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John Gay

Whether in person or in the garden, Susan is steadfast

What a happy coincidence. Her name is Susan and she really likes black-eyed Susans. So I asked Susan — the woman, not the plant — if she'd heard of the legendary love affair between black-eyed Susan and sweet William.

According to a classic 18th-century ballad written by the English poet John Gay, Susan was searching for her lover, William, prior to him departing for a long sea voyage. But instead of looking her best, by the time Susan located William, she looked awful. She'd been crying, you see, and had black circles ringing her eyes.

In any case, sweet William — Susan's pet name for William — consoled Susan as the two of them said their final...