Poets in Prison

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Poets in Prison is Delia's name for Poetry from Prison in which poems written by people in prison, many awaiting the death sentence, are set to music.

It was produced by Edward "Ted" Lucie-Smith who also translated some of the poems,[1] and performed at the 1970 City of London Festival[2] in June-July.[3]

ELS sent Delia a series of suitable poem texts on 30th January 1970, and paid her for her work on 21st July 1970. We don't know which poem texts were used, but Delia's papers contain musical note sequences for a dozen poems and her manuscript scores for half a dozen.


The following groups her papers according to the poems she may have used:

Anne Boleyn

"O death! rock me on sleep, / Bring me on quiet rest;" ...

Earl Rivers

"Somewhat musing / And more mourning..."

  • DD103102 "EARL RIVERS" (title page for the following)
  • DD103115 Poem text "Anthony Widville, Earl Rivers":
  • DD103125 Poem text "Earl Rivers /2"

Edward II

"On my devoted head / Her bitterest showers..."

  • DD101938 Poem text for EDWARD II, translated by Edward Lucie-Smith
  • DD102731 Notes: "EDWARD II"

Chidiock Tichbourne

Elegy For Himself: "My prime of youth is but a frost of cares; / My feast of joy is but a dish of pain;" ...

Elizabeth I

"Oh, fortune, thy wresting wavering state / Hath fraught with cares my troubled wit..."


  • DD103043 Notes "FRANCIS (p.20. / ELS: note to begin - recited on pitch. / chord at end of each 2 lines. / becoming more complex."

House of the Man Athirst

by Miguel Hernandez, translated by Edward Lucie-Smith.
"I am desert sand, / dearth of thirst..."

  • DD102100 Poem text for "HOUSE OF THE MAN ATHIRST"

James I of Scotland

  • DD102801 "James I of Scotland": "When as I lay in bed alone waking..."

Lullaby of the Onion

  • DD102841 Notes for "LULLABY OF THE ONION"
  • DD102857 Note sequence: E|G E-E D|E - E - ..." on the back of of DD102821
  • DD102935 Notes: "TUNE I "Lullaby" V.2" "In the cra-dle of hun-ger..."
  • DD102945 Notes "T.I ? V4" "Bird in laugh out a-laysth in you(?)"
  • DD103007 Notes "TI V11" "tomorrow they will be..."
  • DD103030 Notes: "T II" "Mixture of laughing and flying - higher register"

Mary Queen of Scots

  • DD103441 Poem text for "Mary Queen of Scots" "Alas! what am I! and in what estate?" (****)
  • DD103529 Poem text "Mary, Queen of Scots" "O Domine Deus! Speravi in Te, / O care mi Iesu! nunc libera me..."
  • DD103457 Notes "MARY Q. OF SCOTS"
  • DD103516 Note sequences: "(G D) A G / G E D / G A G" "Ca Je su lib ra in te met OR can Je news va bet"(?)

Richard Coeur de Lion

  • DD102650 Notes: "RICHARD COEUR DE LION"
  • DD102714 Poem text: "Richard Coeur de Lion"
  • DD102723 Poem text: "Richard Coeur de Lion /2"

Sir Thomas Seymour

"Forgetting God to love a king / Hath been my rod, or else nothing..."

  • DD103230 Poem text: "Sir Thomas Seymour"


That's How It Goes

"Am in the middle of a spreading light, / my hands inspired, the world beautiful." ...

  • DD101757b Poem text for Nazim Hikmet's That's How It Goes


"Old age in the villages, / heart without a master" ...

  • DD104100 Poem text "WAR"
  • DD103607 Notes: "WAR" "DD Tape acc.t"
  • DD103625 Notes: "WAR II" "Same notes for each verse"
  • DD103642 Notes: "WAR I" "chords are bass 8ths +8ves..."
  • DD104341 Manuscript "Old age in the villages, Heart without a master..."

Waters of Babylon

Other papers

The whole folder of these papers can be viewed here.

  • DD101901 "Poetry from Prison /73": "The onion is frozen / stubborn and poor..."
  • DD101920 "Poetry from Prison /75"
  • DD101929 "Poetry from Prison /76"
  • DD101950 Letter from Ted to Delia dated 30th January "Herewith a batch of photostats to brood on"
  • DD102148 Letter dated 21st July 1970 to Delia "herewith cheque for Poetry from Prison..."
  • DD102201 Notes: "Library make-up tape / 1.Superflumen / 2.monks / 3.low vroom..."
  • DD102357 General notes
  • DD102422 Notes: "Timetable - ASK ELS - SOUND F/X"
  • DD102435 Notes: "Tape treatment"
  • DD102454 Notes: "Timetable - Lute Chittaronte(?)"
  • DD102650 Note sequences: "Eb C D B Eb C D B / On rot ten shore All fight storm tune pours(?)..."
  • DD102821 Letter dated 27 Feb. to Delia "How are things going?"
  • DD103720 Notes: "sung & played" + list of pieces : "Anne Boleyn: only accompaniment"
  • DD103733 Note sequences: "C G A A F G" "Ev. time ch tae in th..."(?)
  • DD103841 Manuscript "Intro"
  • DD103908 Manuscript "Intro: The sky above the roof top is blue..."
  • DD103921 Notes: "Do: Treat Hedley" Quomodo..." / "I caught myself in my instrumental strings"
  • DD103934 Letter dated Friday 26th June to Delia "Herewith a full script of the programme..."
  • DD103951 Notes: "VCS3 for high phrases" "Fish p.47" etc.
  • DD104011 Table headed "Poem - Tape 1 - Tape 2"
  • DD104036 Table headed "T1 - T2" "1a Wind for Superflumen"
  • DD104046 "Id[?] keep still / wind etc down to final level" "Start 237"
  • DD104112 Letter dated 24th July 1970 from Hedley to Delia: "Thank you for your recent letter - I have enclosed your cheque"
  • DD104153 Handwritten poem text: "Even such is time which takes in trust / Our youth, and joys and all we have..."
  • DD104226 "Fx M/U": Table headed "POEM - TAPE1 - TAPE 2 - TAPE 3 - NOTES"
  • DD104304 VCS3 dope sheet "POETRY FROM PRISONS" effects "FISHES 1" "FISHES 2" "WHALES"



  1. DD104100: "War" translated by Edward Lucie-Smith.
  2. Kirstin Cubitt's article Dial a Tune
  3. The City of London Festival takes place over two to three weeks in June and July.