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To Althea from Prison

[words Richard Lovelace, music Dave Swarbrick]

The lyrics for To Althea from Prison are from the works of Richard Lovelace while in prison at The Gate House, Westminster in 1642. Fairport Convention recorded it for their album Nine with Jerry Donahue, Trevor Lucas, Dave Mattacks, Dave Pegg and Dave Swarbrick (vocals). A live recording from Cropredy 1984 was released in 2002 on the Fairport unConventioNal 4CD set.

Jane and Amanda Threlfall sang To Althea from Prison on their 2007 CD Revisited. They noted:

In 1642, during the English Civil War, the poet Richard Lovelace was imprisoned after presenting a pro-royalist petition to Parliament. Whilst in prison, he wrote this poem to his beloved Althea. Not many of Lovelace’s poems were published during his lifetime, but after his death in 1657/8, aged around 40, his recognition flourished. He became known as the Cavalier Poet.

The superbly apt tune was written in more recent times by Dave Swarbrick, during his Fairport era.


Fairport Convention sing To Althea from Prison

When love with unconfined wings
Hovers within my gates;
And my divine Althea brings
To whisper at the grates;
When I lie tangled in her hair
And fettered with her eye
Birds 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 run free,
Fishes that tipple in the deep
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;
I I have freedom in my love
And in my soul am free;
Angels alone that sore above
Enjoy such liberty.