Bruennhilde: No god has ever dared draw near me: in awe the heroes bowed before the virgin maid: (#20c:) she left Valhalla (#20e:) inviolate [“Heilig”] (:#20ce)! – Woe! Woe! Alas for the shame, for my ignominious plight [“Noth”]! He who woke me has wounded me, too! (#34 vari:) He broke open my brinie and helmet (:#34 vari): Bruennhilde am I no longer!
Bruennhilde’s plight, her “Noth,” is Wotan’s godly “Noth” which he confessed to her in V.2.2. Bruennhilde’s fear of losing her once divine Valkyrie virginity to Siegfried (in spite of having conceded to Wotan’s demand that she submit as wife to the first man who wakes and wins her, so long as that man is a fearless hero who would be worthy of both Wotan and Wotan’s “will” Bruennhilde) is actually Wotan’s fear that his unspoken secret, his confession that the so-called gods (religious faith) are predestined to destruction, will be revealed. Bruennhilde fears (perhaps subliminally, because she doesn’t verbalize it, though Wagner’s motifs tell us the origin of her fears) that since she must now share Wotan’s unspoken secret with Siegfried, he may not keep it in trust. She is having a premonition of Siegfried’s ultimate betrayal of her in "Twilight of the Gods," whose entire plot details how Siegfried, under Hagen’s (Alberich’s son, the embodiment of Alberich’s curse on his Ring, the curse of consciousness) influence gave Bruennhilde, and the unspoken secret she has maintained for Wotan and Siegfried, away to another man, the Gibichung Gunther, who, as we will see, is Wagner the music-dramatist’s metaphor for his own audience. We can see in the passage below her concern that her knowledge (what Wotan thought, and which she feels) is falling silent and may be forsaking her.
Siegfried: To me you are still the dream-struck maid: Bruennhilde’s sleep I have not yet disturbed. Awaken and be a woman for me!
Bruennhilde: (in a state of confusion) My senses grow clouded; my knowledge falls silent: is my wisdom to forsake me now?
Siegfried: (#134:) Did you not sing that your knowledge stemmed from the shining light of your love for me (:#134)?
Bruennhilde: (staring ahead of her) (#134 [fades away]; (#82:) Grieving darkness clouds my gaze; (#51 vari:) my eye grows dim, its light dies out: (#82:) night enfolds me; (#51 vari:) from mist [“Nebel”] and dread [“Grau’n”] a confusion of fear now writhes in its rage! (#79/#84 >>:) Terror stalks and rears its head (:#79/#84)!
Bruennhilde, having just expressed her fear that her wisdom might be forsaking her now, is rebutted by Siegfried (accompanied by Wotan’s World-Inheritance Motif #134), who reminds her that she told him her knowledge stems from her love for him. In other words, she has to consummate a loving union with Siegfried in order to assuage the fears, and honor the hopes, which Wotan’s thought expressed to her in his confession in V.2.2. And now, in the culminating expression of her fear of the possible consequences of consummating a loving union with Siegfried, the musical motifs heard during Bruennhilde’s explosion of despair take us back right to that decisive moment in V.2.2 when Wotan exploded in despair that his hopes to redeem gods and world from Alberich’s curse on his Ring were futile, because the motifs are identical. We heard Motif #82, Wotan’s Rebellion, Alberich’s Curse Motif #51, and #79, the motif which stands for Fricka’s indictment of Wotan’s Waelsung race as a threat to the rule of the gods (ironically the very race to which Wotan looked to redeem the gods from Alberich’s curse on his Ring), during Wotan’s explosion of despair in V.2.2, which prompted Bruennhilde to beg Wotan to confess the cause of his anguish to her, and we hear them again now as Bruennhilde plunges into a bottomless pit of dread and terror at the prospect of consummating a loving union with Siegfried, who will inherit Wotan’s unspoken secret, which Wotan confessed to Bruennhilde immediately after his explosion of despair when she begged him to confide in her. Motif #79, I might add, is a variant of Motif #58b, which accompanied Wotan in R.4 when he expressed his hope that Valhalla would be a refuge from care and fear, the care and fear that Alberich’s curse would bring about the twilight of the gods which Erda foresaw.
We also hear Motif #84, a motif generally associated with Wotan’s anger at Bruennhilde’s disobedience to his command to let his beloved hero and son Siegmund fall dead at the hands of Hunding, but which is first heard during Wotan’s confession in V.2.2 when Wotan tells Bruennhilde that Siegmund is not the free hero Wotan had hoped for, since Wotan can only create serfs, and that Wotan always finds with loathing only himself in all that he undertakes. The essential point of all these motival references is that the fears Wotan expressed in his confession to Bruennhilde, which Wotan believed would remain forever unspoken (i.e., safely unconscious), are the ultimate, hidden motivation for Bruennhilde’s fear of consummating a loving union with Wotan’s hoped-for hero and savior Siegfried. Another implication is that Siegfried is no freer a hero than his father Siegmund was, that Siegfried is basically just an unwitting proxy for Wotan, motivated subliminally (by virtue of Bruennhilde knowing for Siegfried what he doesn’t know, that he is Wotan’s hoped-for hero who is to redeem the gods from Alberich’s curse on his Ring) by Wotan’s fear.
Siegfried: (gently removing her hands from her eyes.) Night encloses eyes that are bound; (#134 vari:) with your fetters your gloomy dread [“Grau’n”] will fade (:#134 vari): rise from the darkness and see – bright as the sun shines the day!
Bruennhilde: (in the utmost dismay) Bright as the sun shines the day of my shame! (#96 >>:) O Siegfried! Siegfried! Behold my fear [“Angst”] (:#96)!
Bruennhilde: (#142/#98 accompaniment:; #142 voc [in minor]) Ever was I, ever am I, ever beset by sweet-yearning bliss – but ever working for your own weal (:#142/#98)! ([[ #143: ]] O Siegfried! Glorious hero! Hoard [“Hort”] of the world! Life of the earth [“Erde,” i.e. Erda]! Laughing hero! Leave, oh leave me! Leave me be! Do not draw near with your raging nearness! Do not constrain me with chafing constraint! Do not destroy a woman who’s dear to you (:#143)! Did you see your face in the limpid brook? (#137 varis:) Did it rejoice you, blithe hero? If you stirred the water into a wave, (#137 vari [agitated, sounding like #164]) if the brook’s clear surface dissolved, you’d see your own likeness no longer but only the billow’s eddying surge. (#143 frag:) And so do not touch me, trouble me not: (#Five chord horn fanfare) (#142/#143/#98 develops >> ever bright in your bliss you will smile a smile that passes from me to you, a hero blithe and happy! – O Siegfried! Light-bringing youth! (#87) Love but yourself and let me be: (#98:) do not destroy what is yours (:#98)!
Bruennhilde is fearful of having what is sacred in her, what binds her destiny with that of Wotan and the gods, exposed to the light of day in shame, because she is the repository of the religious mysteries, as embodied in Wotan’s confession that the gods are not gods but merely the unconscious expression of mortal humans’ fears and hopes. Bruennhilde is the guardian of this terrible secret which she, in consummating a loving union with Siegfried, will share with him, making him a fellow (yet unwitting) trustee of Wotan’s unspoken secret. Accordingly, she now, to the new Motif #143 (along with Motif #142 derived from music which Wagner employed in his composition for chamber orchestra "The Siegfried Idyll"), describes Siegfried as the “Hoard of the world.” Bruennhilde makes Siegfried the guardian of Wotan’s hoard of fearful knowledge of the world, the earth, which Erda (Mother Earth, Mother Nature) imparted to Wotan in exchange for the seed of his fear and hope which gave birth to Bruennhilde. Bruennhilde here begs Siegfried to respect her integrity as the muse who holds for him the knowledge of what he doesn’t know about himself (his fate, #87), so that this shameful and bitter knowledge which Wotan confessed to her will not be exposed to the light of day, and so that (as we learn from Bruennhilde later in T.2.5) her magic can protect him at the front from wounds (the wounds of consciousness, of foresight of the tragic end of the gods and their proxies).
In a metaphorical description of the consequences of not respecting her integrity, she tells Siegfried (accompanied again by Motif #137, which expresses Siegfried’s fear of the potential consequences of consummating a loving union with Bruennhilde, who holds for him Wotan’s hoard of fearful knowledge) that he ought not stir up the waters which otherwise reflect him back to himself ideally, through her. As she tells him to love but himself and not destroy what is his (her virtue of knowing for him what he doesn’t know, so he’ll be protected by her from experiencing Wotan’s fear), we hear both the Fate Motif #87 (which again informs us that she is the repository of Wotan’s disturbing knowledge of the gods’ fate, imparted to him by Erda), and motif #98, the motif which was introduced in V.3.3 as Bruennhilde begged Wotan to protect her sleep with terrors so only a fearless hero would wake and win her as wife.
Bruennhilde: (very inwardly: #140 vari:) O Siegfried! Yours was I aye [ever] (:#140 vari)!
Siegfried: (ardently: #accompaniment from the Siegfried Idyll:) If you were once, then be so now (:#Siegfried Idyll accompaniment)!
Bruennhilde: (#140:) Yours shall I be for ever!
Siegfried: (#Siegfried Idyll accompaniment:) What you will be, be today (:#Siegfried Idyll accompaniment)! (#141 varis: [developing as in the lead-up to the finale a bit later]) As my arm enfolds you, I hold you fast; as my heart beats wildly against your own; as our glances ignite and breath feeds on breath, eye to eye and (#140 vari:) mouth to mouth (:#141 varis; :#140 vari), (#134:) then, to me, you must be what, fearful, you were and will be (:#134)!
Remember that Alberich warned Wotan that if Wotan stole Alberich’s Ring and co-opted its power (to sustain the gods’ rule in Valhalla), Wotan would be sinning against all that was, is, and will be, i.e., sinning against Erda’s knowledge of all that was, is, and will be, the truth, the real world of time, space, matter, energy, and natural law, the coherence of nature, which in mythology is called Fate. Religious man’s positing of Godhead (Wotan) is just such a sin against Mother Nature, against truth, since it proclaims the objective existence of an imagined realm of supernatural autonomy from the laws of Nature, which of course flatly contradicts Nature’s (Erda’s) essential law of change, that all which exists must end. One of Wagner’s most distinct and remarkable concepts is the concept of the artistic wonder which is embodied in a special property of musical motifs of foreboding and remembrance. That property is that once a musical motif has been associated with various incidents and symbols and ideas and feelings in the drama, which is a representation of the real world in which time and space are real, upon hearing it we, at least subliminally, feel (as in a flash of aesthetic intuition), even if we don’t think, the things, widely distant in time and space, with which that motif has been (or will be) associated. In this way we aesthetically, feelingly intuit a coherency and unity of all things which are actually widely distributed in time and space, so that we might feel redeemed from the limits of time and space, since this body of musical motifs make us feel all that is distant in time and space is here and now, present. In this way, what is thought is felt, just as Bruennhilde told Siegfried that what Wotan thought (the content of his confession of world history to her in V.2.2, which was the fearful knowledge of the inevitability of the gods’ doom which Erda had imparted to him, and which Siegfried described as faraway things which are obscure to him), she felt, and what she felt was just her love for Siegfried, as we heard Motif #134, which, incidentally, is the only motif in the "Ring" Wagner ever described as a motif of redemption.
Well, in this otherwise perhaps very mysterious and obscure passage Wagner actually is describing the Wagnerian “Wonder” of his musical motifs, because, as Bruennhilde tells Siegfried she has been his, and will be his, he insists that she be his here and now. Again, accompanied by Motif #134, Siegfried describes the past and future, what Bruennhilde was and will be, as fearful, but in asking Bruennhilde to be his now, he is saying to her that through her love he can live solely in the present, without Wotan’s regrets about a guilty past, or fears of a fateful future (without Wotan’s fear of Erda’s knowledge of all that was, is, and will be). It is no accident that Wagner once told Cosima that Siegfried, who only lives in the present, is the finest gift of the will, because Siegfried’s figurative mother Bruennhilde described herself as Wotan’s will. Wotan is reborn as Siegfried minus conscious knowledge of his true, loathsome identity and terrible history and fear of inevitable doom, thanks to Bruennhilde, the womb of Wotan’s wishes, into whom Wotan repressed knowledge of his loathsome identity and corrupt history and fear of the inevitable twilight of the gods, as a seed which gave birth to his reincarnate, ideal self, Siegfried. Siegfried had, after all, just moments ago begged Bruennhilde to assuage his fear, which was expressed by Motif #137, derived from Motif #81, the motif of Wotan’s Frustration in seeking a truly free hero. Only if Siegfried and Bruennhilde consummate their union can he forget the fear (i.e., his subliminal knowledge of Wotan’s confession, which Bruennhilde holds for Siegfried) she taught him, just as through consummating a union with Erda Wotan could learn from her the full measure of what she taught him to fear, and also how to cease to feel his fear, through their daughter Bruennhilde.
Bruennhilde: (#137b:) That I’m not yours now (:#87?; :#137b)? (#Siegfried Idyll accompaniment?) (#82 hint?:; #51hint?:) Godlike composure (:#82 hint?; :#51 hint?) rages in billows; the chastest of light flares up with passion (:#82 & #51 hints?); heavenly knowledge floods away, (#140 vari:) love’s rejoicing drives it hence (:#140 vari)! (#140 vari) (#87 frag:) Am I now yours (:#87 frag)? – Siegfried! Siegfried! (#140 vari) Can you not see me? (#48:) As my gaze consumes you (:#48), are you not blinded? (#140 vari clarinet?) (#48:) As my arm holds you tight (:#48), don’t you burn for me? (#140 vari flute?) As my blood streams in torrents towards you, (#77) do you not feel its furious fire? (#77/#78b:) Do you fear, Siegfried, do you not fear the wildly raging woman (:#77/#78b) (She embraces him passionately.)
Wagner puts forth here a very difficult concept which, of course, in the ecstasy of performance, is absorbed, thanks much to the musical motifs and musical expression, subliminally. Wagner differed with Schopenhauer in the following way: according to Wagner, Schopenhauer believed we could only attain redemption by quieting or stilling our will, our ego, but Wagner stated instead that in the highest form of sexual love the lovers become conscious of themselves as the will in general, the Will in Nature in the abstract, so to speak, and in this way redeem themselves from enslavement to their particular wills, or egos. Wagner construed this distinction in a manner somewhat akin to his distinction between the old religious faith in transcendent being, and the felt (but not objectively real) transcendence offered by Wagnerian Wonder, the capacity of his musical motifs to make us feel freed from the bounds of time and space and natural law and therefore from fate and fear. Valhalla’s rule through faith, and the Valkyries’ chastity (both in a sense comparable to Schopenhauer’s concept of the stilling of the will) gives way to the redemptive passion of Siegfried’s and Bruennhilde’s consummation of their love, which is Wagner’s metaphor for the artist-hero Siegfried’s unconscious artistic inspiration by his muse Bruennhilde. Wotan’s “heavenly knowledge,” his confession to Bruennhilde of the religious mysteries, with the fear this entails, floods away in this new religion, this new artistic, redemptive passion of the artist-hero’s union with his muse.
At the very height of their passionate embrace, we hear Fafner’s Dragon Motif #48, which has been the emblem of fear ever since Alberich in R.3 used the Tarnhelm to transform himself into a dragon, in order to demonstrate how impossible it would be for anyone besides Alberich to possess the Ring and pay its price (i.e., have the courage to do so, since only Alberich would willingly give up love, man’s bid for transcendent value, for the sake of the worldly power only objective knowledge of man and nature can give us). By the time Fafner, using the Tarnhelm, has transformed himself into the Dragon or Serpent whom Siegfried kills in S.2.2, Motif #48 has come to represent a more specialized form of fear (but founded upon our original fear of death, our selfish self-preservation instinct), the fear of the religiously faithful to examine their assumptions, to question the false promises of redemption from the real world in a paradise of immortal life, sorrowless youth eternal. But the artist-hero Siegfried will not feel this fear because he and his muse Bruennhilde are now severed from the gods and therefore freed from religious faith’s false claim to be the truth (false stake in the power of Alberich’s Ring of consciousness), since the artist presents his art-product either as a fiction or a game, or in music, which is non-conceptual, has no stake in the distinction between truth and falsehood at all. Thus Siegfried and Bruennhilde free themselves from the old fear of knowledge, which took prisoner the minds of the religiously faithful, by consummating their loving union to produce a work of secular art (which, in the "Ring," will be represented by the narrative Siegfried sings telling the history of his heroic life, and how he came to grasp the meaning of the Woodbird’s song, the secret of music, in T.3.2). Bruennhilde has here inherited Fafner’s Dragon Motif #48, a Fear Motif, because, though Bruennhilde has from the time of Siegfried’s birth protected him from feeling Wotan’s fear (since Wotan repressed that knowledge into Bruennhilde in his confession to her) of the knowledge Erda imparted to him, so that Fafner could not teach Siegfried fear, Bruennhilde, who holds for Siegfried the knowledge which Wotan feared, can teach Siegfried Wotan’s fear. But, through loving union with her, Siegfried can also forget the fear she taught him. He can, in other words, repress and sublimate it, through redemptive art. The point is that the religious mysteries (Wotan's confession) have now been transferred to art (Bruennhilde, Siegfried's muse of unconscious artistic inspiration), which must preserve their secret. As Wagner said, music might well express, if conceptually conscious, the religious mysteries.
Siegfried: (in joyful terror) Ha! – (#92 >> As the blood in our veins ignites, as our flashing glances consume one another (:#92), (#74b hint:) as our arms clasp each other in ardour (:#74b hint) – (#92:) my courage returns (:#92) (#74b hint:) and the fear, ah! the fear that I never learned (:#74b hint) – the fear that you scarcely taught me: that fear – (#129b) I think – fool that I am, (#128b?: [the frag which accompanies the woodbird’s “blissful I weave my lay from woe”?]) I have quite forgotten it now (:#128b?)! (At these last words he has involuntarily released Bruennhilde.)
Just as Siegfried was able, after being taught by the Woodbird the use Siegfried could make of Alberich’s Tarnhelm and Ring, to forget the use he could make of Alberich’s Tarnhelm and Ring, upon emerging with them from Fafner’s cave in S.2.3, so now Siegfried, having been taught Wotan’s fear by Bruennhilde, by consummating his loving union with Bruennhilde, his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, now forgets the fear she taught him, as we hear, significantly, the Woodbird’s tunes.
General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung
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