Sea Drift – text

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This month's BBC Music Magazine cover disc includes Delius's Sea Drift, a work which uses a text by Walt Whitman. The words are printed on this page but you can also click on the button below to download a PDF of the text.


Sea Drift
Once Paumanok,
When the lilac scent was in the air and fifth-month grass was growing,
Up this seashore in some briers,
Two feather’d guests from Alabama, two together,
And their nest, and four light-green eggs spotted with brown,

Baritone (and chorus)
And every day the he-bird to and fro near at hand,
And every day the she-bird crouch’d on her nest, silent, with bright eyes,
And every day I, a curious boy, never too close, never disturbing them,
Cautiously peering, absorbing, translating.

Shine! shine! shine!
Pour down your warmth, great sun.
While we bask, we two together,
Two together!
Winds blow south, or winds blow north,
Day come white, or night come black.

Home, or rivers and mountains from home.

Singing all time, minding no time,
While we two keep together.

Till of a sudden,
Maybe kill’d, unknown to her mate,
One forenoon the she-bird crouch’d not on the nest,
Nor return’d that afternoon, nor the next,
Nor ever appeared again.
And thence forward all summer in the sound of the sea,
And at night under the full of the moon in calmer weather,
Over the hoarse surging of the sea,
Of flitting from brier to brier by day,
I saw, I heard at intervals the remaining one, the he-bird.
The solitary guest from Alabama.

Blow! blow! blow!
Blow up sea winds along Paumanok’s shore;
I wait and I wait till you blow my mate to me.

Yes, when the stars glisten’d,
All night long on the prong of a moss-scallop’d stake,
Down almost amid the slapping waves,
Sat the lone singer, wonderful, causing tears.
He call’d on his mate,
He pour’d forth the meanings which I of all men know.

Yes, my brother, I know,
The rest might not, but I have treasur’d every note,
For more than once dimly down to the beach gliding,
Silent, avoiding the moonbeams, blending myself with the shadows,
Recalling now the obscure shapes, the echoes, the sounds and sights after their sorts,
The white arms out in the breakers tirelessly tossing,
I, with bare feet, a child, the wind wafting my hair,
Listen’d long and long,
Listen’d to keep, to sing, now translating the notes,
Following you my brother.

Chorus (and baritone)
Soothe! soothe! soothe!
Close on its waves soothes the wave behind,
And again another behind embracing and lapping, every one close,
But my love soothes not me, soothes not me.
Low hangs the moon, it rose late,
It is lagging – O I think it is heavy with love, with love.

Baritone (and chorus)
O madly the sea pushes upon the land,
With love, with love,
O night! do I not see my love fluttering out among the breakers?
What is that little black thing I see there in the white?

Loud! loud! loud!
Loud I call to you, my love!
High and clear I shoot my voice over the waves,
Surely you must know who is here, is here,
You must know who I am, my love.

O rising stars!
Perhaps the one I want so much will rise, will rise with some of you.
O throat! O trembling throat!
Sound clearer through the atmosphere!
Pierce the woods, the earth,
Somewhere listening to catch you must be the one I want.
Ah! Ah! Ah!

Shake out carols!
Solitary here, the night’s carols!
Carols of lonesome love! death’s carols!
Carols under that lagging, yellow, waning moon!
O under that moon where she drops almost down into the sea!
O reckless despairing carols.
But soft! sink low!
Soft! let me just murmur,
And do you wait a moment you husky nois’d sea.
For somewhere I believe I heard my mate responding to me,
So faint, I must be still, be still to listen,
But not altogether still, for then she might not come immediately to me,
Hither my love!
Here I am! here!
With this just sustain’d note I announce myself to you,
The gentle call is for you my love, for you.

Chorus (and baritone)
Do not be decoy’d elsewhere,
That is the whistle of the wind, it is not my voice,
That is the fluttering, the fluttering of the spray,
Those are the shadows of the leaves.
O darkness! O in vain! in vain!

Baritone (and chorus)
O I am very sick and sorrowful.
O brown halo in the sky near the moon, drooping upon the sea.
O troubled reflection in the sea!
O throat! O throbbing heart!
And I singing uselessly, uselessly all the night.
O past! O happy life! O songs of joy!

In the air, in the woods, over fields,
Loved! loved! loved! loved! loved!
But my mate no more, no more with me!
We two together no more!

(Words taken from the middle section of Walt Whitman’s poem 'Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking'.)

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