Siegfried: (He starts up in shock and astonishment.) No man is this! – (#23 vari: He stares at the sleeping woman in a state of utter turmoil.) (#132b >>:; #98 vari:) Burning enchantment charms my heart, fiery terror transfixes my eyes: my senses swagger and swoon (:#132b:; :#98)! (#66: He is filled with immense apprehension.) (#66 vari: [agitated]) To save me, whom shall I call on to help me? (66 >> Mother! Mother! Remember me (:#66)!
(He sinks, as if fainting, on Bruennhilde’s breast. He starts up with a sigh.)
Siegfried: How shall I waken the maid so that she opens her eyes for me? (#132b:) Opens her eyes for me? What though the sight might yet blind me! Might my bravery dare it? Could I bear their light (:#132b vari)? [[ #137a: ]] Around me everything floats and sways and swims; (#137a) (#137a >> searing desire consumes my senses: on my quaking heart my hand is trembling (:#137a)! (#98) What is this, coward, that I feel? (#137a >> Is this what it is to fear? O mother! Mother! Your mettlesome child: (very tenderly) a woman lies asleep: (#98:) she has taught him the meaning of fear (:#98)!
Siegfried, the fearless hero, suddenly feels fear as he prepares to wake Bruennhilde. Fafner could not teach Siegfried fear, because Siegfried (Wotan reborn minus conscious knowledge of his loathsome identity and fear of the gods’ end, since Bruennhilde, the repository for Wotan’s confession of his loathsome identity and fear of the end, holds this knowledge for Siegfried) was already protected by Bruennhilde, who had figuratively or allegorically given birth to Siegfried. But now that Siegfried is preparing to wake Bruennhilde Siegfried has a premonition that in winning her love he will be inheriting Wotan’s hoard of fearful knowledge (which Erda taught Wotan), knowledge so abhorrent that, as Wotan said, he dare not speak it aloud. It is no accident that as Siegfried tries to determine whether his feeling is fear, we hear Motif #137, which Deryck Cooke noted is derived from Motif #81, commonly known as the Motif of Wotan’s Frustration, which was heard as Fricka won her debate with Wotan over his longed-for free hero Siegmund. Fricka proved to Wotan that Siegmund was not in fact the free hero Wotan longed for, because Siegmund was entirely a product of Wotan himself, and Wotan has now come to loathe himself. Siegfried feels fear, but is not conscious that the cause of that fear is Wotan’s recognition that the gods’ end is predestined, and that Wotan’s efforts to create a race of heroes, freed from the gods’ rule and influence, who can redeem the gods from what they fear, this predestined end, is futile.
It is worth adding that as Siegfried first feels his fearful agitation we hear Motif #66 as Siegfried calls upon his mother for help. #66 was introduced in V.1.1 right after Sieglinde told her twin brother Siegmund (neither yet being conscious that they were born together, twin siblings) that Siegmund can’t bring ill-luck to a house where ill-luck already lives. Motif #66 is sometimes identified exclusively with Sieglinde as Siegfried’s birth mother, but its entire dramatic profile in the "Ring" demonstrates that overall its import is the tragic destiny of the Waelsungs in general, reminding us motivally that Wotan, by creating his alleged race of free mortal heroes whose destiny is to take possession of Alberich’s Ring (and its curse) in order to redeem the gods’ from suffering Alberich’s curse and its doom, has predestined his Waelsung proxies to suffer the same fate that Wotan and the gods suffer (as Bruennhilde will say in her final speech in T.3.3). When Siegfried calls on his mother Sieglinde, the mother who died giving him birth, to help alleviate his fear, Siegfried is also figuratively calling on the mother of us all, Mother Nature, Erda, to grant him relief from the very fear she instilled in Wotan. Wotan, Wagner’s symbol for mankind’s positing of supernatural godhead as an antidote to Nature’s (Erda’s) natural law that all things which are must end, had figuratively murdered the mother of us all, Erda, as Alberich put it metaphorically when he told Wotan that if Wotan steals Alberich’s Ring Wotan will be sinning against all that was, is, and will be (Erda’s knowledge embraces all that was, is, and will be). Bruennhilde, Erda’s and Wotan’s daughter, was the answer to Wotan’s second request of Erda, how can the god overcome his care and fear. Bruennhilde is Siegfried’s surrogate mother, because not only did Bruennhilde know that Sieglinde was pregnant with Siegfried when Sieglinde did not, but Bruennhilde took it upon herself, without asking Sieglinde for permission, to name Siegfried. This notion of Bruennhilde as Siegfried’s surrogate mother will be enhanced moments from now when Siegfried momentarily confuses Bruennhilde with his mother.
Siegfried: (#137 varis on strings:) sweetly quivers her burgeoning mouth (:#137 varis on strings): (#23 vari:) gently trembling it lures me on, faint-hearted that I am! – Ah, the blissfully warming fragrance of that breath (:#23 vari)! (as though in despair) Awake! Awake! Thrice-hallowed woman! (#87: he gazes at her.) She cannot hear me. (#87) (slowly, with urgent and insistent expression) So I suck life from the sweetest of lips – (relenting) (#37 vari:) though I should perish and die (:#37 vari)!
The motival symbolism of Siegfried’s moment of truth, when he must embrace what he fears and wake Bruennhilde with a kiss, is quite striking, for we hear not only the Fate Motif #87 (reminding us that Bruennhilde is the repository of Wotan’s confession of the hoard of fateful knowledge which Erda imparted to him), but also a variant of Motif #37 (the so-called “Loveless Motif,” or “Woman’s Worth Motif”), which derives from Motif #18 (first heard in association with the concept that one must renounce love in order to forge a Ring of worldly power from the Rhinegold, and thus symbolic of Alberich’s fateful forging of the Ring), as Siegfried suggests that he will draw life from Bruennhilde even if he should die doing so. This is another way of suggesting that Siegfried will figuratively die, and be reborn, by consummating loving union with Bruennhilde. Wotan’s old self, Wotan’s conscious ego (represented by Mime), has already in effect died to grant Siegfried, Wotan’s reincarnation, freedom from all that Wotan loathed in himself, and freedom from Wotan’s fear of the end. The perhaps arcane and obscure point being made here is that Siegfried the artist-hero must draw the inspiration for his art from a subliminal, unconscious confrontation with Wotan’s hoard of fearful knowledge, in order to create a redemptive work of art in which the fear which inspired it can be forgotten. Siegfried draws subliminal inspiration from the lovelessness of the real world, the bitter truth which Wotan confessed to Bruennhilde, in order to create a work of art which will redeem us from this terrible truth and replace it with a consoling illusion.
Bruennhilde: I nurtured you, you tender child, before you were begotten; even before you were born, my shield already sheltered you: (#134:) so long have I loved you, Siegfried (:#134)
Siegfried: (softly and shyly: #66:) So my mother did not die? Was the lovely woman merely asleep (:#66)?
(Bruennhilde smiles and stretches out her hand to him in friendly fashion.)
Bruennhilde: (#141b >> You blithesome child, your mother won’t come back to you. [[ #141 >>: ]] Your own self am I, if you but love me in my bliss (:#141); (#87:) what you don’t know I know for you (:#87): (#134:) and yet I am knowing only because I love you (:#134)!
Here we have not only Siegfried’s confusing Bruennhilde with the mother, Sieglinde, who died giving him birth (also a symbol for Erda, Mother Earth, whose knowledge of the real world Wotan sinned against in co-opting the worldly power of Alberich’s Ring in order to sustain the self-deception which gave birth to belief in gods), but we have some of the clearest evidence yet that Bruennhilde is Siegfried’s unconscious mind. To fully grasp this passage one must understand its context, which is that Siegfried told Fafner in S.2.3 that he, Siegfried, does not yet know who he is. Therefore, when Bruennhilde, above, tells Siegfried that she is his own self if he loves her in her bliss (accompanied by Motif #141), and then adds that what he doesn’t know, she knows for him, accompanied by the Fate Motif #87, we realize that she’s describing herself as in some sense his identity, his hidden knowledge of his own identity, and that what he doesn’t know, that she knows for him, is Wotan’s fate (#87), as imparted to Wotan by Erda, and then imparted in turn by Wotan to Bruennhilde in his V.2.2 confession to her. Wotan had, after all, told Bruennhilde that in speaking to her he would merely be speaking to himself, since she had described herself as his “will.” Bruennhilde, in other words, is holding for Siegfried Wotan’s unspoken secret, the hoard of fateful knowledge which Erda had imparted to him that he confessed to Bruennhilde, which is now Siegfried’s knowledge of his true identity as Wotan reborn (religious feeling living on in secular art, and in music particularly, which is freed from the rule of the gods, from religious faith), minus consciousness of his true identity, which is held for Siegfried by his (and Wotan’s) unconscious mind, Bruennhilde.
Bruennhilde adds, accompanied by Wotan’s World-Inheritance Motif #134, that she is knowing only because she loves Siegfried. Motif #134 was of course the motif introduced in S.3.1 as Wotan informed Erda that he now wills the doom of the gods which Erda had prophesied, and which had burdened Wotan with disabling fear, because he lives on in his free hero Siegfried and Bruennhilde and their love, which will free the world of Alberich’s curse on his Ring (the curse of consciousness). Siegfried, in other words, has taken what we might describe as aesthetic possession of Alberich’s sources of power in his Ring and Tarnhelm, a fact which will be confirmed when, after consummating their loving union in S.3.3, Siegfried will (in T.P) leave Alberich’s Ring with Bruennhilde for safekeeping, in much the same way that Wotan imparted his hoard of unbearable knowledge to Bruennhilde, the womb of his wishes, in his confession. It is in their loving union that all that Wotan most valued in Valhalla and the life of the gods will live on, subliminally, seemingly freed from the threat of Alberich’s curse on his Ring, because Siegfried doesn’t make use of Alberich’s Ring for the sake of power (i.e., Siegfried the artist-hero will not stake a claim to the power of objective knowledge, of objective truth). Siegfried and Bruennhilde instead convert Alberich's Ring, through their loving union (the artist-hero Siegfried’s unconscious artistic inspiration by his muse Bruennhilde), back into its original value as a source of aesthetic delight, symbolized by their use of it for a wedding Ring which seals their troth. Siegfried the secular artist-hero, unlike Wotan, symbol for religious belief which stakes an indefensible claim to the power of truth (the Ring), will stake no claim to the power of the Ring, yet Siegfried’s muse Bruennhilde will keep its power safe (just as Fafner guarded Alberich’s Ring, Tarnhelm, and Hoard, without attempting to use their power, and to keep anyone else from using this power either).
Bruennhilde: (#140 vari:) O Siegfried! Siegfried! Conquering light (:#140 vari)! (#141 >> I loved you always: to me alone (:#141) was Wotan’s thought revealed. The thought which I could never name; (#83 end frag based on #54:) the thought I did not think but only felt; the thought for which I fought, (#96 vari >> did battle and have striven (#83 end frag based on #54; :#96); for which I flouted him who thought it; (#94 vari:) for which I atoned, incurring chastisement (:#94 vari), because, not thinking, (#96b >> I only felt it (:#96b)! Because that (#134:) thought - could you guess it! – was but my love for you (:#134). (#140 vari)
Bruennhilde further confirms her status (since Wotan’s confession to her) as Siegfried’s unconscious mind, who holds for Siegfried Wotan’s thought (which she, Siegfried’s music, only feels), confided to Bruennhilde in Wotan’s confession, Wotan’s fear of the gods’ predestined doom and futile hope for a hero who could redeem the gods either from what they fear, or from fear itself, which was ultimately transmuted into the love Siegfried and Bruennhilde now share, which again is symbolized in Wotan’s Motif of World-Inheritance #134. Note that as Bruennhilde tells Siegfried that she could never name Wotan’s thought we hear the portion of the Need of the Gods Motif #83 which is based on the Twilight of the Gods Motif #54. The whole point of their loving union is to redeem the gods from Alberich’s curse on his Ring, the curse of consciousness. Bruennhilde clearly identifies Wotan’s thought (his confession to her of his need for a hero who will redeem the gods from their foredoomed twilight) with her feeling, and her feeling with her love for Siegfried, which is expressed by Motif #134.
Siegfried: (#140 varis repeated:) Wondrous it sounds what you blissfully sing, yet its meaning seems obscure to me. (tenderly) The light of your eye is clear to see; the sigh of your breath is warm to feel; the sound of your singing is sweet to hear: but what you say to me singing, stunned, (#87:) I cannot understand (:#87). (#137a: [agitated but slow]) With my senses I cannot grasp faraway things [“Nicht kann ich das Ferne sinnig erfassen”], since all these senses can see and feel only you. (#137: [but sounding like #164?]) You bind me in fetters of anxious fear; (#137 vari:) you alone have taught me to dread it (:#137 vari). No longer hide that courage of mine (#37:) which you bound with powerful bonds (:#37)!
Siegfried here confirms that Wotan’s thought, his confession to Bruennhilde, to which Bruennhilde now alludes, and which she knows for Siegfried, remains obscure for Siegfried, and that what she says to him, singing (a point to which Jean-Jacques Nattiez drew astute attention), he doesn’t understand, as we again hear the Fate Motif #87. #87 alludes here to the fate of the gods, which was the primary content of the wisdom Erda taught Wotan while she was giving birth to Bruennhilde from his seed of fear and hope, his quest for knowledge of the full truth concerning the fate of the gods, and of how he might either abort that fate, or, if not, cease to fear it (i.e., cease to be conscious of his fear). Siegfried doesn’t understand what Bruennhilde is saying conceptually, but only feels what she is saying, i.e., singing, because Bruennhilde, Siegfried’s unconscious mind and its special language music, has converted Wotan’s thought to feeling, just as Wagner said that his musical motifs link a feeling, experienced in the here and now, with things distant (fernen) in time and space with which musical motifs have been associated in the course of the drama. Wotan’s confession to Bruennhilde was in essence a summary of the plot of the "Ring," and by confessing this corrupt history to Bruennhilde, the womb of Wotan’s wishes, this has redeemed Wotan’s fearful thought and sublimated it into redemptive music, particularly Wagner’s musical motifs.
It is for this reason, then, that Siegfried, accompanied by Motif #137 (derived from Wotan’s Frustration Motif #81, which is derived in turn from Wotan’s Spear Motif #21, and Wotan’s fears regarding his broken oath to the Giants, an oath not made in good faith), the motif introduced before Siegfried woke Bruennhilde to express his fear of doing so (Siegfried was having a subliminal premonition of danger in falling heir to Wotan’s hoard of unbearable self-knowledge, knowledge which Wotan couldn’t bear to speak aloud, consciously, to himself, so spoke it instead to Bruennhilde, his will, from whom Siegfried will now inherit it), that with his senses Siegfried can’t grasp faraway things (i.e., Wotan’s confession of Siegfried’s prehistory, the entire content of the first two parts of the four-part "Ring" Cycle), but only see and feel Bruennhilde. Significantly, accompanied again by Motif #137, Siegfried tells Bruennhilde that she has bound him (like Wotan) in fetters of fear, which he suggests only she can release. Thus he begs her, accompanied by the Loveless Motif #37 (a motival symbol for The Fall, the loss of innocence), not to hide his courage which she has bound in bonds.
(#137:; #81 frags: Bruennhilde points with her hand to her weapons, which she now perceives. #77 frag; #81 &/or #83 grace-note twist; #77 frag; #81or #83 grace-note twist)
Bruennhilde: (#40:) There I see the shield that sheltered heroes (:#40); (#77 frag; #81 or #83 grace-note twist]) (#40:) there I see the helmet that hid my head (:#40): it shields and hides me no more! (#82 vari)
Siegfried: (ardently: #82 vari:) A blissful maid has pierced my heart; a woman has wounded my head: - I came without shield and helmet (:#82 vari)!
Bruennhilde: (with increased sadness: #81 frags & varis:) I see the brinie’s resplendent steel (:#81 frags & varis): a keen-edged sword has cut it in two; it loosed my maidenly body’s defences: (#77 frag; #81 &/or #83 grace-note twist) (#81 frag:) I’m stripped of shelter and shield, a weaponless, sorrowing woman (:#81 frag “twist”)!
Here again the accompanying musical motifs tell us that Bruennhilde’s increasing fear of consummating a loving union with Siegfried stems from Wotan’s original fears and desperation after Fricka proved to him that Siegmund was not the free hero Wotan had hoped for, which forced Wotan to acknowledge that his secret hope to employ such a hero to redeem the gods from Alberich’s curse on his Ring was futile, and that the predestined twilight of the gods was inevitable, for we hear not only #137, but specifically the motif from which it was derived, Motif #81. And, sure enough, as Bruennhilde suddenly becomes aware that she (the repository of Wotan’s secret confession) is no longer protected by her Valkyrie armor (i.e., divinity, chastity, faith in the gods and their rule) we hear Motif #82, the motif which in V.2.2 embodied Wotan’s secret (unconscious) despair of successfully employing a free hero who could redeem the gods from Alberich’s curse on his Ring, and which drew Bruennhilde to beg Wotan to confide his confession to her, knowledge which, in her safekeeping, would remain forever unspoken (because Wotan’s bitter thought has now been sublimated into blissful feeling, redemptive music). Motif #82 is the virtual motival signature of Wotan’s confession of his unspoken secret.
General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung
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