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"Sea-Drift" is the title of a section of Walt Whitman's great poetic work Leaves of Grass, first published in 1855. It is a compilation of poems referring to the sea or the sea-shore.[1]

Sea-Drift follows the section titled A Broadway Pageant, and precedes the section By The Roadside.

The poems included in Sea-Drift are:

Musical settings[edit]

Various works of 20th-century classical music have been inspired by the poems.

  • Sea Drift. Frederick Delius set part of Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking for baritone solo, chorus and orchestra.[2] It received its first performance in Germany (Essen, Tonkünstler-verein, Josef Loritz (baritone), cond. Georg Witte) in 1906, and its first British performance, sung by Frederic Austin and conducted by Henry J. Wood, in autumn 1908 at the Sheffield Festival.[3]
  • A Sea Symphony by Ralph Vaughan Williams. After an introduction ('Behold, the Sea Itself!' etc.), the text of A Song for All Seas, All Ships is taken up ('Today a rude brief recitative..'). The second movement takes as its text On the Beach at Night Alone. The poems of the last two movements are taken from elsewhere in Leaves of Grass. The Symphony was completed and published in 1909: the composer conducted the first performance at the Leeds Festival on 12 October 1910.[4]
  • Sea Drift. John Alden Carpenter wrote a tone poem of this name in 1933, which was premiered by the New York Philharmonic under Werner Janssen in 1934.[5]


  1. ^ Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass “Deathbed edition” 1891-92 (J. M. Dent Ltd., London 1993). First published 1855.
  2. ^ P. Heseltine, Delius (Bodley Head, London 1923), 168.
  3. ^ T. Beecham, Delius (Hutchinson, London 1959), 135, 154.
  4. ^ Sleevenote to HMV LP Greensleeve ESD 7104, Vaughan Williams, A Sea Symphony, LPO/Adrian Boult, text copyright Michael Kennedy 1968.
  5. ^ *D. Ewen, Encyclopedia of Concert Music (New York; Hill and Wang, 1959).