The point is that thanks to Bruennhilde, Siegfried’s unconscious mind, Siegfried’s music, he can know things subliminally without being conscious of them conceptually.
Having finally acquiesced in Siegfried’s demand for a consummation of their love, Bruennhilde now celebrates Siegfried as the childish hero, the glorious boy, whose very naivete and ignorance of himself is a product of Wotan having given birth to him by repressing his bitter self-knowledge into the womb of his wishes Bruennhilde so he could, in effect, be reborn as a another, purified, ideal self, purged of all that he abhorred in his old self. Siegfried is Wotan restored to innocence by virtue of Bruennhilde, by virtue of Wagner’s redemptive music and musical motifs, the language of the unconscious mind, which Bruennhilde embodies. Since Bruennhilde is the repository of Wotan’s confession of world history and of the fateful destiny of the gods (religion), and holds this knowledge for Siegfried, she holds forth on the ecstatic passing away of Wotan’s old world and its fears and troubled preoccupations, while Siegfried sings only of their love. She describes Siegfried as the “foolish hoard of loftiest deeds,” which is a poetic way of saying that Siegfried has inherited both Alberich’s hoard of treasure and Wotan’s hoard of knowledge, of runes, which we come to see as identical in the course of the "Ring" (keeping in mind that Wotan is Light-Alberich, and Alberich’s Ring #19 has given musical birth to the first segment of Wotan’s Valhalla Motif #20a). But Siegfried is foolish only because Bruennhilde, Siegfried’s unconscious mind, holds this knowledge for him, to protect him from its wounds.
Bruennhilde: (laughing wildly and joyfully: #77/#78 >>:) O childish hero! O glorious boy! You foolish hoard of loftiest deeds [“Du hehrster Thaten thoeriger Hort”]! (#141 >> Laughing I must love you; laughing I must grow blind: laughing let us perish – laughing go to our doom! ([[ #145: ]] Be gone, Valhalla’s light-bringing world! May your proud-standing stronghold moulder to dust! [[ #145: ]]; #140:) Fare well, resplendent pomp of the gods! (#140:) end in rapture, you endless race! [[ #145: ]]; #140:) Rend, you Norns, the rope of runes! Dusk of the gods [“Goetter-Daemm’rung”], let your darkness arise! Night of destruction, let your mists [“Neb’le”] role in! (#134:) Siegfried’s star now shines upon me (:#134): [[ #145: ]] he’s mine forever, always mine, my heritage and own, my one and all, (#141/#134 >> light-bringing love and laughing death (:#141/#134)!
The Norns’ rope of runes, their rope of Fate, is rended figuratively, or subjectively, by the music-drama to which the artist-hero Siegfried’s loving union with his muse Bruennhilde gives birth, in which Wagnerian Wonder, the feeling granted us by Wagner’s music and by his musical motifs that we have transcended the worldly limits of time and space, allows us to experience a sense of being lifted out of our earthly coils. This final passage from "Siegfried," by the way, introduces a new, staccato motif of great power, Motif #145, which Dr. Allen Dunning believes is a variant of the basic love motif, whose genealogy is #25 (the second half of Freia’s Motif), #40 (sometimes known as Tragic Love, or Love Lost from the World), and #64, the definitive Love Motif. But I believe instead that, counter-intuitively, it derives from Motif #104, which expressed Siegfried’s contempt and loathing for Mime. Recalling how Mime came to represent all that Wotan loathed in his own character, all that Wotan wished to purge in order to produce a purified hero freed from all that Wotan loathed in his own character, I can’t help noting that the configuration of notes in both #104 and #145 is identical, though Wagner greatly alters the musical expression of #104 in producing what I take to be its variant #145. If I am correct the motival symbolism is striking: evidently Wagner wished to convey that Siegfried, having re-forged his father’s sword which Wotan had broken with his spear of divine authority, having grasped the meaning of the Woodbird’s song, having killed Wotan’s fear, Fafner, having taken aesthetic possession of the sources of Alberich’s power (the Nibelung Hoard, Tarnhelm, and Ring), and having killed all that Wotan loathed in his own nature and history, Mime, and having now won Bruennhilde, who holds for Siegfried Wotan’s bitter self-knowledge which is embodied by Mime, so that Siegfried can be freed from it, Siegfried’s triumphant union with his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration Bruenhilde musically converts what had been Siegfried’s contempt for Mime (actually, Wotan’s self-contempt, since Siegfried is Wotan minus consciousness of his true identity), into a motif of triumph over all that Wotan loathed in his own nature. That is why we hear #145 as Bruennhilde figuratively consigns Wotan’s whole world and his concerns into oblivion, drowned in the ecstasy of the redemptive art the loving union of Siegfried and Bruennhilde will produce.
Siegfried: [[ #145: ]] Laughing you wake in gladness to me: Bruennhilde lives! Bruennhilde laughs! – Hail to the day that sheds light all around us! Hail to the sun that shines upon us! Hail to the light that emerges from night! Hail to the world for which Bruennhilde lives! She wakes! She lives! She smiles upon me! Bruennhilde’s star shines resplendent upon me! She’s mine forever, always mine, my heritage and own, my one and all: light-bringing love and laughing death (:#145; :#141)! (Bruennhilde throws herself into Siegfried’s arms.
Below we enter the realm of "Twilight of the Gods," the final part of the four-part "Ring," which introduces us to Erda’s daughters (and Bruennhilde’s half-sisters), the Norns, the weavers of Erda’s rope of fate, of all that was, is, and will be, the real, objective world, which Wotan sinned against as the embodiment of godhead, man’s religious sin of pessimistic world-denial in positing a realm of being, said to be objectively real, which supernaturally transcends the objective world, Erda’s world:
First Norn: (#2:; [[ #146: ]]) At the world-ash once I wove ((#@: c or d?) = #3 vari:) when, tall and strong, a forest of sacred branches (:#146; #@: c or d) = #3 vari) blossomed from its bole (#20d) (#@: c or d?) = #3 vari:) in its cooling shade there plashed a spring, whispering wisdom [“Weisheit”], its ripples ran (:(#@: c or d? = #3 vari): I sang then of sacred things. (#20d) – A dauntless god [“ein kuehner Gott”] came to drink at the spring; (#20abc vari:) one of his eyes he paid as toll for all time: (#20d) from the world-ash Wotan broke off a branch; (#21) the shaft of a spear (#21 modified by #115 rhythm:) the mighty god cut from its trunk (:#21 modified by #115 rhythm). - (#97 vari:) In the span of many seasons the wound consumed the wood (:#97 vari); (#53 & #54) fallow fell the leaves (:#53 & #54), ((#@: c or d?) = #3 vari:) barren, the tree grew rotten (:(#@: c or d?) = #3 vari): (#53:) sadly the well-spring’s drink ran dry (:#53); the sense of my singing grew troubled.
The First Norn gives us here her own account of Wotan’s sin in drinking from the sacred spring below the World-Ash which whispers wisdom, for which Wotan paid one of his eyes as toll, and in breaking a sacred branch from the World-Ash tree from which to make his Spear of divine authority and law, an act which delivered a fatal wound to the World-Ash, which died. Wotan, as godhead, i.e., as the embodiment of religious man’s pessimistic renunciation of Nature (Erda), and natural law (the Norns’ rope of Fate, and Erda’s wisdom), is a figurative murderer of the mother of us all, Mother Nature, with whose essential law, that all which is must end, Wotan’s assumption of immortality (the gift of Freia’s golden apples of sorrowless youth eternal) is at odds. Wotan’s murdering the World-Ash is a metaphor for Wotan’s sin against all that was, is, and will be (the sin Alberich said Wotan would be committing if Wotan stole Alberich’s Ring from him and co-opted its power to sustain the gods’ rule), Wotan’s denial of Erda’s knowledge, which we found echoed again in Wotan’s remark to Erda in S.3.1 that her knowledge wanes before his will (i.e., before his unconscious mind Bruennhilde). This of course is echoed in Siegfried’s having been born through his mother Sieglinde’s death: I noted previously how Wagner’s motival accompaniment referenced Erda when Siegfried was trying to imagine what the mother, Sieglinde, looked like, who died giving him birth. It is noteworthy that we hear Motifs #53 (often called Erda’s Motif) and Motif #54, the Twilight of the Gods Motif, as the First Norn describes the death of the World-Ash, whose own motif #146 is closely akin to Erda’s Motif #53. In other words, Wotan’s sin was to deny nature’s fundamental law, that all that was, is, and will be is subject to change, and to death.
Second Norn: (winding the rope with effortful haste round the jagged rock outside the chamber) (#19:; (#@: c or d?) = #3 vari:) The stone’s sharp edge is cutting the rope; the web of its strands is no longer stretched taut: the woven skein is raveled (:#19; #@: c or d?) = #3 vari). (#19/(#@: c or d?) = #3 vari?:) From need [“Noth”] and spite [“Neid”] the Nibelung’s ring stands proud (:#19/(#@: c or d?) = #3 vari): (#45a:) an avenging curse (:#45a) (#45b:) gnaws at the tangle of threads (:#45b): (throwing the rope to the Third Norn: #57) do you know what will come of that?
Third Norn: (hastily seizes the rope that has been thrown to her) The rope’s too slack! It doesn’t reach me: (#103 frag) if I’m to draw the end to the north, (#103 frag) tauter let it be stretched! (she pulls hard on the rope, which breaks.) (#51) It’s snapped!
Second Norn: It’s snapped!
First Norn: It’s snapped!
(They gather up the pieces of broken rope and bind themselves together with them.)
The Three Norns: (#54:) An end to eternal wisdom (:#54)! (#51:) Wise women no longer tell the world their tidings.
Third Norn: (#97:) Descend!
Second Norn: (#97:) To our mother!
First Norn: Descend! (#87: They disappear.)
Motifs #57, the Sword Motif which represents Wotan’s great idea, that his Waelsung heroes will redeem the gods from Alberich’s curse on his Ring and therefore from the twilight of the gods to which Alberich’s curse dooms the gods, through a restoration of lost innocence (preconsciousness), and Motif #103, Siegfried’s Horn Call, both seem to cut the Norns’ fraying rope of Fate (fraying, according to the Norns themselves, because of Alberich’s curse on his Ring). It is important to remember that Alberich’s curse on his Ring, the curse of consciousness, was intended by him to punish Wotan and the gods, and anyone else, who takes possession of his Ring with the intent to co-opt its objective power for ends other than those for which Alberich originally forged it, earthly power. Thus Alberich cursed his Ring in a war on mankind’s quest for transcendent value in any of its forms, either religious belief, or altruistic ethics, or secular art.
But the severing of the Norns’ Rope of Fate (the natural coherence of all that was, is, and will be, the objective world in which we live, the truth) by a combination of Siegfried’s sword Nothung, Siegfried’s Horn Call, and Alberich’s curse on his Ring, is purely figurative, not real, because Siegfried and Bruennhilde will, after all, succumb to Alberich’s curse on his Ring, just as Wotan did (a point Bruennhilde will make in her final words in T.3.3), in spite of Wotan’s hope that they would be freed from Alberich’s Ring curse and redeem the world from it. This scene, then, is a poetic metaphor for the fact that through the art which Siegfried’s unconscious mind and muse Bruennhilde inspires Siegfried to create, Siegfried will temporarily redeem himself and his audience from Erda’s knowledge, which wanes before Wotan’s will Bruennhilde (Wotan’s unconscious mind and Siegfried’s muse of unconscious artistic inspiration). Through Siegfried’s art both he and his audience can, for a time, forget mankind’s existential fear, the fear that mankind’s longing for transcendent value, originally embodied in religious faith, is futile, is self-deception. Thus the Norns’ weaving of their Rope of Fate seems to fade into oblivion, just as Wotan himself in S.3.1 consigned Erda and her knowledge to the oblivion of dreaming, thus transforming her objective, waking knowledge back into the subjective aesthetic intuition of involuntary dreaming, the product of our unconscious mind (Bruennhilde). In this respect, it is not surprising, but nonetheless remarkable, that the Norns’ account of world history, which corresponds with Wotan’s tragic experience which he repressed into his unconscious mind and will Bruennhilde, takes place in the interim between the two distinct halves of the consummation of Siegfried’s loving union with his muse Bruennhilde, in S.3.3 and T.P. The consummation of their union in S.3.3 and T.P is Wagner’s dramatization of his own unconscious artistic inspiration by the bitter, but subliminal, knowledge, that mankind’s bid for transcendent value is self-deception, a thought so terrible that we must redeem ourselves from it (as Wotan did through his confession to Bruennhilde in V.2.2) by repressing this knowledge and sublimating it into a consoling illusion, in this case a redemptive work of art in which we can forget our existential fear (forget Wotan’s bitter confession).
Bruennhilde: [[ #149: ]] To new adventures [“Thaten,” i.e., deeds), beloved hero (:#149), [[ #149: ]] what would my love be worth if I did not let you go forth [“wie liebt’ ich dich – liess ich dich nicht”] (:#149)? A single worry makes me falter - [[ #150: ]] that my merit has brought you too little gain (:#150)! (#150) [[ #150 >>>: ]] What gods have taught me I gave to you: a bountiful store [“Hort,” i.e., hoard!!!] of hallowed runes [“heiliger Runen reichen Hort”] (:#150 >>>) but the maidenly source of all my strength (:#150) (#140:) was taken away by the hero to whom I now bow my head (:#140). (#149) (#149:) Bereft of wisdom (#149) but filled with desire; (#149) rich in love yet void of strength, I beg you not to despise the poor woman (#150:) who grudges you naught but can give you no more (:#150)! (#148)
Bruennhilde confirms here that the sole purpose of her love for Siegfried, its worth, is that her love should inspire Siegfried to undertake new adventures in the outer world, a concept identified here with the new Motif #149, which we can construe as representing Bruennhilde as Siegfried’s muse of unconscious artistic inspiration. I have shown that this must be understood in the light of Wagner’s entire array of canonic operas and music-dramas, from "The Flying Dutchman" through "Parsifal," but Siegfried does perform one inspired artwork in the "Ring", specifically his sung narration of the story of his heroic life and how he came to grasp the meaning of the Woodbird’s song, in T.3.2, in which Gunther, Hagen, and the Gibichung hunting party become his audience. In fact, aside from forcibly abducting Bruennhilde to give her as wife to Gunther, this is the only significant action he performs in the "Ring" after Bruennhilde has inspired him to undertake new adventures in T.P. In my interpretation Siegfried’s Rhine Journey is a musical metaphor for numerous adventures (creations of prior works of art, and their performance before an audience) which Siegfried undertook prior to his final adventure at the Gibichung Court. Wagner saved the dramatization of the artist-hero (Walther) creating a truly redemptive work of art for his comedy "Mastersingers." But in the "Ring," an epic tragedy, Wagner dramatized the artist-hero Siegfried’s unwitting betrayal of the secret source of his true inspiration, in giving his muse Bruennhilde away to another man, Gunther, Wagner’s metaphor for his own audience. And as Wagner said himself, this essential plot of "Twilight of the Gods" is identical to that of "Tristan and Isolde" in which Tristan, similarly, gives his true love Isolde (as if under some spell) away to another man unworthy of her, with tragic consequences.
When Bruennhilde introduces Motif #150 by telling Siegfried that she is worried her merit (as Siegfried’s unconscious repository of Wotan’s hoard of forbidden knowledge, and as muse of Siegfried’s unconscious artistic inspiration) has brought him too little gain, and that what the gods have (i.e., Wotan has) taught her, she gave to Siegfried, a bountiful “Hoard” of hallowed runes, Bruennhilde is saying that she has taught Siegfried Wotan’s confession of his hoard of fearful knowledge, but it is clear that the knowledge of himself she holds for Siegfried remains unconscious for him, because, as he tells her below, again accompanied by Motif #150, she gave him more than he knows how to cherish, keep, or guard, and accompanied by both Motif #149 and #150, he tells her that her teaching left him untaught. In other words, since Bruennhilde knows for him what he doesn’t know, his true identity as Wotan, and prehistory (Wotan’s history), thanks to Bruennhilde Siegfried possesses this knowledge, but is not conscious of it. Through her he knows it subliminally. If Motif #149 can be construed as representing Bruennhilde as Siegfried’s muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, Motif #150 symbolizes the hidden source of that inspiration, Wotan’s hoard of the fearful knowledge Erda taught to him of the far-reaching consequences of Alberich’s curse on his Ring, knowledge of which Siegfried remains unconscious, thanks to Bruennhilde, who protects Siegfried from the wounds this knowledge would inflict on him, paralyzing him, if he were conscious of it.
Siegfried, by the way, in the passage below, has an unwitting premonition of the fact that he will betray his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration Bruennhilde by giving up Wotan’s unspoken secret which Bruennhilde has kept even from Siegfried, to the light of day, when he says that Bruennhilde gave him more (#150 represents Wotan’s hoard of runes which he imparted to Bruennhilde and which she imparts subliminally to Siegfried) than he knows how to cherish (keep, or guard):
Siegfried: You gave me more, o wondrous woman, (#150:) than I know how to cherish [“als ich zu wahren weiss,” i.e., than I know how to keep, or guard] (:#150): (#150) (#149:) Chide me not if your (#150:) teaching has left me untaught! (:#149; :#150).
General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung
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