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The Rhinegold: Page 287
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Wotan: (on the point of setting foot on the bridge, stops and turns round: #12) (#20b?:) What sounds of wailing waft this way (:#20b?)?

 

Loge: (peering down into the valley) The river Rhine’s children bewail the rape of the gold.

 

Wotan: Confounded nixies! – (to Loge) Put an end to their teasing!

 

Loge: (calling down into the valley: #20a modulation or #20b?:) You there in the water! Why weep at us up here? Hear what Wotan wishes of you: if the gold no longer gleams on you maidens, blissfully bask henceforth in the gods’ new-found splendour (:#20a modulation or #20b?)! (The gods laugh and, during the following, stride across the bridge: #35)

The Rhinedaughters describe their lost Rhinegold, which they once celebrated in song, dance, and verse, as guileless. Before Alberich took it, it represented the preconscious innocence of the pre-Fallen golden age before evolution produced human consciousness with its inherent ills. According to Loge the Rhinedaughters had begged of Wotan that he somehow restore the lost gold to them, specifically the Ring, and Wotan had refused for the simple reason that man is a conscious being and by his very nature can never return to a prior stage of the evolution of consciousness now long past. However, as Wagner said so often, in music, which for Wagner was the essential distillation of man’s aesthetic intuition of the world, mankind will obtain an artificial means of restoration of lost innocence. Wagner seems to have encapsulated this concept, that through music, that distillation of human experience of nature and of man, we can redeem ourselves from mother nature’s terrible Truth, in his following observation about the meaning of one of his favorite operas, Weber’s Der Freischuetz:

[P. 174] [Speaking of “ … the legend of the ‘Freischuetz,’ “ [Wagner said:] “It seems to be the poem of those Bohemian woods themselves, whose sombre aspect lets us grasp at once how the lonesome forester would believe himself, if not the prey of a daemonic nature-power, at least irrevocably subject to it. (…) Albeit terrible, this notion does not here [P. 175] become downright remorseless: a gentle sadness shimmers through its awe, and the lament over Nature’s lost Paradise knows how to soften the forsaken mother’s vengeance. And that is just the German type.” [354W-{5/41} Der Freischuetz: PW Vol. VII, p. 174-175]

Here in one sentence we find the two kinds of knowledge Wotan seeks to obtain from Erda (Mother Nature), both the objective knowledge which engenders fear of the truth (i.e., that we are “irrevocably subject” to a “daemonic nature power,” the fate incarnate in Erda’s knowledge), and aesthetic intuition (i.e., “the lament over Nature’s lost Paradise,” the Rhinedaughters’ lament for the lost Rhinegold). For it is by virtue of aesthetic intuition, or music, that Wotan can sublimate the terrible world (Erda’s fearful prophecy of the twilight of the gods) aesthetically into a sympathetic

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