Given my earlier confident pronouncements, I felt obliged to discover what Newman (the Wagner translator) thought of the quality of Wagner's verse.
In Wagner as Man and Artist p. 352, analysing Tristan Act II "Isolde! Geliebte!", he says:
"If this ... is poetry, then we shall have to give that word a meaning it has never yet had.
But if [this] is not poetry, it is magnificently adapted to the needs of the symphonic musician. It is unobtrusive; it is pliant; it serves to préciser the musical emotion without fettering the orchestral composer either melodically or rhythmically."
He contrasts Tristan with some more formally poetic passages from Parsifal.
"How incredibly careless is the [poetic] construction here—the long, involved sentences, the parentheses, the separation of substantive and verb by several lines!"
Mind you, the verb enters in line six of the striking Invocation to Paradise Lost, and one has to parse many an involved sentence in it, and in the more modern The Prelude — but that is part of the enjoyable (dare I say) "musical" poetics of Milton and Wordsworth.
Anyhow, Newman kindly puts down Wagner's own poetic misdemeanours to the "almost insuperable difficulties in the way of finding a perfect compromise between music and dramatic poetry." And Newman means just that. Tristan, as ever, is the exception.
So Newman (the German-knowledgable poetically sensitive translator) gives Wagner's poetics a mixed review.
Apologies to ACD.
Oh well, I'll heed the immortally clear syntax of Piet Hein
THE ROAD TO WISDOM?
Well, it's plain
and simple to express.
Err and err and err again,
but less and less and less.
General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung