The Daemon Lover
"The Daemon Lover", also known as "James Harris", "James Herries", or "The House Carpenter" (Roud 14, Child 243) is a popular Scottish 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."
This ballad was one of 25 traditional works included in Ballads Weird and Wonderful (1912) and illustrated by Vernon Hill. The New York Times review of Hill's illustrations accompanying this ballad was noted as a particular highlight of his illustrations thus:
... the design of Satan rushing down through the waves with the boat containing the faithless wife, is tremendous. Satan himself has one of the most graceful and beautiful human bodies ever drawn; the rhythm of the whole is thrilling, and the conventionalized waves are splendid.
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.
Bob Dylan's "Man in the Long Black Coat" is the story told from the house carpenter's perspective.
Versions of the song, under its several titles, have been recorded by:
- Alasdair Roberts
- Andy Irvine
- Augie March - re-written as 'Men Who Follow Spring The Planet 'Round'
- Bob Dylan
- Boiled in Lead
- Buffy Sainte-Marie
- Clarence Ashley
- Custer Larue
- Daithi Sproule
- Damien Jurado
- Dave Van Ronk
- David Grisman
- Dervish (as "Sweet Viledee")
- Doc Watson
- Ewan MacColl
- Faun Fables
- The Handsome Family
- Household Tales (as "Treacherous As the Sea")
- Jean Ritchie
- Jeff Lang
- Joan Baez
- Kelly Joe Phelps
- Kim Larsen
- Lisa Moscatiello
- Martin Simpson
- Mick McAuley
- Mr Fox
- Natalie Merchant
- Nic Jones
- Nickel Creek
- Oakley Hall
- Peter Bellamy
- Pete Seeger
- Shocking Blue
- Steeleye Span
- Sweeney's Men
- The Baltimore Consort
- The Carolina Tar Heels
- The Ex
- The Mammals
- Tim O'Brien
- Tony Rice
- Ariella Uliano
- Wyndham Baird
- Cornelis Vreeswijk
- James Harris (The Dæmon Lover): Child Ballad 243
- The Tall Man in the Blue Suit: Witchcraft, Folklore, and Reality in Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, or the Adventures of James Harris: A Study of the use of Child ballad 243 in Shirley Jackson's story collection The Lottery by Norwegian scholar Håvard Nørjordet
- Solo album: Abocurragh, Andy Irvine AK-3, 2010.