The following passages from their final love duet in T.P bolster my case that Bruennhilde sees her love for Siegfried solely in the light of serving as muse of inspiration for his new adventures, which I take to be inspired works of redemptive art in which religious feeling, man’s longing for transcendent value, can live on even in the face of the death of religious faith as a set of beliefs and claims to truth.
Bruennhilde: (#148 [#103] vari >>: [in a rhythmic, dance-like vari as heard in Siegfried’s Rhine Journey]) If you’d bestow your love on me, be mindful only of yourself, be mindful of your exploits (:#148)!
Bruennhilde: (#149:) Recall the oaths that unite us (:#149) recall the trust that we place in each other; (#150) recall the (#149:) love for (#150:) which we (#149:; #?: [a painful, sustained note on “leben,” i.e., “live,” which follows]) live: (:#?) Bruennhilde then will burn for aye [“ever”] (#149:) with holy fire in your (#92c?:] breast (:#92c?)! –
(She embraces Siegfried. #134)
Bruennhilde emphasizes that Siegfried should only think of their love in light of his own heroic exploits which she inspires, accompanied by Motif #148 (a variant of Siegfried’s Horncall Motif #103), which is generally regarded as symbolic of the mature Siegfried, Siegfried who is now inspired by Bruennhilde. As Bruennhilde speaks of the oaths that unite them we again hear Motifs #149 and #150, which remind us that Bruennhilde insists Siegfried respect her role as his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration and not breach her trust. In other words, Siegfried must maintain Wotan’s unspoken secret, a secret which would be revealed to Siegfried and to all the world if Siegfried were to betray his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration by exposing the secret she keeps to the light of day. That secret is now embodied in their wedding Ring, Alberich’s Ring. Bruennhilde embraces Siegfried to the so-called World-Inheritance Motif #134, which represents Wotan’s passing the torch from dying religious faith to the secular art the mortals Siegfried and Bruennhilde will bring to birth, Wotan’s hope that Siegfried’s unconsciously inspired art will redeem the world from Alberich’s curse on his Ring, the curse of consciousness.
Siegfried: (#148 vari:) If, my dearest, I leave you here in the fire’s hallowed guard, (He has removed Alberich’s ring from his finger and now hands it to Bruennhilde. #98 clarinet) in return for all your runes I hand this ring to you. (#19) (#92:) Whatever deeds I have done, their virtue it enfolds (:#92); (#48:; #148:) I slew a savage dragon that long had guarded it grimly (:#48; :#148). (#48) (#59a, b, or c?: [perhaps the Rhinedaughters’ Lament for the stolen gold as heard during Siegfried’s Rhine Journey?]) Now keep its power safe (:#59a, b, or c?) in solemn token of my troth.
Siegfried says more than he knows when he tells Bruennhilde that the Ring he won from Fafner enfolds the virtue of whatever deeds he has done (ostensibly Siegfried is only referencing his greatest heroic deed, his killing of Fafner), because Alberich’s Ring #19 gave musical birth to Wotan’s Valhalla #20a during the transition from Scene One of "Rhinegold" to Scene Two, and Siegfried’s and Bruennhilde’s inheritance of various musical motifs associated with Wotan’s fear of Alberich’s Ring curse, as expressed in his confession of Erda’s knowledge of the gods’ predestined doom to Bruennhilde in V.2.2, in S.3.3 when they had a fearful premonition prior to consummating their love, tells us that Siegfried is no more a hero freed from the gods’ influence than was Siegmund, and that Siegfried, like his father Siegmund and grandfather Wotan, will succumb to Alberich’s Ring curse. Siegfried’s very existence is the product of Wotan’s fear of Alberich’s curse on his Ring, which Wotan confessed to the womb of his wishes Bruennhilde, thus figuratively giving birth to his longed-for hero Siegfried.
Significantly, as Siegfried gives this Ring to Bruennhilde, for her to keep safe in solemn token of their troth, we hear echoes of the Rhinedaughters’ Lament for their Lost Gold from R.4, #59abc. This is not only a far-reaching premonition of the fact that Bruennhilde will eventually restore Alberich’s Ring to the Rhinedaughters to end its curse, but more immediately suggests that in keeping the Ring’s power safe Bruennhilde becomes a surrogate for restoring Alberich’s Ring to the Rhine, and thereby, at least temporarily, protects Siegfried from suffering from Alberich’s curse of consciousness. This is only meet, since Bruennhilde is Siegfried’s unconscious repository of that fateful knowledge of Alberich’s curse which, were it conscious for Siegfried, would presumably paralyze him into inaction like Wotan. Bruennhilde will confirm this when in T.2.5 she tells Gunther and Hagen that through her magic she protects Siegfried, unbeknownst to him, at the front (accompanied by a motival synthesis - #15/#150 - of the Rhinedaughters’ Motif “Rhinegold! Rhinegold!” and the motif which represents Wotan’s hoard of runes which Siegfried knows subliminally), which is another way of saying she protects Siegfried from suffering Wotan’s foresight of the end, and thus makes Siegfried fearless and grants him an artificial restoration of lost innocence.
Bruennhilde: (#19: rapturously putting on the ring) (#150/#77:) I covet it as my only wealth (:#19; :#150/#77). (#13:) For the ring now take my horse (:#13)! (#12) (#77:) As once, with me, he boldly clove the air in flight, with me he’s lost that mighty power.
Bruennhilde in response gives Siegfried her horse Grane in exchange for Siegfried’s Ring. The motival accompaniment to this seemingly simple exchange between lovers is potent, since Motif #150, identified moments ago with Bruennhilde’s teaching Siegfried Wotan’s hoard of runes, Wotan’s confession to her which she imparts in turn to Siegfried, is heard here again as Bruennhilde tells Siegfried that she covets the Ring he gave her as her only wealth. By giving Bruennhilde Alberich’s Ring in order for her to keep its power safe, Siegfried’s action is allegorically identical with Wotan’s original confession of his hoard of fearful knowledge to Bruennhilde to keep its secret unspoken. Siegfried, in other words, is involuntarily repressing knowledge into his unconscious mind which, if conscious, would damage him fatally. Wagner’s employment of #150 to accompany Bruennhilde as she tells Siegfried that she covets the Ring he gave her as her only wealth confirms this identity of Wotan’s confession with Alberich’s Ring. What is more, we hear two more motifs associated in R.1 with the pre-Fallen condition of the Rhinedaughters’ world which existed prior to Alberich’s stealing of their Rhinegold and forging from it his Ring of power, Motif #13 (their cry of “Heiajaheia!” in celebration of the Rhinegold prior to its theft by Alberich), and the Rhinegold Motif #12, as Bruennhilde gives Siegfried her horse Grane in exchange for the Ring. The suggestion here is that by allowing his unconscious mind Bruennhilde to keep Siegfried safe from the wounds of consciousness, Alberich’s Ring curse, Siegfried wins in exchange an at least temporary restoration of the pre-fall innocence of the Rhinedaughters and their Rhine River, for whom and for which Bruennhilde acts as surrogate. In fact, it might be said that the horse Grane is another metaphor for redemptive music, as I believe Jean-Jacques Nattiez suggested in his book on Wagner’s "Ring," "Wagner Androgyne" (Princeton Univ. Press, 1993), which, now that it is in loving union with the poetic word, the drama, represented by Siegfried (and Alberich's Ring), loses something of its own freedom by granting a newfound freedom to the poetic word, the drama.
Siegfried: (#77 vari:; #150:) Through your virtue alone (#150/#77:) shall I still undertake adventures (:#77 vari; :#150)? (#77) (#77:) Is it you who’ll choose my battles, you to whom all my victories redound? (#148 >>:) Upon your stallion’s back, within the shelter of your shield (:#148) (#111 definitive:) no more do I think of myself as Siegfried, I am (#77:) Bruennhilde’s arm alone (:#111)! (#150)
Bruennhilde: (#150:) If only Bruennhilde were your soul (:#150)!
Siegfried: (#150:) Through her my courage is kindled (:#150).
Bruennhilde: (#150:) So you yourself would be Siegfried and Bruennhilde (:#150:)?
Siegfried: (#111:) Wherever I am, (#150 vari:) both will be safe. (#111)
Bruennhilde: (animatedly) So my mountain hall is deserted?
Siegfried: United, it holds us both. (#148)
Siegfried acknowledges here that it is through Bruennhilde’s virtue alone (i.e., through Bruennhilde’s holding for Siegfried the true source of the inspiration for his new adventures in the creation of redemptive art, Wotan’s confession of his hoard of fearful knowledge which Erda imparted to him, embodied here by Motif #150) that Siegfried still undertakes adventures. She is his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration. In fact, he credits his muse for choosing his battles, and says all his victories redound to her inspiration. To the motif #111, the so-called Siegfried's Mission Motif, Siegfried says he no longer thinks of himself as Siegfried, but as Bruennhilde’s arm alone. In other words, Wotan’s “will” Bruennhilde (of whom Wotan said that in speaking to her, in his confession, he was speaking to himself alone) is Siegfried’s self, who knows for him (as Bruennhilde told Siegfried in S.3.3) what he doesn’t know, that he is Wotan reborn minus knowledge of his true, loathsome identity, corrupt history, and fear of the end of the gods.
The significance of Motif #111, which is sometimes called “Siegfried’s Mission,” is that it is based on Motif #105, Mime’s so-called Starling Song, to which Mime told Siegfried all that Siegfried owes to Mime for Siegfried’s upbringing. But Motif #111 was introduced at the end of S.1.1 when Siegfried learned from Mime who Siegfried’s true, deceased parents were, and that Siegfried’s father had left him the broken pieces of his father’s sword (the embodiment of Wotan’s great idea, that his new mortal race of Waelsung heroes would redeem the gods from Alberich’s curse on his Ring by taking possession of that Ring in order to keep Alberich from regaining it and its power and bringing about the twilight of the gods). With this liberating knowledge Siegfried ran off into the forest to the sound of #111 in the orchestra, waiting on Mime to reforge the broken sword Nothung, but knowing full well that Mime was surely incapable of re-forging this heroic, ancestral sword, if Mime wasn’t even capable of forging any sword for Siegfried that he could wield in battle, since Siegfried could always break Mime’s swords. The point of this genealogy of motifs #105 and #111 is that Mime represents all that Wotan found most loathsome in himself, all that he was able to purge from his new, ideal self Siegfried by virtue of repressing his knowledge of his old, abhorrent self in his unconscious mind by confessing this to his daughter, his “will,” Bruennhilde. This genealogy is simply a reminder that what Siegfried experiences subjectively as his freedom is actually a product of Wotan’s prosaic fears, knowledge of which remains unconscious for Siegfried.
In the remainder of this passage Siegfried and Bruennhilde reinforce not only our understanding that they are really two parts of one person, Siegfried being the conscious half and Bruennhilde the unconscious half, but that Bruennhilde, as Siegfried’s unconscious mind who protects him from consciousness of all that paralyzed Wotan into inaction and impotency, kindles Siegfried’s courage. In other words, Bruennhilde’s protection (again represented here by Motif #150, the symbol for Wotan’s hoard of runes which Bruennhilde taught Siegfried, but which nonetheless left Siegfried untaught) is the cause of Siegfried’s fearlessness, and Wotan’s unspoken secret, which she knows for Siegfried, inspires Siegfried to undertake new adventures.
Hagen: (#152 vari:) In summer’s ripe strength I see Gibich’s line, (#152:) you, Gunther, unwed, you, Gutrune, without a husband (:#152).
(#152 vari:; #24 vari: Gunther and Gutrune are lost in silent thought.)
Gunther: (#152 vari >>:) Whom would you have me woo that it should serve our fame (:#152 vari)?
Hagen: (#77 frag:) I know of a woman, (#77:) the noblest in the world (:#77): - (#35 vari - flutes:) high on a fell her home (#35 vari on flutes); (#128b:) a fire burns round her hall (:#128b): (#35 vari:) only he who breaks through the fire (#129b) may sue for Bruennhilde’s love (:#35 vari:).
Gunther (#77) Is my courage equal to that? (#152 end frag)
Hagen: (#151:; #115 vari descending:) A man yet stronger is fated to win her (:#151; :#115 vari descending).
The point of this passage, in my allegorical reading, is that Hagen is Wagner’s metaphor for the demythologizing spirit of the secular, scientific, skeptical, modern world, whose instinct is to plumb all mysteries of man and nature in order to discover their potential profit, i.e., to make use of this knowledge for the sake of worldly power. Man’s religious longing for transcendent value lives on, even in an age ever more skeptical of the claims of religious faith, in the artist-hero Siegfried and his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration Bruennhilde. So long as mankind finds value in this modern secular perpetuation of religious man’s longing for redemption from the real, objective world, to that degree scientific and technological man, and realpolitick proponents of power politics, are at a disadvantage, because man’s propensity for self-deceit regarding his allegedly transcendent value is a barrier to the unfettered accumulation of real-world power. On the surface Hagen seduces his half-siblings Gunther and Gutrune into seeking to make matches in marriage on the basis of enhancing their social and political cache, but in a more profound sense Hagen, the embodiment of his father Alberich’s curse on the Ring, the curse of consciousness, is seeking to explode the last refuge of man’s age-old religious longing for transcendent meaning and value, by taking possession of this final refuge and exposing it as self-deception. And this is what Hagen will do.
Siegfried, as the artist-heir to Wotan’s religious mysteries (just as Wagner said there is a correspondence between music and the sacred mysteries), is the natural mark for Hagen’s hunt. It is remarkable that Hagen knows all about Bruennhilde hidden behind Loge’s protective ring of fire, and about Siegfried. But we must recall that Hagen, though having a vividly realized cynical personality, is also representative of a tendency in collective, historical man to progress from unconsciousness to consciousness, which is a very good description of Alberich’s curse on his Ring. For Alberich said all the living will renounce love and seek gold as he did, and I have shown how Wagner conflates Alberich’s hoard of treasure, of gold, with Wotan’s (collective, historical man’s) acquisition of knowledge of the earth (Erda) in his wanderings and especially in his visit to Erda which gave birth to Bruennhilde, now the repository for Wotan’s hoard of knowledge. Bruennhilde is the last refuge of the religious mysteries and Hagen, the incarnation of historical man’s quest to understand all things and to obtain the power such knowledge brings, is instinctively aware of this, just as his father instinctively remained, eternally vigilant and waking, outside Fawner's lair (the embodiment of religious faith's stranglehold on objective knowledge, freedom of inquiry). Bruennhilde, as the new guardian of the religious mysteries, the old mystery of faith, is the modern secular substitute for Fafner, religious faith’s fear of the old adage: “Know Thyself,” the fear of intellectual inquiry into our basis for faith.
Hagen: (#153: leaning closer towards Gutrune, confidentially: #153 >>:) Recall the potion in the chest; (more secretly) trust in me who obtained it: (#37/#24 vari:) it will bind to you in love (:#24 vari) the hero for whom you long (:#37).
(Gunther has returned to the table and, leaning on it, listens attentively.)
Hagen: If Siegfried were to enter now (#57) (#153 vari:) and taste the herbal drink (:#153 vari), (#42:) he’d be [[ #154: ]] forced to forget (:#42) (#24:; #42:) that he’d seen a woman before you, (#24:; #154:) that a woman had ever come near him (:#24; :#154). – (#151) Now tell me: - (#161 end frag) what think you of Hagen’s advice?
To grasp the conceptual and dramatic significance of this passage we have to recall some motival genealogy. One of Loge’s Motifs, #35, is the motival source which gives birth to the two Tarnhelm Motifs, #42 and #43, and #43 in turn gives birth to Hagen’s Potions, represented by Motif #154 (both the potion of forgetting and love, which Gutrune will give Siegfried to drink at Hagen’s command, and its antidote, the potion of remembrance, which Hagen will give Siegfried to drink), through which he plans first to make Siegfried forget his true love and muse of unconscious artistic inspiration Bruennhilde, and fall in love with Gutrune (whom we might wish to regard as a false muse), and then to abduct Bruennhilde for Gunther, and finally to make Siegfried remember his true relationship with Bruennhilde which the first potion made him forget, in order to expose Siegfried as a perjurer and betrayer of his blood-brotherhood oath to Gunther, in order to make Siegfried subject to vengeance for his betrayal of Gunther. But all this is a smokescreen for Hagen’s real purpose, for it is through these means that Hagen hopes to expose the unspoken secret which Bruennhilde knows for Siegfried, symbolized now by Alberich’s Ring (which stands in for Alberich’s hoard of treasure and Wotan’s hoard of knowledge), to the light of day, thereby fulfilling his father Alberich’s threat that his hoard would some day rise from the silent night to day, and his host of night would storm Valhalla and overthrow the gods (i.e., the bitter truth, Mother Nature’s objective truth, would rise to consciousness and overthrow man’s self-deception in religion, morality, and art).
General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung
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