Wagner eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 86 pages of information about Wagner.
idea of the drama—­that the lovers must be seen gradually thrust away from life (which is light) to death (which is eternal night)—­must be carried one step further.  Mark, in an agony of grief, asks them why they, the two he loves best in the world, dishonour him in so frightful a fashion.  He presses home to them their sin and his suffering, his affection and their indifference to it; and he ends up with the question, “Why?” Tristan cannot answer; he perceives only that Mark’s love is a more terrible menace for them than any trap laid by Melot.  Without their passion they cannot live, and it is not Melot and the general outside world that threaten to sunder them, but their protector and dearest friend.  The passion is irresistible, and Tristan faces the inevitable.  He asks Isolda if she will follow him where he is now going:  she replies that she will; and he, after taunting Melot with his treachery, lets him thrust him through with his sword.  The drama has moved a stage further on, and there remains now only the logical completion.  Anyone who thinks all this is to read into the opera a meaning that is not there merely accuses me of being greater than Wagner; without this we have only a commonplace Divorce Court episode.

The next act takes place in the courtyard of Tristan’s castle in Brittany.  It is in a state of decay.  In the hot afternoon sun the sea shines like burnished metal, and Tristan, who has been brought there by Kurvenal, lies delirious.  Presently one of the saddest songs ever written sounds from a shepherd’s pipe without.  It half awakens Tristan, and he talks of it—­how it has haunted him since his childhood.  Kurvenal tells him Isolda has been sent for.  He becomes more and more delirious, and at last, after an outburst, he faints; then awakens and sings the sublime passage in which he sees Isolda coming over-seas, the ship covered with sweet-smelling flowers.  The accompaniment to this piece of magic is a figure taken from the fourth theme I have quoted in this chapter.  It is given at first to the horns, and over it sways a lovely melody, leading to Tristan’s cry of “Oh, Isolda!” which occurs again and again until Isolda does come.

[Illustration:  Some bars of music]

There are few tender and beautiful and pathetic things in music to match it.  Presently the horn of the shepherd is heard again; but this time it plays a lively tune, as a signal that the ship is in sight.  Tristan goes mad for joy, and tears the bandages from his wounds.  As Isolda rushes in he staggers into her arms, and dies there to the phrases in which they had first spoken after drinking the love-philtre.  Isolda’s plaints are as touching and profound as those of Donna Anna in Don Giovanni after her father has been murdered.  There is again tumult; even at the last the lovers cannot be left alone; another ship comes in sight, and Melot and Mark’s warriors rush in.  Kurvenal fights and kills Melot, and is himself stabbed.  He receives

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Wagner from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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