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The Rhinegold: Page 288
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being (Erda’s daughter, the muse Bruennhilde and her music, who softens mother nature’s – Erda’s - vengeance). In Alberich’s intent to punish the gods with his curse on the Ring for their sin against all that was, is, and will be, Erda’s knowledge, he becomes the instrument of Mother Nature’s (Erda’s) vengeance against the gods for denying her. But Bruennhilde will offer the gods (man’s declining religious faith) redemption from this vengeance, by temporarily neutralizing Alberich’s curse on his Ring. The remainder of the Ring drama tells how.

Wotan, much annoyed because the Rhinedaughters, speaking truth to power, are telling him what he already knows but cannot afford to admit, that by refusing them the guileless gold he and the other gods are establishing themselves as the very incarnation of guile, ironically asks Loge, the lord of guile, to shut them up. Loge’s retort to the Rhinedaughters is that if their gold no longer gleams upon them, they should bask henceforth in the gods’ newfound splendor. The gods’ newfound splendor, in Valhalla, is of course the foundation of human culture and civilization, under the sway of belief in supernatural beings. The gods of Valhalla are the product of the power of thought (Alberich’s Ring) tempered by feeling, or love, which is the very thing Alberich had to renounce to obtain the power of objective thought. And it is love, in the sense of preconscious feeling, which the Rhinedaughters represent, and which is artificially restored in the splendor of the gods, the product of the power of thought tempered by love. So in this sense Loge is right. The light that went out when Alberich stole the Rhinegold is in effect restored by the gods’ splendor.

The Rhinedaughters’ lament #59abc is the lament for lost paradise, the motival expression of man’s longing to restore lost innocence, which according to Wagner is the primary drive of historical man after he has satisfied his first, fundamental drive, physical need. For Wagner, this is the essence of music itself: witness Wagner’s following poetical description of the Fall:

“From the earth gushes sweet juice; with this, longing refreshes itself until it has imbibed fresh love of life: then the juice runs dry; rice sprouts forth unsown, satiety to abundance; then it comes to an end. Now one has to do one’s own planting, ploughing and sowing. Life’s torment begins: Paradise is lost. The music of the brahman world recalls it to the memory: it leads to truth. Who understands it? The milk that has flowed from no cow?” [738W-{5/68} BB, p. 148]

[R.4: S]

Now, to a variant of #59, the Rhinedaughters sing the last lines of The Rhinegold, their indictment of the gods and of their artificial restoration of lost paradise in Valhalla’s newfound splendor, based as it is on deception:

Rhinedaughters: (#15 harmonic vari:) Rhinegold! Rhinegold! Guileless gold! Would that your glittering toy still shone in the depths (:#15 harmonic vari)! (#12) (#?:) Trusty and true it is here in the depths alone (:#?): (#?:) false and fated is all that rejoices above (:#?)!

 

(#20a modulation or #20b?; #57: As the gods pass over the bridge on the way to the castle, the curtain falls.)

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