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The Valkyrie: Page 445
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freedom and creativity, and (2) that his motives, like those underlying the social order he has created, were egoistic, predicated on self-interest and fear rather than love or any truly divine sentiments. Wagner stated on many occasions that the true fount of all good in society is the new things which independent individuals bring to it:

“What, then, had this Society become, whose natural moral-sense had been its very basis? The diametrical opposite of this its own foundation: the representative of immorality and hypocrisy. The poison which had palsied it, however, was – use-and-wont. The passion for use-and-wont, for unconditional quiet, betrayed it into stamping down the fount from which it might have ever kept itself in health and freshness; and this fount was the free, the self-determining Individual. [505W-{50-1/51} Opera and Drama: PW Vol. II, p. 187-188] [See also 500W and 502W]

Wotan chastises Bruennhilde for the lightness of heart with which she has sided with his ideal of love in the face of facts which contradict it. Wotan’s complaint seems to be modeled after, or inspired by, Alberich’s original complaint that Wotan was seeking to draw bliss from Alberich’s sacrifice of love, his Noth, without paying Alberich’s price. Accordingly, while Wotan contrasts the bitter gall of his Noth with Bruennhilde’s allegedly blissful abandonment to the heady delights of love (#64), we hear echoes of the music which accompanied Alberich’s chastisement of the gods in R.3 for enjoying love and laughter on divine heights while ignoring the dark elves (i.e., the real world) below. Cooke felt that Wotan’s critique of Bruennhilde was unfair because, he said, in her compassionate desire to sacrifice all for the sake of the Waelsungs and Wotan’s ideal, she can hardly be described as enjoying the bliss of love while ignoring the world’s anguish. [Cooke: P. 350-351]

However, Wotan is getting at something else. He’s suggesting that even the compassionate, self-sacrificial love for which Bruennhilde now says she lives, and which is the essence of the love which Siegmund and Sieglinde share, is itself self-delusion which ignores the egoistic basis underlying all human motivation, a bitter truth which Wotan’s inability to defeat Alberich has forced him to acknowledge. Bruennhilde’s and Siegmund’s apparent selflessness, their natural instinct of love, is either an inevitable product of natural law and animal instinct, which also inevitably produces all the supposed evil in the world, or, if the product of learning, of training, remains nonetheless a product of natural law and animal instinct, and therefore not only is not transcendent, but subject to being changed into its direct opposite under certain circumstances. Cooke argues that it is the authenticity of Bruennhilde’s claim upon Wotan’s compassion which finally convinces him to acquiesce in her desire only to be wedded to the free hero he dreamed of, but I would argue instead that Bruennhilde’s appeal represents Wotan’s abhorrence of the only alternative left to him, to live in a world guided by Alberich’s cynical, objective understanding. Wotan would rather die than live in such a world, but Bruennhilde’s decision to stand up for an ideal that Wotan knows in his heart of hearts is a false one, but one which can give his dreams at least a temporary lease on life, is the path Wotan will eventually take to avoid the bitter end.

Out of Wotan’s nihilistic urge to end it all has come Bruennhilde’s one-sided decision to fight for love, i.e., for that ideal which Wotan’s conscious reason tells him he must give up for lost. But Bruennhilde can only freely live for love because she is - as she tells Wotan himself - not wise, i.e., not objectively conscious, but only feels. This is the point Wotan is trying to drive home to her. Were she forced to confront the truth, as he has been, she could not live for love. The recurrence here of #87 reminds us that Wotan cannot help fearing the inevitable, i.e., fated, end of the gods

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