Siegfried’s narrative of his heroic life, and how he came to grasp the meaning of the Woodbird’s song (i.e., how Wagner came to grasp the link between consciously experienced music and its unconscious and repressed programme, its true, historical source of inspiration, which is sublimated into redemptive music), at Hagen’s behest, is Wagner’s play-within-the-play, Wagner’s metaphor for his creation, and performance before his audience, mankind, “woebegone man,” of his "Ring," in which, through his musical motifs (symbolized by the Woodbird’s tune), he made his audience fellow knowers of his profoundest secret, the secret of his unconscious artistic inspiration, a secret unknown even to him (since Siegfried, as he said himself, remained untaught after Bruennhilde imparted to him subliminally Wotan’s hoard of runes, which Wotan had learned from Erda). Siegfried’s tale of his boyhood days is Wagner’s tale of the mankind’s history, up until the present, and how man’s religious impulse, man’s longing for transcendent value, culminated in Wagner’s redemptive art, the music-drama, particularly the "Ring."
But now listen closely to the tale: wondrous things I must tell you. The dragon’s blood burned my fingers; to cool them, I raised them up to my mouth: (#Remembrance Motif? (#@: e or f?)?:) the gore had scarcely wet my tongue when all at once I understood what the little birds were singing (:#Remembrance Motif? - (#@: e or f?)?). (#11 vari:) On the boughs one sat and sang (:#11 vari;): (#129:) ‘Hey! Siegfried now owns the Nibelung hoard: o might he now find the hoard in the cave! If he wanted to win the Tarnhelm, it would serve him for wondrous deeds! But could he acquire the ring, it would make him lord of the world (:#129)!’
Siegfried has revealed here something remarkable which nobody seems to have noticed, but which supports what I’ve been saying. Note that, prior to Hagen giving Siegfried the antidote to the love and forgetfulness potion which Gutrune gave him to drink, Siegfried now, suddenly, remembers what the Woodbird had told him of the use he could make of the Tarnhelm and Ring in Hagen’s cave. When Siegfried emerged from the cave in S.2.3, he had already forgotten the use of these two items which the Woodbird had told him just moments before. This meant that this knowledge was subliminal, unconscious. But now, even before Hagen administers to Siegfried the potion of remembrance, Siegfried already remembers what the Woodbird had originally told him, and what he had instantly forgotten. In other words, Siegfried of his own nature is gradually remembering and bringing to consciousness what before he had only known subliminally, thanks to having been figuratively born from the seed of hope for a free hero and savior which Wotan’s confession had planted in the womb of Wotan’s wishes Bruennhilde. Siegfried, in other words, of his own nature, and from his own destiny, is becoming too conscious to be able to find redemption through loving union with his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, Bruennhilde. And because of this Siegfried is betraying his love for his muse Bruennhilde by giving her away to another man (Siegfried’s audience), and by bringing up from her silent depths, her protective embrace which kept the Ring’s power safe, the Ring itself, thus fulfilling Alberich’s prophecy that his hoard would rise from silent depths to the light of day, and that Wotan’s own heroes would serve Alberich. Hagen’s two potions are merely symbols for what is historically inevitable, according to Alberich’s Ring curse, which ultimately is a symbol itself for human nature and man’s historic destiny, the laws of evolution and history.
(Hagen has the drinking-horn refilled and squeezes the juice of a herb into it.)
Two Vassals: (#66:) What else did the bird have to tell you (:#66)?
Hagen: (#153:) Drink first, hero, from my horn: (#153:) I’ve seasoned a sweet-tasting [“holden”] drink (#153:) to stir your memory afresh (:#153) (#42 end frag: He hands Siegfried the horn: #154:) so that distant [“Fernes”] things don’t escape you (:#154)! (#154)
You may recall that Motif #66 was first introduced in V.1.1 when Sieglinde restrained Siegmund from trying to leave her after he’d told her that he was cursed with bad luck and didn’t wish her to suffer from it, by assuring Siegmund that he couldn’t bring bad luck where it already dwelled. The Waelsungs’ bad luck, including Siegfried’s fated doom, is the consequence of Wotan having nominated his mortal race of Waelsungs to try and redeem the gods from the doom for which Alberich’s curse on his Ring had predestined them, and which Erda (Mother Nature, Wotan’s wife and Bruennhilde’s mother) foretold, an unwitting duty which Wotan confessed to Bruennhilde in V.2.2. is futile and predestined to destruction. Motif #66 is sometimes construed as representing only Sieglinde’s sympathy for Siegmund, but an examination of all the uses to which Wagner puts it in the course of the "Ring," what I call its dramatic profile, shows that this is but a portion of its meaning which falls under the rubric of a more comprehensive meaning as representing the tragic anguish of the Waelsungs brought down upon them by their unwitting perpetuation of Wotan’s sin, his sin (religious man’s sin) against all that was, is, and will be, which is punished by Alberich’s curse on his Ring, the curse of consciousness. Recall that Wotan told Erda in S.3.1 that Siegfried was freed from Alberich’s curse because Siegfried hadn’t learned the meaning of fear, but Siegfried did learn fear from Bruennhilde, whose magical protection could only temporarily free Siegfried from the curse of consciousness.
Hagen now prepares his potion of remembrance, the antidote to his love and forgetfulness potion which he had Gutrune give Siegfried in T.1.2. One must recognize that these two potions are only superficially distinct, since Hagen administers first one, then the other, for one ultimate purpose, to have Siegfried reveal what had otherwise remained concealed, his true relationship with his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration Bruennhilde, and the unspoken secret which she had kept even from Siegfried, represented now by Alberich’s Ring. Hagen’s whole purpose was to make what was unconscious conscious, to bring the Nibelung Hoard and Wotan’s Hoard of self-knowledge up from the silent depths of the unconscious to the light of day. Hagen tells Siegfried that he has seasoned Siegfried’s drink to refresh Siegfried’s memory so that distant [“Fernes”] things don’t escape Siegfried. You may recall that in S.3.3 Bruennhilde had told Siegfried that what Wotan thought, she felt, and that what she felt was just her love for Siegfried, accompanied by the so-called World Inheritance Motif #134. Wagner thereby verbally linked Wotan’s confession of his hoard of runes to Bruennhilde, with Siegfried’s loving, redemptive union with Bruennhilde. But Siegfried’s response to Bruennhilde was that what she said to him, singing, he didn’t understand (as we heard the Fate Motif #87), and that with his senses he can’t grasp faraway (“Ferne”) things, as we heard a slow variant of Motif #137, the motif associated in S.3.3 with Siegfried’s fear of Bruennhilde, i.e., fear of Wotan’s terrible knowledge which Wotan confessed to Bruennhilde. The point is that Hagen is a metaphor for Siegfried’s remembrance of who he really is, what Bruennhilde told Siegfried in S.3.3 she knows for him (as, again, we heard the Fate Motif #87). So Hagen’s potion of remembrance, which shares with his prior potion of love and forgetfulness the same motif, #154, is symbolic of Siegfried’s becoming conscious of who he really is, not just in the obvious sense that he’s now remembering his true, prior relationship with Bruennhilde, but that Siegfried will in a single flash of intuition recognize his true, tragic role in Wotan’s story, a fact which will kill him, but will be verbally spelled out by Siegfried’s own unconscious mind Bruennhilde, once she, as Siegfried says just before dying, wakes forever. This is all accomplished subliminally through the music and some verbal motifs as well.
Siegfried: (gazing thoughtfully into the horn and then drinking slowly from it. #150 vari; #66; #149) In sadness I raised an ear to the treetop: (#11 vari:) it sat there still and sang: - (#129 >>> ‘Hey! Siegfried’s now slain the evil dwarf! Now I know the most glorious wife for him (:#129): - high on a fell she sleeps, fire burns round her hall; (128b:) if he passed through (#15:) the blaze (#128b:) and awakened (#15:) the bride (:#128b), (#128b end frag:) Bruennhilde then would be his (:#128b end)!’
Siegfried is accompanied by Motif #150, the motif which represents the true source of Siegfried’s artistic inspiration by Bruennhilde, Wotan’s hoard of runes which she imparted to him, and by Motif #149, the motif which represents Bruennhilde’s inspiration of Siegfried to undertake new adventures of art in the outer world of man, and Motif #66, which represents the tragic destiny of the Waelsungs who Wotan unwittingly set up for failure, as he now becomes conscious of what he’d forgotten and, in a sense, of what Wotan had repressed, as he recalls now his original waking of Bruennhilde (not his second visit in which he betrayed her).
Hagen: And did you follow (#128b frag) the bird’s advice?
Siegfried: (#128b frag:) Without delay I set out at once (Gunther listens with increasing astonishment. #35 vari:) till I came (#35 vari >> to the fiery fell; I passed through the flames and found as reward (with mounting ecstasy: #24) – (#24: [or #139 as heard during the transition S.3.2-3, and also from just before Siegfried woke Bruennhilde in S.3.3, heard here on “schlafend,” i.e., “asleep”?]) a wondrous woman asleep (#98>>:) in a suit of shining armour. (#98) I loosed the glorious (#98) woman’s helmet (#98); (#98) emboldened, my kiss awoke her: - [I’ve reversed the order of Spencer’s English translation below to accurately reflect the German original] (#134:) Oh! how clasped me in its ardor (:#134) (#139:) the fair Bruennhilde’s arm (:#139)!
Siegfried recalls now his original waking of Bruennhilde, his initiation of his archetypal unconscious artistic inspiration by his muse, a remembrance which motivally culminates in Motif #139, which is identified with Bruennhilde’s awakening to Siegfried’s desperate kiss, and Motif #134, which represents Wotan’s hope that the ideal legacy of Valhalla would live on in the redemptive union of Siegfried and Bruennhilde, i.e., that mankind’s religious feeling, his longing for transcendent value, would live on in unconsciously inspired secular art, the Wagnerian music-drama.
(Two ravens fly up out of a bush, circle over Siegfried and then fly off in the direction of the Rhine.)
Hagen: Can you also guess what those ravens whispered?
(Siegfried starts up suddenly and, turning his back on Hagen, watches the ravens fly away. #51/#170a)
Hagen: To me they counseled vengeance!
(Hagen thrusts his spear into Siegfried’s back. Gunther and the vassals throw themselves at Hagen. Siegfried raises his shield in both hands in order to throw it at Hagen: his strength fails him; the shield falls to the ground behind him and he himself collapses on top of it. #92; [[ #177ab ]])
Siegfried has stabbed himself in his back with his remembrance of who he is. Wotan couldn’t bear to know himself, to say aloud, consciously, who Wotan really is, which is why he told Bruennhilde in his confession that he found, with loathing, only always himself in all that he undertook, and told her prior to his confession that he dare not speak his thoughts aloud (consciously) lest he lose the grip sustaining his will (lose his mind). But, thanks to Bruennhilde knowing for Siegfried what he could not afford to know, his true identity as Wotan reborn, Siegfried had been protected from Wotan’s self-loathing and fear of the end. Now that Siegfried has remembered who he is, thanks to his having betrayed his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration and her secrets to the light of day, to his own audience, Siegfried can no longer exist as an unconsciously inspired artist, and must die, and his unconscious (Bruennhilde) must wake forever.
Siegfried: (supported in a sitting position by two men, opens his eyes radiantly: #138:; #: a cryptic version of the harp music, trills, and shimmers from Bruennhilde’s awakening in S.3.3]) Bruennhilde: (:#138) – Hallowed bride - awaken! (#139:) Unclose your eyes (:#139)! (#87 vari:) Who locked you in sleep once again? (#87 vari:) Who bound you in slumber’s dread bonds (:#87 vari) (#: Morse-code-like pulses from Bruennhilde’s original awakening) One came to wake you; (#92) his kiss awakes you and once again he (#92) breaks the bride’s bonds: (#92) and Bruennhilde’s joy laughs upon him (:# [Morse-code-like pulses from Bruennhilde’s awakening in S.3.3]). (#92) (#140>>:) Ah! those eyes – now open for ever! (#140:) Ah, this breath’s enchanted sighing (:#140)! (#141) Sweet extinction [“Suesses Vergehen”], - (#141) blissful terror [“seliges Grauen”]: - (#87?:) Bruennhild’ gives me her greeting (#87?)!
Siegfried’s last waking moment is a remembrance of his original consummation of his loving union with Bruennhilde, whose eyes, according to Siegfried, are now open forever. In other words, Bruennhilde now wakes permanently, Bruennhilde now is no longer Siegfried’s unconscious mind and source of redemption from conscious knowledge. Siegfried’s ultimate flash of intuition or clairvoyance comes when he says, to the sound of Motif #141, which was first associated conceptually in S.3.3 with Bruennhilde’s remark that she is his self if he loves her in her bliss, “Sweet extinction (the word “Vergehen” also carrying the meaning of a violation), blissful terror.” Bruennhilde was Siegfried’s own self if he loved her, i.e., she would know for him what he did not know, Wotan’s unbearable confession of the bitter truth about his own true nature and fate, so long as Siegfried preserved her status and role as his unconscious mind, but he has now betrayed this. So Siegfried, in a flash of intuition whose conceptual meaning will be spelled out by Siegfried’s unconscious mind, now conscious, Bruennhilde, in the finale of "Goetterdaemmerung," suddenly sees that his bliss and his terror (his fear of Bruennhilde and of the knowledge she’d kept secret even from him) are one and the same, that Wotan’s formerly unconscious hoard of terrible, fearful knowledge had been sublimated into the conscious bliss of music, through Bruennhilde, who felt what Wotan thought, and imparted this to Siegfried. It is in this sense a violation: Siegfried’s greatest work of art, the culmination of all prior religious belief, morality, and inspired secular art, is also his last, the last spark of mankind’s age-old futile bid for transcendent value. This is like Tannhaeuser's revelation in Act Two, during his contest song in the Wartburg Castle, that the true source of his unconscious artistic inspiration had not been divine revelation (which his audience had supposed), but the carnal, unconscious, formerly unremembered realm of the Venusberg, Tannhaeuser's true but abhorrent and irredeemable source of unconscious artistic inspiration by his muse Venus.
Gutrune: (#77 vari) Bruennhilde’s laughter woke me up. – Who was the woman (#161 end frag:) I saw going down to the shore (:#161 end frag)? – (#15 vari; #111 vari; #149) I’m afraid of Bruennhild’! – (#87) Is she within? Bruennhild’! Bruennhild’! Are you awake? (She opens the door timidly and looks into the inner chamber. #149) The chamber’s empty! – So it was she whom I saw going (#13 vari:) down to the Rhine (:#13 vari)? (#171) Was that his horn? – No! (#161 end frag:) Everywhere desolate (:#161)! – (#156a/#164: Anxiously she looks outside.) Might I only see Siegfried soon!
This is one of the most poignant evocations of nihilistic devastation in art (“Everywhere desolate”), a bit like the shepherd's evocation of the empty sea in Tristan Act Three: in fact Wagner once stated that what happens to Siegfried in his final moments is written large in Tristan’s fate: both heroes betrayed their own true love, as if under a spell, by giving her to another man unworthy of her (Wagner’s audience), with tragic consequences. Bruennhilde’s laughter (presumably at the inanity of her prior life as an unwitting stooge of Wotan’s futile hope for redemption from reality, in the face of her mother Erda’s now waking, cosmic knowledge of the all) will be carried over to her reincarnate self Kundry. As Wagner told Cosima, Kundry has undergone Isolde’s final transfiguration innumerable times in prior lives, and Wagner in his “Epilogue to ‘The Nibelung’s Ring’ “ stated that the plots of "Twilight of the Gods" and "Tristan and Isolde" are virtually identical, so that we can construe Isolde also as a variant of Bruennhilde.
Bruennhilde: (still at the back of the stage: #2:) Silence your grief’s exultant (“jauchzenden,” i.e., exultant?]) clamour (:#2)! (#54) (#2:) His wife, whom you all betrayed (#54 vari >>:) comes in quest of (#87:) revenge (:#54; :#2; :#87). (advancing calmly: #156: [in a mournful vari]) I heard children whimpering for their mother since they’d spilt some fresh milk (:#156 [in a mournful vari]): (#87:) but no sound I heard of a worthy lament (:#87) (#88:) befitting the greatest of heroes (:#88).
A little off topic here (i.e., not directly relevant to Dr. Kitcher’s query regarding my evidence in the "Ring" text and music for my assertions that, allegorically, Bruennhilde is Siegfried’s unconscious mind, and that Siegfried is Wotan reborn minus his consciousness of his true identity), but it is noteworthy, given Dr. Kitcher’s and Dr. Schacht’s proposal that Wagner ultimately intended us to repudiate Siegfried as Wagner’s notion of a great hero in favor of Bruennhilde as the true redeemer, that Bruennhilde herself puts the lie to this in her unambiguous description above of Siegfried as “… the greatest of heroes,” with the Fate Motif #87 and Motif #88 (sometimes called “Doom”) sounding in the background to remind us that these two motifs were first introduced when Bruennhilde was announcing Siegmund’s death to him, in order to assure us that Siegfried, in her eyes, is in no way inferior to his father Siegmund (for whom Bruennhilde first felt that deepest sympathy which led her to rebel against her father Wotan’s authority), but in fact is his superior, because she calls Siegfried the greatest of heroes now, in spite of his betrayal of their love, just as she did when announcing his prospective birth to his birth mother Sieglinde, and naming him Siegfried.
General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung
1 post • Page 1 of 1