Sunday, January 31, 2010

Take This Tune

This week Jamie of Take This Tune proposes the challenge of posting in song the romance of a lover thought lost who finally comes home! She suggests that the folk tale/myth lies at the heart of folk ballads such as "The Demon Lover," "John Reilly," or "Pretty, Fair Maiden in the Garden."

I searched the web for the ballad of The Demon Lover and found several versions, especially the American one called "The House Carpenter." Find below the lovely voice of Joan Baez singing the song that tells of 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.

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.

LYRICS for "The House Carpenter"
Child Ballad #243.

"Well met, well met, said an old true love.
"Well met, well met, said he.
"I have just returned from the salt, salt sea.
"And it's all for the love of thee."
Come in, come in, my own true love,
And have a seat by me.
It's been three-fourths of a long, long year,
Since together, we have been.

"I can't come in and I can't sit down,
"For I've only a moment's time.
"They say you're married to a house carpenter,
"And your heart will never be mine.

"I could have married a King's daughter, fair,
"And she would have married me,
"But I have forsaken her crowns of gold,
"And it's all for the love of thee."

"Now you forsake your house carpenter,
"And go along with me.
"I'll take you where the grass grows green.
"On the banks of the deep blue sea."

Then she picked up a darlin' little babe,
And kisses, she gave it three.
Saying "Stay right here, my dalrin' little baby,
"And keep your pappa company."

They had not been on the ship two weeks,
I'm sure it was not three,
Till his true love began to weep and to mourn,
And she wept most bitterly.

Sayin': "Are you weepin' for my silver and my gold."
Sayin': "Are you weepin' for my store?
"Or are you weepin' for your house carpenter,
"Whose face you'll never see no more?"

"A curse, a curse to the sailor," she cried.
"A curse, a curse," she swore.
"You robbed me of my darlin' little babe,
"That I shall never see no more."

They had not been on the ship three weeks,
I'm sure it was not four,
When there came a leak in the bottom of the ship,
And sank them for to rise no more.

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.


Jamie said...

There is an old book by Taylor Caldwell, "Grandmother and the Priests" that tells short stories told at the dinner table each week by a woman's guests. In one Satan takes on his handsome appearance as the most beautiful of the archangels and "son of the morning star". That illustration reminds me of that description and much more evil than any of the modern "scary and ugly" depictions.

Fairweather said...

Excellent, Mary! (That's one of my favorite Child ballads, BTW.):)

Robin said...

Such a beautiful song. So many of the Child Ballads are so dark, but oh so wonderful.

(A confirmed folkie here - and one who leans towards the traditional end of the scale most of the time)

Carolyn Ford said...

I always have loved Joan Baez...anything she sings! And, I loved this song so much! I am glad to hear it again...beautiful.

Putz said...

al2ways teaching teach/t mary/t, all the church history relating to your header, music teaching, i guessuss maybe you are a liberal arts teacher and blog teacher toooooo, so i guess i had better get used to it, huh, ehhhhh?????

Travis said...

I've never heard this. Take This Tune is such a great way to be exposed to so much good stuff.

Sara Chapman in Seattle USA said...

I'm a real fan of Joan Baez, an old folkie who was lucky enough to hear her in a small venue in Northern California several years ago, better than ever. She has aged so very well, with a real radiance. Thanks for the lovely walk down memory lane listening to that old song.

Linda said...

Wow. 'Tis a bit depressing of a ballad but I guess it does teach a lesson in the process! Funny how the unfaithful wife misses her child but alas, not her husband it seems.