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Title: Parsifal - Story and Analysis of Wagner's Great Opera
Author: Haweis, H. R. (Hugh Reginald), 1839-1901
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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PARSIFAL

Story and Analysis of Wagner's Great Opera

by

H. R. HAWEIS

Author of "My Musical Memories," "Music and Morals," etc.



[Illustration: RICHARD WAGNER]


[Illustration: Funk and Wagnalls Symbol]



Funk & Wagnalls Company
New York and London
1905

NOTE--

   This story and analysis of Parsifal was
   first published as a part of Mr. Haweis'
   well-known work, "My Musical Memories."
   The interest it has excited
   seems to justify its republication at
   this time in a separate volume.

                      F. & W. Co.

Published, February, 1904



CONTENTS


                               PAGE

    WAHNFRIED                   5

    PARSIFAL                   10

      ACT I                    18

      ACT II                   41

      ACT III                  55

    WHEN THE CURTAIN FELL      67


ILLUSTRATIONS

                                                 FACING
                                                   PAGE
    Portrait of Richard Wagner           _Frontispiece_

    Parsifal and Gurnemanz Passing Through
      the Ravine (Act I)                        30

    The Great Hall of the Holy Grail
      (Act I)                                   36

    Parsifal Entering the Grail Castle in
      Triumph (Act III)                         62



WAHNFRIED

I visited Bayreuth on the 24th of July, 1883, and attended two crowded
performances of Wagner's last work, _Parsifal_. In the morning I went
into the beautiful gardens of the Neue Schloss. On either side of a
lake, upon which float a couple of swans and innumerable water-lilies,
the long parklike avenue of trees are vocal with wild doves, and the
robin is heard in the adjoining thickets. At my approach the sweet song
ceases abruptly, and the startled bird flies out, scattering the pale
petals of the wild roses upon my path. I follow a stream of people on
foot, as they move down the left-hand avenue in the garden of the Neue
Schloss, which adjoins Wagner's own grounds.

Some are going--some are coming. Presently I see an opening in the
bushes on my left; the path leads me to a clump of evergreens. I follow
it, and come suddenly on the great composer's grave. All about the green
square mound the trees are thick--laurel, fir, and yew. The shades fall
funereally across the immense gray granite slab; but over the dark
foliage the sky is bright blue, and straight in front of me, above the
low bushes, I can see the bow-windows of the dead master's study--where
I spent with him one delightful evening in 1876.

I can see, too, the jet of water that he loved playing high above the
hedge of evergreen. It lulls me with its sound. "Wahnfried! Wahnfried!"
it seems to murmur. It was the word written above the master's
house--the word he most loved--the word his tireless spirit most
believed in. How shall I render it? "Dream-life! dream-life! Earth's
illusion of joy!"

Great spirit! thy dream-life here is past, and, face to face with truth,
"rapt from the fickle and the frail," for thee the illusion has
vanished! Mayest thou also know the fulness of joy in the unbroken and
serene activities of the eternal Reality!

I visited the grave twice. There is nothing written on the granite slab.
There were never present less than twenty persons, and a constant
stream of pilgrims kept coming and going.

One gentle token of the master's pitiful and tender regard for the
faithful dumb animals he so loved lies but a few feet off in the same
garden, and not far from his own grave.

Upon a mossy bank, surrounded with evergreens, is a small marble slab,
with this inscription to his favorite dog:

"_Here lies in peace 'Wahnfried's' faithful watcher and friend--the good
and beautiful Mark_" (der gute, schöne Mark)!

I returned, too, to Wagner's tomb, plucked a branch of the fir-tree that
waved above it, and went back to my room to prepare myself by reading
and meditation for the great religious drama which I was to witness at
four o'clock in the afternoon--Wagner's latest and highest
inspiration--the story of the sacred brotherhood, the knights of San
Graal--_Parsifal_!



PARSIFAL


The blood of God!--mystic symbol of divine life--"for the blood is the
life thereof." That is the key-note of _Parsifal_, the Knight of the
Sangrail. Wine is the ready symbolical vehicle--the material link
between the divine and the human life. In the old religions, that
heightened consciousness, that intensity of feeling produced by
stimulant, was thought to be the very entering in of the "god"--the
union of the divine and human spirit; and in the Eleusinian mysteries,
the "sesame," the bread of Demeter, the earth mother, and the "kykeon,"
or wine of Dionysos, the vine god, were thus sacramental.

The passionate desire to approach and mingle with Deity is the one
mystic bond common to all religions in all lands. It is the "cry of the
human;" it traverses the ages, it exhausts many symbols and transcends
all forms.

To the Christian it is summed up in the "Lord's Supper."

The medieval legend of the Sangrail (real or royal blood) is the most
poetic and pathetic form of transubstantiation; in it the gross
materialism of the Roman Mass almost ceases to be repulsive; it
possesses the true legendary power of attraction and assimilation.

As the Knights of the Table Round, with their holy vows, provided
medieval Chivalry with a center, so did the Lord's table, with its
Sangrail, provide medieval Religion with its central attractive point.
And as all marvelous tales of knightly heroism circled round King
Arthur's table, so did the great legends embodying the Christian
conceptions of sin, punishment, and redemption circle round the Sangrail
and the sacrifice of the "Mass."

In the legends of _Parsifal_ and _Lohengrin_ the knightly and religious
elements are welded together. This is enough. We need approach
_Parsifal_ with no deep knowledge of the various Sagas made use of by
Wagner in his drama. His disciples, while most eager to trace its
various elements to their sources, are most emphatic in declaring that
the _Parsifal_ drama, so intimately true to the spirit of Roman
Catholicism, is nevertheless a new creation.

Joseph of Arimathea received in a crystal cup the blood of Christ as it
flowed from the spear-wound made by the Roman soldier. The cup and the
spear were committed to Titurel, who became a holy knight and head of a
sacred brotherhood of knights. They dwelt in the Visigoth Mountains of
Southern Spain, where, amid impenetrable forests, rose the legendary
palace of Montsalvat. Here they guarded the sacred relics, issuing forth
at times from their palatial fortress, like Lohengrin, to fight for
innocence and right, and always returning to renew their youth and
strength by the celestial contemplation of the Sangrail, and by
occasional participation in the holy feast.

Time and history count for very little in these narratives. It was
allowed, however, that Titurel the Chief had grown extremely aged, but
it was not allowed that he could die in the presence of the Sangrail. He
seemed to have been laid in a kind of trance, resting in an open tomb
beneath the altar of the Grail; and whenever the cup was uncovered his
voice might be heard joining in the celebration. Meanwhile, Amfortas,
his son, reigned in his stead.

Montsalvat, with its pure, contemplative, but active brotherhood, and
its mystic cup, thus stands out as the poetic symbol of all that is
highest and best in medieval Christianity.

The note of the wicked world--Magic for Devotion--Sensuality for
Worship--breaks in upon our vision, as the scene changes from the Halls
of Montsalvat to Klingsor's palace. Klingsor, an impure knight, who has
been refused admittance to the order of the "Sangrail," enters into a
compact with the powers of evil--by magic acquires arts of diabolical
fascination--fills his palace and gardens with enchantments, and wages
bitter war against the holy knights, with a view of corrupting them, and
ultimately, it may be, of acquiring for himself the "Sangrail," in which
all power is believed to reside. Many knights have already succumbed to
the "insidious arts" of Klingsor; but the tragical turning-point of the
_Parsifal_ is that Amfortas, himself the son of Titurel, the official
guardian of the Grail, in making war upon the magician, took with him
the sacred spear, and _lost_ it to Klingsor.

It came about in this way. A woman of unearthly loveliness won him in
the enchanted bowers adjoining the evil knight's palace, and Klingsor,
seizing the holy spear, thrust it into Amfortas's side, inflicting what
seemed an incurable wound. The brave knight, Gurnemanz, dragged his
master fainting from the garden, his companions of the Sangrail covering
their retreat. But, returned to Montsalvat, the unhappy king awakes only
to bewail his sin, the loss of the sacred spear, and the ceaseless
harrowing smart of an incurable wound. But who is Parsifal?

       *       *       *       *       *

The smell of pine woods in July! The long avenue outside the city of
Bayreuth, that leads straight up the hill, crowned by the Wagner
Theater, a noble structure--architecturally admirable--severe, simple,
but exactly adapted to its purpose. I join the stream of pilgrims, some
in carriages, others on foot. As we approach, a clear blast of trombones
and brass from the terrace in front of the grand entrance plays out the
Grail "motive." It is the well-known signal--there is no time to be
lost. I enter at the prescribed door, and find myself close to my
appointed place. Every one--such is the admirable arrangement--seems to
do likewise. In a few minutes about one thousand persons are seated
without confusion. The theater is darkened, the footlights are lowered,
the prelude begins.



Act I


The waves of sound rise from the shadowy gulf sunken between the
audience and the footlights. Upon the sound ocean of "wind" the "Take,
eat," or "Love-feast" motive floats. Presently the strings pierce
through it, the Spear motive follows, and then, full of heavy pain,
"Drink ye all of this," followed by the famous Grail motive--an old
chorale also used by Mendelssohn in the Reformation Symphony. Then comes
the noble Faith and Love theme.

As I sit in the low light, amid the silent throng, and listen, I need no
interpreter--I am being placed in possession of the emotional key-notes
of the drama. Every subject is first distinctly enunciated, and then all
are wondrously blended together. There is the pain of sacrifice--the
mental agony, the bodily torture; there are the alternate pauses of
Sorrow and respite from sorrow long drawn out, the sharp ache of Sin,
the glimpses of unhallowed Joy, the strain of upward Endeavor, the
serene peace of Faith and Love, crowned by the blessed Vision of the
Grail. 'Tis past. The prelude melts into the opening recitative.

The eyes have now to play their part. The curtain rises, the story
begins. The morning breaks slowly, the gray streaks redden, a lovely
summer landscape lies bathed in primrose light. Under the shadow of a
noble tree, the aged knight. Gurnemanz, has been resting with two young
attendants. From the neighboring halls of Montsalvat the solemn
_reveillé_--the Grail motive--rings out, and all three sink on their
knees in prayer. The sun bursts forth in splendor as the hymn rises to
mingle with the voices of universal nature. The waves of sound well up
and fill the soul with unspeakable thankfulness and praise.

The talk is of Amfortas, the king, and of his incurable wound. A wild
gallop, a rush of sound--and a weird woman, with streaming hair, springs
toward the startled group. She bears a phial with rare balsam from the
Arabian shores. It is for the king's wound. Who is the wild horsewoman?
Kundry--strange creation--a being doomed to wander, like the Wandering
Jew, the wild Huntsman, or Flying Dutchman, always seeking a deliverance
she can not find--Kundry, who, in ages gone by, met the Savior on the
road to Calvary and derided him. Some say she was Herodias's daughter.
Now filled with remorse, yet weighted with sinful longings, she serves
by turns the Knights of the Grail, then falls under the spell of
Klingsor, the evil knight sorcerer, and, in the guise of an enchantress,
is compelled by him to seduce, if possible, the Knights of the Grail.

Eternal symbol of the divided allegiance of a woman's soul! She it was
who, under the sensual spell, as an incarnation of loveliness, overcame
Amfortas, and she it is now who, in her ardent quest for salvation,
changed and squalid in appearance, serves the Knights of the Grail, and
seeks to heal Amfortas's wound!

No sooner has she delivered her balsam to the faithful Gurnemanz, and
thrown herself exhausted upon the grass--where she lies gnawing her hair
morosely--than a change in the sound atmosphere, which never ceases to
be generated in the mystic orchestral gulf, presages the approach of
Amfortas.

He comes, borne on a litter, to his morning bath in the shining lake
hard by. Sharp is the pain of the wound--weary and hopeless is the king.
Through the Wound-motive comes the sweet woodland music and the breath
of the blessed morning, fragrant with flowers and fresh with dew. It is
one of those incomparable bursts of woodland notes, full of bird-song
and the happy hum of insect life and rustling of netted branches and
waving of long tasseled grass. I know of nothing like it save the forest
music in _Siegfried_.

The sick king listens, and remembers words of hope and comfort that fell
from a heavenly voice, what time the glory of the Grail passed:

    "Durch Mitleid wissend
      Der reine Thor,
    Harre sein
      Den ich erkor."

    [Wait for my chosen one,
    Guileless and innocent,
    Pity-enlightened.]

They hand him the phial of balsam; and presently, while the lovely
forest music again breaks forth, the king is carried on to his bath, and
Kundry, Gurnemanz, and the two esquires hold the stage.

As the old knight, who is a complete repertory of facts connected with
the Grail tradition, unfolds to the esquires the nature of the king's
wound, the sorceries of Klingsor, the hope of deliverance from some
unknown "guileless one," a sudden cry breaks up the situation.

A white swan, pierced by an arrow, flutters dying to the ground. It is
the swan beloved of the Grail brotherhood, bird of fair omen, symbol of
spotless purity. The slayer is brought in between two knights--a
stalwart youth, fearless, unabashed, while the death-music of the swan,
the slow distilling and stiffening of its life-blood, is marvelously
rendered by the orchestra. Conviction of his fault comes over the youth
as he listens to the reproaches of Gurnemanz. He hangs his head ashamed
and penitent, and at last, with a sudden passion of remorse, snaps his
bow and flings it aside. The swan is borne off, and Parsifal, the
"guileless one" (for he it is), with Gurnemanz and Kundry--who rouses
herself and surveys Parsifal with strange, almost savage curiosity--hold
the stage.

In this scene Kundry tells the youth more than he cares to hear about
himself: how his father, Gamuret, was a great knight killed in battle;
how his mother, Herzeleide (Heart's Affliction), fearing a like fate
for her son, brought him up in the lonely forest; how he left her to
follow a troop of knights that he met one day winding through the forest
glade, and being led on and on in pursuit of them, never overtook them
and never returned to his mother, Heart's Affliction, who died of grief.
At this point the frantic youth seizes Kundry by the throat in an agony
of rage and grief, but is held back by Gurnemanz, till, worn out by the
violence of his emotion, he faints away, and is gradually revived by
Kundry and Gurnemanz.

Suddenly, Kundry rises with a wild look, like one under a spell. Her
mood of service is over. She staggers across the stage--she can hardly
keep awake. "Sleep," she mutters, "I must sleep--sleep!" and falls down
in one of those long trances which apparently last for months, or years,
and form the transition periods between her mood of Grail service and
the Klingsor slavery into which she must next relapse in spite of
herself.

And is this the guileless one? This wild youth who slays the fair
swan--who knows not his own name nor whence he comes, nor whither he
goes, nor what are his destinies? The old knight eyes him curiously--he
will put him to the test. This youth had seen the king pass once--he had
marked his pain. Was he "enlightened by pity"? Is he the appointed
deliverer? The old knight now invites him to the shrine of the Grail.
"What is the Grail?" asks the youth. Truly a guileless, innocent one!
yet a brave and pure knight, since he has known no evil, and so readily
repents of a fault committed in ignorance.

Gurnemanz is strangely drawn to him. He shall see the Grail, and in the
Holy Palace, what time the mystic light streams forth and the assembled
knights bow themselves in prayer, the voice which comforted Amfortas
shall speak to his deliverer and bid him arise and heal the king.

       *       *       *       *       *

Gurnemanz and Parsifal have ceased to speak. They stand in the glowing
light of the summer-land. The tide of music rolls on continuously, but
sounds more strange and dreamy.

Is it a cloud passing over the sky? There seems to be a shuddering in
the branches--the light fades upon yonder sunny woodlands--the
foreground darkens apace. The whole scene is moving, but so slowly that
it seems to change like a dissolving view. I see the two figures of
Gurnemanz and Parsifal moving through the trees--they are lost behind
yonder rock. They emerge farther off--higher up. The air grows very dim;
the orchestra peals louder and louder. I lose the two in the deepening
twilight. The forest is changing, the land is wild and mountainous. Huge
galleries and arcades, rock-hewn, loom through the dim forest; but all
is growing dark. I listen to the murmurs of the "Grail," the "Spear,"
the "Pain," the "Love and Faith" motives--hollow murmurs, confused,
floating out of the depths of lonely caves. Then I have a feeling of
void and darkness, and there comes a sighing as of a soul swooning away
in a trance, and a vision of waste places and wild caverns; and then
through the confused dream I hear the solemn boom of mighty bells, only
muffled. They keep time as to some ghastly march. I strain my eyes into
the thick gloom before me. Is it a rock, or forest, or palace?

As the light returns slowly, a hall of more than Alhambralike splendor
opens before me. My eyes are riveted on the shining pillars of
variegated marble, the tessellated pavements, the vaulted roof glowing
with gold and color; beyond, arcades of agate columns, bathed in a
misty moonlight air, and lost in a bewildering perspective of halls and
corridors.

[Illustration: Copyright, 1903, by Pach Bros., N. Y.

PARSIFAL AND GURNEMANZ PASSING THROUGH THE RAVINE]

I hear the falling of distant water in marble fonts; the large bells of
Montsalvat peal louder and louder, and to music of unimaginable
stateliness the knights, clad in the blue and red robes of the Grail,
enter in solemn procession, and take their seats at two semicircular
tables which start like arms to the right and left of the holy shrine.
Beneath it lies Titurel entranced, and upon it is presently deposited
the sacred treasure of the Grail itself.

As the wounded King Amfortas is borne in, the assembled knights, each
standing in his place, a golden cup before him, intone the Grail motive,
which is taken up by the entering choruses of servitors and esquires
bearing the holy relics.

Gurnemanz is seated among knights; Parsifal stands aside and looks on in
mute astonishment, "a guileless one."

As the Holy Grail is set down on the altar before the wounded king, a
burst of heavenly music streams from the high dome--voices of angels
intone the celestial phrases, "_Take, eat_" and "_This is my blood!_"
and blend them with the "faith and love" motives. As the choruses die
away, the voice of the entranced Titurel is heard from beneath the altar
calling upon Amfortas, his son, to uncover the Grail, that he may find
refreshment and life in the blessed vision.

Then follows a terrible struggle in the breast of Amfortas. _He_, sore
stricken in sin, yet Guardian of the Grail, guilty among the guiltless,
oppressed with pain, bowed down with shame, craving for restoration,
overwhelmed with unworthiness, yet chosen to stand and minister before
the Lord on behalf of His saints! Pathetic situation, which must in all
times repeat itself in the history of the Church. The unworthiness of
the minister affects not the validity of his consecrated acts. Yet what
agony of mind must many a priest have suffered, himself oppressed with
sin and doubt, while dispensing the means of grace, and acting as a
minister and steward of the mysteries!

The marvelous piece of self-analysis in which the conscience-stricken
king bewails his lot as little admits of description here as the music
which embodies his emotion.

At the close of it angel voices seem floating in midair, sighing the
mystic words:

    "Durch Mitleid wissend
      Der reine Thor,
    Harre sein
      Den ich erkor."

    [Wait for my chosen one,
    Guileless and innocent,
    Pity-enlightened.]

And immediately afterward the voice of Titurel, like one turning
restlessly in his sleep, comes up from his living tomb beneath the
altar: "_Uncover the Grail!_"

With trembling hands the sick king raises himself, and with a great
effort staggers toward the shrine--the covering is removed--he takes
the crystal cup--he raises it on high--the blood is dark--the light
begins to fade in the hall--a mist and dimness come over the scene--we
seem to be assisting at a shadowy ceremony in a dream--the big bells are
tolling--the heavenly choirs from above the dome, which is now bathed in
twilight, are heard: "_Drink ye all of this!_" Amfortas raises on high
the crystal vase--the knights fall on their knees in prayer. Suddenly a
faint tremor of light quivers in the crystal cup--then the blood grows
ruby red for a moment. Amfortas waves it to and fro--the knights gaze in
ecstatic adoration. Titurel's voice gathers strength in his tomb:

                    "Celestial rapture:
    How streams the light upon the face of God!"

The light fades slowly out of the crystal cup--the miracle is
accomplished. The blood again grows dark--the light of common day
returns to the halls of Montsalvat, and the knights resume their seats,
to find each one his golden goblet filled with wine.

During the sacred repast which follows, the brotherhood join hands and
embrace, singing:

    "Blessed are they that believe;
    Blessed are they that love!"

and the refrain is heard again far up in the heights, reechoed by the
angelic hosts.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: Copyright, 1903, by Pach Bros., N. Y.

THE GREAT HALL OF THE HOLY GRAIL]

I looked round upon the silent audience while these astonishing scenes
were passing before me; the whole assembly was motionless--all seemed
to be awed by the august spectacle--seemed almost to share in the devout
contemplation and trancelike worship of the holy knights. Every thought
of the stage had vanished--nothing was further from my own thoughts than
play-acting. I was sitting as I should sit at an oratorio, in devout and
rapt contemplation. Before my eyes had passed a symbolic vision of
prayer and ecstasy, flooding the soul with overpowering thoughts of the
divine sacrifice and the mystery of unfathomable love.

       *       *       *       *       *

The hall of Montsalvat empties. Gurnemanz strides excitedly up to
Parsifal, who stands stupefied with what he has seen--

    "Why standest thou silent?
    Knowest thou what thine eyes have seen?"

The "guileless one" shakes his head. "Nothing but a fool!" exclaims
Gurnemanz, angrily; and, seizing Parsifal by the shoulder, he pushes him
roughly out of the hall, with:

    "Be off! look after thy geese,
    And henceforth leave our swans in peace."

The Grail vision had, then, taught the "guileless one" nothing. He could
not see his mission--he was as yet unawakened to the deeper life of the
spirit; tho blameless and unsullied, he was still the "natural man."
Profound truth! that was not first which was spiritual, but that which
was natural; before Parsifal wins a spiritual triumph, he must be
spiritually tried; his inner life must be deepened and developed, else
he can never read aright the message of the Grail.

The life of God in the spirit comes only when the battle for God in the
heart has been fought and won.

Fare forth, thou guileless one! thou shalt yet add to the simplicity of
the dove the wisdom of the serpent. Thou art innocent because ignorant;
but thou shalt be weighed anon in the balance and not be found wanting;
and then shalt thou reconquer the holy spear lost in Sin, rewon in
Purity and Sacrifice, and be to the frail Amfortas the chosen savior for
whom he waits.

       *       *       *       *       *

The foregoing events occupied about an hour and a quarter. When the
curtain fell the vast audience broke up in silence.

The air outside was cool and balmy. In the distance lay the city of
Bayreuth, with the tower of the Alte Schloss and the old church standing
up gray against the distant Bavarian hills. All around us lay the pine
woods, broken by the lawns and avenues that encircle the theater and
embower it in a secluded world of its own--even as the Palace of the
Grail was shut off from the profane world. Here, indeed, is truly the
Montsalvat of the modern drama--a spot purified and sacred to the
highest aims and noblest manifestations of Art.

In about an hour the Spear motive was the signal blown on the wind
instruments outside, and I took my seat for the second act.



Act II


A restless, passion-tossed prelude. The "Grail" subject distorted, the
"Spear" motive thrust in discordant, the "Faith and Love" theme
fluttering like a wounded dove in pain, fierce bursts of passion, wild
shocks of uncontrolled misery, mingling with the "carnal joy" music of
Klingsor's magic garden and the shuddering might of his alchemy.

The great magician, Klingsor, is seen alone in his dungeon palace--harsh
contrast to the gorgeous halls of Montsalvat. Here all is built of the
live rock, an impenetrable fastness, the home of devilish might and
terrible spells.

Klingsor is aware of the coming struggle, and he means to be ready for
it. He owns the sacred spear wrested from Amfortis; he even aspires to
win the Grail; he knows the "guileless one" is on his way to wrest that
spear from him. His only hope is in paralyzing the fool by his
enchantments as he paralyzed Amfortis, and the same woman will serve his
turn.

"Kundry!" The time is come, the spells are woven--blue vapors rise, and
in the midst of the blue vapors the figure of the still sleeping Kundry
is seen. She wakes, trembling violently; she knows she is again under
the spell she abhors--the spell to do evil, the mission to corrupt.
With a shuddering scream she stands before her tormentor, denying his
power, loathing to return to her vile mission, yet returning, as with a
bitter cry she vanishes from his presence.

Parsifal has invaded Klingsor's realm; the evil knights have fled before
his prowess, wounded and in disorder. Kundry is commissioned to meet the
guileless youth in the enchanted garden, and, all other allurements
failing, to subdue him by her irresistible fascinations and hand him
over to Klingsor.

In a moment the scenery lifts, and a garden of marvelous beauty and
extent lies before us. The flowers are all of colossal dimensions--huge
roses hang in tangled festoons, the cactus, the lily, the blue-bell,
creepers, and orchids of enormous size and dazzling color wave in
midair, and climb the aromatic trees.

On a bright hill appears Parsifal, standing bewildered by the light and
loveliness around him. Beautiful girls dressed like flowers, and hardly
distinguishable from them at first, rush in, bewailing their wounded and
disabled knights, but, on seeing Parsifal, fall upon their new prey,
and, surrounding him, sing verse after verse of the loveliest ballet
music, while trying to embrace him, and quarreling with each other for
the privilege.

About that wonderful chorus of flower-girls there was just a suggestive
touch of the Rhine maidens' singing. It belonged to the same school of
thought and feeling, but was freer, wilder--more considerable, and
altogether more complex and wonderful in its changes and in the
marvelous confusion in which it breaks up.

The "guileless one" resists these charmers, and they are just about to
leave him in disgust, when the roses lift on one side, and, stretched on
a mossy bank overhung with flowers, appears a woman of unearthly
loveliness. It is Kundry transformed, and in the marvelous duet which
follows between her and Parsifal, a perfectly new and original type of
love duet is struck out--an analysis of character, unique in musical
drama--a combination of sentiment and a situation absolutely novel,
which could only have been conceived and carried out by a creative
genius of the highest order.

First, I note that the once spellbound Kundry is devoted utterly to her
task of winning Parsifal. Into this she throws all the intensity of her
wild and desperate nature; but in turn she is strangely affected by the
spiritual atmosphere of the "guileless one"--a feeling comes over her,
in the midst of her witchcraft passion, that he is in some way to be her
savior too; yet, womanlike, she conceives of her salvation as possible
only in union with him. Yet was this the very crime to which Klingsor
would drive her for the ruin of Parsifal. Strange confusion of thought,
feeling, aspiration, longing--struggle of irreconcilable elements! How
shall she reconcile them? Her intuition fails her not, and her tact
triumphs. She will win by stealing his love through his mother's love.
A mother's love is holy; that love she tells him of. It can never more
be his; but she will replace it, her passion shall be sanctified by it;
through _that_ passion she has sinned, through it she, too, shall be
redeemed. She will work out her own salvation by the very spells that
are upon her for evil. He is pure--he shall make her pure, can she but
win him; both, by the might of such pure love, will surely be delivered
from Klingsor, the corrupter, the tormentor. Fatuous dream! How, through
corruption, win incorruption? How, through indulgence, win peace and
freedom from desire? It is the old cheat of the senses--Satan appears as
an angel of light. The thought deludes the unhappy Kundry herself; she
is no longer consciously working for Klingsor; she really believes that
this new turn, this bias given to passion, will purify both her and the
guileless, pure fool she seeks to subdue.

Nothing can describe the subtlety of their long interview, the
surprising turns of sentiment and contrasts of feeling. Throughout this
scene Parsifal's instinct is absolutely true and sure. Everything Kundry
says about his mother, Herzeleide, he feels; but every attempt to make
him accept her instead he resists. Her desperate declamation is
splendid. Her heartrending sense of misery and piteous prayer for
salvation, her belief that before her is her savior could she but win
him to her will, the choking fury of baffled passion, the steady and
subtle encroachments made while Parsifal is lost in a meditative dream,
the burning kiss which recalls him to himself, the fine touch by which
this kiss, while arousing in him the stormiest feelings, causes a sharp
pain, as of Amfortas's own wound, piercing his very heart--all this is
realistic, if you will, but it is realism raised to the sublime.

Suddenly Parsifal springs up, hurls the enchantress from him, will forth
from Klingsor's realm. She is baffled--she knows it; for a moment she
bars his passage, then succumbs; the might of sensuality which lost
Amfortas the sacred spear has been met and defeated by the guileless
fool. He has passed from innocence to knowledge in his interview with
the flower-girt girls, in his long converse with Kundry, in her
insidious embrace, in her kiss; but all these are now thrust aside; he
steps forth still unconquered, still "guileless," but no more "a fool."
The knowledge of good and evil has come, but the struggle is already
passed.

"Yes, sinner, I do offer thee Redemption," he can say to Kundry; "not in
thy way, but in thy Lord Christ's way of sacrifice!"

But the desperate creature, wild with passion, will listen to no reason;
she shouts aloud to her master, and Klingsor suddenly appears, poising
the sacred spear. In another moment he hurls it right across the
enchanted garden at Parsifal. It can not wound the guileless and pure
one as it wounded the sinful Amfortas. A miracle! It hangs arrested in
air above Parsifal's head; he seizes it--it is the sacred talisman, one
touch of which will heal even as it inflicted the king's deadly wound.

With a mighty cry and the shock as of an earthquake, the castle of
Klingsor falls shattered to pieces, the garden withers up to a desert,
the girls, who have rushed in, lie about among the fading flowers,
themselves withered up and dead. Kundry sinks down in a deathly swoon,
while Parsifal steps over a ruined wall and disappears, saluting her
with the words: "Thou alone knowest when we shall meet again!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The long shadows were stealing over the hills when I came out at the
second pause. Those whom I met and conversed with were subdued and
awed. What a solemn tragedy of human passion we had been assisting at!
Not a heart there but could interpret that struggle between the flesh
and the spirit from its own experiences. Not one but knew the
desperately wicked and deceitful temptations that come like
enchantresses in the wizard's garden, to plead the cause of the devil in
the language of high-flown sentiment or even religious feeling.

Praise and criticism seemed dumb; we rather walked and spoke of what we
had just witnessed like men convinced of judgment, and righteousness,
and sin. It was a strange mood in which to come out of a theater after
witnessing what would commonly be called an "Opera." I felt more than
ever the impossibility of producing the _Parsifal_ in London, at Drury
Lane or Covent Garden, before a well-dressed company of loungers, who
had well dined, and were on their way to balls and suppers afterward.

I would as soon see the Oberammergau play at a music-hall.

No; in _Parsifal_ all is solemn, or all is irreverent. At Bayreuth we
came on a pilgrimage; it cost us time, and trouble, and money; we were
in earnest--so were the actors; the spirit of the great master who had
planned every detail seemed still to preside over all; the actors lived
in their parts; not a thought of self remained; no one accepted applause
or recall; no one aimed at producing a personal effect; the actors were
lost in the drama, and it was the drama and not the actors which has
impressed and solemnized us. When I came out they asked me who was
Amfortas? I did not know. I said "the wounded king."

As the instruments played out the Faith and Love motive for us to
reenter, the mellow sunshine broke once more from the cloud-rack over
city, and field, and forest, before sinking behind the long low range of
the distant hills.



Act III


The opening prelude of the third and last act seems to warn me of the
lapse of time. The music is full of pain and restlessness--the pain of
wretched years of long waiting for a deliverer, who comes not; the
restlessness and misery of a hope deferred, the weariness of life
without a single joy. The motives, discolored as it were by grief, work
up to a distorted version of the Grail subject, which breaks off as with
a cry of despair.

Is the Grail, too, then turned into a mocking spirit to the unhappy
Amfortas?

Relief comes to us with the lovely scene upon which the curtain rises.
Again the wide summer-land lies stretching away over sunlit moor and
woodland. In the foreground wave the forest trees, and I hear the ripple
of the woodland streams. Invariably throughout the drama, in the midst
of all human pain and passion, great Nature is there, peaceful,
harmonious in all her loveliest moods, a paradise in which dwell souls
who make of her their own purgatory.

In yonder aged figure, clad in the Grail pilgrim robe, I discern
Gurnemanz; his hair is white; he stoops with years; a rude hut is hard
by. Presently a groan arrests his attention, moaning as of a human
thing in distress. He clears away some brushwood, and beneath it finds,
waking from her long trance, the strange figure of Kundry. For how many
years she has slept we know not. Why is she now recalled to life? She
staggers to her feet; we see that she too is in a pilgrim garb, with a
rope girding her dress of coarse brown serge. "Service! service!" she
mutters, and, seizing a pitcher, moves mechanically to fill it at the
well, then totters but half awake into the wooden hut. The forest music
breaks forth--the hum of happy insect life, the song of wild birds. All
seems to pass as in a vision, when suddenly enters a knight clad in
black armor from top to toe.

The two eye him curiously, and Gurnemanz, approaching, bids him lay
aside his armor and his weapons. He carries a long spear. In silence the
knight un-helms, and, sticking the spear into the ground, kneels before
it, and remains lost in devotional contemplation. The "Spear" and
"Grail" motives mingle together in the full tide of orchestral sounds
carrying on the emotional undercurrent of the drama. The knight is soon
recognized by both as the long-lost and discarded Parsifal.

The "guileless one" has learned wisdom, and discovered his mission--he
knows now that he bears the spear which is to heal the king's grievous
wound, and that he himself is appointed his successor. Through long
strife and trial and pain he seems to have grown into something of
Christ's own likeness. Not all at once, but at last he has found the
path. He returns to bear salvation and pardon both to Kundry and the
wretched king, Amfortas.

The full music flows on while Gurnemanz relates how the knights have all
grown weak and aged, deprived of the vision and sustenance of the Holy
Grail, while the long-entranced Titurel is at last dead.

At this news Parsifal, overcome with grief, swoons away, and Gurnemanz
and Kundry loosen his armor, and sprinkle him with water from the holy
spring. Underneath his black suit of mail he appears clad in a long
white tunic.

The grouping here is admirable. Gurnemanz is in the Templar's red and
blue robe. Parsifal in white, his auburn hair parted in front and
flowing down in ringlets on either side, recalls Leonardo's favorite
conception of the Savior's head, and, indeed, from this point Parsifal
becomes a kind of symbolic reflection of the Lord Himself. Kundry,
subdued and awed, lies weeping at his feet; he lifts his hands to bless
her with infinite pity. She washes his feet, and dries them with the
hairs of her head. It is a bold stroke, but the voices of nature, the
murmur of the summer woods, come with an infinite healing tenderness and
pity, and the act is seen to be symbolical of the pure devotion of a
sinful creature redeemed from sin. Peace has at last entered into that
wild and troubled heart, and restless Kundry, delivered from Klingsor's
spell, receives the sprinkling of baptismal water at the hands of
Parsifal.

       *       *       *       *       *

The great spaces of silence in the dialog, broken now by a few sentences
from Parsifal, now from Gurnemanz, are more eloquent than many words.
The tidal music flows on in a ceaseless stream of changing harmonies,
returning constantly to the sweet and slumbrous sound of a summer-land,
full of teeming life and glowing happiness.

Then Gurnemanz takes up his parable. It is the Blessed Good Friday on
which our dear Lord suffered. The Love and Faith phrases are chimed
forth, the pain-notes of the Cross agony are sounded and pass, the Grail
motive seems to swoon away in descending harmonies, sinking into the
woodland voices of universal Nature--that trespass-pardoned Nature that
now seems waking to the day of her glory and innocence.

In that solemn moment Parsifal bends over the subdued and humbled
Kundry, and kisses her softly on the brow--_her_ wild kiss in the garden
had kindled in him fierce fire, mingled with the bitter wound-pain;
_his_ is the seal of her eternal pardon and peace.

In the distance the great bells of Montsalvat are now heard booming
solemnly--the air darkens, the light fades out, the slow motion of all
the scenery recommences. Again I hear the wild cave music, strange and
hollow sounding--the three move on as in a dream, and are soon lost in
the deep shadows; and through all, louder and louder, boom the heavy
bells of Montsalvat, until the stage brightens, and we find ourselves
once more in the vast Alhambralike hall of the knights.

[Illustration: Copyright, 1903, by Pach Bros., N. Y.

PARSIFAL ENTERING THE GRAIL CASTLE IN TRIUMPH]

For the last time Amfortas is borne in, and the brotherhood of the Grail
form the possession bearing the sacred relics, which are deposited
before him.

The king, in great agony and despair, bewails the death of his father
and his own backsliding. With failing but desperate energy he harangues
the assembled knights, and, tottering forward, beseeches them to free
him from his misery and sin-stained life, and thrust their swords deep
into his wounded side. At this moment Gurnemanz, accompanied by Parsifal
and Kundry, enter. Parsifal steps forward with the sacred spear, now at
length to be restored to the knights. He touches the side of Amfortas,
the wound is healed, and as he raises the spear on high the point is
seen glowing with the crimson glory of the Grail. Then stepping up to
the shrine, Parsifal takes the crystal cup, the dark blood glows bright
crimson as he holds it on high, and at that moment, while all fall on
their knees, and celestial music ("Drink ye all of this") floats in the
upper air, Kundry falls back dying, her eyes fixed on the blessed Grail.
A white dove descends and hovers for a moment, poised in mid-air above
the glowing cup. A soft chorus of angels seems to die away in the clouds
beyond the golden dome--

    "Marvelous mercy!
    Victorious Savior!"

Words can add nothing to the completeness of the drama, and no words can
give any idea of the splendor and complexity of that sound ocean upon
which the drama floats from beginning to end.

The enemies of the Grail are destroyed or subdued, the wound they have
inflicted is healed, the prey they claimed is rescued; the pure and
blameless Parsifal becomes the consecrated head of the holy brotherhood,
and the beatic vision of God's eternal love and Real Presence is
restored to the knights of the Sangrail.

       *       *       *       *       *

When I came out of the theater, at the end of the third and last act, it
was ten o'clock.

The wind was stirring in the fir-trees, the stars gleamed out fitfully
through a sky, across which the clouds were hurrying wildly, but the
moon rose low and large beyond the shadowy hills, and bathed the misty
valleys with a mild and golden radiance as of some celestial dawn.



When the Curtain Fell


When the curtain fell on the last performance of _Parsifal_, at
Bayreuth, which, on the 30th of July, 1883, brought the celebration
month to a close, the enthusiasm of the audience found full vent in
applause. The curtain was once lifted, but no calls would induce the
performers to appear a second time or receive any individual homage.
This is entirely in accordance with the tone of these exceptional
representations. On each occasion the only applause permitted was at the
end of the drama, and throughout not a single actor answered to a call
or received any personal tribute.

Behind the scenes occurred a touching incident. The banker Gross led
Wagner's children up to the assembled actors, and in the name of their
dead father thanked the assembly for the care and labor of love expended
by each and all in producing the last work of the great dead master.
Siegfried, Wagner's son, thirteen years old, then, in a few simple
words, stifled with sobs, thanked the actors personally, and all the
children shook hands with them. The King of Bavaria charged himself upon
Wagner's death with the education of his son.



       *       *       *       *       *



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PARSIFAL

BY H. R. HAWEIS

An intimate and appreciative description and consideration of Wagner's
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ESARHADDON KING OF ASSYRIA

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FUNK & WAGNALLS COMPANY, Publishers
NEW YORK & LONDON





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