"The Daemon Lover"
, also known as "James Harris"
, "James Herries"
, or "The House Carpenter"
243) is a popular ballad
. It tells the story of a man (usually the Devil
), who returns to a former lover after a very long absence, and finds her with a husband (usually a carpenter) and a baby. He entices her to leave both behind and come with him, luring her with many ships laden with treasure. Together they board one of his ships, (which in many versions she is surprised to find does not have a crew) and put to sea.
- "But if I should leave my husband dear,
- Likewise my little son also,
- What have you to maintain me withal,
- If I along with you should go?"
- "I have seven ships upon the seas,
- And one of them brought me to land,
- And seventeen mariners to wait on thee,
- For to be love at your command."
She soon begins to lament leaving behind her child, but is heartened by spying a bright hill in the distance. Her lover informs her that the hill is heaven, where they are not bound. Instead he indicates a much darker coast, which he tells her is hell, their destination. He then breaks the ship in half with his bare hands and feet, drowning them both. In other versions, the ship is wrecked by a storm at sea.
- "O what a bright, bright hill is yon,
- That shines so clear to see?"
- "O it is the hill of heaven, " he said,
- "Where you shall never be."
- "O what a black, dark hill is yon,
- "That looks so dark to me?"
- "O it is the hill of hell," he said,
- "Where you and I shall be."
A popular American version is called "The House Carpenter".
Shirley Jackson's collection The Lottery and Other Stories was originally intended to be titled The Adventures of James Harris; several of the stories include slightly sinister or mysterious men, not obviously the same man, with this name.
Versions of the song, under its several titles, have been recorded by: