H. R. (Hugh Reginald) Haweis.

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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

"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

"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.


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

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

* * * * *

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.


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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Online LibraryH. R. (Hugh Reginald) HaweisParsifal → online text (page 2 of 2)