Demon of the Seas

TITLE: Demon of the Sea
AUTHOR: Unknown, possibly an anonymous London street author, identified only by the initials J.H.
CATEGORY: Public Domain, Parlor Song
KEYWORDS: Death, Fight, Navy, Pirate
EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1847 (Journal of William Histed of the Cortes)

Pirate-skullAbout fourteen years ago [1833] I tried to make a shilling or two by selling my verse. I’d written plenty before, but made nothing by them. Indeed I never tried. The first song I ever sold was to a concert-room manager. The next I sold had great success. It was called The Demon of the Sea, and was to the tune of ‘The Brave Old Oak.’ That song was written for a concert-room, but it was soon in the streets, and ran a whole winter. I only got I shilling for it.” (a conversation with an anonymous London street author in the Journal of William Histed of the Cortes).

No historical references ring true in the lyrics of this song. It seems just a flight of fancy offered at the height of interest in pirates in the mid-1800s.


  • Demon of the Seas
  • Ward the Pirate

RECORDINGS: (mp3’s available through

  • Musical Blades, Demon of the Seas



Demon of the Sea

Come spread your sails with steady gales
and helmsman steer her right.
“Hoist the grim death flag,” the pirate cries,
“for the vessel heaves in sight.”

“Run out your guns in haste bear down
from us she must not slip.
Cheer cheer lads, for we know no fear
on board the demon ship.”

Then huzza for a life of war and strife,
the pirates life for me.
My bark shall ride the foaming tide
for I am the demon of the sea.

Two ships of war came from afar
from Edward, England’s king.
“Go fetch, he said, alive or dead
the captain of the pirate ring.”

But his pride I shook when his ships I took
and  I sunk them to the wave.
Six hundred and ten of proud Edwards men
met with a watery grave.

Then huzza for a life of war and strife,
oh a pirates life for me.
My bark shall ride the foaming tide
for I am the demon of the sea.

Two ships engaged in equal rage
in a dreadful murderous scene.
Oh, the die was cast, for a ball at last
had struck her magazine.

And now one and all did stand appalled,
and seemed in great despair.
For the captain, too and all his crew
were blown high in the air.

So, no more will he ride the foaming tide,
no more a dread will he be.
For the pirates dead low lays his head
in the deep and dark blue sea.

He cried huzza for a life of war and strife,
oh the pirates life for me.
My bark shall ride the foaming tide
for I am the demon of the sea.


  • Folk Song Index: A Comprehensive Guide to the Florence E. Brunnings Collection, Florence E. Brunnings, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London 1981—Amazon Books
  •  [Roud Folk Song IndexSteve Roud’s Folksong Index, a database pointing to over 170,000 song citations plus broadsides, etc. Citations by Roud Number. Roud #1962
  •  Traditional Ballad Index



NOTICE: I’m not the best guitar player or vocalist, nor am I a scholar. But no one loves these songs more than I do. The tune and lyrics are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. The recording © copyright 2015 by Stephen Griffith and may be used by permission of the copyright holder. The variation of the song I’m posting is the version I perform and is not exactly replicating the sources cited, but is always in the same song family. If anyone has more details about this song, or believes I’ve stated something in error, please let me know. I’m also open to suggestions to improve the site. Thanks. sgg

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