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The Rhinegold: Page 196
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Mime: (#44:) With cunning artifice Alberich crafted a yellow ring of gold from the Rhine: at its powerful spell (#19:) we tremble in awe (:#44) for with it he bends us all to his will (:#19), the Nibelungs’ army of night. (#41:; [[ #105 embryo voc: ]]) Carefree smiths, we used to fashion trinkets for our womenfolk, delightful gems and delicate Nibelung toys: we cheerfully laughed at our pains (:#105 embryo voc). (#5:) now the criminal makes us crawl into crevices (:#5), (#41:) ever toiling for him alone. through the gold of the ring his greed can divine where more gleaming veins lie buried in shafts: there we must seek and search and dig, (#19:) smelting the spoils and working the cast without rest or repose (:#19), to heap up the hoard for our lord (:#5; :#41?). (#41)

Mime’s account of a pre-fallen carefree humanity which once produced goods for the enjoyment of all, in love and beauty, is Wagner’s pre-Marxist romantic metaphor for a golden age of handicraft when the worker took pleasure in the actual process of production, rather than looking solely to profit or working under the sting of coercion by those who controlled the means of production and property. Wagner, speaking through Mime, here is making the distinction between art which is produced for ulterior motive, for “use,” within Alberich’s world, and art which is produced for its own sake, from the sheer love of it, naturally and inevitably from man’s own inner inspiration rather than under the compulsion of outward forces. Mime’s description of this golden age of humanity corresponds with the actual golden age of spontaneous animal instinct represented by the Rhinedaughters’ joy in the pre-fallen Rhinegold.

As Mime recounts his myth of a laborer’s pre-fallen golden age we hear an embryonic form of what will become the definitive Motif #105, which is sometimes known as Mime’s Starling Song. #105 at its inception in S.1.1 is a musical evocation of Mime’s claim that the hero Siegfried is indebted to Mime (Siegfried’s foster father) for bringing him up. Cooke tells us that it is the basis for #111, sometimes called “Siegfried’s Mission,” a tune to which Siegfried sings of his final emancipation from Mime’s obnoxious claim, having won his independence from Mime by learning Mime is not his true father (or mother). It is also, Cooke says, a basis for #127, the motif to which Wotan (as the Wanderer) will tell Alberich that Siegfried is his own master, freed from Wotan’s influence. The presence of #105’s embryo at this early stage suggests that preconscious, spontaneous feeling or instinct (the Rhinedaughters’ joy in the Rhinegold) evolved naturally into conscious, ulterior thought, that the Fall was inevitable, a natural necessity. Siegfried will unwittingly become Wotan’s agent for restoring the innocence which has been lost, but Mime remains irrevocably and irredeemably a symbol for the common man’s limiting factor, that he is “consciously” motivated solely by vulgar need rather than idealism.

Feuerbach gave Wagner the cue for Mime’s mytho-historical narrative in his remark that true works of genius (as applied to the Nibelung laborers, what Wagner described as the collective, involuntary, unconscious genius of the original Folk, as opposed to the individual genius of the modern artist or scientist) do not merit praise because the genius produces out of his own nature, and that for this very reason he takes joy in expressing the essence of his own nature:

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