Friday, July 27, 2012

Poetry Friday: Black-Eyed Susan and Sweet William

All in the dawn the fleet was moor'd,
The streamers waving to 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, if my sweet William
Sails among your crew?

Oh William, who high upon the yard,
Rocked with the billows to and fro,
Soon as her well-known voice he heard,
He sigh'd and cast his eyes below:
The cord slides swiftly thro' his glowing hands
And as quick as lightning, and as quick as lightning
On the deck he stands.

So sweet the lark, high poised in air,
Shuts close his pinions to his breast,
If, chance, his mate's shrill voice he hear,
And drops at once into her nest:
The noblest captain in the British fleet
Might envy William, might envy William's
Lip those kisses sweet.

'Oh 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, the faithful compass
That still points to thee.

'Oh, 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:
Yes, yes, believe them when they tell thee so,
For thou art present, 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 as ivory so white:
Thus every beauteous object that I view
Wakes in my soul, wakes in my soul
Some charm of lovely Sue.'

Though battle call me from thy arms
Let not my pretty Susan mourn:
Though cannon roar, yet safe from harms
William shall to his dear return:
Love turns aside the balls that round me fly
Lest precious tears, lest precious tears
Should drop from Susan's eye.

The boatswain gave the dreadful word,
Her sails their swelling bosom spread:
No longer can she stay on board -
They kissed, she sighed, he hung his head:
Her lessening boat unwilling rows to land,
'Adieu,' she cries, 'Adieu,' she cries
And waved her lily hand.

                              --John Gay

It's said one of America's favorite wildflowers was named for the Susan in this poem by the popular poet, John Gay.  The story of Susan and William live on in the flowers. If you plant  Black-eyed Susans and Sweet William seeds together, they will bloom together. Cool, huh? I think so!

Do you like Black-eyed Susans? I love them. Years ago I transplanted some wild Susans to my yard, and their seeds live on today in deep yellow petals with their brown (not black) eyes that bloom in my lawn. They grow freely there, and I dutifully mow around them! I don't mind the little extra effort it takes. The picture at the top of the page is one of them, looking very much like a hat!

The Black-eyed Susan is native to the plains, which is another reason I love them so (I'm a native myself). Native Americans found lots of uses for this versatile plant, including as an astringent, a diuretic, and ear drops. 

Head on over to Life is Better with Books to check out today's Poetry Friday roundup.



Andrea Murphy said...


Wildflowers are such a gift. I'm glad you mow around them.


I love the wildflowers, too. My non-suburban-attitude lawn is full of them.