Parsifal eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 60 pages of information about Parsifal.

The sources of Wagner’s story deserve a few words.  The legend of the Holy Grail took many forms during the Middle Ages.  It was told in slightly varying way in the twelfth century by the French writers Robert de Borron and Chrestien de Troyes, and in the early thirteenth century by Wolfram von Eschenbach in the strong German speech of Thuringia.  The substance of these legends was that the precious cup, used for the wine at the Last Supper, and also used to receive the Saviour’s blood at the Cross, was forever after cherished as the Holy Grail.  It was carried from the Holy Land by Joseph of Arimathea and taken first to Gaul and later to Spain to a special sanctuary among the mountains, which was named Monsalvat.  Here it was to be cherished and guarded by a holy band of Knights of the Grail.  The same legend appears in the chronicles of Sir Thomas Malory, but instead of Gaul, early Britain is the place to which the Grail is brought.  Tennyson’s “The Holy Grail” in his Idylls of the King largely follows Sir Thomas Malory’s chronicles.  The American artist Edwin A. Abbey in his masterly paintings of the Grail legend as portrayed on the walls of the Boston Public Library, also follows Malory.  Wagner, however, uses the version of Wolfram von Eschenbach, modifying it and spiritualizing it to suit his purposes.  The German artist Franz Stassen, from whom our illustrations are taken, has entered with perfect appreciation into Wagner’s version of the noble legend.  The following rendering of the Parsifal is not a close translation of the text, but rather a transfusion of the spirit.  It is possibly as nearly a translation as Fitzgerald’s rendition of Omar Khayyam, or Macpherson’s version of the poems of Ossian.  It is what may be called a free rendering, aiming to give the spirit rather than the language of the original.

The mere translations of the words of Parsifal, as given in the English texts of H. and F. Corder and M.H.  Glyn, do not adequately represent the full value of the drama.  Those versions were under the necessity of a strictly literal translation, which was further hampered in order to make the English words fit the music, and the result was far from satisfactory.  The literal translation also unfortunately over-emphasizes certain parts and phrases in the drama which are somewhat harsh, but which at Bayreuth become much modified and refined, and are, therefore, so represented in this version.

The present telling of the story will be found to use all that Wagner has given in the words, but with the addition here and thereof interpretative phrases, suggested by the drama itself at Bayreuth.  Its purpose is to give an interpretation, a cumulative impression, the spirit of the words, music, and mystic meaning, blended together into one story and picture.  It is made after a very careful study of the German text of Wagner for essential meanings, and after an appreciative hearing of the great drama itself, on two occasions, at Bayreuth.  We present it in the form in which such sacred legends seem to find their most natural English setting,—­in the form made classic in Tennyson’s Idylls of the King.

Project Gutenberg
Parsifal from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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