Parsifal / A Mystical Drama By Richard Wagner Retold In The Spirit Of The Bayreuth Interpretation

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PARSIFAL: A DRAMA BY WAGNER

RETOLD BY OLIVER HUCKEL

BOOKS BY DR. HUCKEL

MENTAL MEDICINE

Some practical suggestions from a spiritual

standpoint

(Cloth, $1.00 net)

THE MELODY OF GOD’S LOVE

An interpretation of the Twenty-Third Psalm

(Cloth, 75 cts. net)

WAGNER’S MUSIC DRAMAS

Retold in English Verse

PARSIFAL
TANNHÄUSER
LOHENGRIN
RHEINGOLD
WALKÜRE

(Each, cloth, 75 cents net)

THOMAS Y. CROWELL & CO.

[Illustration]

Parsifal

A MYSTICAL DRAMA BY RICHARD WAGNER RETOLD IN THE SPIRIT OF THE BAYREUTH
INTERPRETATION BY

Oliver Huckel

MDCCCCX

1903

T.Y. Crowell & Co.

Composition and plates by D.B. Updike

To my Wife

IN LOVING MEMORY OF BAYREUTH DAYS
O.H.

CONTENTS

FOREWORD

PART I
The Coming of Parsifal
PART II
The Tempting of Parsifal
PART III
The Crowning of Parsifal

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Parsifal in Quest of the Holy Grail

Monsalvat, the Castle of the Grail

The Communion of the Holy Grail

Parsifal healing King Amfortas

Parsifal revealing the Holy Grail

ILLUSTRATED BY FRANZ STASSEN

FOREWORD

The Parsifal of Richard Wagner was not only the last and loftiest work
of his genius, but it is also one of the few great dramas of modern
times,—a drama which unfolds striking and impressive spiritual
teachings. Indeed, Parsifal may be called Richard Wagner’s great
confession of faith. He takes the legend of the Holy Grail, and uses it
to portray wonderfully and thrillingly the Christian truths of the
beauty, the glory, and the inspiring power of the Lord’s Supper, and the
infinite meaning of the redeeming love of the Cross. He reveals in this
drama by poetry and music, and with a marvellous breadth and depth of
spiritual conception, this theme (in his own words): “The founder of the
Christian religion was not wise: He was divine. To believe in Him is to
imitate Him and to seek union with Him…. In consequence of His atoning
death, everything which lives and breathes may know itself redeemed….
Only love rooted in sympathy and expressed in action to the point of a
complete destruction of self-will, is Christian love.” (Wagner’s
Letters, 1880, pages 270, 365, 339.)

The criticism has sometimes been made that the basic religious idea of
Parsifal is Buddhistic rather than Christian; that it is taken directly
from the philosophy of Schopenhauer, who was perhaps as nearly a
Buddhist as was possible for an Occidental mind to be; that the
dominating idea in Parsifal is compassion as the essence of sanctity,
and that Wagner has merely clothed this fundamental Buddhistic idea with
the externals of Christian form and symbolism. This criticism is
ingenious. It may also suggest that all great religions in their essence
have much which is akin. But no one who reads carefully Wagner’s own
letters during the time that he was brooding over his Parsifal can doubt
that he was trying in this drama to express in broadest and deepest way
the essentials of Christian truth. Christianity has no need to go to
Buddhism to find such a fundamental conception as that of an infinite
compassion as a revelation of God.

The legend of the Grail, as Wagner uses it, has in it the usual
accompaniments of mediaeval tradition,—something of paganism and magic.
But these pagan elements are only contrasts to the purity and splendor
of the simple Christian truth portrayed. The drama suggests the early
miracle and mystery plays of the Christian Church; but more nearly,
perhaps, it reminds one of those great religious dramas, scenic and
musical, which were given at night at Eleusis, near Athens, in the
temple of the Mysteries, before the initiated ones among the Greeks in
the days of Pericles and Plato. Here at Bayreuth the mystic drama is
given before its thousands of devout pilgrims and music-lovers who
gather to the little town as to a sacred spot from all parts of the
world,—from Russia, Italy, France, England, and America,—and who enter
into the spirit of this noble drama and feast of music as if it were a
religious festival in a temple of divine mysteries.

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

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