> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > The Demon Lover
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> Peter Bellamy > Songs > The House Carpenter
> Cara > Songs > The House Carpenter

The Demon Lover / The House Carpenter

[ Roud 14 ; Child 243 ; G/D 2:332 ; Ballad Index C243 ; Bodleian Roud 14 ; trad.]

A.L. Lloyd sang The Demon Lover in 1956 on his and Ewan MacColl's Riverside anthology The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, Volume IV. Like all of his recordings from this series it was reissued in 2011 on his Fellside CD Bramble Briars and Beams of the Sun. He recorded this ballad again in 1964 on his and Ewan MacColl's Topic album English and Scottish Folk Ballads. This track is also on the expanded CD reissue of 1996 and on the compilation Classic A.L. Lloyd. Lloyd commented in the album notes:

In the 17th century a very popular ballad was printed by several broadside publishers, entitled: A Warning for Married Women, being an example of Mrs Jane Reynolds (a West-country woman), born near Plymouth, who, having plighted her troth to a Seaman, was afterwards married to a Carpenter, and at last carried away by a Spirit, the manner how shall be presently recited. To a West-country tune called The Fair Maid of Bristol, Bateman, or John True. Samuel Pepys had this one in his collection also. It was a longish ballad (32 verses) but a very poor composition made by some hack poet. Perhaps the doggerel writer made his version on the basis of a fine ballad already current among folk singers. Or perhaps the folk singers took the printed song and in the course of passing it from mouth to mouth over the years and across the shires they re-shaped it into something of pride, dignity and terror. Whatever the case, the ballad has come down to us in far more handsome form than Pepys had it. Though very rarely met with nowadays, it was formerly well-known in Scotland as well as in England. For instance, Walter Scott included a good version in his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1812 edn.). Generally the Scottish texts are better than the English ones, none of which tell the full story (we have filled out our version by borrowing some stanzas from Scottish sets of the ballad), but none of the Scottish tunes for it are as good those found in the South and West of England. Our present tune was noted by H. E. D. Hammond from Mrs Russell of Upway, near Dorchester, Dorset, in 1907. Cecil Sharp considered it “one of the finest Dorian airs” he had seen. Dr Vaughan Williams made a splendid choral setting of the opening verses of this ballad, which he called The Lover's Ghost.

The Watson Family sang this song as The House Carpenter in 1963 on their Folkways album The Doc Watson Family and Hedy West sang it on her 1966 Topic album of Appalachian Ballads, Pretty Saro. She commented in the sleeve notes:

This is the commonest collected version of The Demon Lover (James Harris) in the United States. The oldest known printed version is entitled A Warning for Married Women in which the “heroine” is identified as Mrs. Jane Reynolds, born near Plymouth. The date of the broadside is 1685. A.L. Lloyd says it was almost surely in oral tradition long before that. In the original British forms the returning lover was a ghost who wreaks a terrible revenge on the girl who wouldn't be faithful to his memory. This is on of the first songs Grandma and [grand uncle] Gus remember hearing their mother sing.

Sweeney's Men sang The House Carpenter in 1968 on their eponymous first Transatlantic album, Sweeney's Men.

LaRena Clark sang The House Carpenter in 1969 on her Topic album A Canadian Garland: Folksongs from the Province of Ontario.

Pentangle sang The House Carpenter in 1969 on their third Transatlantic album, Basket of Light.

Cyril Tawney sang The Carpenter's Wife in 1969 on his Polydor album The Outlandish Knight: Traditional Ballads from Devon and Cornwall.

Steeleye Span recorded Demon Lover in 1975 with quite different but related verses for their seventh album, Commoners Crown.

The Wassailers sang The Demon Lover in 1978 on their Fellside album Wassailers.

Peter Bellamy sang this song as The Housecarpenter on his 1979 album Both Sides Then. He commented on his sources:

This version learned from a recording of the Watson family of Deep Gap, North Carolina, with additional verses from a forgotten source.

Nic Jones sang Demon Lover in a live performance from the late 1960s that was included in 2006 on his Topic CD Game Set Match.

Brian Peters sang The Demon Lover in 1985 on his Fellside album Persistence of Memory and in 2008 on his album of Child ballads, Songs of Trial and Triumph.

Ed Rennie sang Little House Carpenter in 2004 on his Fellside CD Narrative.

Martin Simpson sang The House Carpenter in 2005 on his Topic album Kind Letters.

Emily Portman sang The Demon Lover in ca. 2005 as the title track of The Devil's Interval's EP At Our Next Meeting, and in 2014 on The Furrow Collective's album At Our Next Meeting. She commented in the latter's sleeve notes:

A.L. Lloyd gives me goose bumps in his version of this 17th century ballad. I've since heard many beguiling variants but I always return to this one for its poetic turns of phrase and eerie tune (collected from Mrs Russell of Upway, Dorset). It may have started out as a moral tale but I like the ambiguity of this retelling.

This video shows The Furrow Collective at The Glad Cafe in Glasgow on February 22, 2014:

Cara recorded The House Carpenter for their 2007 album In Between Times and on their 2008 DVD In Full Swing—Live. They comment in their sleeve notes:

This is a haunting version of an old ballad which has been done by many singers including Bob Dylan. It is also called James Harris or The Demon Lover (Child coll. #243) and dates back to a song by London-based ballad writer Laurence Price in 1657. The original title was A Warning for Married Women and is based on the story of Mrs. Jane Reynolds, “a West-Country Woman, born near Plymouth; who having plighted her troth to a Sea-man, was afterwards Married to a Carpenter, and last carried away by a Spirit...” It has everything a good ballad needs: a lovely lady, a husband, a lover, ships, heartbreak, death and the devil—what more can you ask for? Sandra found this version on an album by Mick McAuley.

Frankie Armstrong sang Demon Lover on her 2008 Fellside CD Encouragement.

Alasdair Roberts sang The Daemon Lover in 2010 on his CD Too Long in This Condition.

Jon Boden sang The House Carpenter as the May 22, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He noted in his blog:

Learnt this recently—I'm a bit torn whether to use the ‘sinking’ verse or not as I quite like the ‘what hills’ verses being more abstract—more like he's an actual demon taking her directly to Hell. I've left it in for now though.

Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys sang The Shining Ship on their 2017 CD Pretty Peggy. They noted:

A dark tale in which a lady's lover, long lost at sea, returns to her and persuades her to come away with him to a distant land. After boarding the ship, she realises that not all is as it seems…

Lyrics

A.L. Lloyd sings The Demon Lover Steeleye Span's Demon Lover

“Well met, well met, my own true love,
Long time I have been absent from thee.
I am lately come from the salt sea
And it's all for the sake, my love, of thee.”

“I have three ships all on the sea
And by one of them has brought me to land.
I've four and twenty seamen on board
And you shall have music at your command.”

She says, “I am now wed to a ship's carpenter,
To a ship carpenter I am bound.
And I wouldn't leave my husband dear
For twice the sum of ten hundred pound.”

“Well I might have a king's daughter,
And fain she would have married me.
But I forsook her crown of gold
And it was all for the sake, my love, of thee.”

“So I pray you leave your husband, dear,
And sail away with me.
And I'll take you where the white lilies grow
All on the banks of Italy.”

“And this ship wherein my love shall sail
Is wondrous to behold.
The sails shall be of shining silk
And the mast shall be of red beaten gold.”

So she dressed herself in her gay clothing
Most glorious to behold,
And as she trod the salt water's side
Oh she shone like glittering gold.

They hadn't sailed a day and a day
And a day but barely three,
She cast herself down on the deck
And she wept and wailed most bitterly.

“Oh hold your tongue, my dearest dear,
Let all your sorrows be.
I'll take you where the white lilies grow
All on the bottom of the sea.”

And as she turned herself roundabout,
So tall and tall he seemed to be,
Until the tops of that gallant ship
No taller were than he.

And he struck the topmast with his hand,
The main mast with his knee,
And he broke that shining ship in two
And he dashed it into the bottom of the sea.

“Where have you been, my long lost love,
This seven long years and more?”
“Seeking gold for thee, my love,
And riches of great store.”

“I might have married a king's daughter
Far, far beyond the sea.
But I refused the golden crown
All for the love of thee.”

“What have you to keep me with
If I with you should go?
If I forsake my husband dear
And my young son also?”

Chorus:
>𝄆 I'll show you where the white lilies grow
On the banks of Italy,
I'll show you where the white fishes swim
At the bottom of the sea. 𝄇

“Seven ships all on the sea,
The eighth brought me to land,
With four and twenty mariners
And music on every hand.”

She set her foot upon the ship,
No mariners could behold.
The sails were of the shining silk,
The masts of beaten gold.

Chorus

“What are yon high, high hills
The sun shines sweetly in?”
“Those are the hills of heaven, my love,
Where you will never win.”

Chorus

“What is that mountain yonder there
Where evil winds do blow?”
“Yonder's the mountain of hell,” he cried,
“Where you and I must go.”

He took her up to the top mast high
To see what he could see.
He sunk the ship in a flash of fire
To the bottom of the sea.

Chorus

Peter Bellamy sings The Housecarpenter Jon Boden sings The House Carpenter

“Well met, well met, my own true love,
Well met, well met,” says he,
“I've just returned from the salt, salt sea
And it's all for the love of thee.”

“Well met, well met, my own true love,
Well met, well met,” cried he,
“I've just returned from the salt, salt sea
And it's all for the love of thee.

“So come in, come in, oh my own true love,
And have a seat with me.
It's been three-fourths of a long long year
Since together we have been.”

“Oh I can't come in nor I won't sit down,
For I have but a moment's time.
For they say you are married to a house carpenter
So your heart would never be mine.

“And yet I could have married some king’s daughter fair,
And she would have married me,
But I forsaked her crowns of gold
And it’s all for the love of thee.

“Oh I could have married the king's daughter dear
And she would have married me,
But I have refused the crown of gold
And it's all for the love of thee.”

“If you could have married the king's daughter dear
I'm sure you are to blame,
For I am married to the house carpenter
And he is a fine young man.”

“So it's won't you forsake on your house carpenter
And come along with me?
I’ll take you where the grass grows green
On the banks of Italy.”

“Oh, if you'll forsake your house carpenter
And come along with me,
I'll take you to where the grass grows green
On the banks of Italy.”

“If I forsake my house carpenter
And come along with thee,
Oh, what have you got to maintain me upon
And to keep me from slavery?”

“Oh, I've six ships sailing on the salt sea,
A-sailing from dry land,
And a hundred and twenty jolly young men
Shall be at your command.”

So she's lifted up her little young son
And kisses she's gave it three, saying,
“Stay right here my darling little babe
And keep your papa company.”

She picked up her poor wee babe
And kisses she gave him three,
Saying, “Stay right here with the house carpenter
And keep him company.”

Oh, she picked up her poor wee babe
And kisses she gave him three,
Saying, “Stay right here with the house carpenter
And keep him company.”

Now they'd not been on board above two weeks,
I'm sure it was not three,
When his true love began to weep and moan
And she wept most bitterly.

They had not been two weeks at sea,
I'm sure it was not three,
When this poor maid began to weep
And she wept most bitterly.

“Are you weeping for your silver and your gold?
Are you weeping for your store?
Or are you weeping for your house carpenter
Whose face you'll never see no more?”

“Oh do you weep for your gold,” he said,
“Your houses, your land, or your store?
Or do you weep for your house carpenter
That you never shall see no more?”

Oh, a curse, a curse on the sailor she cried,
Yes a curse, a curse she swore,
“You've robbed me of my little young son
So I never shall see him no more!”

“I do not weep for my gold,” she said,
“My houses, my land, or my store.
But I do weep for my poor wee babe
That I shall never see more.”

They had not been three weeks at sea,
I'm sure it was not four,
When in their ship there sprang a leak
And she sank to the ocean floor.

“Oh what hills, what hills art those, my love,
Those hills that shine like gold?”
“Those are the hill of Heaven, my love,
Where you and I can't go.”

“What hills, what hills are those, my love,
That are so bright and free?”
“Oh, those are the hill of Heaven, my love,
But they're not for you and me.”

“And what hills, what hills art those, my love,
Those hills so dark and cold?”
“Those are the hill of Hell, my love,
Where you and I must go.”

“What hills, what hills, are those, my love,
That are so dark and low?”
“Oh, those are the hills of Hell, my love,
Where you and I must go.”

Now they'd not been on board above three weeks,
I'm sure it was not four,
Before there came a leak in the ship
And she sunk and the never rose more.