Richard John Samuel Stevens
(1757 - 1837)

Stevens : Black-ey'd Susan : illustration

Black-ey'd Susan
(S./T.2Vn.Continuo)
Score, part(s) and cover page (PDF), €1.50 for bundled copies   Buy this item

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Pub. 1778. One of Stevens' first forays into print and, as he noted in his Recollections, an unsuccessful one: "When I had completed it, I confess that it pleased me exceedingly. As all young authors are partial to their own bantlings, I thought that I should profit most considerably by the sale of this cantata... Depending upon a rapid sale, I ordered the music printer to take off five hundred copies of it. At this time (in the year 1808) I have two hundred copies in my possession. This is what I most certainly deserved, for such consummate castle building and egregious vanity."

John Gay's ballad text (probably sung to Leveridge's tune) was extremely popular with working seamen, throughout the century after it was written. Several composers followed Thomas Arne's example (unfortunately now lost) and set the text as a cantata: versions by William Jackson (of Exeter) and Robert Broderip (of Bristol) are also available at notAmos.
Lyrics: John Gay

All in the downs the fleet was moor'd,
The streamers waving in the wind;
When black-ey'd Susan came on board:
"O where shall I my true love find?
Tell me, ye jovial sailors, tell me true,
If my sweet William sails among your 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 pois'd 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 landsmen say,
Who tempt with doubts thy constant mind:
They'll tell thee, sailors, when away,
In ev'ry port a mistress find.
Yes, yes, believe them when they tell thee so,
For thou art present wheresoe'er I go.

"If to far India's coast we sail,
Thy eyes are seen in di'monds bright,
Thy breath is Afric's spicy gale,
Thy skin is ivory, so white.
Thus ev'ry 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 less'ning boat, unwilling rows to land:
"Adieu", she cries! and wav'd her lily hand.