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- This ballad is collected as Child #243 and Roud #14, but is more often known as "The House Carpenter". The song dates back to the sixteenth century, one early variant being published in broadside form circa 1660. It is also known as, among others, "James Harris", "The Demon Lover", and "The Ship Carpenter".
In this ballad, a woman, now married with child, runs into a former beau who convinces her to leave her husband and child and sail away with him. Less than a month at sea, the ship sinks and the woman dies. In the earliest versions, the former beau is either a demon spirit or the devil taking the form of the former love, called "James Harris" in some versions; hence this alternate title for the song. The ballad became very popular in Appalachia and the American South as "The House Carpenter" -- which is usually the occupation of the husband being deserted. The supernatural elements of the ballad are stripped out of most of the American versions of the song.
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