Hagen: (sitting motionless, his back resting against the doorpost of the hall) I sit here on watch, (#151b:) guarding the garth, defending the hall from the foe (:#151b): ([[ #161 ]]; [A Norn-like stir]) (#40 vari:) the wind wafts Gibich’s son away (:#40 vari), awooing he is going. (#151/#103) (#92:) His helm is held by a doughty hero, who’ll face every danger for him (:#92). (#161:; #154/#103 >> his very own bride he’ll bring to the Rhine; to me, though, he’ll bring the ring (:#161). (#151/#37; #12) [[ #162a: ]] You freeborn sons, carefree companions :#162a), (#37) ([[ #162b: ]] merrily sail on your way (:#162b)! [[ #162 end frag: ]] Though you think him lowly (:#162 end), (#20a minor) you’ll serve him yet, (#12) the Nibelung’s son.
When Hagen says to himself that though they think him lowly, the freeborn, carefree companions Siegfried and Gunther will serve him yet (they are, as he says, going to win Bruennhilde for Gunther, and unwittingly win his father Alberich’s Ring for Hagen), Hagen is referencing his father Alberich’s prophesy in R.3 that the gods’ heroes would turn against the gods and serve him, that he would force himself on the gods’ women without love, and that his hoard would someday rise from the silent night to day and bring about the end of the gods. Siegfried is unwittingly performing all of these services. There is a motif combination here which resonates with a similar combination heard during Wotan’s confession to Bruennhilde in V.2.2, as Wotan in despair announced that he was leaving his whole heritage, all that he now despises, to Alberich’s son: “(#20b special harmonic transformation; #12) So take my blessing, Nibelung son! What I loathe most deeply I leave as your legacy: godhood’s empty glitter. May your envy greedily gnaw it away!”
The point of this is that the allegedly free hero Siegfried, who Wotan hoped would be autonomous from the gods yet fulfill the gods’ need, is in fact every bit as much a proxy for, and dependent upon the influence of, the gods, as was Siegmund. In bringing Bruennhilde, and also the Ring whose power she kept safe, back to Gibichung Hall, Siegfried will be fulfilling Alberich’s intent that his hoard rise from the silent night to day and destroy the gods, because in giving Bruennhilde, Siegfried’s muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, away to his audience, the music-dramatist Siegfried is not only revealing the formerly unconscious mechanism through which man’s unconscious mind produced what religious humans call divine revelation, is not only revealing the mechanism through which the authentic, individual artist draws inspiration from his unconscious mind, but also revealing the true but formerly hidden and unconscious source of that inspiration, the terrible knowledge which art was meant to conceal and repress, for which it offered a consoling substitution.
#149/#40 vari [agitated]; #139 flutes; #19 varis; #Siegfried Idyll motif]; #149; #37; #149; #139 [plus trills]; #154; #143 “Hoard of the World” The curtain opens again. The rocky height, as in the prelude. Bruennhilde is seated at the entrance to the stone chamber in silent contemplation of Siegfried’s ring. Overcome by joyful memories, she covers the ring with kisses. distant thunder is heard; she looks up and listens. #154; #143; #91. She turns back to the ring. #143; #91: A distant flash of lightning. Bruennhilde listens again and peers into the distance, from where a dark thundercloud can be seen approaching the edge of the rock: #77/#91; #78/#77)
The so-called “Hagen’s Watch” musical transition from T.1.2-3 is unusually pregnant with resonant musical motifs, including Bruennhilde’s awakening for Siegfried #139, Bruennhilde’s inspiration of Siegfried #149, and most importantly the Hoard of the World Motif #143, well known as a key theme from the "Siegfried Idyll." Special emphasis is placed on Motif #143 because Siegfried, as the “Hoard of the World,” has now become the unwitting guardian and trustee of Wotan’s hoard of runes, his unspoken secret which he confessed to Bruennhilde in V.2.2, the hoard of knowledge of the gods’ irrevocable twilight which Erda, Mother Earth (the World-Spirit, so to speak) imparted to Wotan while giving birth to their daughter Bruennhilde, and Siegfried, as Alberich had foreseen in R.3, and as even Siegfried himself foresaw when he told Bruennhilde in T.P that she’d given him more than he knows how to cherish or guard, is about to reveal what should have remained concealed, Wotan’s forbidden knowledge, which is now embodied by Alberich’s Ring. We feel the inevitability of this betrayal since Wagner mixes Alberich’s Ring Motif #19, The Loveless Motif (sometimes known as “Woman’s Worth”) #37, and Alberich’s Potion Motif #154 in with the motifs which recall Siegfried’s unconscious artistic inspiration by his muse Bruennhilde #149 and her unspoken secret, Wotan’s Hoard of repressed knowledge, represented in this case by #143.
Waltraute: Hear and reflect on what I now tell you. (#81:) Since he and you were parted, Wotan has sent us no more into battle (:#81) Lost and helpless we anxiously rode to the field (#81(?)>[[ #164: ]]) The lord of the slain avoided Valhalla’s valiant heroes (:#81>#164): (#53: [i.e., #83a]) alone on his horse, (#83:) without rest or repose, (#54: [i.e., #83b]) he rode the world as the wanderer (:#83). He came home of late; (#20b vari) in his hand he was holding (#21:) his spear’s (#20a with #42 harmony) splintered shards (:#21): (#87 tympani:) they’d been shattered by a hero (:#87 tympani). (#20a with #42 harmony? [repeat of the orchestral figure heard above]) With a silent sign he sent Valhalla’s warriors into the forest to fell the (#146) world ash-tree; (#20a with #42 harmony) (#87 tympani:; #115:; #20 in trumpet triplets: [is this #20e?]) he bade them pile up the logs from its trunk in a towering heap round the hall of the blessed immortals. (#20?/#115 >>>>:) He convened the council of gods; his high seat he solemnly took and on either side bade the anxious gods be seated, inviting the heroes to fill the hall in their circles and rows (:#20?/#115). #20c) So he sits, (#87 plus #87 tympani:) says not a word, silent and grave (#87:) on his hallowed seat (:#87), with the splintered spear held tight in his hand; (#29 vari:) Holda’s apples he does not touch (:#29 vari): wonder and fear hold the gods in thrall (#drum roll; #20?/#19/#42).
The significance of Waltraute’s description of Wotan’s final despairing days in Valhalla is that, presumably thanks to Wotan having become aware that Siegfried is betraying, or going to betray, Bruennhilde, and that Wotan’s hope, that through their loving union (Siegfried’s unconscious artistic inspiration of that secular art in which the gods, religious feeling, can live on for a time after religious belief has declined) Alberich’s Ring curse could be ended, has been crushed, Wotan now renounces Freia’s golden apples of sorrowless youth eternal, i.e., Wotan (representative not only of godhead, but of collective, historical humanity) has renounced mankind’s last bid for transcendence, its last refuge. Siegfried, as an unwitting agent of Alberich’s curse on his Ring, the curse of consciousness, is about to storm that last refuge of Valhalla’s legacy, his own muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, Bruennhilde, and reveal her secrets to the light of day. It is for this very reason that Wagner told Roeckel that Wotan didn’t consider restoring the Ring to the Rhinedaughters until his bid for redemption through his hero Siegfried had failed. Valhalla is to burn up using the fuel which gave birth to mankind’s positing of a realm of divinity and transcendence (Valhalla), the now dead World-Ash, the symbol of Wotan’s figurative matricide, religious man’s sin against all that was, is, and will be (Erda’s objective knowledge), the sin of religious world-denial and pessimism. And Loge’s fire, emblematic of man’s artistic self-deception, or Wahn, which gave birth to the religious illusion for which we have so long lived, will burn that illusion and burn out with its fuel. This is what we might call the secular theology of the "Ring."
Motif #164 is introduced here as a sort of tail end of Motif #81 (Cooke pointed out that Motif #164 is a variant of Motif #137, which is in turn a variant of Motif #81), the Motif of Wotan’s Frustration of his quest for a free hero who could do what the gods can’t, win possession of Alberich’s Ring in order to keep Alberich from regaining it and its power and activating his Ring curse to destroy the gods. Motif #81 represents Wotan’s recognition of the futility of his hope that a hero freed from the gods’ influence and rule and laws could redeem the gods from Alberich’s curse on his Ring, and Motif #137 expressed Siegfried’s fear of waking Bruennhilde, his subliminal premonition of the doom to which he is destined by virtue of inheriting from Bruennhilde Wotan’s hoard of fateful knowledge. Therefore Motif #164, heard here in association with Waltraute’s description of how Wotan no longer looks to the martyred heroes of Valhalla (inspired to martyrdom by the Valkyrie muses of heroic inspiration) to protect it from Alberich’s threat, can now be construed to apply also not only, obviously, to Siegmund (in its prior form as #81), whom Wotan had already given up for lost as a potential heroic savior of the gods, but also to the last of the Waelsung heroes to whom Wotan looked for redemption, Siegfried. It is no accident that Wagner introduces the new motif #164 here just after motif #81, to seal in our subliminal awareness of the continuity. The need of the gods for a free hero, which Wotan had confessed to Fricka as the Need of the Gods Motif #83 was introduced in V.2.1, Wotan now knows can’t be satisfied. That is why he is no longer the exultant Wanderer of S.3.1 who triumphed over Erda and the fear her prophecy engendered by acknowledging that Wotan could reconcile himself to the gods’ end now that he knows his hope for redemption lives on in Siegfried and Bruennhilde, because somehow he now knows that this hope has been dashed.
Waltraute: (#161 >> Both his ravens he sent on their travels (:#161): if ever they come back again with good tidings, then once again – for one last time (#13) – the god would smile for ever. (#13 [transforming into a #77 vari]) (#81 >>:) Clasping his knees we Valkyries lie (:#81>>): he is blind to our pleading glances; we are all consumed by dismay and infinite dread [“Angst”]. (#81/#164:) To his breast I pressed myself, weeping (:#81/#164): (hesitating:) his glance grew less harsh; (#99:) he was thinking, Bruennhilde, of you (:#99)! Sighing deeply, he closed his eye and, as in a (#15:) dream, whispered the words (:#15): (#19 >> ‘If she gave back the (#37:) ring to the deep Rhine’s daughters (:#19; :#37), (#51) from the weight of the curse (#15: [#15 seems to merge with #20c - as Cooke notes occurs most powerfully in Bruennhilde’s final judgment of the gods when she addresses Wotan: “Rest! Rest! Thou god!,” in the finale of Twilight of the Gods]) both (#20c:) god and world would be (15:) freed (:#20c; :#15).’ (#20c merged with #15 as heard in T.3.3’s finale as Bruennhilde sings: “Ruhe! Ruhe!”?)
Further proof of this reading is provided by the fact that we hear #81 again, in conjunction with #164, as Waltraute describes how Wotan is blind to the pleading
of the Valkyries. #164 clearly stands to Siegfried as #81 stands to Siegmund, Wotan’s recognition that they are not the free heroes for whom he longed. And then
Waltraute describes how Wotan has virtually confessed to her that the redemption he thought Siegfried’s and Bruennhilde’s loving union would bring to the world
and gods has failed, and is entirely distinct from his newly expressed, nihilistic desire that Bruennhilde restore the Ring to the Rhinedaughters in order to end its
curse and the world’s lovelessness, expressed here motivically by Alberich’s Ring Motif #19, the Loveless Motif #37, and the Ring Curse Motif #51.
Wotan has whispered to Waltraute that there is an alternative, now that the love of hero and heroine has failed. As Waltraute recounts how Wotan, as if in a dream, whispered his hope to her that if only Bruennhilde gave back the Ring to the Rhinedaughters, from the weight of Alberich’s curse on his Ring (the curse of consciousness) gods and world would be freed, we hear a synthesis of Motif #15 (The Rhinedaughters’ pre-Fall cry of “Rhinegold! Rhinegold!”) and the third segment of the Valhalla Motif #20c, which is last heard at that crucial moment in the finale of the Ring in T.3.3 when Bruennhilde tells Wotan that he can now rest from his wanderings, as we also
hear the Need of the Gods Motif #83. #20c was also heard in V.3.3 when Wotan told Bruennhilde that he would punish her by putting her to sleep, defenseless, to be won as wife by any man who wakes her. The point is that Siegfried, as Wotan minus conscious knowledge of who he is (minus conscious affirmation of religion’s claim to the truth), inherited Wotan’s religious legacy, the legacy of religious longing for transcendent value, from Bruennhilde. His muse Bruennhilde imparted to Siegfried as feeling what Wotan had thought. It is also noteworthy that Dr. Allen Dunning suggested that Motif #20c may well be an embryo for one of the two Wanderer Motifs, the motifs which represent Wotan’s wanderings over the earth (Erda) in quest of knowledge, i.e., collective, historical man’s experience of the world. But another extremely important motival reference is the fact that a hint of a somewhat similar synthesis of #15 and #59a was heard in V.2.2 when, just before Wotan’s confession to Bruennhilde, Bruennhilde asked Wotan, “Who am I if not your will?” The significance of this is that Wotan told Erda in S.3.1 that her wisdom wanes before his will, and I have already noted that Bruennhilde, as Siegfried’s unconscious mind, is a sort of surrogate for actually returning Alberich’s Ring to the Rhinedaughters. Clearly, the surrogate is no longer effective, so Wotan now actually longs to return the Ring of human consciousness back to the preconscious Rhinedaughters. Wotan, in other words, is seeking oblivion.
Bruennhilde: (calmly) What tales of fearful dreams are you telling me, sad sister? (#81’s grace-note twist) Poor fool that I am, I have risen above the (#19 frag:) mists of the (#20a:) gods’ hallowed heaven [“Himmels-Nebel”] (:#19 frag; :#20a): I do not grasp what I hear. [as the German phrase order - and therefore the order of the motifs - of the material above was completely different, I reproduce it here: “(#20a:) Der Goetter heiligem (#19:) Himmels-Nebel (:#20a; :#19 frag) (#81’s grace-note twist) bin ich Thoerin enttaucht: nicht fass’ ich, was ich erfahre.”]) (#81 grace-note twist) (#164 >> Your meaning seems wild and confused; in your eye – so over weary – fitful fire gleams (:#164): (#164 vari [very concentrated]) with pallid cheek, wan sister (:#164 vari), what would you have me do in your wildness? (#19)
Waltraute: (vehemently) Upon your hand, the ring – that’s it: o heed my counsel! (#5 loose varis:) For Wotan, cast it away from you (:#5 loose varis)!
It is noteworthy that as Bruennhilde, in Waltraute’s presence, virtually consigns Valhalla and the gods to oblivion (as something which no longer concerns her, just as she did figuratively in the finale to S.3.3), we hear a fragment of Alberich’s Ring Motif #19 introduce its variant, Wotan’s Valhalla Motif #20a, as if to say that Bruennhilde now is affirming what Wotan effectually confessed to her in V.2.2, that ultimately Alberich’s Nibelheim and Wotan’s Valhalla are indistinguishable (which is true in any case because Alberich’s Ring #19 gave birth to Valhalla #20a). Bruennhilde in saying she doesn’t grasp how Waltraute’s fear for the destiny of the gods concerns her, is saying she believes the love she shares with Siegfried is entirely free and independent from the gods (as Wotan had confessed to her his hope that it would be). But Wagner’s musical motifs know better because we hear a fragment of Wotan’s Frustration Motif #81 as Bruennhilde says she’s risen above the mists (“Nebel,” as in Nibelheim) of the gods’ hallowed heaven, and we hear its ultimate variant #164 (which symbolizes the fact that the allegedly free and independent Waelsung hero, her lover Siegfried, is no more independent than was his father Siegmund) as Bruennhilde tells Waltraute Waltraute’s meaning seems wild and confused. Bruennhilde in S.3.3 had told Siegfried something he said he didn’t understand, that Wotan’s thought is her feeling, and that Wotan’s thought was just her love for Siegfried, but now Bruennhilde is echoing Siegfried’s ignorance in saying she doesn’t grasp what Waltraute is telling her. The mere fact that Waltraute is pleading with Bruennhilde for Wotan’s sake demonstrates that Siegfried and Bruennhilde are still very much implicated in Wotan’s sin against all that was, is, and will be, and that therefore they are subject to Alberich’s punishment for that sin, his curse on his Ring, which Waltraute now begs Bruennhilde to restore to the Rhinedaughters so the weight of Alberich’s curse will be lifted from gods and world.
Bruennhilde: (#17 varis >>: [a new, agitated but optimistic and triumphant vari]) More than Valhalla’s bliss, more than the glory of the immortals the ring is to me: one glance at its bright-shining gold (:#17 varis), one flash of its noble fire is worth far more to me than all the gods’ eternal joy! (#134:) For Siegfried’s love shines blissfully forth from it (:#134)! Siegfried’s love – (#149:; #139:) if only my rapture could speak to you (:#149; :#139)! (#140 - clarinet:; :#92c?) That love the ring embodies for me (:#140 - clarinet; :#92c?). (#164 >> Go hence to the gods’ hallowed council; of my ring tell them only this (:#164): (#18 vari:) I shall never relinquish love (:#18 vari), (#18 vari: [optimistic]) they’ll never take love from me (:#18 vari), though Valhalla’s glittering pomp should moulder into dust.
Here Bruennhilde declares the independence of the love (unconsciously inspired art) she shares with Siegfried, which Bruennhilde says is sealed and symbolized by the Ring, which is worth far more than the gods’ eternal joy (i.e., worth far more than the ersatz sorrowless youth eternal, the blissful immortality offered by belief in the gods, which was granted them by Freia’s golden apples of sorrowless youth eternal). Accompanied by Motif #134, which was the motif which embodied Wotan’s passing the torch of religious man’s longing for transcendent value to the secular and mortal artist-hero Siegfried and his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, Bruennhilde in S.3.1, Bruennhilde declares that Siegfried’s love shines blissfully forth from the Ring. In other words, Wotan’s thought (his confession of his hoard of fearful knowledge of the gods’ doom, which Erda imparted to Wotan, and of the futility of his longing for a free hero who could redeem the gods from their inevitable doom), which is equivalent (so Bruennhilde said herself to Siegfried in S.3.3) to Bruennhilde’s feeling of love for Siegfried, is now embodied by Alberich’s Ring, the Ring Alberich forged from the Rhinegold by cursing love, the Ring which gave birth to the gods’ hallowed heaven Valhalla, the ultimate irony. Bruennhilde then declares, accompanied by the motif which first sounded in the "Ring" in conjunction with the notion that one can only forge it and gain its power by renouncing love, #18, that the gods will never take love from her. However, we know that Bruennhilde will renounce her love for Siegfried and conspire in his death. Siegfried and Bruennhilde will both betray their love because it was from the beginning implicated in Wotan’s primal sin against all that was, is, and will be, the truth, which Alberich’s curse on his Ring will punish.
General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung
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