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Notes On "To Althea From Prison"

Beatiful Words That Inspired Wonderful Music

By Mike Singleton 🌜 Mikeydred 🌛Published 2 months ago Updated 2 months ago 3 min read
An AI Creation By The Author


Apologies for the spelling mistake in the subheading

Many years ago I bought the album "Nine" by Fairport Convention. I still love the album today and it is home to many great songs. "To Althea, From Prison" I found particularly beautiful taking the words of the poet Richard Lovelace adapted and sung by the sadly missed Dave Swarbrick.

This is the poem, though the link above includes many of his other poems.

To Althea, from Prison


When Love with unconfinèd wings

Hovers within my Gates,

And my divine Althea brings

To whisper at the Grates;

When I lie tangled in her hair,

And fettered to her eye,

The Gods that wanton in the Air,

Know no such Liberty.

When flowing Cups run swiftly round

With no allaying Thames,

Our careless heads with Roses bound,

Our hearts with Loyal Flames;

When thirsty grief in Wine we steep,

When Healths and draughts go free,

Fishes that tipple in the Deep

Know no such Liberty.

When (like committed linnets) I

With shriller throat shall sing

The sweetness, Mercy, Majesty,

And glories of my King;

When I shall voice aloud how good

He is, how Great should be,

Enlargèd Winds, that curl the Flood,

Know no such Liberty.

Stone Walls do not a Prison make,

Nor Iron bars a Cage;

Minds innocent and quiet take

That for an Hermitage.

If I have freedom in my Love,

And in my soul am free,

Angels alone that soar above,

Enjoy such Liberty.

The reading to me seems a bit dry.

This morning this resulted in this poem by me:

When I was looking for the music, I was surprised to see many versions of this on YouTube, so I thought it would be great to collect them together as a sort of playlist.

I am not sure if this should be a Vocal Critique or a playlist, but it is more about the effect the words have had on me and then finding so many others have been touched by those wonderful words resulting in some beautiful music.

So here are the results that I found,I hope you can play all of these.

Fairport Convention from "Nine"

Fairport Convention from "Manor Studio"

Churchfitters - A Live Take

This is possibly more beautiful than the Fairport "Nine" version that starts off this playlist. This is what they, obviously as enamoured with the Dave Swarbrick version as I was, said, and this is just a rehearsal.

Brittany-based folk group The Churchfitters in rehearsal. With the sad loss of Dave Swarbrick last week we have decided to reintroduce his "To Althea from Prison" to our set so we can play it at Beverley Folk Festival on the 19th of June (2016). The poem was written by Richard Lovelace in the 17th century and Swarb wrote this beautiful tune for it.

This is the studio version of it, so beautiful.


Mona Ditlevsen & Anders Levring play this instrumental version. This is their web page.

Derek Brimstone 'Live' at Pipers Folk Club, Penzance, Cornwall.

This has a very funny introduction to the song, and is another great version, Derek loves it as much as we all do and he takes Dave Swarbrick's arrangement as well.

Alan Casey

Another great version, this is what Alan says about it.

A poem, written by Richard Lovelace during the English Civil War whilst Locked in the Gatehouse Prison, Westminster for serving a petition in support of his side. He was a cavalier, but the passionate words are truly about freedom in its many forms. The melody was added by Dave Swarbrick in the early 1970’s.

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About the Creator

Mike Singleton 🌜 Mikeydred 🌛

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Comments (3)

  • Shirley Belkabout a month ago

    beautiful song

  • Esala Gunathilakeabout a month ago

    Words are always beating the rhythm.

  • Ameer Bibi2 months ago

    Really love it 😀 If I have freedom in my love

Mike Singleton 🌜 Mikeydred 🌛Written by Mike Singleton 🌜 Mikeydred 🌛

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