Bruennhilde: (beginning quietly: #81/#89 on strings:) since, for you, I kept sight of that one thing alone on which, painfully torn by the other’s constraint, you helplessly turned your back (:#81/#89 on strings)! (#81/#89 string figure in a different key, &/or #81 vari: [a downward syncopated vari of great nobility?]) She who, in battle, guards Wotan’s back, she saw only (#87) what you did not see: - (#87) Siegmund I had to see. (#88)
Wagner here sets up a profound contrast between Wotan and his longed-for free hero Siegfried. In T.2.5 Bruennhilde will inform Hagen and Gunther that she only had to protect Siegfried at the front from wounds, using her magic, since the fearless hero would never turn his back on an enemy. Thus Bruennhilde’s description of herself as protector of her father Wotan’s back in battle contrasts Wotan’s fear with Siegfried’s fearlessness. Bruennhilde (Wotan’s unconscious mind) sees what he cannot see, including what he fears. Later, in S.3.2, we will also learn from Wotan that Siegfried is the eye which Wotan is missing because he had to sacrifice it to win the wisdom which sprang from the sacred spring at the root of the World-Ash tree, a sacrifice which presumably also granted Wotan the power to break a sacred branch off of the World-Ash tree to make his spear of divine authority and law. Wotan’ s remaining eye, which looks outward, is therefore associated with man’s Fall, and the eye which Wotan sacrificed, but which lives on in Siegfried, is associated with pre-fallen innocence, just as Siegfried’s sword Nothung’s motif #57 is based on the Primal Nature Motif #1, which introduces the "Ring." Wagner is suggesting, as Donington said, that Siegfried is the eye which looks inward, the eye of feeling or love which Wotan had to sacrifice in order to create the outward, social world predicated on rule by the gods (religious faith). Siegfried thus, in winning Bruennhilde, will have access to Wotan’s “innermost thoughts,” to which Wotan says Bruennhilde has unique access, and thus access to Wotan’s unspoken confession to her.
(#81/#89:) When I turned on myself in consuming torment, starting up, chafing, in impotent pain, furious longing’s fervent desire inspired the terrible wish (#85:) to end my eternal grief (:#85) in the ruins of my own world: (#51) (somewhat freely) (#64:) then blissful abandon solaced you sweetly; rapt emotion’s heady delights you drank from (#87:) love’s cup (:#87) with lips parted in laughter (:#64) – while my drink was mixed with the griping gall of godly distress [“goettlicher Noth”]? (dryly and curtly) Be guided now by your own light thoughts: (#21 vari: [broken up]) from me you have cast yourself free (:#21 vari [broken up]). (#96B) Now I must shun you and nevermore share any whispered counsels with you; (#81/#89) divided, we may not act in close concert; (#84 & #85 hint:) wherever there’s life and breath, the god may no longer meet you (:#84 & #85 hint)! (#21 vari [broken up]; #81; #96B)
Wotan’s counsels which he shared with Bruennhilde in whispers are embodied in his V.2.2 confession to her, his will, whom Wotan noted in V.2.2 is himself, for in speaking to her he said he is speaking only to himself things that will thus remain forever unspoken (felt, not thought?). Wotan contrasts here the bitter truth, the godly “Noth,” the unbearable thoughts which he confessed to Bruennhilde, which paralyzed Wotan into impotence and inaction, with her apparent freedom to live for love, for feeling, now that he’s banishing her from the realm of the gods and taking her divinity away. Wotan once whispered these thoughts to her, but now that he’s making some anonymous man who finds and wakes her her master, this man who falls heir to her and her knowledge will similarly share whispered counsels with her (i.e., repress unbearable knowledge in her, his unconscious mind).
Bruennhilde: (simply: #96B:) Little use, I fear, was the foolish maid, who, stunned by your counsel, understood nothing, for my private counsel (:#96B) counseled but one thing – to love whatever you loved. (#96B:) If I must leave you and shyly shun you, if you must sunder what once was whole, and hold far off one half of yourself – O god, don’t forget (:#96B) that it once belonged to you wholly! (#81:; #83 hint:) You cannot want to dishonour that part of you which is ageless nor suffer a shame that brings you disgrace (:#81; :#83 hint): you’d only abase yourself if you saw me as mockery’s plaything!
Wotan: (calmly: #64:) You blissfully followed the force of love (:#64): now follow him whom you’re forced to love!
Bruennhilde: If I must leave Valhalla, no more to work beside you, (#94 subtle harmonic hint:) henceforth obeying a high-handed husband (:#94 harmonic hint) - don’t give me as prey to some craven braggart: let him who wins me not be worthless.
The half of himself Wotan is shunning (just as he has shunned Fafner’s lair) is his unconscious mind Bruennhilde, in whom he repressed knowledge which was so unbearable that he couldn’t bare to speak it aloud. This knowledge is the source of Wotan’s paralyzing fear. Should this knowledge rise to consciousness, it would indeed bring Wotan dishonor and spell the shameful end of the gods. Bruennhilde begs Wotan to consider that in leaving her to dishonor he’d be dishonoring himself, and therefore requests that he only allow a hero worthy of her (and worthy to access his forbidden hoard of knowledge he imparted to her) to wake and win her. We hear #83, the “Need of the Gods” Motif associated in V.2.2 with Wotan’s longing for a free hero who can redeem the gods from Alberich’s curse, as Bruennhilde expresses her longing to be wed only to a true hero.
Bruennhilde: What have you planned that I should suffer?
Wotan: [[ #97: ]] I’ll seal you in soundest sleep (:#97) – (#20c) he who wakes the defenceless woman shall take her, awakened, as wife. (#97)
Bruennhilde: If fettering sleep is to bind me fast, as easy prey to the basest of cowards, [[ #98: ]] this one thing alone you must grant me that holy fear entreats of you. (#98 modulating:) shield the sleeper with hideous terrors (:#98 modulating) (resolutely: #92:) that only a fearlessly free-born hero shall find me here on the fell (:#92)!
As Wotan tells Bruennhilde that he who wakes her, defenceless, shall take her as wife, we hear #20c, the third segment of the Valhalla Motif which Dr. Allen Dunning has suggested may be an embryonic version of one of the two Wanderer Motifs (representing Wotan who seeks knowledge while wandering the earth, i.e., Erda, Bruennhilde’s mother). Siegfried, who will wake and win Bruennhilde, will also be inheriting Wotan’s Valhallan legacy, i.e., the legacy of religious faith, but only as feeling, not as thought. As I will show later, Wagner regarded secular art, and the art of music in particular, as the heir to religious feeling when religion as thought, as a belief, could no longer be sustained.
(#92:) for one man alone shall woo the bride, one freer than I, the god (:#92)!
On a happier man (#98) their stars shall shine: (#98) on the hapless immortal they must close in parting! (#87: He takes her head in both hands.) (#18 Definitive:) and so –the god turns away from you (:#18 Definitive): (#37:) so he kisses your godhead away (:#37).
As I will demonstrate later, secular art, the art of the Wagnerian music-drama, is freer than the gods, freer than religious faith, because unlike the religiously faithful, the secular artist (Bruennhilde is now mortal, and Siegfried will be mortal) stakes no claim to the power of truth (Alberich’s Ring power), and therefore has the advantage over religion that it can’t be overthrown by the truth, by objective knowledge (Alberich’s Ring curse of consciousness). Thus Wotan will boast to Erda in S.3.1 that Siegfried is freed from Alberich’s curse on the Ring because Siegfried doesn’t use it, doesn’t care about its power.
(#? – Music from Wotan’s “that radiant pair of eyes … [etc.]:; #98: He lingeringly kisses both her eyes. #97: She sinks back, with eyes closed, into his arms, as consciousness gently slips away. He leads her tenderly to a low mossy bank, beneath a broad-branched fir-tree. He gazes at her, then closes her helmet: his eye then rests on the form of the sleeping woman, which he now covers completely with her Valkyrie’s great steel shield. Slowly he turns away, before turning round again with a sorrowful expression. (#20c; #97; #98; #87)
Wotan: (#92:) He who fears my spear-point shall never pass through the fire (:#92)! (He stretches out his spear as though casting a spell. He then gazes sorrowfully back at Bruennhilde, turns slowly to leave and looks back once again before disappearing through the flames. #99; #92; #98; #87, #34)
Thus Siegfried will be freed from the authority of Wotan’s divine spear of law, from the social contract represented by mankind’s age-old religious faith. Yet he will unwittingly inherit from Bruennhilde all that is represented by #20c (which is heard here again to subliminally emphasize that Siegfried is Wotan’s heir, the heir to Valhalla’s legacy, which Wotan had given up for lost). Siegfried, of course, will remain entirely unconscious of this legacy, and of the fact that he has inherited it and is now its guardian).
Mime: (in a pitifully screeching voice: #41 duple:; #102 chromatic vari:) That’s the sorry wages of love! That’s the shameful reward for my cares (:#41 duple; :#102 chromatic vari)! (#102 hint:; [[ #105>>: ]] From a suckling babe I brought you up, warmed the little mite with clothes: food and drink I brought to you (:#102 hint) and tended you like a second self [“eig’ne Haut”]. And when you grew bigger I waited upon you; I made you a bed so you’d sleep more softly. I forged you toys and a winding horn (#103); (#41 duple vari>>:) to give you pleasure I gladly toiled: with clever counsel I counseled you cleverly, with lucid lore I taught you wit. While, toiling and sweating, I sit at home, you roam around to your heart’s content: (#41 duple >>:; #5 hint >>:) suffering torment for you alone, for you alone I suffer affliction and wear myself out, a poor old dwarf (:#105)! and that’s my reward for the burdens I’ve borne, that the quick-tempered boy torments (sobbing) and abhors me!
Siegfried: (#104 vari >>>:; #?: – [music conveying a “Nature” mood, as heard before when Mime first said Siegfried should be grateful to Mime]) Much, Mime, have you taught me and much from you have I learned; but what you most wanted to teach me, I never managed to learn (:#? - Nature mood music): how I could ever abide you. (#104:; #105 vari over #41 duple:) Although you may bring me food and drink (#104), I’m fed by my loathing [“Ekel”] alone; (#105 vari over #41 duple vari:) although you make me an easy bed, (#104) I still find it hard to sleep; (#41 duple vari:) although you would teach me to use my wits, (#104:) I’d still rather stay dull and stupid. (#104:; #41 duple vari:; #?: [a hint of “Nature” mood music]) I only need set eyes upon you to recognize evil in all that you do:
Wotan had in V.2.2 confessed to Bruennhilde all that he loathed about himself, all the guilt he felt for his corrupt history, and his self-flagellation culminated in his remark that “I find with loathing (Ekel) always only myself in all that I bring to pass.” Wotan will in S.1.2 describe himself to Mime, Alberich’s Nibelung brother, as “Light-Alberich.” Wagner not only confirms that Wotan and Alberich are two sides of the same coin in this way, but also musically, in composing the transformation from Alberich’s Ring Motif #19 into the first segment of Wotan’s Valhalla Motif #20a, during the transition R.1-2. In a sense, Wotan, thanks to Alberich’s threat to expose the bitter truth that the so-called gods are not gods but figments of mortal man’s imagination (represented in the Ring by the liar-god Loge and the music of transformation in the Tarnhelm, Motifs #42 and #43, which derive from Loge’s Motif #35), confesses to Bruennhilde that he loathes everything in himself which reminds him of his debt to Alberich, or better, reminds him that he is as loathsome and craven as a Nibelung. Thus, in longing for a hero who would be purged of all within Wotan that he loathes, and purged of all in Wotan’s craven history which he abhors because the guilt of owning it is unbearable, but who yet would spontaneously, of his own volition, do what Wotan and the gods need for him to do to redeem them from Alberich’s curse (of consciousness), Wotan is longing to be reborn as a new self purified of all that in his old self which is bound to the earth, all in himself which is prose, so that he can be reborn as an ideal, fearless self of sheer poetry. That is how, thanks to Wotan’s confession to his unconscious mind Bruennhilde, the womb of his wishes (wishes for a hero freed from all that Wotan loathes in himself, from all that he fears), Wotan is reborn in Siegfried, minus consciousness of his true identity, and his corrupt history, and thus freed from his suffocating guilt and fear.
On this view, Mime can be understood to represent all that Wotan loathes in himself, all that is prosaic and craven in his own nature, all that is Nibelung in him, while Siegfried can be understood as Wotan’s image of his ideal self purged of all that he loathes and fears. Since I have argued that Siegfried is Wotan reborn (thanks to Bruennhilde) minus consciousness of his true identity and corrupt history, Siegfried’s instinctive loathing for Mime is actually an expression of Wotan’s self-loathing. Mime represents all of Wotan’s past experience of the bitter ways of the world, the world which according to Wotan himself belongs to Alberich, knowledge of which Siegfried instinctively abhors and wishes not to grasp, not to make his own. Thus Siegfried’s instinctive contempt for Mime’s teaching (represented musically by motif #104) is the expression of Wotan’s longing for a hero who, in being Wotan’s enemy (the enemy of all that Wotan loathes in himself), will be his friend (redeem Wotan and the gods from all that he loathes and fears), who is thus independent of Wotan yet who will do what Wotan needs for him to do, of his own volition.
Wanderer: (sitting down at the hearth: #21) I sit by the hearth here and stake my head as pledge in a wager of wits: (#21) [[ #114 ]] my head is yours to treat as you choose, if you fail to ask what you need to know and I don’t redeem it with my lore (:#114).
In a sense, Mime represents Wotan’s head, Wotan’s thinking, the real, and Siegfried represents Wotan’s heart, his longing for the ideal. Since Wotan wishes to purge his head in order to free his heart from it, to sever the real from his ideal, Wotan is willing to stake his head (Mime) in a wager of wits (i.e., a combat between Wotan’s prosaic, worldly knowledge, and the aesthetic intuition in Wotan’s longing for redemption from the world, represented by Bruennhilde) so that his heart (Siegfried) can cut it off, so to speak.
Wotan: The Nibelungs trade in the depths of the earth [“Erde”]: (#41) Nibelheim is their land. Black elves they are; Black-Alberich once watched over them as their lord. (#17/#41>>:) A magic ring’s compelling power tamed his toiling people (:#17/#41); (#5/#46>>) a glittering hoard of rich-gemmed jewels for him they heaped on high (:#5/#46): (#20b>>:) it was meant to win him the world (:#20b). (#21/#41) What is your second question, dwarf?
Mime: (sinking into even deeper thought: #41) Much, (#113 vari:) Wanderer, I see you know of the earth’s umbilical nest [“Erde Nabelnest,” i.e., Erda’s “navel-nest”] (#17/#41, #101)
Wanderer: On cloud-covered heights there dwell the gods: (#20a >>:) Valhalla is their hall. Light-elves they are; Light-Alberich, Wotan, rules their host (:#20a).
These passages make two striking points. First, Wotan describes Alberich as “Black-Alberich” (or Dark-Alberich), and himself as “Light-Alberich.” This doesn’t merely contrast the lord of the dark elves with the lord of the light elves (a standard interpretation), because Alberich alone is granted the generic name “Alberich.” In other words, according to that standard argument, Wagner’s choice to call Alberich “Alberich,” and not “Dark-Alberich” throughout the "Ring," implies, at least subliminally, that Alberich is lord of all elves, both dark and light, in the same sense that Alberich’s Ring Motif #19 gives musical birth to the gods’ Valhalla Motif #20a, a musical fact which is confirmed allegorically in Wotan’s needing to pay off his debt to the giants with Alberich’s Ring not only to redeem Freia (the goddess of divine love and immortality) from them, but to secure the gods’ rule in Valhalla.
Second, Mime’s description of Alberich’s realm Nibelheim as the earth’s umbilical nest (i.e., Erda’s Navel-Nest) confirms that the knowledge Wotan as Wanderer gains through his wanderings over the earth, and into the earth (i.e., when Wotan consummates a sexual union with Erda to obtain her knowledge, an act which gives birth to their daughter Bruennhilde), can be accurately conflated with Alberich’s hoard of treasure which he mines in the earth. This is the knowledge Wotan can’t bear to speak to himself aloud, i.e., to contemplate consciously, which is why he repressed it into his unconscious mind Bruennhilde.
Wanderer: (having risen calmly from the hearth: #112:) Thrice you were meant to question me, thrice I was at your disposal: you asked after futile, (#46?) far-off [“Fernen”] things, (#37 vari:) but what concerned you most closely and what you most need to know, you omitted to ask (:#37 vari). (#57) (#21/#41:) Now that I’ve guessed it, you lose your wits: I’ve won your wily head. – (#41:) Now, Fafner’s valiant conqueror (:#41; :#21), (#48) listen, you ill-fated dwarf: [[ #118: ]] only he who never knew fear (#57/#34) will forge the sword anew (:#118).
(Mime stares at him, wide-eyed: he turns to go: #34)
Wanderer: Henceforth ward your wise head well: (#92:) Forfeit I leave it to him (:#92) (#92c:) who knows not the meaning of fear (:#92c).
Wotan/Wanderer makes here the crucial contrast I had alluded to moments ago. Mime asked about things he already knew about the prosaic, real world, but he didn’t ask about the means to redemption, the means to reforge the sword whose Motif #57 represents Wotan’s longing for the restoration of lost innocence, which only the free Waelsung hero of his imagination can bring about. The Wanderer describes Mime’s conventional, prosaic knowledge of the real world as “far off [i.e. “Fernen”] things,” i.e., things widely distributed in time and space, accompanied, if I’m not mistaken (this still has to be verified in the score), by a hint of the Hoard Motif #46.
General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung
1 post • Page 1 of 1