Song of Myself: Themes of identity and context in selected early twentieth-century settings of Walt Whitman
iii CONTENTS ABSTRACT ii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS iv INTRODUCTION Purpose of Study 1 Literature Review 2 Methodology 4 CHAPTER ONE Walt Whitman and British Vocal Music 7 CHAPTER TWO Walt Whitman and American Solo Vocal Music 25 CHAPTER THREE Choral Settings of Whitman in New Deal America 50 CHAPTER FOUR Whitman, German Émigré Composers, and World War II 69 EPILOGUE Whitman’s Continued Influence 86 BIBLIOGRAPHY 93
iv ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS My love affair with the poetry of Walt Whitman has culminated in this study. First and foremost, I must express gratitude for his poetry,which has inspired me throughout my adult life. My advisor, Dr. bruce mcclung, has provided me a strong, guiding hand and a shining example of what a scholar, teacher, and advisor should be. From his two-quarter survey course on American music to his help in advising my lecture recital on Arthur Farwell’s Emily Dickinson songs and his months-long work on this document, Dr. mcclung has opened my eyes to the beauty and importance of American art music. What was once a passing interest of mine has become one of the central concerns of my academic and performing life. At the beginning of this process, I unsuccessfully attempted to locate John Wannamaker’s extensive collection of Whitman scores compiled in the late 1960s and early 1970s and deposited at the Drake University Library in Des Moines, Iowa. I appreciate the help I received in the search from Dr. Wannamaker’s widow and his daughter, and the extensive support I received from the staff at Drake, especially Mark Stumme, the reference librarian. Glendower Jones at Classical Vocal Reprints has shared with me a wealth of expertise in the field of American song as well as many vocal scores over the years. He takes great care to preserve and reprint literally hundreds of rare and out-of-print music,providing an invaluable asset to the singing community and scholars alike. My interest in musical settings of Walt Whitman began in college with the purchase of Thomas Hampson’s recording To the Soul, which exposed me to the clarity and beauty of Whitman’s poetry set to music for solo voice and piano. My performances of Vaughan Williams’s A Sea Symphony with Robert Porco and the May Festival Chorus during my doctoral
v studies solidified my decision to research this topic further. As a member of the Chorus, I benefited greatly from Mr. Porco’s enthusiasm for Whitman and his skilled guidance through this majestic piece. Professor Kenneth Griffiths has been a special guide in my musical life ever since we met at the Tanglewood Music Center when I was a beginning singer. It was a great honor to guest- teach two sessions of his course in American art song while preparing this document,and it has been an honor to work with him as musical coach. I look forward to continuing our collaboration in the future. I thank Professor Stanley Corkin for reading this document from the perspective of a non- musician. Your insight into the world of Whitman has been most helpful. I would like to express gratitude to my fellow classmates who have encouraged me throughout this process, especially Kimberly Gelbwasser and Jenny Cruz, and to my voice teacher in Cincinnati, Tom Baresel, for his continued support of my vocal and academic work. Last, I need to give deepest thanks to my parents and my family for their support throughout my many years in school. I know that what I do is confusing and does not always make the most sense, but I am grateful for a loving support system that is there for me despite the confusion.It makes no more sense now than it ever did.
INTRODUCTION Purpose of Study In his magnum opus Leaves of Grass, American poet Walt Whitman (1819–1892) declared to the world an audacious manifesto of his bold and daring democratic vision. This collection of poems has provided the most musical settings of any American poet in history— more than five hundred musical compositions from 1880 to the present. 1 The purpose of this document is neither to survey the entire collection nor to categorize the musical settings in any comprehensive way. Rather, this is an investigation into the context of the ascendancy of Whitman as the favorite poet among American composers in the first half of the twentieth century. The investigation begins with the attraction of British composers to Whitman’s sea poems and the poems of loss and war around the turn of the twentieth century as a prelude to the poet’s later popularity among American composers. I address the context of racial identity among black composers and literati in relation to Whitman’s “Ethiopia Saluting the Colors,” as well as themes of homoerotic love found in the collections Children of Adam and Calamus. I give considerable attention to Whitman’s status as forebear of modernism in poetry and music, especially as it relates to American composers looking to establish a unique musical identity in the aftermath of World War I. Also important is the use of Whitman’s verse to invoke These settings come in a variety of forms, from solo songs for voice and piano, to pieces for unaccompanied chorus to large-scale compositions for soloists, chorus and orchestra. They were composed in the United States and various European countries, especially in Great Britain and Germany. The vast Whitman repertoire grows each year. 1 John Wannamaker, “The Musical Settings of the Poetry of Walt Whitman: A Study of Theme, Structure, and Prosody” (Ph.D. diss., University of Minnesota, 1972), v; and Michael Hovland, comp., Musical Settings of American Poetry: A Bibliography (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1986), 376–414.
2 patriotism during World War II on the part of American composers as well as newly arrived German emigrant composers. Specific pieces are examined within the milieu of the composer and within the context of world events. I hope that this document shows that Whitman’s ability to speak so clearly to the lives of composers as well as to the larger community of man is the chief reason for his primacy among American poets across generations. Literature Review The authoritative document on Whitman’s musical settings is John Wannamaker’s 1972 dissertation, “The Musical Settings of the Poetry of Walt Whitman: A Study of Theme, Structure, and Prosody.” 2 The literature available on the poetry of Whitman is extensive, as is that of certain composers, such as Ives and Vaughan Williams. Therefore, while I present much of the contemporary Whitman literature, I focus my study on the documents pertaining to Whitman’s posthumous acceptance and influence in Great Britain, Germany, and the United States between approximately 1900 and 1945, and how individual composers in various generations reacted to the poet based on their individual perspective. In addition to Wannamaker’s dissertation, Michael Hovland’s Musical Settings of American Poetry: A Bibliography provides a listing of This comprehensive 635-page study surveys in wide scope the nearly four hundred musical settings available to the author, categorizes the chosen poems by theme, and discusses in detail which themes are most popular and how composers chose to interpret Whitman’s verse. A discussion of differences between Wannamaker’s study and this document is given in the methodology section below. 2 Wannamaker, “The Musical Settings of the Poetry of Walt Whitman” (Ph.D. diss., University of Minnesota, 1972).
3 which poems were set by which composers, and Judith Carman’s reference book Art Song in the United States gives a cross-referenced listing of published songs and recordings. 3 Autobiographical accounts from composer Ernst Bacon (Words on Music) provide insight into the process of selecting a text and creating a meaningful musical interpretation. 4 Quite a number of publications address the relationship between Whitman and modernism in music and poetry, notably Gay Wilson Allen’s The New Walt Whitman Handbook, a number of articles from the journal American Literature, and William Everdell’s book, The First Moderns. 5 The choral works of William Schuman, Roy Harris, and Howard Hanson are analyzed musically and poetically in Lou StemMize’s dissertation “A Study of Selected Choral Settings of Walt Whitman Poems.” 6 My document addresses questions of national, racial, and sexual identity to a full extent, as these topics have been addressed in biographies and journal articles concerning Harry T. Burleigh,Samuel Taylor-Coleridge, Marc Blitzstein, and Roy Harris. 7 3 Hovland, Musical Settings of American Poetry; Judith Carman, William K. Gaeddert, and Rita Resch, with Gordon Myers, Art Song in the United States, 1759–1999: An Annotated Bibliography (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2001). Similarly, the question of Whitman’s role in racial, sexual and American national identity is explored in works by H. G. Cocks (Nameless Offenses: Homosexual Desire in the Nineteenth Century), David 4 Ernst Bacon, Words on Music (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1960), 67–76, 127–64. 5 Gay Wilson Allen, The New Walt Whitman Handbook (New York: New York University Press, 1975), 249–327; William Everdell, The First Moderns (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 80–99; Clarence A. Brown, “Walt Whitman and the ‘New Poetry,’” American Literature 33 (1961): 33–45; and Herbert Bergman, “Ezra Pound and Walt Whitman,” American Literature 27 (1955): 56–61. 6 Lou Stem Mize, “A Study of Selected Choral Settings of Walt Whitman Poems” (Ph.D. diss., Florida State University, 1967). 7 Beth E. Levy, “‘The White Hope of American Music’; or, How Roy Harris Became Western,” American Music 19 (2001): 131–67; David Metzer, “Reclaiming Walt: Marc Blitzstein’s Whitman Settings,” in Walt Whitman and Modern Music: War, Desire and the Trials of Nationhood, ed. Lawrence Kramer (New York: Garland Publishing, 2000), 65–88; and Ann Sears, “‘A Certain Strangeness’: Harry T. Burleigh’s Art Songs and Spiritual Arrangements,” Black Music Research Journal 24 (2004): 227–49.
4 Noble (Death of a Nation), and Barbara Zuck (A History of Musical Americanism). 8 Finally, American patriotism from the perspective of German artists and composers in World War II is detailed in Reinhold Brinkmann’s collection Driven into Paradise: The Musical Migration from Nazi Germany to the United States and several articles from Kim H. Kowalke that address the American experiences of Paul Hindemith and Kurt Weill. 9 Methodology In order to distinguish this document from the comprehensive work of John Wannamaker, I will present a selected chronology of Whitman settings that focuses on issues of circumstance and identity from the perspective of the composer living and working within a larger societal context as opposed to Wannamaker’s study of poetic themes and prosody. To this end, I present representative pieces from specific composers that reflect their Zeitgeist. For instance, British composers composed many Whitman settings of war and loss at the turn of the century. I consider these settings in the context of Britain’s Boer Wars on the African continent. Furthermore, I present evidence to argue that the call to battle in World War I and II fueled Whitman’s great popularity, and that composers from Great Britain, Germany, and the United States set many of the same poems. 8 H. G. Cocks, Nameless Offences: Homosexual Desire in the Nineteenth Century (New York: I. B. Taurus, 2003), 159–95; David W. Noble, Death of a Nation (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002), 182–200; and Barbara Zuck, A History of Musical Americanism (Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1980), 87–138. 9 Reinhold Brinkmann and Christoph Wolff, eds., Driven into Paradise: The Musical Migration from Nazi Germany to the United States (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1999); Kim H. Kowalke, “For Those We Love: Hindemith, Whitman, and ‘An American Requiem,’” Journal of the American Musicological Society 50 (1997): 133–74; idem, “‘I’m an American!’ Whitman, Weill, and Cultural Identity,” in Walt Whitman and Modern Music, 109–32; and idem, “Reading Whitman/Responding to America: Hindemith, Weill, and Others” in Driven into Paradise, 194–222.
5 My primary interest is to provide a Whitman link from generation to generation even as the aesthetic and political goals change over the course of time. For instance, Samuel Coleridge- Taylor, the black British composer who set the poem “Beat! Beat! Drums!” as a solo song in the aftermath of the Boer Wars, also composed an instrumental piece entitled “Ethiopia Saluting the Colours,” which Coleridge-Taylor’s American colleague Harry T. Burleigh composed as a song in 1915 more as an expression of racial identity than a call to arms. The specific themes I consider are as follows: poems of the sea in the work of British composers Ralph Vaughan Williams (A Sea Symphony) and Frederick Delius (Sea Drift); racial identity among black composers (Coleridge-Taylor and Burleigh); homosexual desire and ecstatic love (early songs of Marc Blitzstein and Delius’s Idyll); break from oppression/tyranny and growth of American identity post-WWI (the influence of Whitman’s democratic vision on the music of Ruth Crawford, 10 10 Ruth Crawford is often referred to by her married name, Ruth Crawford Seeger. However, as I discuss only her work and ideas prior to her marriage to Charles Seeger in 1932, I use her maiden name throughout. Ives’s song “Walt Whitman,” and Ruggles’s works Vox clamans in deserto and Portals); American patriotism (Howard Hanson’s Drum Taps, William Schuman’s A Free Song, and Roy Harris’s Symphony for Voices,Walt Whitman Suite,and “Song for Occupations”); war songs (songs of Charles Wood); and wartime songs as expressions of naturalized identity (Weill’s Four Whitman Songs and Paul Hindemith’s When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d). In addition to these major themes, I discuss the short, romantic songs of Ernst Bacon from the late 1920s. Bacon was among the first Americans to set a large number of poems by Whitman for solo voice and piano. Through the exploration of these various themes from decade to decade and nation to nation, this study presents a multi-faceted view of Whitman’s influence on composers throughout the first half of the twentieth century. A brief
6 Epilogue highlights the major contributions to the collection of Whitman settings in the second half of the century.
CHAPTER ONE Walt Whitman and British Vocal Music The history of musical settings of Walt Whitman’s poetry begins with the opening of London’s Royal College of Music (RCM) in 1883.Charles Villiers Stanford (1852–1924),a founding member of the faculty, drew inspiration fromthe poetry of the great nineteenth-century American poet.Stanford influenced his many students at the College,which played an important role in the development of Britain’s musical renascence.Many of these students, including Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Charles Wood, and Ralph Vaughan Williams, along with Stanford himself, created the first significant repertory of musical settings of Whitman.They take the form of either large-scale choral-symphonic works, such as those of Stanford and Vaughan Williams, or intimate settings for solo voice and piano, most notably those of Wood.Lawrence Kramer writes,“There is no tradition of nineteenth-century Whitman settings, despite the steady development of an international readership for his poetry.” 1 In the New Walt Whitman Handbook, Gay Wilson Allen writes,“In beginning a survey of Whitman’s reception, reputation, and influence in foreign countries, we inevitably start with the British Isles, where he was first appreciated and first recognized as a major poet.” Although American Frederic L. Ritter composed the first musical setting of Whitman in 1880, and Stanford composed his Elegiac Ode (for baritone and soprano solos, chorus, and orchestra) in 1884,the first sustained interest in his work dates from around the turn of the century in London. 2 1 Lawrence Kramer, ed., Walt Whitman and Modern Music: War, Desire, and the Trials of Nationhood (New York: Garland Publishing, 2000), xvii. He continues,“The first edition of Leaves of Grass reached the British several months after its 2 Gay Wilson Allen, The New Walt Whitman Handbook (New York: New York University Press, 1975), 270.
8 appearance in America, and that by the 1860s Whitman had many prominent admirers there.” 3 Among those admirers, William Michael Rossetti, brother of poets Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti, edited Leaves of Grass for Poems by Walt Whitman in 1868 and,with the reluctant permission of the poet,removed many of the poems deemed to be objectionable to British tastes. 4 In 1886 Ernest Rhys edited a new selection of Leaves of Grass for the British audience, and Allen claims,“The complete work was still too strong for British tastes, despite the fact that the book was far more widely appreciated in England than in America.” 5 To wit, Rossetti’s 1868 edition influenced literati even in the United States,where as late as 1877 the assistant editor of the leading publication of American literary thought, the Atlantic Monthly,remarked: “It is a great pity his works are not really published, and I have been wondering, long, how to get them. I have nothing but Rossetti’s edition. Is there no way of obtaining them?” 6 The acceptance of Whitman in Britain as a major poet and the simultaneous establishment of the RCM as the leading British center for compositional training combined with Stanford’s enthusiasm for Whitman’s verse created a fertile environment for many Whitman settings, especially from 1897 until the mid-1930s. In addition to Stanford and his students, Frederick Delius, who stood quite apart from the British conservatory system and the influence of Stanford, also contributed major settings of Whitman during this time. The years 1897–1903 constitute a key turning point in British cultural, political, and artistic history. In South Africa, the Second Boer War (1899–1902) claimed many lives and 3 Ibid., 10. 4 M. Jimmie Killingsworth, The Cambridge Introduction to Walt Whitman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 108. 5 Allen, New Walt Whitman Handbook, 11. 6 Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden (New York: M. Kennerly, 1914), 1:17, quoted in Portia Baker, “Walt Whitman and the Atlantic Monthly,” American Literature 6 (1934): 291.
9 exacted a great financial toll on the British nation. In 1901 Queen Victoria died after more than sixty years on the throne, and the ascendancy of her son,Edward VII, signaled the beginning of a new and modern century less dominated by the social mores of the Victorian era. In music, many of the great vocal pieces of the renascence of British music premiered during these years: Elgar’s song cycle Sea Pictures (1899) and his oratorio Dream of Gerontius (1900), Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s oratorio trilogy Song of Hiawatha (1898–1900), and Ralph Vaughan Williams’s popular song “Linden Lea” (1901). Musical settings of Whitman also played a vital role during these years.Jack Sullivan writes,“What Whitman represented to the British seemed to be nothing quite so subtle, but simply liberation from inhibition and convention.” 7 In addition to Stanford’s Elegiac Ode, the Whitman songs of Charles Wood, a fellow professor at the RCM and former student of Stanford’s, positioned the poet as a major source of inspiration for turn-of-the-century British composers. Byron Adams suggests:“Charles Wood approached Whitman with greater insight. His songs…are in general more forceful and individual than Stanford’s efforts” and that in the midst of the impending war in Africa, Wood “established Whitman as the ‘war poet’ for a generation of composers who live in a period of growing conflict and who lacked a relevant tradition of war poetry.” Adams further writes, “Stanford and Wood influenced the younger generation of English composers by selecting a canon of acceptable Whitman texts.” 8 7 Jack Sullivan, New World Symphonies: How American Culture Changed European Music (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), 99 Just as Rosetti’s poetic editions of Whitman provided a sort of “acceptable” Whitman for the British reading public, Stanford and Wood provided the same in music. The poems set by these two composers have, in fact, become some of the most popular among both American and British composers. In his dissertation on vocal settings of 8 Byron Adams, “‘No Armpits, Please, We’re British’: Whitman and English Music, 1884–1936” in Walt Whitman and Modern Music, 29.
10 Whitman, John Wannamaker shows that only fourteen poems take up close to half of the four hundred settings examined in his study. 9 Of these, Wood and Stanford composed settings of three of the seven most popular ones (“When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” “O Captain! My Captain!,” and “Darest Thou Now, O Soul.”). Stanford’s use of baritone and soprano solo voices in his Elegiac Ode also became the standard vocal scoring for many large-scale Whitman settings. The tenor voice, beloved by Whitman himself, is conspicuously absent in the Whitman oratorio settings in the first half of the twentieth century. 10 By 1903 British composers had used Whitman to memorialize the dead (as in Stanford’s Elegiac Ode) and to reflect on life in times of war (the solo songs of Charles Wood,especially “By the Bivouac’s Fitful Flame,” “O Captain! My Captain!,” and “Ethiopia Saluting the Colours”).That year, coincidentally, marked the beginning of a life-long relationship between Whitman’s verse and two of the greatest (and most different from one another) British composers of the early twentieth century: Vaughan Williams and Delius. Vaughan Williams had been born in Gloucestershire in 1872, although he spent most of his life in London. He studied music for two years at the RCM, and three years at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated with degrees in music (1894) and history (1895),before returning to the RCM for another year or so. During this time his teachers were Parry, Stanford, and Wood. 11 9 John Samuel Wannamaker, “The Musical Settings of the Poetry of Walt Whitman: A Study of Theme, Structure, and Prosody” (Ph.D. diss., University of Minnesota, 1972), 77. Whitman influenced Vaughan Williams in many ways—the composer carried Leaves of Grass in his pocket during active duty in World War I and produced many Whitman- based works over a period of thirty years. 10 For a discussion of Whitman’s favorite singers, see Robert Faner, Walt Whitman and Opera (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1951), 59–61. Also see Whitman’s poem “The Dead Tenor.” 11 Hugh Ottaway and Alain Frogley, “Vaughan Williams, Ralph” in Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (accessed 22 June 2009),
11 One of the primary themes of Whitman’s poetry that influenced Vaughan Williams is the infinite or cosmic sea. Whitman had been born on Long Island and lived in New York City, and thus lived in close proximity to the water throughout most of his life. Many of his poems are specifically about the beach or the ocean, such as “On the Beach at Night Alone,” “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking,” “Passage to India,” and “Song for All Seas, All Ships.” This theme naturally appealed to many British composers, who saw the vast expanse of the sea as metaphor for the possibilities of the new century and the post-Victorian age of their island nation.Sea imagery is not, of course, limited to Whitman, as Elgar composed his own song cycle, Sea Pictures, in 1899 on five poems by different authors (none of them Whitman). Whitman’s poems of the sea, however, provided British composers with a new perspective —as Jack Sullivan writes,“Whitman’s celebration of free speech, free love, and free exchange among normally hostile nations was seen as a blow against Victorian prudery, jingoism, and repressiveness.” 12 In contrast to the war poems and elegiac poems of the Second Boer War, Vaughan Williams turned to poems of hope and unity in the new century. He composed his Symphony No. 1,A Sea Symphony, between 1903 and 1909, during which time (in 1908) he studied orchestration with Ravel. Vaughan Williams presents themes in this work that are large in scale and full of hope and vigor. In four movements for chorus and soloists, A Sea Symphony draws its texts from five Whitman poems: “On the Beach at Night Alone,” “After the Sea-Ship,” “Song for All Seas, All Ships,” “Passage to India,” and “Song of the Exposition.” Of these poems,the first three are found in the section of Leaves of Grass entitled “Sea Drift,” and Vaughan Williams set them almost in their entirety. He also selected passages from the latter two poems, 12 Sullivan, New World Symphonies,101.
12 not found in “Sea Drift,” but taken fromtheir own separate poetic sections, entitled “Passage to India” and “Song of the Exposition,” respectively. An issue that runs throughout the Whitman catalog of musical compositions is the composer’s choice of what to set to music and what to omit. 13 Some of the greatest poems found in Leaves of Grass are quite long, and a complete setting of a poem such as “Song of Myself” or “Salut au Monde!” might be impractical for a composer to set.With his Elegiac Ode, Stanford instituted a standard practice of simply choosing part of a poem to set, as the Ode is a sub-section of the poem “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.” Many composers followed suit, and in A Sea Symphony, Vaughan Williams chose to set only one of the five poems in its entirety: “After the Sea-Ship,” which constitutes the third movement for chorus and orchestra.In addition to setting only certain sections of a poem, Vaughan Williams regularly altered the poetry itself, usually by omission or repetition of words or entire passages in order to present the narrative he envisioned. Byron Adams writes,“As Vaughan Williams felt that he had the right to cut all parts of a text that did not consort with his aesthetic purpose, he did not hesitate to discard erotically charged passages from any poem that he was setting to music.” 14 In 1947 A. V. Butcher glibly describes Vaughan Williams’s treatment of Whitman thus: “What he has omitted are usually the ugly bits” and “One might almost say that on occasions like this V. W. writes better Whitman than Whitman himself.” 15 13 Throughout this study, I use the term “catalog” to describe the entire collection of Whitman settings. As part of his comprehensive study of these settings, John Wannamaker compiled some four hundred scores of Whitman settings, which, although once held at the Drake University library in Des Moines, Iowa, have since been lost. Both Wannamaker (1972) and Michael Hovland (1986) provide thorough bibliographies of Whitman’s musical settings. Vaughan Williams regularly altered Whitman’s poems, such as the omission of the line “Ah more than any priest O soul we too 14 Adams, “‘No Armpits, Please, We’re British,’” 34. 15 A. V. Butcher, “Walt Whitman and the English Composer,” Music and Letters 28 (1947): 156.
13 believe in God” from his setting of the eighth section of “Passage to India” in A Sea Symphony, or in his omission of the long lists for which Whitman is so well-known, where All souls, all living bodies though they be ever so different, or in different worlds, All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes, the fishes, the brutes, All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages, All identities that have existed or may exist on this globe, or any globe. becomes instead All souls, all living bodies though they be ever so different, All nations, all identities that have existed or may exist. 16 This practice of selecting and omitting certain texts from Whitman provides the foundation for Adams’s assertion that “these composers were highly selective, embracing only certain aspects of the American poet’s work while ignoring others.” 17 As Vaughan Williams began work on his Sea Symphony in 1903 and continued to revise and edit the piece for the next six years, Delius also began work on his own large-scale piece for baritone soloist, chorus, and orchestra based on the poetry of Whitman, entitled Sea Drift. Unlike Vaughan Williams, however, Delius worked quickly on the score and completed it in 1904.His wife,Jelka, abridged the poem “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” for her husband to set. She, however, did not alter the part of the poem set by Delius, as would Vaughan For British composers, including Vaughan Williams, and many later composers from other countries, the vastness of ideas found in Leaves of Grass provided ample opportunity for choice and for self-expression on the part of the composer who chose which poems and which parts of those poems to set. 16 This passage is the specific context in which Butcher offers his thoughts on Vaughan Williams writing “better Whitman than Whitman.” 17 Adams, “‘No Armpits, Please, We’re British,’” 25.
14 Williams in his Sea Symphony, but rather simply omitted the introductory and closing portions, and presented only the central narrative of the poem. 18 Delius was not a part of the lineage of Stanford and Wood at the RCM, nor was he even a longtime resident of London. Born into a musical family in Bradford, England in 1862, Delius had been an apprentice in the wool trade—the family business—in France, Germany, and Sweden before his experience with Whitman’s America came firsthand in 1884, when his father allowed him to move to northern Florida to manage an orange grove near Jacksonville. Two years later, Delius returned to Europe to pursue a formal musical education in Leipzig and in 1888, he moved to France where he spent most of his adult life and where he composed most of his Whitman settings. 19 Delius had a great affinity for Whitman, as Sullivan writes,“The most original art to emerge from the Whitman renaissance in England was the music of Frederick Delius” whose “musical style blended with Whitman’s prosody in ways that seem uncannily organic, as if Delius’s sound and Whitman’s poems were made for each other.” 20 Sea Drift was Delius’s first of many settings of Whitman’s poetry. In his essay on the genesis of the Sea Symphony, Stephen Town illustrates the influence of Delius’s already-finished work on Vaughan Williams’s compositional process to great effect, even presenting musical examples of striking similarity between the two pieces. Although Vaughan Williams often expressed a disdain for Delius’s music, it influenced Vaughan Williams considerably. 21 18 Joseph Gerard Brennan, “Delius and Whitman,” Walt Whitman Review 18, no. 3 (September 1972): 93. A Sea Symphony and Sea Drift were the first of many Whitman settings Vaughan Williams and Delius composed from the first 19 Robert Anderson, et al., “Delius, Frederick” in Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (accessed 22 June 2009),