History of Literature











THE WAGNERIAN ROMANCES


by  GERTRUDE HALL




STORIES OF THE WAGNER OPERA

by H.A. GUERBER







LOHENGRIN




 

 

Richard Wagner
 



THE WAGNERIAN ROMANCES


by
 

GERTRUDE HALL



INTRODUCTION
The attempt has been made in the following to give an idea of the charm and interest of the original text of the Wagner operas, of Wagner's extraordinary power and fertility as a dramatist. It is not critique or commentary, it is presentation, picture, narrative; it offers nothing that is not derived directly and exclusively from the Wagner libretti and scores.

The stories of the operas are widely known already, of course. As literature, however, one may almost say they are not known at all, unless by students of German. The translators had before them a task so tremendous, in the necessity to fit their verse-rendering of the master's poetry to extremely difficult music, that we respect them for achieving it at all. None the less must the translations included in our libretti be pronounced painfully inadequate. To give a better, more complete knowledge of the original poems is the object of these essays. The poems form, even apart from the music, a whole beautiful, luminous, romantic world. One would not lose more by dropping out of literature the Idylls of the King than the Wagnerian romances.



CONTENTS
 

PART I.
Parsifal  (libretto by Richard Wagner)
Illustrated by Franz Stassen
 

PART II.
The Ring of the Nibelung
The Rhine-Gold
The Valkyrie
Siegfried
The Twilight of the Gods
The Master-Singers of Nuremberg

PART III.
Tristan and Isolde (libretto by Richard Wagner)

PART IV.
Lohengrin  (libretto by Richard Wagner)

PART V.
Tannhaeuser
 (libretto by Richard Wagner)
The Flying Dutchman

 

 
 


LOHENGRIN
 

I

Henry the Fowler, the German King, coming to Brabant to levy men-of-arms for assistance against the Hungarian, has found the country distracted with internal dissension, troubles in high places. These, as its feudal head, he must settle before proceeding further. He summons together the nobles of Brabant and holds his court in the open, beneath the historical Oak of Justice, on the banks of the Scheldt, by Antwerp.

He calls upon Friedrich von Telramund, conspicuously involved in the quarrel disturbing the land, to lay before him the causes of this. The subject complies: The Duke of Brabant had on dying placed under his guardianship his two children, the young girl Elsa and the boy Gottfried. As next heir to the throne, his honour was very particularly implicated in his fidelity to this trust, the boy's life was the jewel of his honour. Let the King judge then of his grief at being robbed of that jewel! Elsa had taken her young brother to the forest, ostensibly for the pleasure of woodland rambling, and had returned without him, inquiring for him with an anxiety which Telramund judged to be feigned, saying that she had accidentally lost him a moment from sight and upon looking for him failed to find trace of him. All search for the lost child had proved fruitless. Elsa, accused and threatened by her guardian, had by blanched face and terrified demeanour, he states, confessed guilt. A fearful revulsion of feeling toward her had thereupon  taken place in him; he had relinquished the right to her hand, bestowed upon him by her father, and taken to himself a wife more according to his heart, Ortrud, descended from Radbot, Prince of the Frisians. Telramund presents to the King the sombre-browed, haughty-looking Princess at his side. "And now," he declares, "I here arraign Elsa von Brabant. I charge her with the murder of her brother, and I lay claim in my own right upon this land, to which my title is clear as next of kin to the deceased Duke; my wife belonging, besides, to the house which formerly gave sovereigns to this land."

A murmur passes through the assembly, in part horror, in part incredulity of so monstrous a crime. "What dreadful charge is this you bring?" asks the King, in natural doubt; "How were guilt so prodigious possible?" Telramund offers as explanation a further accusation, and in doing it gives a hint, not of his motive in accusing Elsa, for the violent ambitious personage is honest in thinking her guilty, but of the disposition of mind toward her which had made him over-ready to believe evil of her: "This vain and dreamy girl, who haughtily repelled my hand, of a secret amour I accuse her. She thought that once rid of her brother she could, as sovereign mistress of Brabant, autocratically reject the hand of the liegeman, and openly favour the secret lover." His excess of vehemence in accusation for a moment almost discredits him. The King demands to see the accused. The trial shall proceed at once. He apprehends difficulty in the case: a charge so black against one so young and a woman, made by a man so impassioned and almost of necessity prejudiced, yet of long confirmed reputation for stern integrity of honour as for bravery. "God give me wisdom!" the King publicly prays.

The King's herald asks if the court of justice shall be held on the spot? The King in answer hangs his shield on the Justice-Tree,  declaring that this shield shall not cover him until he shall have spoken judgment, stern yet tempered with mercy. The nobles all bare their swords, declaring that these shall not be restored to their scabbards until they shall have seen justice done. The herald in loud tones summons the accused, Elsa von Brabant, to appear before this bar.

There advances slowly, followed by her women, a very young, very fair girl, whose countenance and every motion are stamped with gentle modesty. Between the dignity which upbears her and the sorrow which crushes her, she is pathetic as a bruised lily. She looks dreamy withal, as Telramund described her; her expression is mournfully abstracted, her eyes are on the ground. The murmur passes from lip to lip at sight of her: "How innocent she looks! The one who dared to bring against her such a heavy accusation must be sure indeed of her guilt."

She answers the King's first question, of her identity, by a motion of the head alone. One divines that she has wept so much she could only with difficulty summon up voice to speak. "Do you acknowledge me as your rightful judge?" the King proceeds. She lifts her eyes for a moment to read his, and slowly nods assent. "Do you know," he asks further, "whereof you are accused?" Her eyes slide for a second toward Telramund and Ortrud, and she answers by an involuntary shudder. "What have you to reply to the accusation?" With infinite dignity she sketches a meek gesture signifying, "Nothing!"—"You acknowledge then your guilt?" A faint cry, hardly more than a sigh, breaks from her lips: "My poor brother!" and she remains staring sorrowfully before her, as if upon a face invisible to the others.

Struck and moved, the good King, whom we heard promise that his sentence should be streng und mild, severe yet merciful,  speaks kindly now to this strange girl, standing in such danger, yet engrossed in other things,—invites her confidence. "Tell me, Elsa, what have you to impart to me?" With her eyes fixed upon vacancy, she answers, almost as if she spoke in sleep: "In the darkness of my lonely days, I cried for help to God. I poured forth the deep lament of my heart in prayer. Among my moans there went forth one so plaintive, so piercing, it travelled with mighty vibrations far upon the air. I heard it resound at a vast distance ere it died upon my ear. My eyelids thereupon dropped, I sank into sweet slumber...."

All look at her in amazement. She stands before a tribunal on a matter of life and death, and with that rapt look offers a plea of such irrelevancy! "Is she dreaming?" ask some, under-breath, and others, "Is she mad?"

The King tries to bring her to a sense of reality, a sense of her peril. "Elsa!" he cries urgently, "speak your defence before this court of justice!" But she goes on, with an air of dreamy ecstasy: "All in the radiance of bright armour, a Knight drew near to me, of virtue so luminous as never had I seen before! A golden horn hung at his side, he leaned upon his sword. He came to me out of the air, the effulgent hero. With gentlest words and action he comforted me. I will await his coming, my champion he shall be!"

Her audience is impressed by the look of inspiration with which she tells her tale of vision. "The grace of Heaven be with us," they say, "and assist us to see clearly who here is at fault!"

The King in doubt turns to Telramund: "Friedrich, worthy as you are of all men's honour, consider well who it is you are accusing!" "You have heard her," the haughty lord answers excitedly; "she is raving about a paramour! I am not deceived  by her dreamy posturing. That which I charge her with, I have certain ground for. Her crime was authoritatively proved to me. But to satisfy your doubt by producing testimony, that, verily, would ill become my pride. Here I stand! Here is my sword! Who among you will fight with me, casting slur upon my honour?"—"None of us!" comes promptly from the Brabantians, "We only fight for you!" The high-tempered gentleman turns somewhat violently upon the King: "And you, King, do you forget my services, my victories in battle over the wild Dane?" The King answers pacifyingly that it would ill beseem him to need reminding of these, that he renders to Telramund the homage due to highest worth, and could not wish the country in any keeping but his. God alone, in conclusion, shall decide this matter, too difficult obviously for human faculty. "I ask you, therefore, Friedrich, Count von Telramund, will you, in life and death combat, entrust your cause to the judgment of God?" Telramund gives assent. "And you I ask, Elsa von Brabant, will you entrust your cause to a champion who shall fight for you under the judgment of God?" She assents likewise. "Whom do you choose for your champion?" the King asks of her. "Now—" eagerly interjects Telramund, "now you shall hear the name of her lover!"—"Listen!" say the rest, with sharpened curiosity. The girl has fixed her eyes again upon the vacancy which to her apparently is full of things to see. "I will await the Knight. My champion he shall be! Hear what to the messenger of God I offer in guerdon. In my father's dominions let him wear the crown. Happy shall I hold myself if he take all that is mine, and if he please to call me consort I give him all I am!"

Four trumpeters turn to the four points of the compass and blow a summons. The herald calls loud: "He who will do battle here, under judgment of God, as champion for Elsa  van Brabant, let him appear,—let him appear!" The vibrations die of horns and herald's voice. There is silence and tension. No one appears, nothing happens. Elsa, at first calm in her security of faith, gives evidence of anxiety. Telramund calls attention to her: "Now witness, witness if I have accused her falsely. Right, by that token, is on my side!" Elsa with childish simplicity appeals to the King: "Oh, my kind sovereign, let me beseech you, one more call for my champion! He is far away, no doubt, and has not heard!" At the King's command, the trumpets sound again, the herald repeats his summons. There is no answer. The surrounding stillness is unbroken by movement or sound. "By gloomy silence," the men murmur, "God signifies his sentence!" Elsa falls upon her knees: "Thou didst bear to him my lament, he came to me by Thy command. Oh, Lord, now tell my Knight that he must help me in my need! Vouchsafe to let me see him as I saw him before, even as I saw him before let him come to me now!" The women kneel beside her, adding their prayers to hers.

Elsa's last word has but died when a cry breaks from certain of the company standing upon an eminence next the river. "Look! Look! What a singular sight!"—"What is it?" ask the others. All eyes turn toward the river. "A swan! A swan, drawing a skiff!... A knight standing erect in it.... How his armour gleams! The eye cannot endure such brightness.... See, he is coming toward us. The swan draws the skiff by a golden chain! A miracle! A miracle!"

Elsa stands transfixed, not daring to look around; but her women look, and hail the approaching figure as that of the prayed-for champion. Amazement at sight of him strikes Telramund dumb. Ortrud upon a glance at the swan wears for one startled moment an expression of unconcealable fear. He stands, the stranger, leaning on his sword, in the swan-drawn  boat; adorned with that excess of lovely attribute not looked for save in figures of dream or of legend, knightly in one and archangelic, with his flashing silver mail and flowing locks and unearthly beauty. As the boat draws to land all involuntarily bare their heads. Elsa at last finds hardihood to turn; a cry of rapturous recognition breaks from her lips.

He steps ashore. All in spell-bound attention watch for his first action, his first words. These are for the swan, and contain not much enlightenment for the breathless listeners. "Receive my thanks, beloved swan. Return across the wide flood yonder from whence you brought me. When you come back, let it be to our joy! Faithfully fulfil your service. Farewell, farewell, my beloved swan!" The mysterious bird slowly draws away from shore and breasts the river in the direction from whence it came. The Knight looks after the diminishing form with such effect of regret as would accompany the departure of a cherished friend.

Voices of wonder pass from person to person; wonder at his impressive beauty, and at themselves for the not unpleasant terror it inspires, the spell it casts over them. He turns at last and advancing toward the King salutes him; "Hail, King Henry! God's blessing stand by your sword! Your great and glorious name shall never pass from earth!" The King, who from his throne beneath the oak has been able to watch the stranger from the moment of his entering the story, is not of two minds concerning so luminous an apparition. "If I rightly recognise the power," he speaks, "which has brought you to this land, you come to us sent by God?"—"I am sent," replies the Knight, "to do battle for a maid against whom a dark accusation has been brought. Let me see now if I shall tell her from among the rest." With but a passing glance at the group of women, unhesitatingly he singles out Elsa, undistinguishable  from the others by any sign of rank. "Speak, then, Elsa von Brabant! If I am chosen as your champion, will you without doubt or fear entrust yourself to my protection?" Elsa, who from the moment of seeing him has stood in a heavenly trance, answers this with no discreet and grudging acquiescence; she falls upon her knees at the feet of this her deliverer and hero, and with innocent impetuousness offers him, not assurance of confidence in his arm, or gratitude for his succour, but the whole of herself, made up solely of such confidence and gratitude. "Will you," asks the Knight, while a divine warmth of tenderness invests voice and face, "if I am victorious in combat for you, will you that I become your husband?"—"As I lie here at your feet," the girl replies with passionate humility, "I give over unto you body and soul!" Full of responsive love as is his face, bent upon so much beauty and innocence and adoration, he does not at once gather her up from her knees to his arms. Strangely, he stops to make conditions. "Elsa, if I am to be called your husband, if I am to defend your land and people, if nothing is ever to tear me from your side, one thing you must promise me: Never will you ask me, nor be concerned to know, from whence I came to you, nor what my name and race."—"Never, my lord, shall the question rise to my lips!" She has spoken too readily, too easily, as if she scarcely considered. "Elsa, have you perfectly understood?" he asks earnestly, and repeats his injunction more impressively still: "Never shall you ask me, nor be concerned to know, from whence I came to you, nor what my name and race!" But she, how should she in this moment not promise whatever he asked or do whatever be required? There is no question of pondering any demand of this exquisite dream made flesh, this angelic being come in the darkest hour to make all the difference to her between life and death. As he has asked more  earnestly, she replies more emphatically. "My defender, my angel, my deliverer, who firmly believes in my innocence! Could any doubt be more culpable than that which should disturb my faith in you? Even as you will protect me in my need, even so will I faithfully obey your command!" He lifts her then to his breast with looks of radiant love, uttering the words which confirm his action and make him her affianced. The people around them gaze in moved wonder, confessing an emotion at sight of the wonnigliche Mann beyond natural, suggesting magic.

The Silver Knight steps into the midst of the circle about the Justice-Oak, and declares: "Hear me! To you nobles and people I proclaim it: Free from all guilt is Elsa von Brabant. That you have falsely accused her, Count von Telramund, shall now through God's judgment be confirmed to you!" Telramund, obviously in grave doubt, gazes searchingly in the face of this extraordinary intruder. He is sure of his own integrity, relies perfectly on his private information against Elsa; what then is an agent of Heaven's doing on the opposite side? How can this be an agent of Heaven's at all? While he hesitates, the Brabantian nobles warn him in undertones: "Keep from the fight! If you undertake it, never shall you come forth victorious! If he be protected by supernal power, of what use to you is your gallant sword?" But Friedrich, true to his stiff necked, proud self, bursts forth: "Rather dead than afraid!" and violently addresses the stranger: "Whatever sorcery have brought you here, stranger, who wear such a bold front, your haughty threats in no wise move me, since never have I intended deceit. I accept your challenge, and look to triumph by the course of justice!"

The lists are set, the ground of the duel is marked off with spears driven into the earth. When all is ready, the herald in  solemn proclamation warns all present to refrain from every sort of interference, the penalty for any infringement of this rule to be, in the case of a noble, the loss of his hand, in the case of a churl, the loss of his head. He then addresses himself to the combatants, warning them to loyally observe the rules of battle, not by any evil art or trick of sorcery to disturb the virtue of the judgment. God is to judge them according to custom in such ordeals; in Him let them place their trust and not in their own strength. The two champions with equal readiness declare themselves prepared to obey this behest. The King descends from his throne, removes his regal crown, and, while all beside uncover and unite in his prayer, solemnly he makes over, as it were, his function of judge to God. "My Lord and my God, I call upon Thee, that Thou be present at this combat. Through victory of the sword speak Thy sentence, and let truth and falsehood clearly appear. To the arm of the righteous lend heroic strength, unstring the sinews of the false! Help us Thou, O God, in this hour, for our best wisdom is folly before Thee!"

Each of the persons present feels certain of victory for his own side, even dark Ortrud, with the black secrets of her conscience, who believes in no messengers from God, and pins her faith to the well-tested strength of her husband's arm.

At the thrice-repeated blow of the King's sword upon his shield, the combatants enter the lists. The duel lasts but a moment. Friedrich falls, not from any wound, but from the lightening flash of the adversary's sword, brought down upon him with a great sweep. The mysterious weight of it crushes him to the earth, overthrows him, deprives him of force to rise again. The gleaming enemy stands over him with sword-point at his throat: "By victory through God your life now belongs to me. I give it you. Make use of it to repent!"

 In the rejoicings that follow, the acclamations of the victorious champion of innocence, no one takes any thought further of the vanquished. Unnoticed he writhes, appalled at the recognition that very God has beaten him, that honour—honour is lost! The wife struggles with a different emotion. Her eyes, unimpressed by his splendour, unconvinced by his victory, boldly scrutinise the countenance of the Swan-brought, to discover the thing he had forbidden Elsa to inquire, what manner of man he be. Who is this, she asks herself, that has overcome her husband, that has placed a term to her power? Is it one whom verily she need fear? Must she give up her hopes because of him?


 


Lohengrins Ankunft in Brabant  by Otto von Leixner





II.

The Second Act shows the great court in the citadel of Antwerp, bounded at the back by the Palace, where the knights are lodged; at the left, by the Kemenate, the women's apartments; at the right, by the Minster. It is night. The windows of the Palace are brightly lighted; smothered bursts of music from time to time issue forth from them. Telramund and Ortrud, in the poor garb of plebeians, sit on the church-steps. Excommunication and banishment, following the condemnation of God signified by such defeat as Telramund has suffered, have made of them beggars and fugitives. Telramund is sunk in dark reflection. Ortrud, half-crouched like a dangerous animal lying in wait, stares intently at the lighted windows. With sudden effort of resolve Telramund rouses himself and gets to his feet. "Come, companion of my disgrace!" he speaks to the woman beside him; "Daybreak must not find us here." She does not stir. "I cannot move from here," she answers; "I am spell-bound upon this spot. From the contemplation of  this brilliant banqueting of our enemies let me absorb a fearful mortal venom, whereby I shall bring to an end both our ignominy and their rejoicing!" Friedrich shudders, in spite of himself, at such incarnate malignity as seems represented by that crouching form, those hate-darting eyes. The sense seizes him, too, in the dreadful soreness of his lacerated pride, how much this woman is responsible for what he has suffered. "You fearful woman!" he cries, "What is it keeps me still bound to you? Why do I not leave you alone, and flee by myself away, away, where my conscience may find rest? Through you I must lose my honour, the glory I had won. The praise that attaches to fair fame follows me no more. My knighthood is turned to a mock! Outlawed, proscribed am I, shattered is my sword, broken my escutcheon, anathemised my house! Whatever way I turn, all flee from me, accursed! The robber himself shuns the infection of my glance. Oh, that I had chosen death sooner than life so abject and miserable!..." With the agonised cry, "My honour, oh, my honour! I have lost my honour!" he casts himself face downward upon the ground.

Ortrud has not stirred, or taken her eyes from the bright orange-gold windows. As Telramund's harsh voice ceases, music is heard again from the banquet-hall. Ortrud listens till it has died away; then asks, with cold quiet: "What makes you waste yourself in these wild complaints?"—"That the very weapon should have been taken from me with which I might have struck you dead!" he cries, stung to insanity. Scornfully calm and cold as before, "Friedrich, you Count of Telramund, for what reason," she asks, "do you distrust me?" Hotly he pours forth his reasons. "Do you ask? Was it not your testimony, your report, which induced me to accuse that innocent girl? You, living in the dusky woods, did you not  mendaciously aver to me that from your wild castle you had seen the dark deed committed? With your own eyes seen how Elsa drowned her brother in the tarn? And did you not ensnare my ambitious heart with the prophecy that the ancient princely dynasty of Radbot soon should flourish anew and reign over Brabant, moving me thereby to withdraw my claim to the hand of Elsa, the immaculate, and take to wife yourself, because you were the last descendant of Radbot?"—"Ha! How mortally offensive is your speech!" she speaks, but suppresses her natural annoyance to continue: "Very true, all you have stated, I did say, and confirmed it with proof."—"And made me, whose name stood so high in honour, whose life had earned the prize due to highest virtue, made me into the shameful accomplice of your lie!"—"Who lied?" she asks coolly. "You!" he unceremoniously flings at her; "Has not God because of it, through his judgment, brought me to shame?"—"God?..." She utters the word with such vigour of derision that he involuntarily starts back. "Horrible!" he shudders after a moment; "How dreadful does that name sound upon your lips!"—"Ha! Do you call your own cowardice God?" He raises against her his maddened hand: "Ortrud!..."—"Do you threaten me? Threaten a woman?" she sneers, unmoved; "Oh, lily-livered! Had you been equally bold in threatening him who now sends us forth to our miserable doom, full easily might you have earned victory in place of shame. Ha! He who should manfully stand up to the encounter with him would find him weaker than a child!"—"The weaker he," Telramund observes, ill-pleased, "the more mightily was exhibited the strength of God!"—"The strength of God!... Ha, ha!" laughs loud Ortrud, with the same unmoderated effect of scorn and defiance, which sends her husband staggering back it step, gasping. "Give me the opportunity,"  she proceeds, with a return to that uncanny quiet of hers, "and I will show you, infallibly, what a feeble god it is protects him!"

Telramund is impressed. She is telling him after all that which he would like to believe. Still, the impression of the day's events is strong upon him,—his overthrow at God's own hand. After that, how dare he trust her? And yet— But then again— "You wild seeress," he exclaims, torn with doubt, "what are you trying, with your mysterious hints, to entangle my soul afresh?" She points at the Palace, from the windows of which the lights have disappeared. "The revellers have laid them down to their luxurious repose. Sit here beside me! The hour is come when my seer's eye shall read the invisible for you." Telramund draws nearer, fascinated, reconquered to her by this suggestion of some dim hope rearising upon his blighted life. He sits down beside her and holds close his ear for her guarded tones. "Do you know who this hero is whom a swan brought to the shore?"—"No!"—"What would you give to know? If I should tell you that were he forced to reveal his name and kind there would be an end to the power which laboriously he borrows from sorcery?"—"Ha! I understand then his prohibition!"—"Now listen! No one here has power to wring from him his secret, save she alone whom he forbade so stringently ever to put to him the question!"—"The thing to do then would be to prevail upon Elsa not to withhold from asking it!"—"Ha! How quickly and well you apprehend me!"—"But how should we succeed in that?"—"Listen! It is necessary first of all not to forsake the spot. Wherefore, sharpen your wit! To arouse well-justified suspicion in her, step forward, accuse him of sorcery, whereby he perverted the ordeal!"—"Ha! By sorcery it was, and treachery!"—"If you fail, there is still left the expedient of  violence."—"Violence?"—"Not for nought am I learned in the most hidden arts. Every being deriving his strength from magic, if but the smallest shred of flesh be torn from his body, must instantly appear in his original weakness."—"Oh, if it might be that you spoke true!" wistfully groans Telramund. "If in the encounter you had struck off one of his fingers," Ortrud continues, "nay, but one joint of a finger, that hero would have been in your power!" Rage and excitement possess Telramund at the retrospect of the combat in which he had been beaten, not, as he had supposed, by God, but by the tricks of a sorcerer, and at the prospect of avenging his disgrace, proving his uprightness, recovering his honour. But—he is checked by a sudden return of suspicion of this dark companion and adviser. "Oh, woman, whom I see standing before me in the night," he addresses the dim figure, "if you are again deceiving me, woe to you, I tell you, woe!" She quiets him with the promise of teaching him the sweet joys of vengeance. A foretaste of these they have, sitting on the minster-steps, gloating upon the walls which enclose the unconscious foes. "Oh, you, sunk in sweet slumber, know that mischief is awake and lying in wait for you!"

A door opens in the upper story of the Kemenate. A white figure steps out on to the balcony and leans against the parapet, head upon hand. The pair in the shade watch with suspended breath, recognising Elsa. She is too happy, obviously, to sleep; her heart is too heavily oppressed with gratitude for all that this wonderful day has brought. The well-born gentle soul that she is must be offering thanks to everything that has contributed to this hour; and so, girlishly, she speaks to the wind: "You breezes, whom I used so often to burden with my sadness and complaints, I must tell you in very gratitude what happy turn my fortunes have taken! By your means he came travelling to me, you smiled upon his  voyage, on his way over the wild waves you kept him safe. Full many a time have I troubled you to dry my tears. I ask you now of your kindness to cool my cheek aglow with love!" Ortrud has kept basilisk eyes fixed upon the sweet love-flushed face touched with moonlight. "She shall curse the hour," speaks the bitter enemy in her teeth, "in which my eyes beheld her thus!" She bids Telramund under-breath leave her for a little while. "Wherefore?" he asks. "She falls to my share," comes grimly from the wife; "take her hero for yours!" Telramund slips obediently away into the black shadow.

Ortrud watches Elsa for a time breathing her innocent fancies to the wind; then abruptly cuts short the pastime, calling her name in a loud, deliberately-plaintive tone. Elsa peers anxiously down in the dark court. "Who calls me? How lamentably did my name come shuddering through the night!"—"Elsa, is my voice so strange to you? Is it your mind to disclaim all acquaintance with the wretch whom you have driven forth to exile and misery?"—"Ortrud, is it you? What are you doing here, unhappy woman?"—"Unhappy woman?..." Ortrud repeats after her, giving the turn of scorn to the young girl's pitying intonation; "Ample reason have you indeed to call me so!" With dark artfulness she rouses in Elsa more than proportionate compassion for her plight, by casting upon the tender-conscienced creature the whole blame for it. In no scene does the youthfulness of Telramund's ward appear more pathetically than in this. "In the solitary forest, where I lived quiet and at peace, what had I done to you," Ortrud upbraids, "what had I done to you? Living there joylessly, my days solely spent in mourning over the misfortunes that had long pursued my house, what had I done to you,—what had I done to you?"—"Of what, in God's name, do you accuse me?" asks Elsa, bewildered. Ortrud pursues  in her chosen line of incrimination at all cost: "However could you envy me the fortune of being chosen for wife by the man whom you had of your free will disdained?"—"All-merciful God," exclaims Elsa, "What is the meaning of this?"—"And if, blinded by an unhappy delusion, he attributed guilt to you, guiltless, his heart is now torn with remorse; grim indeed has his punishment been. Oh, you are happy! After brief period of suffering, mitigated by conscious innocence, you see all life smiling unclouded before you. You can part from me well-pleased, and send me forth on my way to death, that the dull shadow of my grief may not disturb your feasts."

Ortrud's policy is completely successful; this last imputation is intolerable to the generous girl, made even more tender-hearted than wont by her overflowing happiness. "What mean sense of Thy mercies would I be showing," she cries, "All-powerful, who have so greatly blessed me, should I repulse the wretched bowed before me in the dust! Oh, nevermore! Ortrud, wait for me! I myself will come down and let you in!"

She hurries indoors. Ortrud has gained what she wanted, intimate access to the young Duchess's ear, that she may pour her poison into it. She has a moment's joy of triumph, while the fair dupe is hastening down to her within. We discover at this point that she is no Christian like the rest; that the secret gods of the secret sorceress are the old superseded ones, Wotan and Freia. For that reason it was the Silver Knight did not impress her as he did the others. She could not admit that he came from God, the false god whose name we heard her pronounce with such unconcealable scorn; but, herself a witch, supposed that he performed the feat through wizardry. She had explained the phenomenon to her husband in good faith; she believed what she said, that were he forced to tell his name,  or might a shred of flesh be torn from him, he would stand before them undisguised, shorn of his magic power. Wild with evil joy at the success of her acting, she calls upon her desecrated gods to help her further against the apostates. "Wotan, strong god, I appeal to you! Freia, highest goddess, hear me! Vouchsafe your blessing upon my deceit and hypocrisy, that I may happily accomplish my vengeance!"

At the sound of Elsa's voice calling: "Ortrud, where are you?" she assumes the last abjectness. "Here!" she replies, cowering upon the earth. "Here at your feet!" Simple Elsa's heart melts at the sight, really out of all reason soft, out of all reason unsuspecting. Yet she is infinitely sweet, in her exaggeration of goodness, when she not only pardons, but begs pardon of this fiendish enemy for what the latter may have had to suffer through her. She eagerly puts out her hands to lift Ortrud from her knees. "God help me! That I should see you thus, whom I have never seen save proud and magnificent! Oh, my heart will choke me to behold you in so humble attitude. Rise to your feet! Spare me your supplications! The hate you have borne me I forgive you, and I pray you to forgive me too whatever you have had to suffer through me!"—"Receive my thanks for so much goodness!" exclaims feelingly the accomplished actress. "He who to-morrow will be called my husband," continues Elsa, in her young gladness to heap benefits, "I will make appeal to his gentle nature, and obtain grace for Friedrich likewise."—"You bind me to you forever with bonds of gratitude!" With light innocent hand Elsa places the crowning one on top of her magnanimous courtesies. "At early morning let me see you ready prepared. Adorned in magnificent attire, you shall walk with me to the minster. There I am to await my hero, to become his wife before God. His wife!..." The sweet pride with which  she says the word, the soft ecstasy that falls upon her at the thought, stir in Ortrud such hatred that she cannot forbear, even though the time can hardly be ripe, taking the first step at once which is to result in the quick ruin of the poor child's dreams. "How shall I reward you for so much kindness, powerless and destitute as I am? Though by your grace I should dwell beside you, I should remain no better than a beggar. One power, however, there is left me; no arbitrary decree could rob me of that. By means of it, peradventure, I shall be able to protect your life and preserve it from regret."—"What do you mean?" asks Elsa lightly. "What I mean is—that I warn you not too blindly to trust in your good fortune; let me for the future have care for you, lest disaster entangle you unaware." Elsa shrinks back a little, murmuring, "Disaster?" Ortrud speaks with impressive mystery close to her ear: "Could you but comprehend what marvellous manner of being is the man—of whom I say but this: May he never forsake you through the very same magic by which he came to you!" Elsa starts away from Ortrud, in horror at such impiety,—disbelief in the highest. But in a moment her displeasure gives way to sadness and pity for the darkness in which this other woman lives. "Poor sister!" she speaks, most gently, "you can hardly conceive how unsuspecting is my heart! You have never known, belike, the happiness that belongs to perfect faith. Come in with me! Let me teach you the sweetness of an untroubled trust. Let me convert you to the faith that there exists a happiness without leaven of regret!" This warm young generous sweetness which makes Elsa open to any appeal, blind to grossest fraud, merely exasperates Ortrud's ill-will. She reads in it plain pride of superiority. As she could not admit in the Knight of the swan a god-sent hero, she cannot see in Elsa an uncommonly good-hearted girl. "Oh,  that arrogance!" she is muttering while Elsa is exhorting her; "It shall teach me how I may undo that trustfulness of hers! Against it shall the weapons be turned, her pride shall bring about her fall!"—Elsa by gesture inviting, the other feigning confusion at so great kindness, the two pass into the house together.

The first grey of dawn lightens the sky. Telramund, who has been spying unseen, exults to see mischief in the person of his wife entering the house of the enemy. He is not an evil man, he cares beyond all for honour, and his consciousness of a certain unfairness in the methods his wife will use is implied in his exclamation; but the violent man so rages under a sense of injustice that all weapons to him are good which shall bring about the ruin of those who have ruined him. "Thus does mischief enter that house! Accomplish, woman, what your subtlety has devised. I feel no power to check you at your work. The mischief began with my downfall; now shall you plunge after me, you who brought me to it! One thing alone stands clear before me: The robbers of my honour shall see destruction!"

Daylight brightens. The warders sound the reveillé from the turret. Telramund conceals himself behind a buttress of the minster. The business of the day is gradually taken up in the citadel court. The porter unlocks the tower-gate that lets out on to the city-road; servants come and go about their work, drawing water, hanging festive garlands. At a summons from the King's trumpeters, nobles and burghers assemble in great number before the Minster. The King's herald coming out on the Palace-steps makes the following announcements: Firstly: Banished and outlawed is Friedrich von Telramund, for having undertaken the ordeal with a knowledge of his own guilt. Any one sheltering or associating with him shall according  to the law of the realm come under the same condemnation. Secondly: The King invests the unknown God-sent man, about to espouse Elsa, with the lands and the crown of Brabant; the hero to be called, according to his preference, not Duke, but Protector of Brabant. Thirdly: The Protector will celebrate with them this day his nuptial feast, but they shall join him tomorrow in battle-trim, to follow, as their duty is, the King's arms. He himself, renouncing the sweetness of repose, will lead them to glory.

These proclamations are followed by general assent and gladness. A small group there is, however, of malcontents, former adherents of Telramund's, who grumble: "Hear that! He is to remove us out of the country, against an enemy who has never so much as threatened us! Such a bold beginning is ill-beseeming. Who will stand up against him when he is in command?"—"I will!" comes from a muffled figure that has crept among them, and Friedrich uncovers his countenance. "How dare you venture here, in danger as you are from the hand of every churl?" they ask him, frightened. "I shall dare and venture more than this ere long, and the scales will drop from your eyes. He who presumptuously calls you forth to war, I will accuse him of treason in the things of God." The Brabantian gentlemen, afraid of his being overheard or recognised, conceal the rash lord among them, and compel him toward the church, out of sight.

Forerunners of the wedding-procession, young pages come from the Kemenate, and clear a way through the crowd to the church-door. A long train of ladies walk before the bride. There are happy cheers when she appears, dazzling in her wedding-pomp; there are blessings and the natural expressions of devotion from loyal subjects. The pages and ladies stand massed at either side of the Minster-door to give their mistress  precedence in entering. She is slowly, with bashful lowered eyes, mounting the stairs, when Ortrud, who in magnificent apparel has been following in her train, steps quickly before her, with the startling command, given in a furious voice: "Back, Elsa! I will no longer endure to follow you like a serving-maid! Everywhere shall you yield me precedence, and with proper deference bow before me!" This is, we believe, no part of any deep-laid plan of Ortrud's, though it does in the event help along her scheme; it is an uncontrollable outburst of temper at sight of Elsa in her eminence of bridal and ducal glory. "What does the woman mean?" ask the people of one another, and step between Elsa and her. "What is this?" cries Elsa, painfully startled; "What sudden change has taken place in you?"—"Because for an hour I forgot my proper worth," Radbot's daughter continues violently, "do you think that I am fit only to crawl before you? I will take measures to wipe out my abasement. That which is due to me I am determined to receive!"—"Woe's me!" complains Elsa, "Was I duped by your feigning, when you stole to me last night with your pretended grief? And do you now haughtily demand precedence of me, you, the wife of a man convicted by God?" Ortrud sees here her opportunity again to introduce the wedge of suspicion into her victim's mind. "Though a false sentence banished my husband, his name was honoured throughout the land, he was never spoken of save as the pattern of virtue. His sword was well-tested and was feared—But yours, tell me, who that is present knows him? You cannot even yourself call him by his name!... Nay, but can you?" she taunts the shocked, pale-grown bride, who has found no more than force to gasp,—"What does she say? She blasphemes! Stop her lips!"—"Can you tell us whether his lineage, his nobility, be well attested? From whence the river  brought him and whither he will go when he leaves? No, you cannot! The matter, no doubt, would present difficulties, wherefore the astute hero forbade all questioning!" Elsa has found her voice at last, and speaks right hotly: "You slanderer! Abandoned woman! Hear, whether I can answer you! So pure and lofty is his nature, so filled with virtue is that noblest man, that never shall the person obtain forgiveness who presumes to doubt his mission! Did not my hero overcome your husband by the power of God in singular combat? You shall tell me then, all of you, which of the two must lawfully be held true?"—"Ha! That truth of your hero's!" mocks Ortrud, fearfully ready of tongue; "How soon were it cast in doubt, should he be forced to confess the sorcery by which he practises such power! If you fear to question him concerning it, all may believe with good right that you are not free yourself from the suspicion that his truth must not be too closely looked into!" Elsa is near fainting with the anguish of this encounter; her women surround and comfort her.

The doors of the Palace have opened, the King and the Knight of the Swan, with great retinue of nobles, issue forth, bound for the church and wedding-ceremony. They arrive upon the scene before the confusion is allayed occasioned by the quarrel between vulture and dove. Elsa runs to the arms of the Protector. Receiving her and glancing naturally about for explanation, he beholds the dangerous Ortrud, whom his clear eye reads, restored to splendour, part of the wedding-train, and remarks upon it with amazement to the trembling bride. "What do I see? That unhappy woman at your side?"—"My deliverer," weeps Elsa, "shield me from her! Scold me, for having disobeyed you! I found her in tears here before my door; I took her in out of her wretchedness. Now see how dreadfully she rewards my kindness!... She taunts me for  my over-great trust in you!" The Knight fixes his eyes sternly upon the offender, who somehow cannot look back bold insult as she would wish, but stands spell-bound under the calm severity of his glance. "Stand off from her, you fearful woman. Here shall you never prevail!—Tell me, Elsa," he bends over her tearful face, "tell me that she tried vainly to drop her venom into your heart?" Elsa hides her face against his breast without answering. But the gesture with its implied confidence satisfies him; the tears increase his protecting tenderness. "Come!" he draws her toward the church; "Let your tears flow in there as tears of joy!"

The wedding-train forms again and moves churchward in wake of King and bride and groom. But the wedding to-day is not to come off without check and interruption—an ill omen, according to the lore of all peoples. As the bridal party is mounting the Minster-steps, there starts up in front of it, before the darkly gaping door, the figure of Telramund. The crowd sways back as if from one who should spread infection, so tainted did a man appear against whom God through his ordeal had spoken judgment. "Oh, King, oh, deluded princes, stand!" he cries, barring their way. He will not be silenced by their indignant threats; he makes himself heard in spite of shocked and angry prohibitions. "Hear me to whom grim injustice has been done! God's judgment was perverted, falsified! By the tricks of a sorcerer you have been beguiled!" The King's followers are for seizing and thrusting him aside; but the soldier, famous no longer ago than yesterday for every sort of superiority, stands his ground and says what he is determined to say. "The man I see yonder in his magnificence, I accuse of sorcery! As dust before God's breath, let the power be dispersed which he owes to a black art! How ill did you attend to the matters of the ordeal which was to strip me of  honour, refraining as you did from questioning him, when he came to undertake God's fight! But you shall not prevent the question now, I myself will put it to him. Of his name, his station, his honours, I inquire aloud before the whole world. Who is he, who came to shore guided by a wild swan? One who keeps in his service the like enchanted animals is to my thinking no true man! Let him answer now my accusation. If he can do so, call my condemnation just, but if he refuse, it must be plain to all that his virtue will not bear scrutiny!" All eyes turn with unmistakable interest of expectation toward the man thus accused; wonder concerning what he will reply is expressed in undertones.

He refuses point-blank, with a bearing of such superiority as an attack of the sort can hardly ruffle. "Not to you, so forgetful of your honour, have I need here to reply. I set aside your evil aspersion; truth will hardly suffer from the like!"—"If I am in his eyes not worthy of reply," Friedrich bitterly re-attacks, "I call upon you, King, high in honour indeed. Will he, on the ground of insufficient nobility, refuse likewise to answer you?" Aye, the Knight refuses again, with an assurance partaking in no wise of haughtiness, but speaking a noble consciousness of what he is which places him above men's opinions. "Yes! even the King I must refuse to answer, and the united council of all the princes! They will not permit doubt of me to burden them, they were witnesses of my good deed. There is but one whom I must answer. Elsa!" He turns toward her with bright face of confidence, and stops short at sight of her, so troubled, so visibly torn by inward conflict, her bosom labouring, her face trembling. There is no concealing it, she would have wished him to answer loudly and boldly, to crush those mocking enemies, Ortrud and Telramund, with the mention of a name, a rank, which should have bowed them  down before him in the dust, abject. There is silence, while all, entertaining their respective reflections, watch Elsa, and she struggles with herself, staring blindly ahead. His secret no doubt,—thus run her pitiable feminine thoughts,—if revealed publicly like this would involve him in some danger. Ungrateful indeed were it in her, saved by him, to betray him by demanding the information here. If she knew his secret, however, she would surely keep it faithfully.... But—but—she is helpless against it, doubt is upheaving the foundations of her heart!

It is the good King who speaks the right, the pertinent word. "My hero, stand up undaunted against yonder faithless man! You are too indubitably great to consider accusations of his!" The nobles readily accept the King's leadership, in this as in other matters. "We stand by you," they say to the Knight. "Your hand! We believe that noble is your name, even though it be not spoken."—"Never shall you repent your faith!" the Knight assures them. While the nobles crowd about him; offering their hands in sign of allegiance, and Elsa stands apart blindly dealing with her doubt, Telramund steals unperceived to her side and whispers to her: "Rely on me! Let me tell you a method for obtaining certainty!" She recoils, frightened, yet without denouncing him aloud. "Let me take from him the smallest shred of flesh," he continues hurriedly, "the merest tip of a finger, and I swear to you that what he conceals you shall see freely for yourself...." In his eagerness, forgetful really at last of honour, he adds the inducement, "And, true to you forever, he will never leave you!"—"Nevermore!" cries Elsa, not so vigourously, however, but that he finds it possible still to add: "I will be near to you at night. Do but call me, without injury to him it shall be quickly done!" The Knight has caught sight of him and is instantly  at Elsa's side, crying astonished, "Elsa, with whom are you conversing?" The poor girl sinks overwhelmed with trouble and confusion at his feet. "Away from her, you accursed!" speaks the Knight in a terrible authoritative voice to the evil pair; "Let my eye never again behold you in her neighbourhood!" Gently he lifts the bride; he scans her face wistfully: "In your hand, in your loyalty, lies the pledge of all happiness! Have you fallen into the unrest of doubt? Do you wish to question me?" He asks it so frankly and fearlessly, albeit sorrowfully; he stands there so convincingly brave-looking and clear-eyed, full of the calm effect of power, that Elsa gazing at him comes back to her true self and answers with all her heart: "Oh, my champion, who came to save me! My hero, in whom I must live and die! High above all power of doubt my love shall stand!" He clasps her in his arms, solemnly saluting her....

And once more the wedding-party sets itself upon the way to church. Organ-music pours forth from the Minster-portals. With her foot on the threshold the bride turns an eager, instinctive, searching, almost frightened look upon the groom. In answer, he folds reassuring arms around her. But, even so held, woman-like she looks back, in spite of herself, over her shoulder, toward Ortrud, who receives the timid glance with a detestable gesture of triumph. Properly frightened, the bride turns quickly away, and the procession enters the church.




Lohengrin



III

It is night. The stately bridal apartment awaits its guests. Music is heard, very faint at first, as if approaching through long corridors. Preceded by pages with lights, there enter by  different doors a train of women leading Elsa, a train of nobles and the King leading the Knight.

The epithalamium is sung to its end. After grave and charming ceremony, with blessings and good wishes, all withdraw, leaving the bride and groom alone. Elsa's face is altogether clear again of its clouds; all is forgotten save the immeasurable happiness which, as soon as the doors discreetly close, impels her to his arms; clasped together, seated upon the edge of a day-bed, they listen in silence to their wedding-music dying slowly away. When all is still at last, in the dear joy of being "alone, for the first time alone together since first we saw each other," life seems to begin for each upon new and so incredibly sweeter terms. The stranger knight, whom mystery enwraps, shows himself, despite certain sweet loftiness which never leaves him, most convincingly human. In the simplest warm way, a way old-fashioned as love, we hear him rejoice: "Now we are escaped and hidden from the whole world. None can overhear the exchange of greetings between our hearts. Elsa, my wife! You sweet white bride! You shall tell me now whether you are happy!"—"How cold must I be to call myself merely happy," she satisfies him liberally, "when I possess the whole joy of Heaven! In the sweet glowing toward you of my heart, I know such rapture as God can alone bestow!" He meets her gratitude with an equal and just a little over. "If, of your graciousness, you call yourself happy, do you not give to me too the very happiness of Heaven? In the sweet glowing toward you of my heart, I know indeed such rapture as God can alone bestow!" He falls naturally, happy-lover-like, into talking of their first meeting and beginning love: "How wondrous do I see to be the nature of our love! We had never seen, but yet had divined, each other! Choice had been made of me for your champion, but it was love showed  me my way to you. I read your innocence in your eyes, by a glance you impressed me into the service of your grace!"—"I too," she eagerly follows, "had seen you already, you had come to me in a beatific dream. Then when wide-awake I saw you standing before me, I knew that you were there by God's behest. I would have wished to dissolve beneath your eyes and flow about your feet like a brook. I would have wished like a flower shedding perfume out in the meadow to bow in gladness at your footfall. Is this love?... Ah, how do my lips frame it, that word so inexpressibly sweet as none other, save alas! your name... which I am never to speak, by which I am never to call the highest that I know!" There is no return indicated in this of any doubt of him. Elsa is in this moment certainly all trust. It is but an expression of love chafing a little at the reticence which seems a barrier one must naturally wish away, if hearts are to flow freely together. Hardly warningly, just lovingly, he interrupts her: "Elsa!"—"How sweetly" she remarks enviously, "my name drops from your lips! Do you grudge me the dear sound of yours? Nay, you shall grant me this boon, that just in the quiet hours of love's seclusion my lips should speak it...." He checks her, as before, unalarmed, without reproach, by an exclamation of love. "My sweet wife!"—"Just when we are alone," she coaxes, "when no one can overhear! Never shall it be spoken in hearing of the outside world." Instead of answering directly, he draws her to him and turns to the open casement overlooking the garden; he gazes thoughtfully out into the summer night and answers by a sort of tender object-lesson. "Come, breathe with me the mild fragrance of the flowers.... Oh, the sweet intoxication it affords! Mysteriously it steals to us through the air, unquestioningly I yield myself to its spell. A like spell it was which bound me to you when I saw you,  Sweet, for the first time. I did not need to ask how you might be descended, my eye beheld you, my heart at once understood. Even as this fragrance softly captures the senses, coming to us wafted from the enigmatic night, even so did your purity enthrall me, despite the dark suspicion weighing upon you!"

That she owes him much she is ready and over-ready to own. It is almost embarassing to owe so much, to owe everything, and no means of repaying, because the whole of oneself is after all so little. "Oh, that I might prove myself worthy of you!" she sighs, "that I need not sink into insignificance before you! That some merit might lift me to your level, that I might suffer some torture for your sake! If, even as you found me suffering under a heavy charge, I might know you to be in distress! If bravely I might bear a burden for you, might know of some sorrow threatening you! Can it be that your secret is of such a nature that your lip must keep it from the whole world? Disaster perhaps would overtake you, were it openly published. If this were so, and if you would tell it to me, would place your secret in my power, oh, never by any violence should it be torn from me, for you I would go to death!" The bridegroom cannot but be touched by such devoted gallant words from the fairest lips. Off guard, he murmurs fondly, "Beloved!"—"Oh, make me proud by your confidence, that I may not so deeply feel my unworthiness!" she pleads, eagerly following up the advantage of his not having yet remonstrated; "Let me know your secret, that I may see plainly who you are!" Wilfully deaf to his imploring, "Hush, Elsa!" more and more urgently she presses: "To my faithfulness reveal your whole noble worth! Without fear of regret, tell me whence you came. I will prove to you how strong in silence I can be!"

 Her words, all at once, their significance penetrating fully, have brought a change in him. Gravely he moves apart from her, and his voice is for a moment stern as well as sorrowful: "Highest confidence already have I shown you, placing trust as I unhesitatingly did in your oath. If you will never depart from the command you swore to observe, high above all women shall I deem you worthy of honour." But he cannot continue in that tone, the altogether human bridegroom. At sight of the pained look his severity has produced, he goes quickly again to her, he makes instant reparation for his momentary harshness. "Come to my breast, you sweet, you white one!" he profusely caresses and consoles; "Be close to the warmth of my heart! Bend upon me the soft light of your eye in which I saw foreshining my whole happiness!..." And just to satisfy her so far as he can, to prove still further his great love, he proceeds: "Oh, greatly must your love compensate me for that which I relinquished for your sake! No destiny in God's wide world could be esteemed nobler than mine. If the King should offer me his crown, with good right I might reject it. The only thing which can repay me for my sacrifice, I must look for it in your love. Then cast doubt aside forever. Let your love be my proud security! For I came to you from no obscure and miserable lot. From splendour and joy am I come to you!" Oh, the ill-inspired speech! What he dreamed must unite closer, in the momentary mood of the incalculable feminine being he is dealing with, divides further. The thought is instantly back in her mind which she had smothered and then forgotten, the idea suggested by Ortrud, implied by Friedrich, that mysteriously as he came the unknown Knight may presently be going away from her. The hour that should have been so sweet and quiet in the "fragrant chamber adorned for love" of the wedding-song, is turned to strain and  dreadfulness. "God help me!" wails her passionate alarm, "What must I hear? What testimony from your own lips! In your wish to beguile me, you have announced my lamentable doom! The condition you forsook, your highest happiness lay bound in that. You came to me from splendour and joy, and are longing to go back. How could I, poor wretch, believe that my faithful devotion would suffice you? The day will come which will rob me of you, your love being turned to rue!"—"Forbear, forbear thus to torture yourself!"—"Nay, it is you, why do you torture me? Must I count the days during which I still may keep you? In haunting fear of your departure, my cheek will fade; then you will hasten away from me, I shall be left forlorn."—"Never" he endeavours to quiet her, "never will your winning charm lessen, if you but keep suspicion from your heart."—"How should I tie you to me?" she pursues undeterred her fatal train of thought; "How might I hope for such power? A creature of weird arts are you, you came here by a miracle of magic. How then should it fare but ill with me? What security for you can I hold?" She shrinks together in sudden terror and listens. "Did you hear nothing? Did you not distinguish footsteps?"—"Elsa!"—"No, it is not that!... But there..." she stares vacantly ahead, pointing,—her face how changed from the sweet, glowing face of so short a time ago!—and describes what her over-excited fancy paints on the empty air before her: "Look there! The swan! The swan! There he comes, over the watery flood.... You call him, he draws the boat to shore...."—"Stop, Elsa! Master these mad imaginings!" the poor lover strives with her, in despair.—"Nay, nothing can give me rest," she declares, wholly unmanageable, wholly unreasonable, "nothing can turn me from these imaginings, but, though I should pay for it with my life, the knowledge who you are!"—"Elsa, what are  you daring to do?"—"Uncannily beautiful man, hear what I must demand of you: Tell me your name!"—"Forbear!"—"Whence are you come?"—"Alas!"—"What manner of man are you?"—"Woe, what have you done?" Elsa utters a shriek, catching sight of Telramund with a handful of armed men stealing in by the door behind her husband's back,—the explanation of the sound she had heard. With a cry of warning, she runs for her husband's sword and hands it to him. Quickly turning he rewards Friedrich's ineffectual lunge with a blow that stretches him dead. The appalled accomplices drop their swords and fall to their knees. Elsa, who had cast herself against her husband's breast, slides swooning to the floor. There is a long silence. The Knight stands, deeply shaken, coming to gradual realisation of the whole sorrowful situation. All the light, the bridegroom joy, have faded from his face. With a quiet suggestive of infinite patience and some strange superiority of strength, some unearthly resource, he considers this ruin, his audible comment on it a single sigh, more poignant than if it were less restrained: "Woe! Now is all our happiness over!" Very gently he lifts Elsa, sufficiently revived to realise that she has somehow worked irreparable destruction, and decisively places her away from him. By a sign he orders Telramund's followers to their feet and bids them carry the dead man to the King's judgment-place. He rings a bell; the women who appear in answer, he instructs: "To accompany her before the King, attire Elsa, my sweet wife! There shall she receive my answer, and learn her husband's name and state."

At daybreak the Brabantian lords and their men-at-arms are assembling around the Justice-Oak in readiness to follow the King. The King, with noble expressions of gratitude for  their loyalty, takes command of them. "But where loiters," he is inquiring, "the one whom God sent to the glory, the greatness of Brabant?" when a covered bier is borne before him and set down in the midst of the wondering company, by men whom they recognise as former retainers of Telramund's. This is done, explain these last, by order of the Protector of Brabant.

Elsa attended by her ladies appears at the place of gathering. Her pale and sorrow-struck looks are attributed naturally to the impending departure of her husband for the field.

Armed in his flashing silver mail, as he was first seen of them, he now appears on the spot. Cheers greet him from those whom he is to lead to battle and victory. When their shouts die, he makes, standing before the King, the startling announcement that he cannot lead them to battle, the brave heroes he has convoked. "I am not here as your brother-of-arms," he informs their consternation; "You behold me in the character of complainant. And, firstly..." he solemnly draws the pall from the dead face of Telramund, "I make my charge aloud before you all, and ask for judgment according to law and custom: This man having surprised and assailed me by night, tell me, was I justified in slaying him?"—"As your hand smote him upon earth," the horrified spectators cry in a voice, "may God's punishment smite him yonder!"—"Another accusation must you hear," the Knight continues; "I speak my complaint before you all. The woman whom God had given to my keeping has been so far misguided as to forget her loyalty to me!" There is an outcry of sorrowful incredulity. "You all heard," he proceeds, steeled to severity, "how she promised me never to ask who I am? She has broken that sacred oath. To pernicious counsel she yielded her heart. No longer may I spare to answer the mad questioning of her doubt. I could deny the  urgency of enemies, but must make known, since she has willed it, my name,—must reveal who I am! Now judge if I have reason to shun the light! Before the whole world, before the King and kingdom, I will in all truth declare my secret. Hear, then, if I be not equal in nobility to any here!" There runs a murmur through all the impressed multitude, not of curiosity, but regret that he should be forced to speak; the uneasy wish is felt that he might not.

His face has cleared wonderfully. As his inward eye fixes itself upon images of the home, the Glanz und Wonne, he is about to describe, memory lights his countenance as if with the reflection of some place of unearthly splendour. "In a far land," his words fall measured and sweet, "unapproachable to footsteps of yours, a fastness there stands called Monsalvat. In the centre of it, a bright temple, more precious than anything known upon earth. Within this is preserved as the most sacred of relics a vessel of blessed and miraculous power. It was brought to earth by a legion of angels, and given into the guardianship of men, to be the object of their purest care. Yearly there descends from Heaven a Dove, to strengthen anew its miraculous power. It is called the Grail, and there is shed from it into the hearts of the knights that guard it serene and perfect faith. One chosen to serve the Grail is armed by it with over-earthly power; against it no evil art can prevail, before the vision of it the shades of death disperse. One sent by it to distant countries to champion the cause of virtue retains the holy power derived from it as long as he remains unknown. Of nature so mysteriously sublime is the blessing of the Grail that if disclosed to the layman's eye it must withdraw. The identity of a Knight of the Grail must therefore not be suspected. If he is recognised—he must depart! Now hear my reply to the forbidden question. By the Holy Grail  was I sent to you here. My father Parsifal in Monsalvat wears the crown. A Knight of the Grail am I and my name is Lohengrin!"

The people gaze at him in awe and worshipping wonder. The unhapppy Elsa, feeling the world reel and grow dark, gasps for air and is falling, when Lohengrin catches her in his arms, all his sternness melting away, his grief and love pouring forth in tender reproach. "Oh, Elsa, what have you done to me? From the first moment of beholding you, I felt love for you enkindling my heart, I became aware of an unknown happiness. The high faculty, the miraculous power, the strength involved in my secret, I wished to place them all at the service of your purest heart. Why did you wrest from me my secret? For now, alas, I must be parted from you!" She expends herself in wild prayers to be forgiven, to be punished by whatsoever affliction, only not to lose him. He feels sorrow enough, immeasurable sorrow, heart-break, but not for an instant hesitation. "The Grail already is offended at my lagging! I must—must go! There is but one punishment for your fault, and its hard anguish falls equally upon me. We must be parted,—far removed from each other!" He turns to the King and nobles imploring him to remain and lead them as he had promised against the enemy. "Oh, King, I may not stay! A Knight of the Grail, when you have recognised him, should he disobediently remain to fight with you, would have forfeited the strength of his arm. But hear me prophesy: A great victory awaits you, just and single-hearted King! To the remotest days shall the hordes of the East never march in triumph upon Germany!"

From the river-bank comes a startling voice: "The swan! The swan!" All turn to look. A cry of horror breaks from Elsa. The swan is seen approaching, drawing the empty boat. Page 353 Less master of himself than theretofore, Lohengrin, realising the last parting so near, gives unmistakable outward sign of his inward anguish. "The Grail already is sending for the dilatory servant!..." Going to the water's edge he addresses to the snowy bird words which no one can quite comprehend. "My beloved swan, how gladly would I have spared you this last sorrowful voyage. In a year, your period of service having expired, delivered by the power of the Grail, in a different shape I had thought to see you.—Oh, Elsa," he returns to her side, "oh, that I might have waited but one year and been witness of your joy when, under protection of the Grail, your brother had returned to you, whom you thought dead!... When in the ripeness of time he comes home, and I am far away from him in life, you shall give him this horn, this sword, this ring...." He places in her hands the great double-edged sword, the golden horn from his side, the ring from his finger. "This horn when he is in danger, shall procure him help. This sword, in the fray, shall assure him victory. But when he looks at the ringlet him think of me who upon a time delivered you from danger and distress. Farewell, farewell! My sweet wife, farewell! The Grail will chide if I delay longer.... Farewell!" He has kissed over and over again the face of the poor woman who, annihilated by grief, has not the power to make motion or sound. He places her, with terrible effort of resolution, in the arms at last of others, and hastens, amid general lamentation, to the shore.

Ortrud, lost in the crowd, has watched all. She has in reality gained nothing by the disaster to Elsa, but she exults in it. Further revenge for what she has suffered from Elsa's mere existence, for the bitterness of her husband's death at the hand of Elsa's husband, she seeks recklessly in a revelation which cannot but hold danger for herself. In the insanity  of her mingled despair and gloating hate, her hurry to hurt, she does not wait until the powerful antagonist be well out of the way of retorting—Lohengrin has but one foot as yet in the boat,—before she cries, "Go your way home, go your way, O haughty hero, that gleefully I may impart to this fair fool who it is drawing you in your boat. By the golden chain which I wound about him, I recognised that swan. That swan was the heir of Brabant!—I thank you," she mockingly addresses Elsa, "I thank you for having driven away the Knight. The swan must now betake himself home with him. If he had remained here longer, that hero, he would have delivered your brother too!" The whole dark scheme of Ortrud's ambition now lies bare: She had compassed the disappearance of the heir to the crown of Brabant, changing him by magic art into a swan; had cast the guilt of his disappearance upon Elsa, and married the man who upon Elsa's condemnation would have become Duke. Through no neglect of her own was Ortrud's brow still bare of the crown. At the cry of execration that greets her revelation, she faces them all, drawn up to her proud height, and announces: "Thus do they revenge themselves, the gods from whom you turned your worship!"

But Lohengrin had not been too far, nor too engrossed in going, to hear her words. The Knight of the Grail has sunk on his knees and joined his hands in prayer. All eyes are upon him, his eyes earnestly heavenward. For a long moment all is in motionless suspense. A white dove flies into sight, and hovers over the boat. With the gladness of one whose prayer is heard, Lohengrin rises and unfastens the chain from the swan; this vanishes from sight, leaving in its place a beautiful boy in shining garments, whom Lohengrin lifts to the bank. "Behold the Duke of Brabant! Your leader he shall be!" At sight of him, Ortrud utters a cry of terror, Elsa, drawn for a  moment out of her stupor, a cry of joy. She catches the brother in her arms—But looking up, after the first transport of gladness, and seeing the place empty where her husband had stood, his boat gone from sight, forgetting all else, she sends after him a despairing cry, "My husband! My husband!"

In the distance, at a bend of the river, the boat reappears for a moment, drawn now by the dove of the Grail. The Silver Knight is seen standing in it, leaning on his shield, his head mournfully bowed. Sounds of sorrow break from all lips. The sight pierces like a sword through the heart of the forsaken bride. She sinks to the ground entseelt—exanimate.

Such figures as play their part in this story, the Silver Knight, with his swan and faery skiff, the fair falsely-accused damsel, the wicked sorceress, could hardly be painted in flagrant life-colours. The music of Lohengrin brings to mind pictures one seems to remember on vellum margins of old books of legend, where against a golden background shine forth vivid yet delicate shapes, in tints brilliant yet soft as distance, the green of April, the rose of day-break, the blue of remote horizons.

There is an older story on these same lines, the story of Cupid and Psyche, an allegory, we are told, of Love and the Soul. And an allegory is meant to teach somewhat. And what does this teach—but that one must be great? Not enough to be innocent, kind, loving, pure as snow, like Elsa, a being golden and lovely through and through, such as could lure down a sort of angel from his heaven. Beside it all, great one must be. Life, the Sphinx, requires upon occasion that one be great. Just a little greatness, so to speak, and Elsa would first of all have recognised the obligation to keep her word; would further have trusted what must have been her  own profound instinct about the man she loved, rather than the suggestions of others troubling her shallow mind-surface. Had she been great, we may almost affirm, she would have known that he was great; she would have trusted truth and greatness though they came to her unlabelled.

But Life, the Sphinx, proposed to her a riddle, and because she was no more than a poor, sweet, limited woman she could not solve it, and Life ground her in its teeth and swallowed her up.

 
 

"Lohengrin grew to be a strong
and valiant man in whom fear was
never seen. When he was of an age
to have mastered the arts of chivalry
he distinguished himself in the
service of the Grail. "

Parzival, с 1200 by Wolfram von Eschenbach

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Swan Knight
Lohengrin, the Swan Knight, is
shown here as the very image of the
"parfit gentil knyght". He appears in
a vision to Elsa, and she becomes
convinced that he is her future
husband and will come to save her.

Elsa, Heiress to Brabant
As heiress to the Duchy of Brabant, Elsa was a Princess of the Holy Roman Empire. In the year 1204 (when Wolfram von Eschenbach was probably at work on Parzival), Henry of Brabant, who had no sons, received authority from Emperor Philip to name his daughter Maria as his heir, thus giving topicality to von Eschenbach's use of the Lohengrin story.

 

 
 


Arthur Thiele (1841-1916)
Scene from Wagner's Lohengrin, as performed at the London première.





LOHENGRIN


Romantic opera in three acts

Libretto

Richard Wagner


 

Premiere
 

Cast
HENRY THE FOWLER, King of Germany (Bass)
LOHENGRIN (Tenor)
ELSA OF BRABANT (Soprano)
DUKE GODFREY (silent)
FREDERICK OF TELRAMUND, a count of Brabant (Baritone)
ORTRUD, his wife (Soprano or Mezzo soprano)
KING'S HERALD (Baritone or Bass)
FOUR BRABANTINE NOBLES (Tenor/Bass)
FOUR NOBLE PAGES (Soprano/Contralto)

CHORUS
Saxon and Thuringian counts and nobles, Brabantine counts and nobles,
noblewomen, pages, vassals, women, servants

Place
Antwerp

Time
933


 

Prelude

 

FIRST ACT
 

A meadow on the banks of the Scheldt near Antwerp.

SCENE ONE
King Henry, Saxon and Thuringian Counts, nobles and horsemen, who form the royal armed levy. Brabantine Counts and nobles, horsemen and people, headed by Frederick of Telramund, with Ortrud at his side. Retainers and servants. The King's herald and four trumpeters, who sound the royal summons.

HERALD
Hear ye, lords, nobles, freemen of Brabant!
Henry, King of Germany, comes hither
to parley with you as the law provides.
In peace will you hearken to his command?

BRABANTINES
In peace we will hearken to his command!
Welcome, welcome to Brabant, O King! 

KING HENRY
God save you, my loving subjects of Brabant!
Not idly have journeyed to you;
let me make known to you the Empire's need!
Shall I first relate to you the wrongs
wreaked on German soil from the East?
On our furthest borders women and children prayed:
"Protect us, God, from the Hungarians' rage!"
But it behoved me, as head of the realm,
to find a way to end such shameful outrage;
by force of arms I won a nine-year truce
and used it for the kingdom's defence:
I had fortified towns and castles built,
I trained an army in resistance.
The truce has now expired, tribute is refused -
with savage threats the enemy makes ready.
Now is the time to defend the kingdom's honour;
let it equally concern you all, whether of east or west!
Wherever is German soil, raise troops,
then none shall dare insult our German realm!

SAXONS AND THURINGIANS
Arise! For God and the honour of our German realm!

KING
I come to you now, people of Brabant,
to summon you to my standard at Mainz;
yet to my sorrow and grief I find you
living in discord, without a chief!
I learn of disorder, bitter feuds;
therefore I call upon you, Frederick of Telramund!
I know you as the crown of all virtues;
now speak, that I may know the cause of this turmoil.

FREDERICK
Our thanks to you, O King, that you have come to set it right!
I will tell you the truth; falsehood I disdain.
On the death of the Duke of Brabant
he entrusted to my protection his children,
the maiden Elsa and the boy Godfrey;
I tended him faithfully as he grew through childhood;
his life was the jewel of my honour.
judge then, O King, the bitterness of my grief
when I was robbed of my honour's jewel!
One day Elsa took the boy for a stroll
in the woods, but returned home without him;
with feigned anxiety she asked about her brother,
since she by chance had become separated from him
and then could find, she said, no trace of him.
Fruitless were all our searches for the lost one;
then when I questioned Elsa threateningly
her pallor and her trembling revealed to us
her confession of her hideous crime.
I was seized with horror of the maid;
the right to her hand, granted me by her father,
I there and then willingly renounced
and took a wife more to my taste,
Ortrud, daughter of Radbod, prince of Friesland.
Now I charge Elsa von Brabant
and accuse her of her brother’s murder.
And I claim this land for my own by right
as the Duke’s next of kin;
moreover, my wife is of the race
that once gave this land its rulers.
You hear my charge, O King! Judge aright!

ALL THE MEN
Telramund accuses her of a grave crime!
I hear the charge with horror!

KING
What a fearful charge you have brought!
How could so heinous a crime be possible?

FREDERICK
My lord, the maid who haughtily refused
my hand is empty-headed and lost in dreams.
I accuse her of a secret passion:
she thought perchance that, rid of her brother,
as Queen of Brabant she could deny her hand
to the subject with a right to it
and openly harbour her secret paramour.

KING
Summon the accused here!
The trial shall begin forthwith!
God grant me wisdom!

HERALD
Shall a judgment by right and might be held here?

KING
solemnly hanging his shield on the oak tree
This shield shall no more protect me
until I have given judgment severe but merciful!

ALL THE MEN
drawing their swords, the Saxons and Thuringians  thrusting theirs into the earth, the Brabantines laying theirs flat on the ground before them
Our swords shall not return to their sheaths
until justice has pronounced judgment!

HERALD
Where you behold the royal shield
there shall you see justice in judgment!
Then loud and clear I issue my summons:
Elsa, appear before us!


SCENE TWO
Elsa and her women

MEN
See, she comes to answer her heavy charge!
Ah, how candid and pure she seems!
He who dared so gravely to accuse her
must indeed be certain of her guilt!

KING
Are you Elsa of Brabant?
Elsa inclines her head in affirmation
Do you accept me as your judge?
Elsa turns her head towards the King, looks into his eyes and then assents with a trusting gesture
Then I ask you further:
do you know the grave charge
that is laid against you?
Elsa looks at Frederick and Ortrud, shudders, droops her head sadly and assents
What is your answer to the charge?
Elsa indicates "Nothing" by a gesture
Then you admit your guilt?

ELSA
My poor brother!

ALL THE MEN
How strange! What curious behaviour!

KING
Speak, Elsa! What have you to confide to me?

ELSA
Alone in troubled days
I appealed to God
and poured out in prayer
my heart's deepest anguish.
Then from my laments
arose a cry so piteous
that it filled the air far and wide
with its vast reverberation.
I heard it echo far away
until it barely reached my ear;
then my eyelids closed
and I sank into a sweet sleep.

ALL THE MFN
How strange! Is she dreaming? Is she distracted?

KING
Elsa, defend yourself before your judge!

ELSA
Arrayed in shining armour
a knight was approaching,
more virtuous and pure
than any I had yet seen,
a golden horn at his hip
and leaning on his sword.
Thus was this worthy knight
sent to me from heaven;
with courteous bearing
he gave me consolation;
that knight will defend me,
he shall be my champion!

ALL THE MEN
May heaven's grace guide us, that we
may plainly see where  lies the guilt!

KING
Frederick, honourable man,
consider well whom you accuse!

FREDERICK
I am not misled by her dreamy manner;
you hear, she rambles about a lover!
For what I accuse her of I have firm grounds.
Her offence is proved to me beyond doubt;
but to dispel your doubts by calling a witness
would truly wound my pride!
Here I stand, here is my sword! Which of you
will venture to contest the price of my honour?

BRABANTINES
None of us! We will only fight on your behalf!

FREDERICK
And do you, O King, recall my service
when in battle I smote the savage Dane?

KING
It would be poor if I needed you to remind me!
Gladly I grant you the highest prize of virtue;
I would not have this country
in any other's care but yours.
God alone must now decide this case!

ALL THE MEN
May God decide! May God decide!
So be it!

KING
drawing his sword and solemnly thrusting it into the ground before him
I ask you, Frederick, Count of Telramund,
are you willing by mortal combat
to submit your cause to God's judgment?

FREDERICK
Yes.

KING
And now I ask you, Elsa of Brabant,
are you willing that in mortal combat
a champion shall defend your cause for God's judgment?

ELSA
Yes.

KING
Whom do you choose as your champion?

FREDERICK
You will now hear the name of her lover!

BRABANTINES
Mark it well!

ELSA
That knight will defend me,
he shall be my champion!
Hear what I offer as guerdon
to the one sent by God:
in my father's domains
he shall wear the crown;
I shall consider myself happy
if he accepts my property,
and if he wishes to make me his bride
I will give him myself as I am!

ALL THE MEN
A goodly prize, if he stands in God's grace!
The contender plays for high stakes!

KING
The sun already stands high at noon:
now is the time to issue the challenge.

The herald advances with the four trumpeters, whom he stations at the four points of the compass on the outside edge of the judgment circle and there bids them blow the challenge

HERALD
He who in heaven's name will do battle here
for Elsa of Brabant, let him stand forth!

ALL THE MEN
The challenge dies away unanswered.
It bodes ill for her cause.

FREDERICK
pointing to Elsa
Observe, did I charge her wrongly?
Right is on my side!

ELSA
Gracious king, let me beg you,
summon my knight once again!
Perhaps he dwells far off and did not hear.

KING
to the herald
Once more call him to the court!

At a sign from the herald the trumpeters take up their positions again at the four points of the compass

HERALD
He who in heaven's name will do battle here
for Elsa of Brabant, let him stand forth!

ALL THE MEN
God gives judgment by this doleful silence!

Elsa falls on her knees in fervent prayer. Her women, anxious for their mistress, move slightly nearer into the foreground

ELSA
Thou didst bear to him my lament,
to me he came at Thy behest.
O Lord, tell my knight
to help me in my need!
Let me see him as I saw him;
as I then saw him let him appear to me!

WOMEN
on their knees
Lord, send Thy aid!
Lord God, hear us!

Lohengrin becomes visible in the distance in a boat on the river, drawn by a swan

MEN
See! See! What a strange and wondrous sight!
What? A swan?
A swan is drawing a boat here!
A knight is standing upright in it!
How brightly shines his armour! My eye is dazzled
by its gleam! - See, he is already drawing nearer!
The swan draws him by a golden chain!
See, still nearer he comes towards the shore!
Behold him! He comes! A miracle has transpired,
A miracle such as we have not heard nor seen!

WOMEN
We thank Thee, Lord, who dost protect the weak!


SCENE THREE
The afore-mentioned, Lohengrin

ALL THE MEN AND WOMEN
Greetings, O hero sent by heaven!

The boat, drawn by the swan, reaches the bank, centre back; Lohengrin in gleaming silver armour, helmet on his head, shield on his back, a small golden horn at his side, is standing in it, leaning on his sword. Frederick stares at him in speechless astonishment, Ortrud, who during the hearing has retained a cold, haughty attitude, is struck with fearful terror at the sight of the swan. All uncover their heads in profound awe. As Lohengrin makes the first move to leave the boat, the most intense silence falls on all.

LOHENGRIN
one foot still in the boat, bending over the swan
My thanks to you, dear swan!
Glide back over the wide water to the place
from which your boat brought me;
return to where alone lies our happiness!
Then will your task be faithfully fulfilled.
Farewell, farewell, beloved swan!

The swan slowly turns the boat and swims back up the river. Lohengrin gazes sadly after it for a time.

MEN AND WOMEN
What sweet blissful awe seizes us! What gracious power
holds us in thrall! How handsome and noble of aspect is he
whom such a miracle brought to our land!

LOHENGRIN
who has left the bank and advanced slowly and solemnly to the front, making obeisance to the King
Hail, King Henry! May God
ever give His blessing to your sword!
Renowned and great may your name be,
never to vanish from this earth!

KING
My thanks! lf I rightly recognise
the power that brought you to this land,
you were sent to us by God?

LOHENGRIN
I am sent to stand champion
for a maid calumnied
by a grievous charge. Now let me see
if I find favour in he sight.
Then speak, Elsa of Brabant:
if I am appointed your champion,
will you without doubts or fears
entrust yourself to my protection?

ELSA
My hero, my rescuer, take me!
I give myself wholly to you, as I am.

LOHENGRIN
If I am victorious for you in the combat,
will you take me for your husband?

ELSA
As I lie at your feet,
so I freely give you my life and being.

LOHENGRIN
Elsa, if I am to be your husband
and defend your land and people,
and nothing is ever to tear me from you,
one thing you must solemnly promise me:
you must never ask me
or be at pains to discover
from whence I journeyed here,
nor what is my name and lineage!

ELSA
My lord, never shall this question come from me!

LOHENGRIN
Elsa, have you understood me well?
You must never ask me
or be at pains to discover
from whence I journeyed here,
nor what is my name and lineage!

ELSA
My shield! My angel! My deliverer,
who firmly believes in my innocence!
How could there be greater guilt
than a doubt that shakes my faith in you?
As you defend me in my need,
so will I honour your command!

LOHENGRIN
Elsa, I love you!

MEN AND WOMEN
What tender marvel do I see?
Is it a spell which binds me?
I feel my heart grow faint
at the sight of this noble, radiant knight!

LOHENGRIN
Now hear! To you, people and nobles, I proclaim:
Elsa of Brabant is free of all guilt!
Heaven's judgment shall make it known
that your charge is false, Count of Telramund!

BRABANTINE NOBLES
Call off the fight! If you challenge him,
you will never succeed in conquering him.
If he is protected by heaven's might,
then what avails your valiant sword?
Give up! We counsel you sincerely.
Disaster awaits you, and bitter regret.

FREDERICK
Far sooner die than turn tail!
Whatever sorcery has brought you here,
stranger with so bold a front,
your proud threats will never daunt me,
for I have never stooped to tell a lie.
Therefore I accept combat with you,
and may victory attend the cause of right!

LOHENGRIN
Now, O King, arrange the combat!

KING
Then let three stand forth for each champion
and measure well the ring for the fray!

Three Saxon nobles step forward for Lohengrin, three Brabantines for Frederick: solemnly they pace out the field of combat and mark it out, forming a complete circle, with their spears

HERALD
Now hear me and heed my words:
none with this fight shall interfere;
all shall remain outside the lists.
For whoever disturbs the peace,
if a freeman he shall lose a hand,
if a serf he shall forfeit his head!

ALL THE MEN
A freeman shall lose a hand,
a serf forfeit his head!

HERALD
to Lohengrin and Frederick
Hear me too, you who fight this cause!
Faithfully observe the rules of combat.
Do not deflect the course of justice
by evil magic arts or guile.
May God Judge you according to the right;
trust in Him, not in your strength!

LOHENGRIN AND FREDERICK
May God judge me according to the right;
I trust in Him, not in my strength!

KING
O Lord God, on Thee I call
All bare their heads and give themselves over to earnest devotion
to preside over this combat!
Through victory by the sword let Thy will be done
and falsehood and truth be clearly revealed!
Grant the righteous arm a hero's might
and let the strength of the wrong falter!
O help us, God, at this time,
for our wisdom is but foolishness!

ELSA AND LOHENGRIN
Thou wilt reveal Thy just decree, O Lord
and God, therefore I do not fear!

FREDERICK
I go forth, trusting in Thy decree!
Lord God, let me not be dishonoured!

ORTRUD
I place my trust in his strength,
which brings him victory whenever he fights.

HERALD AND ALL THE MEN
Grant the righteous arm a hero's might
and let the strength of the wrong falter!
Then reveal to us Thy just decree,
O Lord our God, do not delay!

ALL THE WOMEN
O Lord our God, favour him!

All return to their places in deep and solemn emotion. The six combat witnesses stand by their spears next to the ring, the other men crowd closely round them. Elsa and her women in the foreground with the King. At the herald's signal the trumpeters sound the call to combat: Lohengrin and Frederick complete the preparation of their weapons. -

The King pulls his sword from the ground and with it strikes three times on his shield, which is hanging on the oak-tree. At the first stroke Lohengrin and Frederick take up their positions for the fight, at the second they draw their swords and brandish them; at the third stroke they set to. Lohengrin attacks first. After several violent passages, Lohengrin with a tremendous blow fells his opponent. Frederick attempts to rise again, staggers a few paces backwards and falls to the ground. The King takes down his shield from the oak.

LOHENGRIN
holding his sword to Frederick's throat
By God's victory your life is forfeit to me:
I grant you it; devote it to repentance!

All the men return their swords to their scabbards: the combat witnesses take their spears from the earth. All, nobles and men alike, joyfully break into the former combat circle.

KING, MEN AND WOMEN
Hail! Hail! Hail to the hero!

The King leads Elsa to Lohengrin

ELSA
O that I could find songs of rejoicing
to match your fame,
worthy to acclaim you,
rich in highest praise!
In you I am lost,
before you I am as naught;
if I am to be blessed,
take me wholly, as I am!

LOHENGRIN
I gained the victory
only through your purity;
now shall you be richly recompensed
for all that you have suffered!

FREDERICK
Alas, God has struck me down;
through Him I am defeated.
I must despair of salvation,
I am ruined and disgraced.

ORTRUD
Who is it who has struck me down,
before whom I am helpless?
Must I despair before him
and all my hopes be dashed?

KING AND MEN
Raise a song of victory
loud in highest praise to the hero!
Acclaimed be your journey!
Praised be your coming!
Hail to your name,
protector of virtue!
You have defended
the right of the innocent;
praised be your coming!
Hail to your race!
To you alone we sing in celebration,
to you our songs resound!
Never will a hero like you
come to this land again!

WOMEN
O that I could find songs of rejoicing
to match his fame,
worthy to acclaim him,
rich in highest praise!
You have defended
the right of the innocent;
praised be your
coming!
Hail to your journey!

Young Saxons raise Lohengrin on his shield, and Brabantines Elsa on the King's shield, on which several have previously spread their cloaks; in this manner both are carried off amid rejoicing. Frederick falls unconscious at Ortrud's feet.





 Lohengrin postcard from around 1900, unknown artist

 


ACT TWO

 

In the citadel of Antwerp.

In the background, centre, the Palas (the knights' quarters), in the left foreground the Kemenate (the women's quarters), in the right foreground the gates of the cathedral. It is night. The windows of the Palas are brightly lit; from the Palas can be beard festive music, horns and trombones sounding gaily.

SCENE ONE
On the steps by the cathedral gates sit Frederick and Ortrud, both in dark, mean attire. Ortrud, resting her arm on her knee, gazes unwaveringly at the brightly lit windows of the Palas; Frederick looks gloomily at the ground.

FREDERICK
Arouse yourself, companion of my shame!
The dawning day must not find us here.

ORTRUD
I cannot stir; I am bound here.
From this lustre of our foes' revels
let me suck a fearful deadly poison
which will end our shame and their joy!

FREDERICK
Fiend in woman's shape, what is it
that still binds me to your side?
Why do I not leave you alone
and flee far, far away,
where my conscience could again find rest?
Through you I have lost
my honour and all my reputation;
never more shall praise crown me,
my heroism is dishonoured!
Banishment is pronounced on me,
my sword lies shattered,
my escutcheon stained,
my father’s home accursed!
Wherever I turn now
I am shunned and set apart;
even robbers avoid me
so that I shall not offend their sight.
Would that I had found death,
since I am so wretched!
I have lost my honour;
my name, my name is disgraced!

ORTRUD
What makes you waste yourself in such wild laments?

FREDERICK
That I have lost even the weapon
with which to strike you down!

ORTRUD
Why, great Count of Telramund,
have you lost faith in me?

FREDERICK
You ask me that?
Was it not your testimony, your story,
that inveigled me into accusing the innocent Elsa?
Did you not lie to me that from your secluded
castle home in the gloomy wood
you with your own eyes saw
the crime committed, how Elsa herself
drowned her brother in the pool? And did you
not seduce my proud heart with your prediction
that Radbod's ancient royal race soon
would flourish again and rule in Brabant?
Did you not thus induce me to renounce the hand
of the innocent Elsa and take you as wife,
as being Radbod's last descendant?

ORTRUD
Ah, how grievously you wound me!
Yes, all this I recounted and said to you.

FREDERICK
And made me, whose name was highly honoured,
whose life was the acme of all virtue,
the base accomplice of your lies?

ORTRUD
Who lied?

FREDERICK
You! Did not God in his judgment
strike me down because of this?

ORTRUD
God!

FREDERICK
O horror!
How hideous that name sounds from your lips!

ORTRUD
Ah, do you call your cowardice God?

FREDERICK
Ortrud!

ORTRUD
Would you threaten me? Threaten me, a woman?
Coward! If you had so fiercely threatened
him who now brings this misery on you,
victory, not shame, would have been yours.
Ah, one who knew how to oppose him
would find him weaker than a child!

FREDERICK
The weaker he is, the more
did God exert his might.

ORTRUD
His might? Ha ha!
Give me the power, and I will show you plainly
how feeble is the God who protects him.

FREDERICK
You heathen sorceress, would you once again
mislead my spirit by your arcane arts?

ORTRUD
The sated revellers are stretched out in sleep.
Sit here by me! The hour has come
for my prophetic vision to enlighten you.
During the following, Frederick comes closer and closer to Ortrud as if drawn to her in some sinister way, and bends his ear attentively to her.
Do you know who this hero is,
who was brought to this land by a swan?

FREDERICK
No!

ORTRUD
What would you give to learn it
if I told you that, were he forced
to disclose his name and race,
all his power, which a spell alone lends him,
would be at an end?

FREDERICK
Ah! Now I understand his prohibition.

ORTRUD
Now listen! No one has the power
to wrest his secret from him
but she whom he so firmly forbade
ever to question him.

FREDERICK
Then Elsa must be induced
not to refrain from asking him.

ORTRUD
Ah, you are quick to understand!

FREDERICK
But how can this be brought about?

ORTRUD
Hark! -
Above all, it is necessary not to fly
from here: so sharpen your wits!
To arouse her just suspicion
stand forth, charge him with sorcery,
by which he perverted the course of justice!

FREDERICK
Yes, fraud and sorcery!

ORTRUD
If that fails, there remains a means by force!

FREDERICK
By force?

ORTRUD
I have not delved deep
into the secret arts in vain;
so heed well what I tell you.
Any person deriving his strength from a spell
must at once, if he should lose
even the smallest part of his body,
reveal himself in all his weakness.

FREDERICK
O that what you say were true!

ORTRUD
Oh, had you in the fight cut off
only a finger, yes, even a finger-joint,
the hero would have been in your power!

FREDERICK
O horror! What are you telling me!
I thought I was struck down by God -
so His judgment was duped by a trick,
and my honour lost through magic's guile!
Then I could avenge my disgrace,
if I could attest my honesty!
I could break her lover's fraud
and retrieve my reputation!
O wife, whom I see before me in the darkness,
if this be further deceit, then woe to you! Woe!

ORTRUD
Oh how you rave! Be calm and reasonable!
I will teach you the sweet bliss of vengeance!

Frederick seats himself slowly at Ortrud's side on the steps

ORTRUD AND FREDERICK
Let the act of vengeance be conjured up
from the stormy darkness of my bosom!
Know, you who are lost in soft sleep,
that disaster awaits you!


SCENE TWO
Elsa appears on the balcony in a white robe: she comes forward to the balustrade and leans her head on her hand.
Frederick and Ortrud are sitting opposite her on the cathedral steps.

ELSA
You breezes, that my lamentation
often filled so sadly,
I must gratefully tell you
of the dawn of my happiness!
By you he was wafted here,
you smiled upon his journey:
you faithfully kept him safe
upon the stormy waves.
I often besought you
to dry my tears;
now come and cool
my cheeks, that burn with love!

ORTRUD
It is she!

FREDERICK
Elsa!

ORTRUD
She shall tue the hour in which
she now meets my eye. - Keep back!
Withdraw a while from here!

FREDERICK
Why?

ORTRUD
Leave her to me - her hero shall be your concern!

Frederick withdraws and disappears in the background

ORTRUD
remaining in the same place
Elsa!

ELSA
Who calls? - How sinister and mournful
is the sound of my name in the night!

ORTRUD
Elsa!
Is my voice so unknown to you?
Will you quite disown the wretch
you have consigned to utmost woe?

ELSA
Ortrud! Is it you?
What are you doing here, hapless woman?

ORTRUD
… "Hapless woman!"
You are indeed right to call me so!
In the lonely remoteness of the woods
where I lived quietly and in peace,
how, how did I harm you?
Joyless, only bewailing the ill-fate
which so long dogged my race,
how, how did I harm you?

ELSA
Before God, why do you reproach me?
Was it I who brought this grief upon you?

ORTRUD
How indeed could you envy my fortune
that the man you so lightly rejected
should choose me for his wife?

ELSA
Gracious heaven! Why this to me?

ORTRUD
Misled by some fatal delusion, he was led
to bring a charge against your innocence;
now his heart is rent with remorse,
and he is condemned to fearful punishment.

ELSA
O righteous God!

ORTRUD
Ah, you are happy!
After brief undeserved suffering
you see life only smiling on you;
you can calmly turn away from me
and consign me to the road to death,
so that the sad sound of my distress
shall never cloud your rejoicing!

ELSA
How little would I prize Thy blessings,
Almighty God, who hast been so gracious to me,
if I thrust from me the adversity
which kneels before me in the dust!
O never! Ortrud! Wait there for me!
I myself will let you in!

She hurries back into the Kemenate

ORTRUD
springing up from the steps in fierce exaltation
Now aid my vengeance, ye dishonoured gods!
Punish the disgrace brought upon you here!
Strengthen me in the Service of your holy cause!
Destroy the vile beIiefs of the apostates!
Wodan the mighty, I call on thee!
Freia the sublime, hear me!
Bless me with guile and deceit,
that my revenge may be sweet!

ELSA
Ortrud, where are you?

Elsa and two maidservants with candles come out of the lower door of the Kemenate

ORTRUD
humbly throwing herself at Elsa's feet
Here at your feet.

ELSA
Great heavens! Must I now see you thus,
whom I have seen only in pride and pomp?
My heart will be choked
to see you so humbled near me!
Arise! Spare me your entreaties!
If you bore me hate, I forgive you;
for what through me you have already suffered
I beg you to forgive me too.

ORTRUD
O thank you for all your goodness!

ELSA
I will implore the loving heart of him
who tomorrow is to be my husband
to show mercy to Frederick too.

ORTRUD
You bind me in bonds of gratitude!

ELSA
Early tomorrow let me see you ready -
decked in fine raiment
you shall go with ine to the cathedral.
There I am to await my hero,
to be bis lawful wife in the sight of God.

ORTRUD
How can I, powerless and desolate,
repay such graciousness?
If I may dwell within your mercy
I will always be your humble debtor!
One power only was given me
that no decree of law could take from me:
by it perhaps I can protect your welfare
and preserve it from grief and distress.

ELSA
What do you mean?

ORTRUD
It were well I should warn you
not to trust too blindly in your happiness;
lest some misfortune should befall you,
let me look into the future for you.

ELSA
What misfortune?

ORTRUD
Have you never reflected
that he of such mysterious lineage
might leave you in the same way
as by magic he came to you?

ELSA
Poor woman, you can never measure
how free of doubt is my heart!
You have indeed never known the happiness
that only faith can give.
Come in with me! Let me teach you
how sweet is the bliss of perfect trust!
Let yourself be converted to faith:
it brings happiness without alloy!

ORTRUD
Ha! This pride of hers shall teach me
how to undermine her trust!
Against it I will turn her own weapon:
through her pride shall come her pain!

Led by Elsa, she enters through the little door with feigned reluctance; the servants light the way and close the door behind them

FREDERICK
coming forward from the background
Thus disaster enters this house!
Accomplish, wife, what your cunning devised;
I have no power to hinder your design!
The disaster began with my defeat;
now let those who brought me down be overthrown!
Only one goal I see before me -
the despoiler of my honour shall be destroyed!


SCENE THREE
Day gradually dawns. Two watchmen blow a reveille from the tower: an answer is heard from a distant tower. Retainers. The four royal trumpeters. Brabantine nobles and soldiers.

NOBLES AND SOLDIERS
The early summons assembles us;
the day is rich in promise.
He who wrought such mighty marvels
may bring about many fresh deeds.

The herald marches out of the Palas, preceded by the four trumpeters. The royal fanfare is sounded again.

HERALD
I now proclaim the King's decree and will;
so heed well what he pronounces through me!
Frederick of Telramund is banished and outlawed
for faithlessly daring God's ordeal.
By the law of the kingdom the same ban falls
on whoever harbours him or consorts with him.

MEN
A curse on him, the traitor,
whom God's judgment struck down!
Let all honest men shun him,
and may he find no rest or sleep!

HERALD
And further the King proclaims
that he appoints the God-sent stranger
who seeks Elsa as his consort
to the land and crown of Brabant.
But since the hero does not wish the title of Duke,
you shall call him Protector of Brabant!

MEN
Hail the man we have longed for!
Hail to him, sent by God!
Loyally will we serve
the Protector of Brabant!

HERALD
Now hear what he proclaims through me.
Today he celebrates his wedding feast with you,
but tomorrow you shall come prepared for war,
to serve in the forces of the King;
he himself disdains to seek soft rest
but will lead you to fame and glory!

MEN
To battle without delay
our hero leads us on!
The path to glory awaits
those who bravely fight with him.
He is sent by God
for the greatness of Brabant!

While the people are surging about joyously, four nobles,former adherents of Frederick, together move to the front

3RD NOBLE
You hear, he will lead us away from our land!

2ND NOBLE
Against a foe who never threatened us?

4TH NOBLE
So rash a beginning is not meet for him!

1ST NOBLE
Who will oppose him if he orders us to set forth?

FREDERICK
who has appeared among them unperceived
I will!
he uncovers his face

THE FOUR NOBLES
falling back, startled
Ha, who are you? - Frederick!

4TH NOBLE
Do I see aright?

THE FOUR NOBLES
You venture here, a prey to any serf?

FREDERICK
Soon I will venture much further yet;
before your eyes daylight shall shine!
He who so rashly summons you to the campaign
will be accused by me of sorcery!

THE FOUR NOBLES
What do I hear? You are raving! What do you intend?
You are lost if you are overheard!

They hurry Frederick towards the cathedral, where they try to hide him from the sight of the crowd. Four pages enter through the door of the Kemenate on to the balconv, run gaily down the stairway and station themselves in front of the Palas on the terrace.

PAGES
Make room for our lady Elsa,
who is on her way to the cathedral!

They move forward, making a broad passage through the nobles, who readily yield, to the steps of the cathedral where they take up their positions. Four other pages advance with measured and solemn steps from the Kemenate to the balcony and station themselves there, ready to accompany the  expected procession of ladies.


SCENE FOUR
A long procession of ladies in splendid attire advances slowly from the door of the Kemenate on to the balcony: it turns left past the stairway of the Palas and thence forward again to the cathedral, on the steps of which the first comers arrange themselves.

NOBLES AND SOLDIERS
Blessed be her steps
who so long suffered in humility!
May God guide her
and lead her on her way.

The nobles, who have involuntarily pressed forward, again give way before the pages, who make room for the procession, which has almost arrived before the Palas. Elsa, magnificently dressed, has appeared in the procession and has now reached the terrace in front of the Palas: the path is again open, and all can see Elsa, who lingers awhile.

She approaches, the angelic one,
glowing with radiant purity!

MEN AND WOMEN
Hail, Elsa of Brabant,
rich in virtue!

Here, as well as the pages, the foremost ladies have almost reached the steps of the cathedral. As Elsa, amid loud acclamation from the crowd, is about to set her foot on the first step of the cathedral, Ortrud, who has hitherto walked among the last ladies in the procession, breaks forward violently, advancing towards Elsa and stationing herself on the same step, confronting her, thus forcing her to retreat.

ORTRUD
Stand back, Elsa! No longer will I endure it,
that I should follow you like a menial!
At all times you owe me precedence,
and must humbly bow before me!

PAGES AND MEN
What does the woman want? Get back!

ELSA
Great heaven! What is this?
What sudden change has come over you?

ORTRUD
Because for an hour I forgot my position
do you think that I must only cringe before you?
I intend to have revenge for my suffering;
I demand what is mine by right!

ELSA
Ah! I was misled by your deceit
when last night you crept lamenting to me.
How can you now arrogantly walk before me,
the wife of one condemned by God?

ORTRUD
Although false judgment has condemned my husband,
his name was highly honoured in the land;
he was called the crown of all virtue,
his valiant sword was known and feared.
But yours, who here can know him
if you yourself may not call him by his name?

MEN
What is this? What is she saying?

WOMEN AND PAGES
This is slander!

ALL
Close her mouth!

ORTRUD
Can you name him? Can you tell us
whether his lineage, his nobility, is well attested,
from whence the waters brought him to you,
when he will leave you again, and for where?
Ah no! It would bring disaster on him –
so the crafty hero forbade the question!

MEN, WOMEN AND PAGES
Does she speak the truth? This is a serious charge!
She slanders him! How can she dare?

ELSA
Slanderer! Wicked woman!
Hear, if I can trust myself to answer!
So pure and noble is his nature,
so virtuous this exalted being,
that none who can doubt his mission
shall ever be free from ill-fortune.

MEN
'Tis true!

ELSA
Did not my dear hero, with God's help,
strike down your husband in the combat?
Now let all say, in justice,
which alone can be innocent?

MEN
Only he! Only he!

WOMEN, PAGES AND MEN
The hero alone!

ORTRUD
Ha, how soon would this innocence
of your hero be besmirched
if he had to reveal the magic craft
by which he wields such power here!
If you do not dare to question him
we shall all believe, with right
that you yourself falter in misgiving,
and have little confidence in his innocence!

WOMEN
Shield her from this wildcat's hate!

The Palas is opened; the four trumpeters of the King appear and blow a fanfare

MEN
Make way! Make way! The King approaches!


SCENE FIVE
The King, Lohengrin and the Saxon Counts and nobles advance in solemn procession from the Palas, their progress is hindered by the confusion in the foreground.
The King and Lohengrin press forward quickly through the disordered crowd.

BRABANTINFS
Hail! Hail to the King!
Hail to the Protector of Brabant!

KING
What is this strife?

ELSA
My lord! O my master!

LOHENGRIN
What is it?

KING
Who dares to bar our path to the church?

THE KING'S FOLLOWERS
What is the strife whose sound has reached us?

LOHENGRIN
perceiving Ortrud
What do I see? That fatal woman by you?

ELSA
My rescuer! Protect me from this woman!
Chide me if I disobeyed you!
I saw her lamenting before these doors
and in her distress took her in with me.
Now see how ill she requites my kindness –
she taunts me with trusting you too much!

LOHENGRIN
You evil woman, stand away from her!
Here you shall never triumph! –
Tell me, Elsa, has her poison
succeeded in entering your heart?
Elsa, weeping, hides her face against his breast
Come, let these tears flow in joy within!

He turns with Elsa and the King at the head of the procession towards the cathedral; all prepare to follow in an orderly manner. Frederick appears on the cathedral steps; the ladies and pages, as they recognise him, shrink back from him in horror.

FREDERICK
O King! Deluded nobles! Stay your steps!

KING
What would he here?

MEN
What would he here?
Away, accursed one!

FREDERICK
O hear me!

KING
Back! Away with you!

MEN
Away! Your life is forfeit!

FREDERICK
Hear me! You have done me grievous wrong!

KING
Away!

MEN
Away! Be off with you!

FREDERICK
God's judgment was profaned and cheated!
You have been deluded by a sorcerer’s craft!

MEN
Seize the criminal!

KING
Seize the criminal!

MEN
Hark, he blasphemes God!

They set on him from all sides

FREDERICK
with frantic efforts to make himself heard, fixing his eyes only on Lohengrin and ignoring those pressing about him
He whom I see gleaming there before me
I accuse of sorcery!
Like dust before the winds of God shall the power
he won by guile be blown away!
How ill you considered the judgment
that deprived me of my honour,
since one question you spared him
when he entered the lists.
That question you cannot prevent me
from putting to him now:
loudly before the whole world I ask
his name, rank and lineage!
Who is he who was drawn by a wild swan
swimming to the land?
I regard the purity of one who avails himself
of such familiars as an illusion!
Now let him answer my charge;
if he does, I was rightly judged -
if not, then it is clear to see
his innocence has no foundation!

KING AND MEN
A weighty charge!

MEN, WOMEN AND PAGES
What will be his answer?

LOHENGRIN
I am not answerable to you,
who so forgot your honour!
I may disregard the doubts of evil men,
before which innocence shall never weaken.

FREDERICK
If I am considered unworthy by him,
I will invoke you, revered King!
Will he also call you degraded
and forbid you to question him?

LOHENGRIN
Yes, I would deny even the King
and the noble assembly of all the princes!
They need not bear the burden of any doubt,
for they saw the worth of my deed!
There is one only to whom I am bound to answer:
Elsa …
Elsa - why are you trembling?
I see her sunk in gloomy brooding:
has hate's lying tongue deceived her?
O heaven! Shield her heart from dangers!
Never let doubt penetrate her innocence!

FREDERICK AND ORTRUD
I see her sunk in gloomy brooding,
the seeds of doubt are sown in her heart;
he who has brought me low in this country
is undone if she puts the question to him!

KING AND ALL THE MFN
What a secret the hero must conceal!
If it brings him ill let bis lips guard it close!
We will protect him, this noble knight, from danger:
through his deeds he has shown his nobility.

ELSA
What he conceals would certainly bring him into danger
if his lips were to utter it here before all the world;
I, whom he saved, ungrateful that I am,
would be betraying him to have him make it known.
If I knew bis destiny I would keep the secret faithfully,
yet doubt stirs in the depths of my heart.

KING
My hero, boldly defy this traitor!
You are too noble to let his charge dismay you!

MEN
pressing round Lohengrin
We stand by you; we shall not regret
having recognised in you the crown of heroism!
Give us your hand! We have faith in you,
and noble is your name, though it be unknown to us.

LOHENGRIN
You heroes, you shall not regret your faith,
though my name and lineage never be made known to you!

While Lohengrin, surrounded by men, each of whose outstretched hands he shakes, remains rather more in the background, Frederick creeps unobserved up to Elsa, who has hitherto through agitation, confusion and shame not been able to look at Lohengrin and so, struggling with herself, still stands alone in the foreground.

FREDERICK
softly, breaking in on Elsa with passion
Trust in me! Let me tell you a way
of obtaining certainty.

ELSA
Away from me!

FREDERICK
Let me but wound the smallest part of him,
a finger tip, and I swear to you
that what he hides will be made plain to you,
and he will be faithful and never leave you!

ELSA
Ah! No more!

FREDERICK
I shall be near you tonight;
shouldst thou call, ‘tis quickly done without harm.

LOHENGRIN
Elsa, with whom are you speaking?
Elsa turns away from Frederick with a look full of doubt and distress and falls at Lohengrin's feet, deeply affected. To Frederick and Ortrud.
Away from her, traitors!
Let me never again
see you near her!
Elsa, arise! In your hands, in your trust
lies the guarantee of all out happiness.
Are you not yielding to the power of doubt?
Do you wish to question me?

ELSA
My saviour, who rescued me!
My hero, in whom is my whole life!
My love shall stand high
above all the power of doubt!

LOHENGRIN
Beloved Elsa! Now let us go before God!

MEN
See, he is sent by heaven!

WOMEN AND PAGES
Hail! Hail!

Lohengrin solemnly leads Elsa past the nobles to the King. As Lohengrin comes by with Elsa, the people make way respectfully.

MEN
Hail to the pair! Hail, Elsa of Brabant!
Conducted by the King, Lohengrin and Elsa slowly advance to the cathedral
Heaven bless your steps!
May God guide you!

MEN, WOMEN AND PAGES
Hail, flower of virtue!
Hail, Elsa of Brabant!

As the King reaches the highest step with the bridal pair, Elsa turns in deep emotion to Lohengrin, who takes her in his arms. From his embrace she turns in modest confusion, and looking down the steps to the right sees Ortrud, who raises her arm against her as if she had gained a victory; Elsa averts her face in terror.

 



Lohengrin by Ferdinand Leeke




ACT THREE

 

Prelude

The introductory music depicts the brilliant bustle of the wedding feast. The stage shows the bridal chamber: in the background, centre, the richly decorated bridal bed; by an open bay-window a low couch. Music behind the scenes: the choir is distant at first, then draws nearer.

SCENE ONE
In the middle of the song doors right and left in the background are opened: from the right enter ladies conducting Elsa, from the left men, including the King, conducting Lohengrin. Pages go ahead with lights.

BRIDAL SONG
by men and women
Guided in faith, enter within,
where may the blessing of love attend you!
Victorious valour and the prize of love
unite you in trust as a blessed pair.
Champion of virtue, advance!
Flower of youth, advance!
Let the sound of revelry be shut out
and your heart's bliss be attained!
Now, removed from sight, take possession
Of this perfumed chamber, decked for love.
Guided in faith, now enter within,
where may the blessing of love attend you!
Victorious valour and pure love
unite you in trust as a blessed pair.

As the two trains meet in the middle of the stage Elsa is led to Lohengrin

EIGHT LADIES
As God has given you His blessing
we too wish you happiness.
Long remember this hour
in the course of love's Joy!

The King embraces and blesses Lohengrin and Elsa. The pages give the signal to leave. The processions re-form and during the following pass by the newly married pair so that the men leave the chamber on the right, the ladies on the left.

BRIDAL SONG
Guided in faith, stay within,
where may the blessing of love attend you!
Victorlous valour, love and happiness
unite you in trust as a blessed pair.
Champion of virtue, here remain!
Flower of youth, here remain!
Let the sound of revelry be shut out
and your heart's bliss be attained!
Now, removed from sight, take possession
of this perfumed chamber, decked for love.


SCENE TWO
Elsa, Lohengrin

LOHENGRIN
The sweet song dies away; we are alone,
alone for the first time since we saw each other.
Now we can be remote from the world,
no listener near our heart's avowals.
Elsa, my wife! Sweetest, purest bride!
Confide to me now whether you are happy!

ELSA
How cold I would be to call myself merely happy,
when I possess all heaven's bliss!
When I feel my heart so sweetly inflamed for you,
I breathe a rapture only God can grant!

LOHENGRIN
Fair one, you may indeed call yourself happy,
since you bestow me heaven's bliss too!
When I feel my heart so sweetly inflamed for you,
I breathe a rapture only God can grant!
How wondrous do I find the course of our love!
We had never met, yet each knew the other;
if I was selected for your champion,
love had prepared my way to you.
Your looks proclaimed you free from guilt –
your gaze compelled me to serve your grace.

ELSA
But I had already seen you before;
in a blissful dream you had appeared to me;
when I awoke and saw you standing before me
I knew that you had come by God's command.
Then I wished I could melt before your gaze
and like a stream flow round about your steps;
like a flower scenting the meadow, I wished
enraptured to bend before your tread.
Is this but love? What can I call it,
this word so inexpressibly blissful,
like your name, ah! which I may never know,
by which I may never call my dearest!

LOHENGRIN
Elsa!

ELSA
How sweetly my name glides from your lips!
Do you grudge me the dear sound of yours?
Only when we have attained the silence of love
shall you permit my lips to utter it.

LOHENGRIN
My dearest wife!

ELSA
… Alone, when no one is awake,
never to be breathed to the world's ear!

LOHENGRIN
gently embracing her and pointing through the open window to the flower garden
Do you not breathe, with tue, those sweet scents?
O how they intoxicate the senses!
In secret they approach on the air
and unquestioningly I surrender to their spell.
Such is the spell that binds me to you,
sweet one, since first I saw you;
I needed not to know your station;
my eyes fell on you and my heart went out to you.
As these scents bewitch my senses,
though they rise from the mysterious night,
so did your innocence enchant me
though I saw you suspected of a heinous crime.

ELSA
Ah, if I could appear worthy of you
my life would not be in vain;
could some service bind me to you
I would gladly suffer for you!
As you found me in grievous plight
O could I know you too in need!
Would that I knew a danger threatening you,
so that I might courageously share your cares!
Is your secret such
that your lips are closed to all the world?
Perhaps some peril awaits you
were it made known to all the world?
O were it so and I allowed to know it,
if it were given into my keeping,
no threat could tear it from me;
for you I would gladly die!

LOHENGRIN
Beloved!

ELSA
O make me proud by your confidence,
that I may not die untrusted!
Let your secret be revealed to me,
that I may fully know who you are!

LOHENGRIN
Ah, silence, Elsa!

ELSA
O reveal your noble worth
to my trust!
Tell me without demur from whence you came -
let me prove my power of silence! 

LOHENGRIN
You have already to thank nie for the utmost trust
when I gladly put my faith in your word;
if you will never waver from my behest
I will esteem you high above all women!
Upon my breast, sweet innocent,
draw near to my glowing heart;
softly shine on me your eyes,
in which I saw all my happiness!
O grant me the rapture
of breathing your breath;
let me press you ever closer to me,
that in you I may find my happiness!
Your love will amply requite me
for what I gave up for your sake;
no fortune in God's wide world
could be called nobler than mine.
Were the King to offer me his crown
I would rightly disdain it.
The one thing to repay my sacrifice
I find in your love!
Then cast away all doubt;
let your love be my proud surety!
For I come not from night and woe
but from light and bliss!

ELSA
O heaven, what must I hear?
What have your lips revealed?
You wished to beguile me
but now bring me misery!
The life you had forsaken
was filled with perfect joy;
for me you gave up bliss
and you yearn to go back!
How can I believe
that my poor trust is sufficient?
One day regret for your love
will take you from me!

LOHENGRIN
Do not torment yourself like this!

ELSA
But you torment me!
Must I count the days
that you will still remain with me?
In anxiety over your staying
my cheeks will fade;
then you will hasten from me
and I be left in despair!

LOHENGRIN
Never will your charms fade
while you remain free from doubt!

ELSA
Ah, how can I obtain the power
to bind you to me?
Magical in your being,
by magic you came here;
how could I free myself from it?
Where could I find reassurance? –
Do you hear nothing? Nothing approaching?

LOHENGRIN
Elsa!

ELSA
Ah no!
Yet there - the swan, the swan!
There it comes gliding across the water -
you call it - it draws the boat hither!

LOHENGRIN
Elsa! No more! Calm these fancies!

ELSA
Nothing can bring me calm,
nothing can banish my fancies
save - though it cost my life –
to know who you are!

LOHENGRIN
Elsa, heed my warning!

ELSA
Dear man of dread,
hear what I must ask you!
Tell me your name!

LOHENGRIN
No more!

ELSA
Whence have you come?

LOHENGRIN
Alas!

ELSA
What is your lineage?

LOHENGRIN
Alas! What have you done?

Elsa, standing in front of Lohengrin, who has his back to the rear, notices Frederick and his four companions, who break in with drawn swords through a rear door

ELSA
giving a fearful cry
Save yourself! Your sword, your sword!

She hurriedly hands Lohengrin his sword, which is resting against the couch, so that he can swiftly draw it from the scabbard, which she holds. Lohengrin strikes Frederick, who has raised his arm to him, dead on the ground with one blow; the terrified nobles let fall their swords and sink on their knees at Lohengrin's feet. Elsa, who had thrown herself upon Lohengrin's breast, slowly sinks unconscious to the ground.

LOHENGRIN
Alas, now all our happiness is over!

He bends down to Elsa, gently picks her up and places her on the couch

ELSA
Eternal Father, have mercy on me!

Day is gradually beginning to break: the candles, which have burned down low, are about to go out. At a sign from Lohengrin the four knights rise.

LOHENGRIN
Carry the dead man to the King's judgment seat!
Array Elsa, my sweet bride,
to be led before the King.
There I will prepare to answer her,
that she may know her husband's lineage!


Change of scene

The meadow on the banks of the Scheldt.
Rosy dawn; full daylight breaks gradually.

SCENE THREE
A Count enters with his followers, dismounts from his horse and entrusts it to a squire. Two pages bring him his shield and spear. He sets up his standard, around which his followers assemble. As a second Count appears on the meadow in the same way as the first, the trumpets of a third are already heard approaching. A third Count enters in similar fashion with his train. The new troops gather round their standards; the Counts and nobles greet each other, examine and admire their weapons, etc. A fourth Count enters from the right with fis followers and stations himself centrally in the background. On hearing the trumpets of the King all hasten to range themselves round their banners. The King with his Saxon forces enters from the left.

ALL THE MFN
Hail, King Henry!
King Henry, hail!

KING
I thank you, my loving subjects of Brabant!
How I would feel my heart swell with pride
to find in every German land
so many valiant forces!
Now let out kingdom's foe draw near
and we will boldly meet him:
from his Eastern desert he shall never more
dare to venture here!
For German land the German sword!
Thus may our kingdom's strength be ensured!

ALL THE MEN
For German land the German sword!
Thus may our kingdom's strength be ensured!

KING
Where lingers he whom God sent
for the glory and greatness of Brabant?

A slight stir has occurred; the four Brabantine nobles bring in Frederick's covered body on a bier and put it down in the middle of the stage. All gaze at it uneasily and questioningly.

MEN
What have they brought?

OTHERS
What is their news?

A THIRD GROUP
They are Telramund's men!

KING
Whom have you brought here? What must I see?
Your look fills me with dread!

THE FOUR NOBLES
Thus wills the Protector of Brabant:
he will make known who this is.

Elsa enters, followed by a long train of ladies

MEN
See! The virtuous Elsa approaches!

OTHERS
How pale and troubled her face is!

KING
Why do I see you so sad?
Does parting grieve you so?

SOME VOICES
Make way for the hero of Brabant!

ALL THE MEN
Hail to the hero of Brabant!

The King has resumed his place under the oak. Lohengrin, in armour exactly as in Act 1, enters solemnly and sadly, unattended.

KING
Welcome, dear hero!
Those whom you so faithfully called to the field
await you, eager for action,
sure of victory with you to lead them.

BRABANTINES
We await you, eager for action,
sure of victory with you to lead us.

LOHENGRIN
My lord and King, I must declare
that I may not lead those I summoned,
these valiant heroes, into battle!

KING AND MEN
Heaven preserve us! His words fall heavy on our ears!

WOMEN
Heaven preserve us!

LOHENGRIN
I have not come here as your companion in arms:
behold me now as a plaintiff before you.
He uncovers Frederick's body, from the sight of which all turn away in aversion
Firstly, I appeal aloud to you all
and ask your judgment according to right and law:
this man fell upon me by night;
say if I was right to strike him dead?

KING AND ALL THE MEN
As your hand struck him on earth,
so may God's punishment be visited on him!

LOHENGRIN
Yet another charge I must bring before you
and now proclaim to all the world,
that the wife whom God gave to me
let herself be misled into betraying me.

KING
Elsa! How could you commit this wrong?

MEN
Elsa! How could this happen?
How could you commit this wrong?

WOMEN
Woe on you, Elsa!

LOHENGRIN
You all heard how she promised me
never to ask who I was?
Now she has broken her solemn oath
and given her faith to perfidious counsel!
To reward the wild questions of her mistrust
let the answer be kept from her no longer:
an enemy's pressure I withstood -
now I must disclose my name and rank.
Now mark well whether I need shun the daylight:
before the whole world, before King and kingdom
I will reveal my secret in all frankness.
Then hear whether I am not as noble as any of you!

KING AND ALL THE MEN
What wondrous story shall we now hear?
O could he spare himself this enforced avowal!

LOHENGRIN
In a distant land, unapproachable to your steps,
lies a castle called Montsalvat;
within it stands a gleaming temple
whose like for splendour is unknown on earth;
therein is kept as the holiest of treasures
a vessel blessed with miraculous powers:
it was brought down by an angelic host
to be tended in purity by men.
Each year a dove descends from heaven
to renew its wondrous strength.
It is called the Grail, and blessed pure faith
is bestowed by it on its votaries.
He who is chosen to serve the Grail
it arms with supernatural might;
against him all evil deceit is vain,
before him even the darkness of death yields.
Even one sent by it into distant lands,
called upon as champion for the cause of virtue,
does not lose its holy power
if he remains there unknown as its knight.
Of so rare a nature is the Grail's benediction
that it must be veiled from profane eyes:
you must not then harbour doubts of its knight,
and if he is recognised he must leave you.
Now hear how I answer the forbidden question!
I was sent here among you by the Grail:
my father Parzival wears its crown;
his knight am I, and Lohengrin my name.

KING, MEN AND WOMEN
As I hear his lofty calling
my eyes burn with tears of holy joy.

ELSA
The earth is reeling! All is dark!
Air! Give me air, wretch that I am!

LOHENGRIN
O Elsa! What have you done to me?
When my eyes first lighted on you
I felt myself burning with love for you
and swiftly learned a new happiness.
The sacred power, the wonder of my order,
the strength with which my secret arms me,
I wished to dedicate to the service of that purest heart:
Why did you wring that secret from me?
Now, alas, I must be parted from you!

KING AND ALL THE MEN
Alas! Must you leave us,
noblest of men, heaven-sent?
If heaven's blessing is taken from us
where then shall we find consolation?

ELSA
My husband, no! I cannot let you go!
Stay and witness my contrition!
You cannot disregard my bitter remorse:
at your feet I await my punishment!

WOMEN
Alas! Now he must leave you!

LOHENGRIN
I must, I must, sweetest wife!
The Grail is already wroth that I stay away so long.

ELSA
If you are as godlike as I know you to be,
do not thust heaven's mercy from you!
If the culprit bitterly repents her deep offence,
do not deny her the grace of your presence!
Do not spurn me, however great my crime!
Do not forsake me in my wretchedness!

LOHENGRIN
There is but one punishment for your offence –
ah! its sharp pain strikes me along with you!
We are to be separated and parted:
this must be our punishment, this our penance!

KING AND NOBLES
O stay! Do not forsake us!
Your soldiers await their leader!

LOHENGRIN
Hear, O King! I cannot go with you!
A knight of the Grail, once recognised,
were he disobediently to fight for you,
would be deprived of all his manhood's strength!
Yet, great King, let me prophesy to you:
a great victory will be granted to your just cause!
Eastern hordes shall never, even in the furthest
days to come, win victory over German lands!

Great excitement. On the river the swan is seen arriving  with the empty boat, in the same way as at Lohengrin's first appearance.

MEN
The swan! The swan!
See it coming back!

WOMEN
The swan! Alas, it approaches!

ELSA
O horror! The swan!

LOHENGRIN
The Grail has sent for its loitering knight!
Amid intense suspense from the rest, Lohengrin goes towards the bank and bends down to the swan, gazing at it sadly
Beloved swan!
Ah, how gladly would I have spared you
this last sad journey!
A year hence, when your term
of service would have been at an end,
I would have seen you again,
transformed and freed by the Grail's might!
He turns back to Elsa in an outburst of violent grief
O Elsa! Had I but for a year at your side
been witness of your happiness!
Then would your brother, whom you believed dead,
have returned, safe in the Grail's keeping.
handing his horn, sword and ring to Elsa
If he returns, though I shall be living far away,
you shall give him this horn, this sword, this ring.
This horn will bring him aid in danger,
in the heat of battle this sword will grant him victory:
as for the ring, let it remind him of me,
who once freed you from shame and distress!
Farewell! Farewell, my sweetest wife!
Farewell! The Grail will be wroth if I stay longer!

KING, MEN AND WOMEN
Alas! Noble, gracious knight!
What hardship you cause us!

ORTRUD
Go home! Go home, proud hero,
and let me joyfully tell your foolish bride
who it is that draws your boat!
From the chains I wound around him
I knew full well who this swan was:
he is the heir of Brabant!

ALL
What!

ORTRUD
to Elsa
My thanks for driving the knight away!
The swan is carrying him homeward:
had the hero stayed longer
he would also have freed your brother!

ALL
Monster of womankind! What a crime
you have admitted in your shameless exultation!

ORTRUD
See how the gods take their revenge
for your having turned away from them!

She remains standing erect in savage ecstasy. Lohengrin, who has already reached the bank, has listened intently to Ortrud and now solemnly sinks to his knees in silent prayer. All eyes are fixed on him in breathless anticipation. - The white dove of the Grail descends and hovers over the boat. Lohengrin, perceiving it, springs up with a look of gratitude and unfastens the chain from the swan, whereupon it immediately plunges beneath the water. In its place Lohengrin lifts a handsome youth in gleaming silver garments - Godfrey - from the river on to the bank.

LOHENGRIN
Behold the Duke of Brabant!
Let him be proclaimed your leader!

At the sight of Godfrey, Ortrud sinks down with a shriek. Lohengrin quickly springs into the boat, which the dove has seized by its chain and now draws away. Elsa, with a sudden access of joy gazes at Godfrey, who comes forward and makes obeisance to the King. All watch him in delighted surprise, the Brabantines bowing the knee to him in homage. Then Godfrey hastens into Elsa's arms: she, after a brief transport of joy, quickly turns her gaze towards the shore, where Lohengrin is no longer to be seen.

ELSA
My husband! My husband!

Lohengrin becomes visible again in the distance. He is standing with drooping head in the boat, sadly leaning on his shield.

ELSA
Ah!

KING, MEN AND WOMEN
Alas!

Elsa slowly sinks lifeless to the ground in Godfrey's arms

 
 
 



STORIES OF THE WAGNER OPERA

BY
H.A. GUERBER


LOHENGRIN.

During a summer vacation at Teplitz in Bohemia, in 1845, Wagner wrote the first sketch of the opera of ‘Lohengrin.’ The poem was written at Dresden in 1845, but the score was finished only in 1848. The opera was first performed at Weimar in 1850, under the leadership of Liszt, who was greatly interested in it, and determined to make it a success.

The poet composer had taken the idea for this poem from a mediæval legend, based upon the old Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche. Its poetical and musical possibilities immediately struck him, and when the opera was first played to an audience composed of musical and literary people from all parts of Europe, whom Liszt had invited to be present, it produced ‘a powerful impression.’ From the memorable night of its first performance ‘dates the success of the Wagner movement in Germany.’ During the next nine years this opera was given in fourteen different cities, and Wagner, who was then a political exile, is reported to have sadly remarked, ‘I shall soon be the only German who has not heard Lohengrin.’ It was in 1861, eleven years after its first performance, that he finally heard it for the first time in Vienna.

This opera won for Wagner not only lasting fame, but also the enthusiastic admiration of the young Ludwig of Bavaria. Such was the impression this work made upon the young prince, who first heard it when he was only sixteen, that he resolved to do all in his power to help the composer. Three years later he succeeded to the throne of Bavaria as Ludwig II., and one of the first independent acts of his reign was to send a messenger to invite the master to come and dwell at his court, and to assure him a yearly pension from his private purse. The young king was so infatuated with the story of ‘Lohengrin’ that he not only had his residence decorated with paintings and statues representing different episodes of the opera, but used also to sail about his lake, dressed in the Swan Knight's costume, in a boat drawn by ingeniously contrived mechanical swans. The story of this opera is as follows:—

Henry I., the Fowler, Emperor of Germany, about to make war against the Hungarians who threaten to invade his realm, comes to Antwerp to collect his troops, and to remind all the noblemen of Brabant of their allegiance to him.

The opera opens with the trumpet call of the heralds, and by Henry's speech to the assembled noblemen, who enthusiastically promise him the support of their oft-tried arms. The king, who is pleased with their readiness to serve him, then informs them that he has heard rumours of trouble in their midst, and that by right of his office as high justice of the realm he would fain bring peace among them. He therefore summons Frederick of Telramund, the guardian of the dukedom of Brabant, to state the cause of dissension. This nobleman relates how the dying Duke of Brabant confided his children, Elsa and Godfrey, to his care, how tenderly he watched over them, and how much sorrow he felt when the young heir, having gone out in the forest to walk with his sister one day, failed to return. Frederick of Telramund then goes on, and tells how he could not but suspect Elsa of her brother's murder. He had therefore renounced her hand, which he had once hoped to win, had married Ortrud, daughter of Radbod, the heathen king and former possessor of all this tract of land, which he now claims as his own by right of inheritance.

The people at first refuse to believe his dark accusation against Elsa; but when Frederick declares she murdered her brother so as to become sole mistress of the duchy, and to bestow it upon some unworthy lover, the king sends for the maiden, and, hanging his shield upon an oak, declares he will not depart until he has tried this cause:—

Herald.

Now shall the cause be tried as ancient use requires.

King.

Never again my shield to wear
Till judgment is pronounced, I swear.’

The people receive this decree with joy, and the men, drawing their swords, thrust them into the ground as they form a circle around the king. These preparations for a solemn court of justice are scarcely ended when Elsa appears, all in white, and attended by her ladies, who stand in the background while she timidly advances and stands before the king. Her youth, beauty, and apparent innocence produce a great effect, not only upon the bystanders, but also upon the king, who gently begins to question her.

But, instead of answering him, the fair maiden merely bows and wrings her hands, exclaiming, ‘My hapless brother!’ until the king implores her to confide in him. Suddenly her tongue is loosened, and she begins to sing, as if in a trance, of a vision with which she has been favoured, wherein a handsome knight had been sent by Heaven to become her champion:—

‘I saw in splendour shining
A knight of glorious mien,
On me his eye inclining
With tranquil gaze serene;
A horn of gold beside him,
He leant upon his sword.
Thus when I erst espied him
'Mid clouds of light he soared;
His words so low and tender
Brought life renewed to me.
My guardian, my defender,
Thou shalt my guardian be.’

These words and the maiden's rapt and innocent look are so impressive, that the king and people utterly refuse to believe the maiden guilty of crime, until Frederick of Telramund boldly offers to prove the truth of his assertion by fighting against any champion whom she may choose. Elsa accepts this proposal gladly, for she hopes her heaven-sent champion may appear. The lists are immediately prepared, while the herald calls aloud:—

‘He who in right of Heaven comes here to fight
For Elsa of Brabant, step forth at once.’

The first call remains unanswered; but, at Elsa's request, the king commands a second to be made, while she sinks on her knees and ardently begins praying for her champion's appearance. Her prayer is scarcely ended when the men along the bank become aware of the approach of a snowy swan, drawing a little skiff, in which a handsome young knight in full armour stands erect.

Amid the general silence of the amazed spectators, Lohengrin, the Swan Knight, springs ashore, and, turning to his swan, dismisses it in a beautiful song, one of the gems of this opera:—

‘I give thee thanks, my faithful swan.
Turn thee again and breast the tide;
Return unto that land of dawn
Where joyous we did long abide.
Well thy appointed task is done.
Farewell, my trusty swan.’

Then, while the swan slowly sails down the river and out of sight, the Swan Knight announces to the king that he has come as Elsa's champion, and, turning to her, asks whether she will be his wife if he proves victorious. Elsa gladly promises him her hand, nor does she even offer to withdraw this promise when he tells her that she must trust him entirely, and never ask who he is or whence he comes:—

‘Say, dost thou understand me?
Never, as thou dost love me,
Aught shall to question move thee
From whence to thee I came,
Or what my race and name.’

Elsa faithfully promises to remember all these injunctions, and bids him do battle for her, whereupon he challenges Telramund, with whom he begins fighting at a given signal. The Swan Knight soon defeats his enemy, who is thus convicted of perjury by the judgment of God, but he magnanimously refuses to take his life.

Then, turning to Elsa, who thanks him passionately for saving her, he clasps her in his arms, while Telramund and Ortrud, his wife, bewail their disgrace, for, according to the law of the land, they are doomed to poverty and exile. Their sorrow, however, is quite unheeded by the enthusiastic spectators, who set Elsa and Lohengrin upon their shields, and then bear them off in triumph, to the glad accompaniment of martial strains:—

Chorus.

    We sing to thee,—we praise thee,
    To highest honour raise thee.
    Stranger, we here greet thee delighted.
    Wrong thou hast righted;
    We gladly greet thee here.
Thee, thee we sing alone. Thy name shall live in story.
Oh, never will be one to rival thee in glory!’

It is night when the curtain rises upon the second act; the knights are still revelling in the part of the palace they occupy, while the women's apartments are dark and still. The street is deserted, and on the steps of the cathedral sit Frederick and Ortrud, who have been despoiled of their rich garments, and are now clad like beggars.

Frederick, who feels his disgrace, bitterly reproaches his wife for having blasted his career, and seeks to induce her to depart with him ere day breaks; but Ortrud refuses to go. She is not yet conquered, and passionately bids him rouse himself, and listen to her plan, if he would recover his honour, retrieve his fortunes, and avenge himself for his public defeat. She first persuades him that the Swan Knight won the victory by magic arts only, which was an unpardonable offence, and then declares that, if Elsa could only be prevailed upon to disobey her champion's injunctions and ask his name, the spell which protects him would soon be broken, and he would soon become their prey.

Telramund, overjoyed at the prospect of wiping out his disgrace, acquiesces eagerly, and as Elsa just then appears at her window and softly apostrophises the evening breeze, Ortrud creeps out of the shadow and timidly addresses her, simulating a distress she is far from feeling.

Moved by compassion at the sight of the haughty woman thus laid low, and touched by the pretended repentance she shows, Elsa, whom happiness has made even more tender than usual, eagerly hastens down with two of her attendants, and, opening the door, bids her come in, promising to intercede in her behalf on the morrow. During the subsequent brief conversation Ortrud artfully manages to make Elsa vaguely uneasy, and to sow in her innocent mind the first seeds of suspicion.

Frederick of Telramund, in the mean while, has watched his wife disappear with Elsa, and, hiding in a niche of the old church, he sees the gradual approach of day, and hears the herald proclaiming through the streets the Emperor's ban upon him:—

‘Our king's august decree through all the lands
I here make known,—mark well what he commands:
Beneath a ban he lays Count Telramund
For tempting Heaven with traitorous intent.
Whoe'er shall harbour or companion him
By right shall share his doom with life and limb.’

The unhappy man also hears the herald announce Elsa's coming marriage with the heaven-sent Swan Knight, and grimly tells the bystanders he will soon unmask the traitor. A few minutes later, when he has returned to his hiding place, he sees Elsa appear in bridal array, followed by her women, and by Ortrud, who is very richly clad. But at the church door Ortrud insolently presses in front of Elsa, claiming the right of precedence as her due, and taunting her for marrying a man who has won her by magic arts only, and whose name and origin she does not even know.

This altercation is interrupted by the appearance of the king and his attendants, among whom is the Swan Knight. He hastens to Elsa's side, while the monarch imperiously demands the cause of strife. Lohengrin tenderly questions Elsa, who tells him all. As Ortrud's venomous insinuations have had no apparent effect upon her, he is about to lead her into the church, when Telramund suddenly steps forward, loudly declaring that the Swan Knight overcame him by sorcery, and imploring Elsa not to believe a word he says.

These accusations are, however, dismissed by the king and his men, since Elsa passionately refuses to credit them, and the wedding procession sweeps into the church, followed by the vindictive glances of Telramund and Ortrud,—glances which the trembling Elsa alone seems to perceive.

The third act takes place on that selfsame evening. The festivities are nearly ended, and through opposite doors the wedding procession enters the nuptial chamber to the accompaniment of the well known Bridal Chorus. The attendants soon depart, however, leaving Elsa and Lohengrin to join in a duet of happy married love. Now that they are alone together for the first time, Elsa softly begins chiding her lover for not showing more confidence in her, and revealing who he is. In spite of his tender attempts to turn aside the conversation into a less dangerous channel, she gradually becomes more importunate:—

‘Oh, make me glad with thy reliance,
Humble me not that bend so low.
Ne'er shalt thou rue thy dear affiance:
Him that I love, oh let me know!’

Seeing her husband does not yield to her tender pleading, Elsa then redoubles her caresses. Her faint suspicions have taken such firm root, and grow with such rapidity, that she is soon almost wild with suspense. All his attempts to soothe her only seem to excite her more, and suddenly, fancying that she hears the swan boat coming to bear him away from her, she determines to break the magic spell at any cost, as Ortrud cunningly advised her, and demands his name. Just as Lohengrin is gazing upon her in heart-rending but mute reproach, Telramund bursts into the room, with a band of hired assassins, to take his life. A quick motion from Elsa, whose trust returns when she sees her beloved in danger, permits Lohengrin to parry the first blow with his sword, and Frederick of Telramund soon lies dead upon the floor, while his accomplices cringe at Lohengrin's feet imploring his pardon. Day is dawning, and Lohengrin, after caring tenderly for the half-fainting Elsa, bids the would-be assassins bear the corpse into the presence of the king, where he promises to meet Elsa and satisfy all her demands:—

‘Bear hence the corpse into the king's judgment hall.
Into the royal presence lead her.
Arrayed as fits so fair a bride;
There all she asks I will concede her,
Nor from her knowledge aught will hide.’

At the last scene the king is again near the river, on his judgment throne, whence he watches the mustering of the troops which are to accompany him to the war, and makes a patriotic speech, to which they gladly respond. Suddenly, however, the four men appear with the corpse of Frederick of Telramund, which they lay at the king's feet, declaring they are obeying the orders of the new lord of Brabant, who will soon come to explain all. Before the king can question further, Elsa appears, pale and drooping, in spite of her bridal array, and just as the king is rallying her at wearing so mournful an expression when her bridegroom is only leaving her for a short time to lead his troops to the fray, the Swan Knight appears, and is enthusiastically welcomed by his men. Sadly he informs them he can no longer lead them on to victory, and declares that he slew Frederick of Telramund in self-defence, a crime for which he is unanimously acquitted.

Then he sadly goes on to relate that Elsa has already broken her promise, and asked the fatal question concerning his name and origin. Proudly he tells them that he has no cause to be ashamed of his lineage, as he is Lohengrin, son of Parsifal, the guardian of the Holy Grail, sent from the temple on Mount Salvatch to save and defend Elsa. The only magic he had used was the power with which the Holy Grail endowed all its defenders, and which never forsook them until they revealed their name:—

‘He whom the Grail to be its servant chooses
Is armed henceforth by high invincible might;
All evil craft its power before him loses,
The spirit of the darkness where he dwells takes flight.
Nor will he lose the awful charm it lendeth,
Although he should to distant lands,
When the high cause of virtue he defendeth:
While he's unknown, its spells he still commands.’

Now, he adds, the sacred spell is broken, he can no longer remain, but is forced to return immediately to the Holy Grail, and in confirmation of his word the swan and skiff again appear, sailing up the river. Tenderly the Swan Knight now bids the repentant Elsa farewell, gently resisting her passionate attempts to detain him, and giving her his sword, horn, and ring, which he bids her bestow upon her brother when he returns to protect her. This boon is denied him, because she could not keep faith with him for one short year, at the end of which time he would have been free to reveal his name, and her missing brother would have been restored to her by the power of the Holy Grail.

Placing the fainting Elsa in her women's arms, Lohengrin then goes down toward the swan boat, amid the loud lamentations of all the people, One person only is glad to see him depart, Ortrud, the wife of Telramund, and, thinking he can no longer interfere, she cruelly taunts Elsa with her lack of faith, and confesses that her magic arts and heathen spells have turned the heir of Brabant into the snowy swan which is even now drawing the tiny skiff.

These words, which fill the hearts of Elsa and all the spectators with horror and dismay, are however overheard by Lohengrin, who, accustomed to rely upon Divine aid in every need, sinks upon his knees, and is rapt in silent prayer. Suddenly a beam of heavenly light streams down upon his upturned face, and the white dove of the Holy Grail is seen hovering over his head. Lohengrin, perceiving it, springs to his feet, looses the golden chain which binds the swan to the skiff, and as the snowy bird sinks out of sight a fair young knight in silver armour rises out of the stream. Then all perceive that he is in truth, as Lohengrin proclaims, the missing Godfrey of Brabant, released from bondage by the power of the Holy Grail. Elsa embraces her brother with joy, the king and nobles gladly welcome him, and Ortrud sinks fainting to the ground. Lohengrin, seeing that his beloved has now a protector, springs into the skiff, whose chain is caught by the dove, and rapidly drawn out of sight. As it vanishes, Elsa sinks lifeless to the ground with a last passionate cry of ‘My husband!’ and all gaze mournfully after him, for they know they will never see Lohengrin, the Swan Knight, again.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 

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