A+ a-
Wagnerheim Logo
Wagnerheim Bookmark System
Siegfried: Page 534
Go back a page
534
Go forward a page

praise and concrete, material profit for his skills, whereas, according to Feuerbach (and Wagner also), the true genius is compelled by his very nature to create, and in this sense deserves neither praise nor blame. What he does couldn’t be otherwise. It is, as both Wagner and Feuerbach put it (in extracts cited previously), inevitable, an expression of one’s identity and nature as one’s destiny, or fate:

“The works of the poet, of the philosopher, can be regarded in the light of merit only as considered externally . They are works of genius – inevitable products: the poet [Siegfried] must bring forth poetry, the philosopher must philosophise. They have the highest satisfaction in the activity of creation, apart from any collateral or ulterior purpose [witness Siegfried’s joyful labor in the restoration of Nothung]. And it is just so with a truly noble moral action. To the man of noble feeling [Siegmund], the noble action is natural: … he must do it. (…) Meritoriousness always involves the notion that a thing is done, so to speak, out of luxury, not out of necessity.” [169F-EOC: p. 321]

Wagner echoes Feuerbach’s sentiments in his praise of the very process of creation, for the true genius, he says, cares not for the profit his product will bring him, but only for the ecstasy of producing it:

“Annulled be the fancy that makes man bondslave to his handiwork, to property. Man’s highest good is his fashioning force, the fount whence springs all happiness forever; and not in the created, in the act of creation itself, in the exercise of your powers lies your true highest enjoyment. Man’s work is lifeless; the living shall not bind itself to what is lifeless, not make itself a thrall to that.” [399W-{4/49} The Revolution: PW Vol. VIII, p. 236]

Wagner of course dramatized the genius’s delight in the very process of creation in Siegfried’s smelting and forging songs. And we are reminded in Wagner’s following distinction of the true artist from the journeyman that while Siegfried is an authentically inspired genius, Mime, who after all is a Nibelung dwarf whose nature it is to labor and carry Alberich’s burden, is concerned only with profit or at the very least prompted by fear of punishment. Therefore, for Mime, labor itself is a burden, as Mime proved above when he anticipated with delight that once he wins the Ring’s power others will do his work for him:

[P. 48] “The true artist finds delight not only in the aim of his creation, but also in the very process of creation, in the handling and moulding of his material. (…) The journeyman reckons only the goal of his labour, the profit which his toil shall bring him; the energy which he expends, gives him no pleasure; it is but a fatigue, an inevitable task, a burden which he would gladly give over to a machine; his toil is but a fettering chain. (…) [P. 49] But if he bargains away the product of his toil, all that remains to him is its mere money-worth; and thus his energy can never rise above the character of the busy strokes of a machine; in his eyes it is but weariness, and bitter, sorrowful toil. The latter is the lot of the Slave of Industry; and our modern factories afford us the sad picture of the deepest degradation of man, -- constant labour, killing both body and soul, without joy or love, often almost without aim.” [406W-{6-8/49} Art and Revolution: PW Vol. I, p. 48-49]

A few final remarks are in order concerning the symbolic import of the sword Nothung which Siegfried has re-forged. First and foremost, it is the symbol of the legacy of works of genius that

Go back a page
534
Go forward a page
© 2011 Paul Heise. All rights reserved. Website by Mindvision.