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Wagner's Ring in 1848

Wagner's Ring in 1848: New Translations of The Nibelung Myth and Siegfried's Death

Translated and with an introduction by Edward R. Haymes
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 206
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  • Book Info
    Wagner's Ring in 1848
    Book Description:

    In 1848 Richard Wagner began what would become the largest stage work of his career, the Ring of the Nibelung. In preparation for the task he composed an overview of the Nibelung myth designed to lead to a drama; he then composed the verse "libretto" Siegfried's Death. Although he abandoned the idea of a single opera on Siegfried in favor of the huge project that developed out of it in the succeeding years -- the Ring cycle -- he did consider the two early documents important enough to include them in his collected works. The present volume seeks to inform the English-speaking reader in three ways: by providing modern, reliable translations of the two Wagner texts, which are otherwise not available (the German original is provided on facing pages); by furnishing an overview of German scholarship available to Wagner and others working on the Nibelung legend in the first half of the nineteenth century; and by making available a bibliography of further reading. The volume will be useful to students of musicology, to students and historians of myth and legend, and to all Wagnerians interested in the genesis of the Ring cycle. Accessible to the general reader, it maintains scholarly rigor and provides information about materials not available in English. Edward R. Haymes is Professor in the Department of Modern Languages at Cleveland State University.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-711-1
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Introduction: Wagner’s Nibelungs in 1848
    (pp. 1-38)

    In the summer and fall of 1848 Richard Wagner stood on the brink of two revolutions, one of which seemed to him and his contemporaries far more momentous than the other.¹ History has judged otherwise. The political revolution that would, in a few months, sweep Wagner into its toils and leave him a wanted fugitive was ultimately only one in a series of attempts to unify Germany and move toward something other than a collection of tiny states under aristocratic absolutism.² The unification movement took another twenty odd years and ended with a compromise that would never have satisfied such...

  4. Der Nibelungen-Mythus

    • Commentary
      (pp. 40-43)

      In my translation of Wagner’s summary of the Nibelung myth as the basis of a drama I have followed the text contained in Wagner’sGesammelte Schriften,which was prepared from the early clean copy dated 8 October 1848. I have attempted to retain the sketch character of the original. Where a term that Wagner used or invented has become accepted in its German form in the Wagner literature—such asTarnhelm—I have retained the German expressions. I have maintained his sometimes questionable interpretations of medieval expressions.

      At this point I would like to beg the reader’s indulgence. In the...

    • Der Nibelungen-Mythus (Als Entwurf zu einem Drama)
      (pp. 44-60)

      Dem Schooße der Nacht und des Todes entkeimte ein Geschlecht, welches in Nibelheim (Nebelheim), d.i. in unterirdischen düsteren Klüften und Höhlen wohnt: sie heißen Nibelungen; in unsteter, rastloser Regsamkeit durchwühlen sie (gleich Würmern im todten Körper) die Eingeweide der Erde: sie glühen, läutern und schmieden die harten Metalle. Des klaren edlen Rheingoldes bemächtigte sich Alberich, entführte es den Tiefen der Wässer und schmiedete daraus mit großer listiger Kunst einen Ring, der ihm die oberste Gewalt über sein ganzes Geschlecht, die Nibelungen, verschaffte: so wurde er ihr Herr, zwang sie, für ihn fortan allein zu arbeiten, und sammelte den unermeßlichen Nibelungenhort,...

  5. Siegfried’s Tod

    • Commentary
      (pp. 62-64)

      Wagner thought enough of hisSiegfried’s Tod,written in November 1848, to include it in his collected works in a form close to its original. The published text was translated into English by William Ashton Ellis and included in 1899 as part of the final volume of hisRichard Wagner’s Prose Works.¹ Wagner’s verse is generally understandable, if ornate and occasionally ponderous, but a translation should not be more difficult to read than the original. Ashton Ellis felt called upon to try to match, if not exceed, Wagner’s stylistic excesses in his translations, and the results are sometimes impenetrable. As...

  6. Siegfried’s Tod

    • Vorspiel.
      (pp. 66-77)



      In Osten wob ich.


      In Westen wand ich.


      Nach Norden werf’ ich.

      Was wandest du im Westen?


      Was wobest du im Osten?

      DIE ERSTE.

      Rheingold raubte Alberich,

      schmiedete einen Ring,

      band durch ihn seine Brüder.


      Knechte die Nibelungen,

      Knecht auch Alberich,

      da ihm der Ring geraubt.


      Frei die Schwarzalben,

      frei auch Alberich:

      Rheingold ruh’ in der Tiefe!



      In the east I wove it.


      In the west I wound it.


      To the north I toss it.

      What did you wind in the west?...

    • Erster Akt.
      (pp. 76-107)


      Nun sag’, Hagen, unfroher Helde!

      Sitze ich stark am Rhein

      zu der Gibichungen Ruhm?


      Dich ächtenGibichungacht’ ich zu neiden:

      Frau Grimhildlehrt’ es mich schon,

      die beide uns gebar.


      Dich neide ich — nicht neide mich du!

      Erbte ich Erstlingsmacht,

      Weisheit ward dir allein.

      Halbbrüder Zwistnie zähmte sichbesser:

      Deinem Rath nurzoll’ich Lob,

      frag’ ich dich nach meinem Ruhm.


      So schelt’ ich den Rath, da schlecht noch dein Ruhm,


      Hail! Hail!


      Now say, Hagen, unhappy hero!

      Do I sit mighty on the Rhine

      Bringing the Gibichungs fame?



    • Zweiter Akt.
      (pp. 108-147)


      Schläfst du, Hagen, mein Sohn? —

      Du schläfst und hörst mich nicht,

      den ruhlos Kummerreichen?


      Ich höre dich, schlimmer Albe;

      was kommst du mir zu sagen?


      Wissen sollst du,

      welcheMacht du hast

      bist du so stark und muthig

      wie deine Mutter dich gebar.


      Gab sie mir Muth und Stärke,

      nicht doch mag ich ihr danken,

      daß deiner List sie erlag:

      früh alt, bleich und fahl,

      hass’ ich die Frohen,

      freue mich nie.


      Hagen, mein Sohn,nicht hasse mich,

      denn Großes geb’ ich in deine Hand.

      Der Ring, nach dem ich zu ringen dich...

    • Dritter Akt.
      (pp. 148-186)


      Frau Sonne sendet lichte Strahlen,

      Nacht liegt in der Tiefe:

      einst war sie hell,

      da heil und hehr

      des Vaters Gold in ihr glänzte.


      klares Gold,

      wie hellstrahltest du einst,

      holderStern der Tiefe!

      Frau Sonne, sende uns den Helden,

      der das Gold uns wiedergäbe!

      Ließ’ er es uns,

      dein lichtes Aug’

      neideten dann wir nimmer.


      klares Gold,

      wie frohstrahltest du dann,

      freier Stern der Tiefe!


      Ich höre sein Horn.


      Der Helde naht.


      Laßt uns berathen!


      Lady Sun sends bright rays,

      Night lies in the depths:

      Once they were bright,

      Since whole and clear...

    • Commentary on the Transition from Siegfried’s Tod to Götterdämmerung
      (pp. 187-192)

      The prologue ofSiegfried’s Todconsists of two scenes: the Norn scene, which takes place within sight of Brünnhilde’s rock, and the farewell scene between Siegfried and Brünnhilde. Although the Norn scene seems to occupy the same place and fulfill essentially the same role of drawing attention to Siegfried’s deeds and his death as it does inGötterdämmerung,inSiegfried’s Todit refers only to those events Wagner considered important for this drama. In fact, there is only a single line from this original text that survives intoGötterdämmerung.The Norse sources mention three names for the Norns: Urð, Verðandi,...

  7. Further Reading
    (pp. 193-196)
  8. Index
    (pp. 197-200)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 201-201)