan came on board,
"Oh, where shall I my true love find?
Tell me, ye jovial sailors, tell me true,
If my sweet William sails among your crew?"

William was high upon the yard,
kock'd by the billows to and fro,
Soon as her well-known voice he heard,
He sigh'd and cast his eyes below;
The cord slices swiftly thro' his glowing hands,
And, quick as lightning, on the deck he stands.
  "Believe not what the landsmen say,
Who tempt with doubts thy constant mind,
They'll tell thee sailors, when away,
In every port a mistress find.
Yet, yes, believe them when they tell thee so,
For thou art present wheresoe'er I go.

Oh Susan, Susan, lovely dear!
My vows for 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."

The boatswain gave the dreadful word,
The sails their swelling bosoms spread;
No longer must she stay on board;
They kiss - she sigh'd - he hangs his head;
The less'ning boat unwilling rows to land,
"Adieu," she cries, and waves her lily hand.

The words of this popular song were written by John Gay in about 1720. He was a highly successful writer and is chiefly remembered nowadays for his Beggar's Opera (1728). It is interesting how he makes William deny the sailor's most celebrated reputation for having 'a wife in every port'. Black-eyed Susan appears to accept his explanation even though it is a bit literary!
Richard Leveridge was famous for his voice. Apart from singing and composing, he also found time to open and run a coffee shop in Tavistock Street, Covent Garden. His most famous song betrays his interest in things gastronomic - 'The Roast Beef of Old England'

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