Anna Alice Chapin.

Wonder tales from Wagner, told for young people online

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Senta s Sacrifice 3 1

end of your spell is near for I am true. You shall
find your salvation !"

" Help !" cried Erik, turning first towards the
house and then towards the Norwegian ship.

Dame Mary, Daland, the maidens, and the sail-
ors appeared in amazement that changed to hor-
ror when they understood the condition of af-
fairs. Poor Daland was especially bewildered and
distressed, and Dame Mary was heart-broken, and
hurried to her charge with gestures of grief.

The Dutchman turned to Senta. His crew were
hoisting the sails and moving about the ship with
strange swiftness and silence.

" You know me not," said Vanderdecken, slowly.
" But ask the seas of all zones, ask all mariners who
have sailed on the seas they know my ship, whose
passing terrifies all gentle hearts. The Flying
Dutchman I am called."

The blood -red sails were set, and glowed mys-
teriously through the darkness. The Dutchman
swiftly boarded the ship. It rocked and swayed on
the waves, which had now begun to rise. Senta en-
deavored, wildly, to follow him, but Daland, Erik,
and Mary restrained her.

" Yohohoe ! Yohohoe ! Yohohoe !" shouted the
Flying Dutchman's crew, as the ship left shore with
the speed of an arrow. " Hoe! Hoe ! Hoe!" came
the hoarse, weird voices through the dusk. " Huissa !"

77/6' Flying Dutchman

" Senta ! Senta !" cried every one, in fear, as she
violently freed herself and darted to a high cliff over-
looking the sea. " Senta ! What is it you would do ?"

" Praise ye the divine will !" she called, with all
the power of her passionate soul in her voice, and
the words floated out over the waves to the depart-
ing ship. " Here stand I, true till death !"

She flung herself into the now seething waters.
The surges rolled higher and higher with fierce
anger, making huge black walls on either side of
the enchanted ship. Then, with a great roar, the
\vater fell upon it, swallowing it from view. The
waves whirled wildly over the place where the ves-
sel had sunk, then gradually decreased in violence.
The bare masts of the wreck could be seen on the
surface of the foaming \vater.

Then to the watchers a marvellous sight was re-
vealed : as the darkness was dispelled, and in the
eastern sky the light of sunrise glowed, they saw
the figures of Vanderdecken and Senta floating up-
ward together in the radiance. For the spell had
been lifted the Flying Dutchman was saved.

Motif of Senta's Sacrifice






Motif of Venus

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Song of the Sirens

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WHEN Christianity became accepted throughout
the world, the gods and goddesses were divested
of their divinity and relegated to the heart of the
earth, where some of them were still worshipped by
many people. Among these was Venus, the mighty
goddess of Love.

When she was sent from the sunshine and the
flowers of the upper world, Venus's heart grew
hard. She could not endure the loss of all her

36 Tannhauser

power, and as she no longer possessed divine might,
she summoned magic to her aid. She became
known as a beautiful but wicked sorceress, whose
dwelling was a mysterious grotto in a mountain
called the Venusberg, situated in the German valley
of Thuringia. To this grotto she lured unwatchful
mortals, causing them to forget their homes and
friends ; and they dwelt there, shut away from the
upper earth's fresh beauty, in a dim under-world
peopled with spirits and sirens and bacchantes a
world full of misty lakes and rose-tinted clouds, and
strange lights that came from neither sun nor moon
nor stars.

The Venusberg overlooked a broad and fertile
valley, where the winds blew freely, where shep-
herds watched their flocks on the long green slopes,
and through which hunting parties often passed on
their way to the castle. This castle, which was
named the Wartburg, was built on the side of the
valley farthest from the Venusberg, and was very
large and majestic. In it dwelt the Landgrave
Hermann, with his knights and men-at-arms, and
his niece, the Princess Elizabeth, with her court la-
dies. In those days the most cultivated people of
the world took a deep interest in the Minnesinger,*

* Minnesinger : composed of the German words Minne,
love, and Singer, singers. Literally, then, singers of love.

In the Venus berg 37

or minstrels ; and the Wartburg was the scene of
constant lyrical and musical contests between the

Minstrelsy attracted many knights and nobles so
greatly that they learned the art themselves, and
in trials of voice, skill, and invention the Minstrel
Knights often proved that they well understood the
craft of song. One of the best harpers and sweet-
est singers of Thuringia was a young knight, by
name Tannhauser. He was a favorite at the court
of the Landgrave, and, indeed, it was said that the
stirring strains which he evoked from his harp-
strings, and the wonderful melody of the songs that
he sang, had won the love of the proud and beauti-
ful Princess Elizabeth.

The knight, however, in spite of his beloved mu-
sic, his good friends among the other Minstrel
Knights, the kindness of the Landgrave, and the
love and admiration which, like so many of the
Thuringian nobles, he felt for the Princess, was not
happy. He was sad and dreamy, and dissatisfied
with his life. He wanted some new and strange

In this spirit he passed one day near the invisible
portals of that grotto where so many had entered,
but whence none had ever returned. And the en-
chantress, smiling, put forth her spells and drew him
towards her.

38 Tannhauser

As he walked moodily on, his harp in his hand,
his mind busy, as usual, he suddenly raised his eyes,
and, behold, a new and beautiful country was before
him, seen as through a doorway. Countless figures
flitted through the gleaming, ever -changeful rose-
color of the mist that rilled the enchanted grotto.
Huge heavy-headed flowers, of strange and lovely
colors, hung in clusters, sending their perfume out
to meet him. Far away he saw the misty waters of
a magical blue lake. The sound of music came to
him, so marvellously, strangely sweet, that to hear it
was almost pain. In the midst of it all was a wom-
an, wondrously beautiful in the rosy light, bending
towards him with beckoning hand. Obeying the
spells which were drawing him with such terrible
power, he passed into the grotto, and could almost
have fancied that a heavy door clanged behind him
as he went.

He stayed in the mystic grotto for a long year,
and thought that he was happy. He watched the
sports of the bacchantes and the nymphs, the mimic
battles, and wild, graceful dances; he listened to the
sweet, chording voices of the sirens ; he inhaled the
rich, strong scent of the flowers, and watched the
dissolving mist -wreaths of glowing rose until he
grew almost dizzy. He sat at Venus's feet, and she
taught him songs such as he had never heard be-
fore, and wove her spells about him more and more

In the Venusberg 39

densely. He gazed at her beautiful face ; but the
magic veil before him prevented him from seeing
the cruel soul which looked out of her eyes, and he
worshipped her as the world had worshipped her of
old, when she was a grand and noble goddess, who
gave the gift of true love to humanity.

Tannhauser had long forgotten his old life ; his
friendships, his love for Elizabeth, had alike van-
ished in the mist which enveloped him, body and
soul, when he entered the Venusberg. Sometimes
he played on his harp, but none of his old songs
came to his memory all that he sang now were
inspired by Venus. Does it not seem sad and ter-
rible that this knight, with his soul full of music
and his heart full of love for the beautiful Princess,
should have been so cruelly enchanted ?

One day Tannhauser felt suddenly that he was
awake once more after a long dream. He told the
enchantress, in answer to her questions as to why
he was so sad and thoughtful, that he had fancied
he heard the distant boom of a far-away church-
bell. The sound had pierced the rock walls of the
mountain, pierced even the almost impenetrable
magic mist, and the faint peal, he said, had re-
minded him of strange things the sun, the friendly
glimmer of the stars in the far-away heavens, the
freshness of the earth at the time of the new sum-
mer, the nightingale with his song of spring.

4O Tannliiiuser

" Are these things lost to me?" asked Tann-

Rising from the couch upon which she had been
reclining, Venus laughed at his words and bade him
sing her a song less sad. He obeyed, and accom-
panying himself on the vibrating strings of his harp,
sang a melody which he had learned from the sor-
ceress herself. But the words to which he set the
music were but a further expression of longing for
the upper earth for the natural joys and sorrows
that belong to a world of men. Again Venus in-
terrupted his song, this time to reproach him for
his ingratitude to her for the beautiful things she

o o

had lavished upon him since he came to her grotto.
Once more Tannhauser smote his harp. After pay-
ing her musical homage, and describing her gra-
ciousness to him, and his dreamy life in the Venus-
berg, he sang new words. The melody, which was
very lovely, came from his heart as he sang, and his
hands touched the harp-strings softly in accompani-
ment :

" In rose-veiled grottos I am longing

To feel the soft wood-breezes thronging;

I long for heaven's crystal blue,

Long for the old earth, fresh anew

In spring, when wild birds sing of love ;

I long for noon-hot skies above.

From these, thy splendors, hasten I,

Oh, Sovereign ! Goddess ! let me fly !"

In the Venusberg 41

His voice rose to passionate pleading with the
last words, and his harp fell to the ground ; but Ve-
nus would not withdraw her spells, nor give consent
to his freedom. She spoke to him in soft tones ;
she promised him more perfect joys, more wondrous
flowers, more exquisite music. As she spoke the
shadows deepened, the mist glowed more richly,
the scent from the heavy-headed flowers grew
overpoweringly sweet. From the dim blue lake
came the sirens' voices, softly, with wondrous har-
monies. They sang of flowers, and noiseless blue
waters, and rest, and enchantment. With their
voices sounded that of Venus she was speaking

" My knight," she said, "will you fly?"

Passionately Tannhauser again seized his harp,
and his voice soared out with power and the strings
rang beneath his hands. He sang that while he
had life and breath he would sing the praises of
Venus, and Venus alone. She, and none other,
should be his theme this he vowed, if she would
but let him go.

In a voice breaking with anger the enchantress
gave him permission to depart, but bade him re-
turn if he met with coldness in the upper world.
In a moment the grotto and all within it flashed
away. . . .

Tannhauser found himself lying on a grassy

42 Tannhaiiser

slope, under the wide blue sky, with the sun shin-
ing down upon him. On one side was a mountain,
the sight of which made him tremble ; on the other
was the Wartburg, stately and grand as ever. From
the high pasture-land above him came the sound of
sheep-bells, and up among the rocks lay a shepherd
boy, playing on his pipe, and pausing now and then
to sing a song of Holda, the goddess of spring. A
band of pilgrims passed on their way to Rome,
chanting a slow, melodious prayer, a grand paean of
faith which sounded through the valley harmonious-
ly and impressively. They went on their way with
solemn tread, and their voices were lost in the dis-
tance. Soon the shepherd collected his flock and,
playing his pipe, vanished from view among the high
bowlders and shrubbery. The knight, left alone,
bowed his head humbly and prayed that he might
by righteous works obtain pardon for the year wast-
ed in the Venusberg. The voices of the pilgrims, a
long way off, were wafted faintly to him once more.
Then the chant and the echoes that it had awakened
mingled and died away. Across the quiet of the
valley came the sound of hunting-horns. They an-
swered each other from all sides now with single
long-drawn challenging notes, now with short jovial
measures, cheery, and full of a sort of excitement
which seemed new to the lonely knight who listened.
A pack of hunting-dogs bounded down a forest path

/;/ the Venusberg 43

before him, followed by the Landgrave and five
Minstrel Knights, in hunting-dress.

Passing near Tannhauser they recognized him at
once, and surrounded him, with words of welcome
and pleasure. The Landgrave, with much kindness,
asked where he had been during the year of his ab-

" I wandered in strange, strange lands/' answered
Tannhauser, gloomily, " where I found not the rest
that I am now seeking. Question not, but let me

He would have left them without further words,
but to the urgent entreaties of all Sir Wolfram von
Eschenbach added another more potent persuasion.
He told Tannhauser how sad Elizabeth had been
while he was away, how she would not join in the
revels nor listen to the minstrelsy. All this moved
Tannhauser's heart deeply, and he started up with
eager impatience.

"Guide me to her!" he cried, feeling a thrill
of tenderness at the thought of the maiden who
had not been in his mind or memory for a long

The knight was at last truly happy. The heavens
seemed to smile down upon him in pardon ; the
sunshine blessed and caressed him, and the soft wind
that blew against his face brought him peace and a
sense of freedom. As he mounted the steep ascent



towards the castle with his friends, his heart throb-
bed thankfully.

" Guide me to her !" he cried once more, and with
voices full of jubilance and gladness the Landgrave
and his six Minstrel Knights entered the Wartburg.

The Shepherd Eoy's Pipe

Entrance of the Guests


THE Wartburg was an old and magnificent castle.
It had long been the dwelling-place of the Land-
graves of Thuringia and the high nobles of the
realm. In the castle was a hall, large and lofty,
called because of the musical contests held within
it the Minstrels' Hall. At the back of it nothing,
save high pillars, shut out the wide view of the valley.

On the evening of Tannhauser's home-coming the
hall was elaborately decked, in preparation for a
contest between the Minstrel Knights. The contest
had long been planned, but it was decided to enter
Tannhauser's name among the rest in honor of his
return, and also in recognition of his marvellous
skill. A little while before the hour appointed for
the lyrical battle, the Princess Elizabeth hastened
into the hall to gaze on the place where the min-
strel's voice and harp had awakened such sympathy
in her soul. She had heard of his return, and her
heart was beating with tumultuous joy.

46 Tannhauscr

The Princess Elizabeth was very beautiful, as a
princess should be. She was of northern birth, and
had the straight, tall figure, the fair hair, the fresh
coloring, and the clear blue eyes with which the
daughters of cold skies so often are endowed. She
entered swiftly, with firm step, her white soft dra-
peries, embroidered in rich, brilliant colors, falling
about her in many folds. Her bright hair was braid-
ed in heavy plaits, and a small, low crown of fretted
gold marked her Princess of Thuringia. No wonder
knights and nobles and princes came from far and
wide, suing for her hand in marriage. She was kind
to all, but always cold and stately, and though she
was gentle and charitable, she was proud also with
the pride of many generations of noble blood. Only
one knight had ever touched her heart, and during
his absence she had resolutely excluded herself from
the gayeties of the realm. But now he had returned.
All her spirit thrilled with a surge of joy that quick-
ened her heart-beats, and sent a fire of happiness to
her blue eyes. So she was standing, a queenly, beau-
tiful figure, when Tannhauser, led by Wolfram, came
from a doorway at the side of the hall into her pres-

" She is there," said Wolfram, softly, and turned
away to lean against a carved column, his gaze fixed
upon the still beauty of the valley. He heard Tann-
hauser cry, " Oh, Princess !" Then, after a moment,

The Contest of Song 47

Elizabeth said, softly, "You must not kneel to

He heard no more, save now and then a word
" happiness," or " hope" which made him cover his
face with his hands in despair. For Wolfram, too,
loved the Princess Elizabeth, and had cherished
hopes of winning 1 her. He relinquished all, now, to
his friend.

After a while Tannhauser joined him, embraced
him excitedly, and together they left the hall. Eliz-
abeth looked after the two knights for a moment,
then as the Landgrave entered the hall she ran to
him, and flung herself into his arms.

"Ah," said the Landgrave, smiling, "you will
come again to our hall, then, to witness the con-
test ?"

Together they mounted the royal dais, and await-
ed the arrival of the knights and ladies who had
been bidden to the festivities. Four pages an-
nounced each guest, and then one after the other
they were received by the Landgrave with stately
courtesy, and by the Princess with the utmost gra-
ciousness, made welcome, and escorted by the pages
to their seats in the great rapidly forming semicircle
of people. At last all were seated : the knights and
ladies in richest mediaeval dress, behind them the
men-at-arms and attendants, while all the castle re-
tainers stood at the back of the hall. Swinging-

4$ Tannhauser

lamps lighted up the stately columns of stone, the
minute and exquisite carvings, the rich coloring of
the guests' apparel, the silver hair of the Landgrave,
and the fair face of the Princess by his side. When
all were seated the Minstrel Knights entered, dressed
as harpers, and carrying their harps in their hands.
First came Tannhauser. His unusually handsome
face and free carriage, with the memory of his mu-
sical skill and his mysterious absence, made him an
object of general interest. Close behind him came
his friend, Wolfram von Eschenbach, a brave knight,
quiet, grave, and poetical by nature, and well be-
loved. Walther von der Vogelvveide followed. He
was one of the greatest of all the Minnesinger of
that day. Biterolf, a brave but rough and hot-head-
ed knight, came next, followed by Heinrich von
Schreiber and Reinmar von Zweiter. Each bowed
low to the Landgrave and the assembly, and was
conducted to his place by the four pages.

Then the Landgrave arose and addressed the
minstrels. He bade them welcome, and spoke of
their achievements in song. He said that the sword
of Germany had remained unbroken before the
southern foes, and that the harp was worthy of equal
honor. All that was good, all that was noble should
be fitted to its strains ; it expressed all the sweetest
and best emotions of life. He welcomed Tannhauser
in especially kindly terms, then proclaimed the theme

The Contest of Song 49

of the contest to be " Love," and promised the hand
of Elizabeth to the winner.

There was a general commotion. " All hail to
Thuringia's Sovereign !'' cried many voices. Then
came a deep silence, as the four pages advanced
with a golden cup, into which each of the min-
strels dropped a folded slip of paper bearing his
name. The pages then carried the cup to Elizabeth,
who drew out one of the slips and gave it to them.
After reading the name upon it they advanced to
the centre of the hall, and spoke in high, clear voices:
" Wolfram von Eschenbach, begin."

There was a hush, during which Wolfram rose
slowly to his feet. Tannhauser sat silent, as though
in a net of dreams, leaning on his harp.

Making his harpstrings ripple with a restful ca-
dence, Wolfram began to sing. He sang first of the
brave knights and beautiful ladies who were present,
and then addressed Elizabeth, who, he said, shone
upon them like a gentle star. As he looked into her
face, he said, he saw revealed, as in a vision, the
clear Fountain of Love.

As he ended, there were exclamations of approval
and pleasure from the people. Tannhauser alone
did not join in the applause. As he sat there it
seemed to him that a wreath of rose-colored mist
passed suddenly before his eyes. A swift memory
enchained him. He rose quickly.


50 Tannkduser

4< I, too, have seen the Fountain of Love," he
cried, " but I cannot understand all that you say,
Wolfram. Only in search for excitement, and in
magical enchantment, have I found love."

He seated himself in silence. No approbation
met his words, for all felt that a spirit of evil, a dark
enchantment, lingered in what he had said. And
indeed it was so. When Tannhauser was under
the influence of Venus, he did not understand what
love was. He thought it was a sort of spell, mag-
ical, unreal, and far removed from love itself. And
that night, strange as it seems, the enchantress's
spells were again about him, and he understood
nothing that was good or noble. And this was the
result of restlessness and a foolish desire for change.
We slip under evil influences, and once there, it is
very hard to escape ; and even when we think our-
selves free the old spell comes back, and all that is
best and truest in our hearts is blown away, as
though by winds. But it is possible for us to be
free at last, as you will see in this story.

Walther von der Vogelweide arose, and rebuked
Tannhauser for his words, assuring him that he
could know nothing of love ; that it was neither a
wild excitement nor an enchantment, but some-
thing good, and true, and beautiful something
springing, all purity and tenderness, from the

TJie Contest of Song 5 1

" Hail, Walther, good is the song!" cried the no-

Tannhauser rose hastily, but before he could say
more than a few words of contempt for Walther's
song, Biterolf, starting to his feet, challenged him
to a combat, accusing him of insulting Elizabeth by
his talk of enchantment and magic, instead of sing-
ing to her, the Princess. In furious excitement the
nobles pressed forward. The two knights had drawn
their swords, and were standing with angry faces
and eager hands. The Landgrave spoke to them
with stern authority, ordering them to put up their
swords, and commanding them to be at peace with
each other. The Princess, who had listened with
her face very white, sat silent, her hands clasped con-

Wolfram von Eschenbach again touched his harp,
endeavoring by a few quiet words to still the excite-
ment. He sang with noble fervor to the star of
love, ending with these words :

" Thou, holy Love, inspire me,

Thy power voice in me ;
Teach me thy tender music,
Celestial melody.

" Thou art by God vouchsafed us,

Thy light we follow far ;
On all the lands is shining
Eternally thy star !"

5 2 Tannhauser

Tannhauser sprang to his feet, hardly conscious
of what he was doing. He seemed surrounded by
wild, unseen influences voices were in his ears a
dazzling rose-colored light was in his eyes. He stood
as though blind, with throbbing heart, swaying like
one in a tempest. Then he smote his harp, till the
roof rang with the stormy music, and sang. Once,
in the Venusberg, he had vowed that when he sang
Venus and none other should be his theme. Now
he kept his word. Higher, clearer, louder rose his
voice, in a wild eulogy of Venus, Goddess of Love,
and mightiest of all enchantresses. At last he flung
his harp away, crying, " Fly ! Fly to the Venusberg !"
and stood transfixed, as though in a trance, his harp
unnoticed at his feet.

With anger and indignation the nobles pressed
forward, crying in horror-stricken tones, " Listen 1
Hear him ! He has been in the Venusberg!"

Elizabeth stood shuddering, and clinging to a pil-
lar, but all the other ladies hastened from the hall in
terror and dismay, leaving the knights to gather
about the minstrel and upbraid him in words of
horror and hatred. "Send him away miserable
creature !" they cried. " Disown him in his blood
bathe everv sword !"

The clamor rose to a tumult, as one and all caught
up the cry, and " Kill him !" sounded on every side.

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Online LibraryAnna Alice ChapinWonder tales from Wagner, told for young people → online text (page 3 of 10)