Part 2: Paul Heise responds to John Deathridge "Ring" translation

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

Moderators: alberich00, Justin Jeffrey

Post Reply
Site Admin
Posts: 436
Joined: Tue Apr 19, 2011 11:03 am

Part 2: Paul Heise responds to John Deathridge "Ring" translation

Post by alberich00 » Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:22 am

[P. 493]

Who is "they" in the following passage?

WOTAN [to Erda]

"Regardless of what they do, this god yields in delight to the eternally young man."

I note that Bruennhilde described herself as "the eternal part" of Wotan. Both of these passages taken together seem to reference Wagner's remark that though religions eventually end in superstition and decay, and though science alters its views, great art lives on eternally young. This first passage is of course expressed through the so-called World-Inheritance Motif (H143), which in my interpretation is the Redemption of Dying Religious Faith in Unconsciously Inspired Secular Art Motif. Wotan (representative of dying religious faith) leaves the secular artist-hero Siegfried and his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration Bruennhilde heirs to his legacy. What had once been a religious belief system lives on in secular times in feeling, a longing expressed in inspired secular art. As Feuerbach put it, when God could no longer sustain himself in the face of the scientific secularization of the world, as thought, as belief, he took refuge in feeling, the heart, i.e., which Feuerbach like Wagner identifies with music. Wagner's paraphrase of Feuerbach's observation is that when God [Wotan] had to leave us, he left us, in remembrance of him, music [Bruennhilde]. In this way Bruennhilde offers redemption to both Siegfried and Wotan.

[P. 523]

I'm confused by your translation of the following phrase in S.3.3:


"Nicht kann ich das Ferne sinnig erfassen ... " as "I cannot relate to things that aren't there ... ."

I would have thought that "Ferne" would imply "distant" things, but not things that aren't there. I raise this question because it seems to me that RW (Siegfried unwittingly) is offering us a metaphor for the Wagnerian "Wonder" of his musical motifs. Thanks to Wagner's motifs of reminiscence and foreboding, things which are distant in time and space (within the context of his drama, passages of which are linked together by association with identical musical motifs) can be made to feel present, as if here and now, thereby offering secular man a substitute for religious faith's promise that man, redeemed, can transcend the limits of time and space through the miraculous, the supernatural. I suspect that Siegfried in this passage above is obliquely referencing this Wagnerian concept of the artistic "Wonder" which Wagner himself said would replace religious faith (which is subject to doubt and fear of truth), since Bruennhilde tells Siegfried that what Wotan thought, she felt, and what she felt was just her love for Siegfried, while his naive response is that what she says to him, singing, he can't understand, but he can only feel her presence. This is a poetic paraphrase of Wagner's concept of the "Wonder" of his musical motifs, which make what is distant in time and space present in feeling.

There is tons of other evidence to back this up, as in Siegfried's otherwise awkward and inexplicable remark to Bruennhilde at the height of their love duet (Wagner's metaphor for his own ecstatic, unconscious artistic inspiration) near the end of S.3.3:

"Dann bist du mir, was bang du mir warst und wirst ... " "Then you are to me what you were, will be and with fear ... ."

This is an oblique reference to the fact that through Bruennhilde's inspiration of Siegfried's redemptive art, he can at least feel as if he's transcended the limits of time and space miraculously, and thus figuratively cut the Norns' rope of fate into which Erda's (Mother Nature's) sleeping, fearful knowledge of all that was, is, and will be, is spun. In this way Bruennhilde answers Wotan's question to her mother Erda, how can the god conquer care. By taking safe refuge in music, feeling which stakes no conceptual claim to the power of truth which could be contradicted by the hoard of knowledge Wotan has been amassing during his world-wanderings, and which Alberich amassed in the bowels of the earth (Erda), Wotan can live on in his artist-hero Siegfried and Siegfried's muse Bruennhilde. As Wagner told King Ludwig II, Wotan lives on in Siegfried as the artist lives on in his work of art, his handiwork forgotten.

[P. 529]

I'd like to suggest that if Penguin publishes a new edition of your wonderful Ring translation, that you reconsider your translation of the following:

"O Siegfried! Herrlicher! Hort der Welt!" "O Siegfried! Glorious man! World's treasure!"

My suggestion is that this is one of many ways that Wagner lets us know that Siegfried has not only fallen heir to Alberich's Nibelung Hoard, which Alberich amassed in the bowels of the earth (Nibelheim, Erda's navel-nest), but that he's also fallen heir to its virtual equivalent, Wotan's hoard of knowledge/runes which Erda imparted to Wotan and which Wotan amasses in his wanderings over the earth and into Erda herself, which Wotan imparted to Bruennhilde in his confession to her, and which Bruennhilde imparts in turn to Siegfried (subliminally), as she describes in her following remark to Siegfried in T.P.B:

"What gods taught me, I gave to you: a hoard rich in sacred runes ... ."

Bruennhilde is specifically referencing Wotan's confession to her. This is also echoed in the following passage in which your translation of Bruennhilde's remark in S.3.3 to Siegfried did capture the point I'm trying to make:

"You the fatuous hoard of deeds most sublime!"

I suspect you were trying to capture two birds with one stone. For reasons I won't go into in detail now I suspect Spencer's "foolish" where you have "fatuous" better captures RW's meaning, since this links Siegfried's foolishness with that of Parsifal, in whom Siegfried is, in a sense, reborn. The point is that Kundry knows for Parsifal what he doesn't remember, his true identity, just as Bruennhilde knows this for Siegfried. It's no accident either that RW stated that Kundry has undergone Isolde's transfiguration over and over again in her past lives. And it goes on and on: Elsa wishes to possess the secret of Lohengrin's identity, and Isolde does keep the secret of Tristan's identity.

[P. 569]

"Hagen turns to Gunther

Jagt er auf Taten wonnig umher, zum engen Tann wird ihm die Welt: wohl stuermt er in rastloser Jagd auch zu Gibichs Strand an den Rhein.

Happy hunting ground for him [Siegfried] is the pine forest's narrow world: but his restive hunt makes him storm up the Rhine to Gunther's shores too."

Spencer's translation of this passage is:

"When he rides out gaily in search of adventure, the world becomes a narrow pinewood: in restless chase he'll surely ride to Gibich's shores along the Rhein."

There's quite a distinction between your translation and Spencer's. In Spencer's, for Siegfried the entire world is like a narrow pinewood, and for this reason Siegfried will surely end up on Gibich's shore. In your translation Siegfried's travels are usually limited to a narrow pinewood, but he sometimes makes exceptions. Can Spencer's translation be sustained? I ask because if his translation is correct this is possibly another one of RW's oblique references to the concept of the artistic "Wonder" which I mentioned previously, i.e., that Siegfried the artist-hero can transcend time and space (figuratively). Of course Siegfried does accomplish this through the Tarnhelm, Wagner's symbol both for the human imagination and for his artistic "Wonder," which is a special expression of the human imagination.

[P. 617]

Alberich: "Zwar - stark nicht genug den Wurm zu besteh'n, was allein dem Waelsung bestimmt, - zu zaehem Hass doch erzog ich Hagen ... ." "Yes - I was not strong enough to overcome the dragon, as the Waelsung was destined to do, - but I did teach Hagen bitter hate ... ."

Is it possible that Alberich is referencing Hagen as the person who wasn't strong enough to defeat the dragon, rather than Alberich himself?

[P. 659]

"unwissend zaehmt' ihn mein Zauberspiel, - das ihn vor Wunden nun bewahrt." "... my magic arts innocently calmed his body, - thus shielding it from every wound."

The larger passage from which this is excerpted is accompanied by an unusual synthesis of two musical motifs, H161/H12, and also by H151. This will be important to my discussion which follows. H12 is one of the Rhinedaughters' motifs (representing in this case the fact that so long as Siegfried's muse keeps the power of Alberich's Ring safe and therefore keeps its curse dormant, she becomes a surrogate for actually restoring the Ring to the Rhinedaughters), but the ones most important to the discussion below are H151 and H161 (which is closely related to H154, the "Siegfried as 'Hoard of the World' " Motif which was introduced in S.3.3 while Bruennhilde was singing the music from the Siegfried Idyll).

Spencer's translation is: "Unknown to him he was tamed by my magic spells ... ."

Did you intend to suggest, as Spencer's translation did, that Siegfried remains unconscious or unaware of the magical protection Bruennhilde grants him? This is an important point because the fact that Siegfried doesn't know who he is, that he's unconscious of the underlying motives which drive him (a pawn to both Wotan's fear of the end and need for redemption, and of Hagen), is central to the plot. For instance, while Siegfried tells Fafner in S.2.2

"I don't know much yet, not even who I am ... ,"

Bruennhilde in S.3.3 tells Siegfried

"(H151) I am you, your very being, if I am the blessed woman you love. (H87 - Fate Motif) What you do not know, I know in your stead ... ."

In other words, Bruennhilde knows for Siegfried what he doesn't know, his true identity (i.e., the role Wotan assigned to his Waelsung heroes, to redeem gods and world from Alberich's Ring Curse) and fate. Both Feuerbach and Wagner considered one's fate to be one's identity. Note that after the Woodbird told Siegfried in S.2.2 the specific use he could make of the Tarnhelm and Ring that he'd won from Fafner, after he emerges from Fafner's Neidhoehle with them he's already forgotten their use. In other words, thanks to the Woodbird, and thanks to Bruennhilde, Siegfried knows things subliminally but not consciously. He's what Wagner called a knower through feeling (the product of the "Wonder" of Wagner's musical motifs). In fact, Hagen in T.3.2 will suggest to Siegfried privately, while referring to Gunther:

"Were it so that he understood her [Bruennhilde], as well you do the songs of the birds!"

Two motifs are in play during the following passage, H160 and H161:


You've given me more, wondrous woman, than I know how to keep. Don't be angry if your teaching left me untaught."

I believe Siegfried is unwittingly referencing the fact that thanks to Bruennhilde being Wotan's unconscious repository for a hoard of knowledge so unbearable that Wotan's couldn't bear to speak it aloud (i.e., consciously), and thanks to Bruennhilde being Siegfried's unconscious mind, he possesses knowledge of which he remains unconscious. As the Rhinedaughters remark in T.3.1, Siegfried knows runes but can't read them. And thanks to Bruennhilde, Siegfried was able both to learn fear from her and also forget it. H160 is introduced in T.P.B in association with Bruennhilde's telling Siegfried that the purpose of her love is to inspire him to undertake adventures. In my interpretation, as Siegfried's muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, these "adventures" are code for creating and performing deeds of unconsciously inspired redemptive art. The deed of art Siegfried performs in T.3.2 is the narrative he sings, at Hagen's behest, of how he learned the meaning of birdsong, a reference to Wagner's notion that as both the author and composer of his music-dramas he had insight into our innermost mental processes unknown to others. Wagner said that thanks to his musical motifs of reminiscence and foreboding, he could make his audience fellow-knowers of the profoundest secret of his artistic aim, a secret which Wagner elsewhere stated remained mysterious even to the authentic (inspired) artist himself. And H161 is specifically associated with the hoard of runes given to her, as she says, by the gods (Wotan's confession) which Bruennhilde imparted to Siegfried, but of which he remains unconscious. Bruennhilde's essential complaint in T.2.5 (after Siegfried has betrayed their love unwittingly), spoken to herself, is that she gave all her wisdom (Wotan's unspoken secret) to Siegfried, who blithely and obliviously has given it away in giving her away to Gunther. H161 is repeated throughout this passage. In other words, by giving his own true love, his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration away to his audience, Siegfried has unwittingly revealed both the secret of his formerly unconscious inspiration, but also unveiled the formerly concealed religious mysteries (the god Wotan's unspoken secret). This I suspect is also behind Tannhaeuser's involuntary revelation (as if under a spell) to his audience in his contest-song at the Wartburg of his true but previously secret and abhorrent source of unconscious artistic inspiration, his muse Venus.

[P. 673-675]


(H191) A dwarf distracted me, and I lost my way. - Hey, prankster! Which mountain did you hide my prey in so fast?


"SIEGFRIED smiling as he looks at them [The Rhinedaughters]

(H191) Did you lure away my shaggy little mate, the one who vanished from me? If he's your lover, you funny girls can have him. The girls laugh.


(H191) Siegfried, what can you give us if we get you your prey?"

This passage has always seemed to me ambiguous and mysterious. On a metaphorical level it's as if Siegfried is complaining that a dwarf (Albe), perhaps Alberich, lured him away from catching his prey, which metaphorically is his forgotten lover Bruennhilde, with whom Siegfried subliminally seeks to reconnect. The passages concerning the dwarf that hid Siegfried's prey, and the prey itself, and many subsequent passages in T.3.1 which suggest how much Siegfried remains unconscious of, are accompanied by the strange, quirky motif H191, which in part sounds like an embryonic reference to the fluttering of the Woodbird's wings, the Woodbird having revealed Bruennhilde's existence to Siegfried and having led him to her after he grasped the meaning of the Woodbird's song. Take for instance the following:


(H160 - Bruennhilde's inspiration of Siegfried's adventures) A glorious gift was given him:


(H191) he doesn't know that he's squandered it ... ."

My music consultant Dr. Allen Dunning has detected a harmonic embryo for H191 in S.2.3 just before the Woodbird reveals to Siegfried that he can win his long-desired companion by waking and winning the sleeping Bruennhilde.

With respect to the Albe which Siegfried describes as having lured him away from his hunter's path and hidden his game, Alberich and his Ring Curse have certainly diverted Siegfried from his path back to Bruennhilde, but Alberich could certainly also be described fatuously or ironically as the Rhinedaughters' lover. However, Siegfried in this passage seems to be referring to the prey he complains that the Albe hid from him, and not the Albe himself.

Do you have any thoughts about the possible wider significance of this mysteriously suggestive passage?

[P. 693]

I presume you'll want to replace horde with hoard here in Siegfried's remark from T.3.2:


"It [the dragon Fafner] had sat on a horde for years."

[P. 695]

In the following two passages horde is confused with hoard:

SIEGFRIED [quoting the Woodbird]

" 'Heya! The Nibelungs' horde is Siegfried's now! Oh, if only he'd find the hoard in the cave!' "

SIEGFRIED [quoting the Woodbird]

"Oh! let him not trust the perfidious Mime, who used him only to win the horde!' "
Post Reply