Parsifal Translation Act 1

German English Notes

Note: text in [square brackets] is that which appears in GSD vol.X, where this text differs from that in the score.


The drama is set in the domain and in the castle of the guardians of the Grail at Monsalvat, where the country resembles the mountains of Gothic Spain; afterwards in Klingsor's magic castle on the southern slopes of the same mountains, looking towards Moorish Spain. The costume of the Knights and Squires resembles that of the Templars: a white tunic and mantle; instead of the red cross, however, a dove flying upwards appears on scutcheon and mantle.


A forest, shadowy and impressive but not gloomy. Rocks on the ground. A clearing in the middle. On the left the path to the castle of the Grail. The background slopes steeply down in the centre to a lake in the forest. Day is breaking. Gurnemanz (elderly but still vigorous) and two young squires are lying asleep under a tree. From the left, as if from the castle, sounds a solemn reveille on trombones.

Gurnemanz: (erwachend und die Knappen rüttelnd) He! Ho! Waldhüter ihr, Schlafhüter mitsammen, so wacht doch mindest am Morgen!
(awake and shaking the squires) Hey! Ho! Forest sentries indeed, more like sleep's sentries; at least wake up now it is morning!
Note The word hüter literally means "guardian". Here it appears in the context of Gurnemanz upbraiding the squires for falling asleep at their posts. They have been guarding the approaches to the Grail Temple. Therefore in this context it seems more appropriate to translate hüter as "sentry".
The two squires jump to their feet.
Hört ihr den Ruf? Nun danket Gott, dass ihr berufen ihn zu hören! Did you hear the call? Now give thanks to God, that he has called you to hear it! Note This is the first of numerous references to God in Wagner's text. There are also references to the Saviour but no explicit references to Christ. Wagner's writings also contain many references to God. In Public and Popularity he wrote: that the God of our Redeemer should have been identified with the tribal God of Israel is one of the most terrible confusions in all world-history. Even if Wagner did not believe in the Creator God of the Old Testament it is still possible that Gurnemanz does.
He sinks to his knees with the squires and joins them in silent morning prayer; as the trombone call fades, they slowly rise to their feet.
Jetzt auf, ihr Knaben! Seht nach dem Bad. Zeit ist's, des Königs dort zu harren. Dem Siechbett, das ihn trägt, voraus seh' ich die Boten schon uns nah'n. Now move, youngsters! See to the bath. It is time to expect the King. The litter bears him near, already I see the heralds approach.  
Two knights enter. 
Heil euch! Wie geht's Amfortas heut'? Wohl früh verlangt er nach dem Bade; das Heilkraut, das Gawan mit List und Kühnheit ihm gewann, ich wähne, dass es Lind'rung schuf? Hail there! How fares Amfortas today? He bathes early indeed; I'd imagine that the herb, obtained by Gawain's skill and daring, has helped to ease his pain?
Of wounds and healing lore
Did Sir Gawain know more
Than any man alive.
To make the sick knight 
A herb to cure all pain
That in a hedge had lain
He spied, 
and thence he plucked it.
[Chrétien's Perceval]

This incident also appears in Wolfram's Parzival, book 10. Wagner would have read about Gawain's skill with medicinal herbs first in Wolfram and only much later in Chrétien.
2nd Knight: Das wähnest du, der doch Alles weiss? Ihm kehrten sehrender nur die Schmerzen bald zurück; schlaflos von starkem Bresten, befahl er eifrig uns das Bad.
You only think so, you who know everything? The pain returned more forcefully than ever; sleepless through great pain, he commanded us diligently to attend his bath.
Note Although the knight mocks Gurnemanz with his sarcastic "you who know everything", as Gurnemanz will soon reveal he knows many things, although he does not understand all that has happened. His knowledge will soon be contrasted with a young fool who seems to lack any kind of knowledge.
Gurnemanz: (das Haupt traurig senkend) Toren wir, auf Lind'rung da zu hoffen, wo einzig Heilung lindert! Nach allen Kräutern, allen Tränken forscht und jagt weit durch die Welt; ihm hilft nur Eines - nur der Eine!
(sadly bowing his head) We're fools to try to relieve the pain, when only healing will bring relief! In vain hope we search and scour the world for herbs and potions; there's only one cure - only one man!
Note Wolfram's old hermit tells Parzival: We called in the aid of Gehon, Phison, Tigris and Euphrates, and so near to the Paradise from which those four rivers flow that their fragrance was still unspent, in the hope that some herb might float down in it that would end our sorrow. But all this was lost effort and our sufferings were renewed.
2nd Knight: So nenn' uns den!
Tell us his name!
Gurnemanz: (ausweichend)
Sorgt für das Bad!

(evasively) Attend to the bath!
The two knights, who have moved upstage, look offstage right.
2nd Squire: Seht dort, die wilde Reiterin!
Look there, the wild rider!
1st Squire: Hei! Wie fliegen der Teufelsmähre die Mähnen!
Hey! See how the mane of the devil's mare flies!
2nd Knight: Ha! [Ja!] Kundry dort?
Ha! Kundry there?
1st Knight: Die bringt wohl wicht'ge Kunde?
Surely she brings important tidings?
2nd Squire: Die Mähre taumelt.
The mare is stumbling.
1st Squire: Flog sie durch die Luft?
Is she flying through the air?
Note Kundry appears to fly through the air. We are not told whether she really does so. At the beginning of the second act Klingsor makes references to some of her previous lives in which (as valkyrie or dead princess) she rode through the air with the Wild Hunt. What is certain is that Kundry is able to travel great distances.
2nd Squire: Jetzt kriecht sie am Boden hin.
She's falling to the ground.
1st Squire: Mit dem Mähnen fegt sie das Moos.
Her mane brushes the grass.
All look eagerly offstage right.
2nd Knight: Da schwingt sich die Wilde herab.
Now the wild one jumps down.
Kundry rushes in, stumbling. She is dressed wildly, her skirts tucked up, with a snakeskin girdle with long hanging cords; her black hair is loose and dishevelled, her complexion a ruddy-brown, her eyes dark and piercing, sometimes flashing wildly, more often fixed and staring. She hurries to Gurnemanz and gives him a small, crystal flask.
Note: the snakeskin is a symbol of rebirth, since the snake repeatedly sheds its skin.
Kundry: Hier! Nimm du! Balsam ...
Here! Take it! Balsam ...
Note Balsam, or balm of Gilead (Jeremiah 8 v22), is a resinous, oily substance. Traditionally it possesses healing properties and it was used in embalming and anointing. Fragrant balsam was a major export from the Holy Land in the twelfth century.

Amfortas' wound is really Tristan's wound; recall his cry, Für dieser Schmerzen schreckliche Pein, welcher Balsam sollte mir Lind'rung verleih'n? (What balsam can bring me relief from all this terrible pain?) Kundry's quest is for that balsam.
Gurnemanz: Woher brachtest du diess?
Whence brought you this?
Kundry: Von weiter her, als du denken kannst: Hilft der Balsam nicht, Arabien birgt dann nichts mehr zu seinem Heil. Frag' nicht weiter.
From farther away than you can imagine: if the balsam does not help, Arabia offers nothing else that might save him. No more questions!
Note In this scene Kundry, holding the flask of balsam, reminds us of Mary Magdalen as she is portrayed in religious art.
She throws herself down on the ground.
Ich bin müde. I am weary.  
A procession of squires and knights enters from left, carrying and escorting a litter on which lies Amfortas. Gurnemanz has at once turned from Kundry to the approaching company.
Gurnemanz: (während der Zug auf die Bühne gelangt) Er naht, sie bringen ihn getragen. Oh weh'! Wie trag' ich's im Gemüte, in seiner Mannheit stolzer Blüte des siegreichsten Geschlechtes Herrn als seines Siechtums Knecht zu seh'n!
(Zu den Knappen) Behutsam! Hört, der König stöhnt.

(as the procession enters the stage) He approaches, they are carrying him. O woe! How it grieves me to see, in his prime, this lord of a victorious race fall a slave to this sickness!
(to the squires) Gently! Listen, the King groans.
Note As noted in a separate article, Wagner uses the word "Geschlecht" here to mean dynasty, lineage or descent. It is often translated as "race" although such a translation can be misinterpreted. The dynasty (Geschlecht) of Amfortas is victorious (siegreich) in a religious rather than a military sense. Compare the term used by Schopenhauer and by Wagner to refer to the Buddha: "der siegreich Vollendete", the victoriously perfect.
The squires halt and set down the litter.
Amfortas: Recht so![So recht!] Habt Dank! Ein wenig Rast. Nach wilder Schmerzensnacht nun Waldesmorgenpracht! Im heil'gen See wohl labt mich auch die Welle; es staunt das Weh', die Schmerzensnacht wird helle. Gawan!
Enough! Thank you! A brief rest. After a night filled with pain now comes this glorious morning! In the holy lake may the waters refresh me, ease my anguish, brighten the night of pain. Gawain!
Note Amfortas is modelled on the Fisher King of the medieval romances, who bathed in a lake near his castle to alleviate the pain of his uncurable wound. Seeing him at the lake Perceval (a forerunner of Parsifal) mistakenly thought that he was fishing. Therefore he is known as the Fisher King.
2nd Knight: Herr! Gawan weilte nicht; da seines Heilkraufts Kraft, wie schwer er's auch errungen, doch deine Hoffnung trog, hat er auf neue Sucht sich fortgeschwungen.
Sire! Gawain did not wait; when the power of the healing herb, that he had won with such effort, disappointed your hopes, at once he resumed the quest.
Note The Arthurian knight Gawain, whose origins have been traced back to the Welsh hero Gwalchmai, is an important character in the medieval romances of Chrétien de Troyes and Wolfram von Eschenbach, where his adventures are contrasted against those of Perceval or Parzival. Wagner, who had no use for a second hero, here refers to Gawain already having visited the domain of the Grail, where he failed to heal Amfortas. See earlier note about Gawain's herbal lore.
Amfortas: Ohn' Urlaub? Möge das er sühnen, dass schlecht er Gralsgebote hält. Oh wehe ihm, dem trotzig Kühnen, wenn er in Klingsors Schlingen fällt! So breche keiner mir den Frieden! Ich harre dess, der mir beschieden; "Durch Mitleid wissend" - War's nicht so?
Without leave? He will have to atone, for his defiance of the Grail's command. O woe betide him, bold yet proud, if he falls into the clutches of Klingsor! Let none thus disturb my peace! I await the one foretold; "Through compassion made wise" - was that not it?
Note Mitleid can be translated either as "compassion" or as "fellow-suffering". Older translations (including Ellis' Prose Works) tend to use "pity", which unfortunately has lost some of its original meaning during the last century. Therefore in most instances this translation will use "compassion".
Gurnemanz: Uns sagtest du es so.
That is what you told us.
Amfortas: "Der Reine Tor"! Mich dünkt, ihn zu erkennen; dürft' ich den Tod ihn nennen!
"The pure fool"! I think I know who he is; I might give him the name of Death!
Note Amfortas mistakenly believes that death is the solution to his predicament. Yet he knows that if he died, there would be nobody to perform the Grail ceremony, since his father would die too, and it would be the end of the Grail community. In the end the prophesied successor will arrive bringing healing. It is not necessary therefore, whatever stage directors might believe, for Amfortas to die at the end of the drama.
Gurnemanz: (indem er Amfortas das Fläschchen Kundrys überreicht) Doch [hier] zuvor versuch' es noch mit diesem!
(as he hands Amfortas the flask brought by Kundry) But first, try this!
Amfortas: (es betrachtend) Woher dies heimliche Gefäss?
(examining it) Whence came this mysterious flask?
Gurnemanz: Dir ward es aus Arabien hergeführt.
It was brought here from Arabia.
Amfortas: Und wer gewann es?
And who obtained it?
Gurnemanz: Dort [Da] liegt's, das wilde Weib. Auf, Kundry, komm!
There she lies, the wild woman. Up, Kundry, come here!
Kundry refuses and remains on the ground.
Amfortas: Du, Kundry? Muss ich dir nochmals danken, du rastlos scheue Magd? Wohlan! [Wohl denn!] Den Balsam nun versuch' ich noch; es sei aus Dank für deine Treue.
You, Kundry? Do I owe you my thanks again, you restless, timorous maid? Well then! I'll try the balsam now, and thank you for your trouble.
Note Amfortas uses the familiar form "du", as if he were addressing a child or an animal.
Kundry: (unruhig und heftig am Boden sich bewegend Nicht Dank! Haha! Was wird es helfen? Nicht Dank! Fort, fort! Ins Bad! [Zum Bad!]
(uneasily writhing on the ground) No thanks needed! Haha! How will that help? No thanks! Quick, quick! Go bathe!
At a signal from Amfortas, the procession moves away into the far background. Gurnemanz, gazing sadly after it, and Kundry, still stretched on the ground, remain behind. Squires come and go.
3rd Squire: He, du da! Was liegst du dort wie ein wildes Tier?
Hey, you there! Why do you lie on the ground like a wild beast?
Kundry: Sind die Tiere hier nicht heilig?
Are the beasts not holy here?
Note In the domain of the Grail it seems that beasts are considered holy. They are accorded the same rights as humans. This is the first hint that the community believe in doctrines that the Church might consider heretical. A recurring theme in the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer is the error of the Judeo-Christian tradition in its attitude to animals, contrasted with the respect that all creatures are accorded in Buddhism and Brahminism. These criticisms were echoed in Wagner's own writings.
3rd Squire: Ja, doch ob heilig du, das wissen wir grad' noch nicht.
Yes, but how holy you are, about that we have our doubts.
4th Squire: Mit ihrem Zaubersaft[e], wähn' ich, wird sie den Meister vollends verderben.
With your magic balm, I suspect, you would try to harm our master.
Gurnemanz: Hm! Schuf sie euch Schaden je? Wann alles ratlos steht, wie kämpfenden Brüdern in fernste Länder Kunde sei zu entsenden, und kaum ihr nur wisst, wohin? - Wer, ehe ihr euch nur besinnt, stürmt und fliegt dahin und zurück, der Botschaft pflegend mit Treu' und Glück? Ihr nährt sie nicht, sie naht euch nie, nichts hat sie mit euch gemein; Doch wann's in Gefahr der Hilfe gilt, der Eifer führt sie schier durch die Luft, die nie euch dann zum Danke ruft. Ich wähne, ist dies Schaden, so tät' er euch gut geraten.
Hm! Has she tried to harm you? When all is confusion and there is no way to communicate with our brothers fighting in far-off lands, or we scarcely know where to seek them; who, before you could even think, rushes and flies there and back again, carrying the message safely and surely? You do not maintain her, she asks nothing of you, nor has she anything in common with you; Yet when help is wanted in time of danger, her zeal speeds her through the air, and she never looks to you for thanks. I'd say, if this were harm, then you profit by it.
Note As in the medieval romances Kundry is the messenger of the Grail. Note the reference to Kundry flying through the air. This is related to her identification with Herodias.
3rd Squire: Doch hasst sie uns - sieh nur, wie hämisch dort nach uns sie blickt! [sie dort nach uns blickt!]
But she hates us - see the malicious look she gives us!
4th Squire: Eine Heidin ist's, ein Zauberweib.
She's a heathen, a sorceress.
Note As in the medieval romances Kundry is a heathen sorceress.
Gurnemanz: Ja, eine Verswünschte mag sie sein. Hier lebt sie heut' - vielleicht erneu't, zu büssen Schuld aus früh'rem [früher'm] Leben, die dorten ihr noch nicht vergeben. Übt sie nun Buss in solchen Taten, die uns Ritterschaft um Heil geraten, gut tut sie dann und recht sicherlich [sie dann ganz sicherlich], dienet uns - und hilft auch sich.
Yes, she might be one accursed. Here she lives today - perhaps reborn, to expiate sin committed in an earlier life, unforgiven there and then. Now she makes atonement with such deeds, as benefit our knightly order; she has done good, beyond all doubt, served us - and in doing so, helped herself.
Note Gurnemanz suggests that Kundry is burdened with sin committed in an earlier life. This implies, surprisingly, that the "knightly order" believe in reincarnation. In his introductory notes Wagner has alluded to the order of the Templars, who were destroyed after being accused of heresy. He has also located the Grail knights in the mountains of northern Spain, which in Wolfram's time were controlled by Cathar heretics. All of this suggests a community that is doctrinally independent of the Church.
3rd Squire: So ist's [Dann ist's] wohl auch jen' ihre Schuld, die uns [was uns] so manche Not gebracht?
Then it might well be her guilt, that has brought disaster upon us?
Gurnemanz: (sich besinnend) Ja, wann oft lange sie uns [sie oft uns lange] ferne blieb, dann brach ein Unglück wohl herein. Und lang' schon kenn' ich sie; doch Titurel kennt sie noch länger [noch länger kennt sie Titurel]. Der fand, als er die Burg dort baute [weih'te], sie schlafend hier im Waldgestrüpp', erstarrt, leblos, wie tot. So fand ich selbst sie letztlich wieder, als uns das Unheil kaum gescheh'n, das jener Böse über den Bergen so schmählich über uns gebracht.
(Zu Kundry) He! Du! Hör' mich und sag'; wo schweiftest damals du umher, als under Herr den Speer verlor?
(Kundry schweight düster) Warum halfst du uns damals nicht?

(recollecting) Yes, often when she was long absent, then misfortune befell us; I have know her a long time; but Titurel has known her even longer. When he was building the castle over there, he found her asleep in the undergrowth, stiff, lifeless, as if dead. Just as I found her myself not long ago, shortly after our misfortune, which that evildoer beyond the mountains brought upon us in such shame.
(to Kundry) Hey! You! Listen and tell me: Where were you roaming when our master lost the Spear?
(Kundry is gloomily silent) Why did you not help us then?
Note Titurel is extremely old but Kundry is even older. In his youth he found her, apparently dead, at Monsalvat. More recently Gurnemanz has found her in the forest, again apparently dead.
Kundry: Ich... helfe nie.
I ... never help.
4th Squire: Sie sagt's da selbst.
She says so herself.
3rd Squire: Ist sie so treu, so kühn in Wehr, so sende sie nach dem verlorenen Speer!
If she's so loyal, so bold and daring, then send her after the lost Spear!
Gurnemanz: (düster) Das ist ein And'res; Jedem ist's verwehrt.
(Mit grösster Ergriffenheit) O wunden-wundervoller heiliger Speer! Ich sah dich schwingen von umheiligster Hand!
(In Erinnerung sich verlierend) Mit ihm bewehrt, Amfortas, allzukühner, wer mochte dir es wehren den Zaub'rer zu beheeren? - Schon nah' dem Schloss wird uns der Held entrückt; ein furchtbar schönes Wein hat ihn entzückt; in seinen Armen liegt er trunken, der Speer ist ihm entsunken. Ein Todesschrei! Ich stürm herbei! Von dannen Klingsor lachend schwand, den heil'gen Speer hatt' er entwandt. Des Königs Flucht gab kämpfend ich Geleite; doch eine Wunde brannt' ihm in der Seite; die Wunde ist's, die nie sich schliessen will.

(gloomily) That is another matter. It is forbidden all of us.
(with deepest emotion) O wounding, wondrous holy Spear! I saw you wielded by unhallowed hand!
(absorbed in recollection) Bearing it as a weapon, Amfortas, all too bold, who could have prevented you from vanquishing the sorcerer? - Close to the tower our hero was distracted; a woman of fearsome beauty bewitched him; in her arms he lay intoxicated, the Spear he let fall. A deathly cry! I rushed in! As Klingsor escaped, laughing, having stolen the holy Spear. I fought to cover the King's escape; but a wound burned in his side; this is the wound that will never heal.
Note The wound is experienced as burning. For a discussion of the significance of the burning wound, see the commentary that accompanies Kundry's kiss in act 2.
The first and second squires return from the lake.
3rd Squire: So kanntest du Klingsor?
So you knew Klingsor?
Gurnemanz: (zu den zurückkommenden beiden Knappen) Wie geht's dem König?
(to the returning squires) How fares the King?
1st Squire: Ihn frischt das Bad.
The bath refreshed him.
2nd Squire: Dem Balsam wich das Weh [der Schmerz].
The balsam eased the pain.
Gurnemanz: (für sich) Die Wunde ist's, die nie sich schliessen will.
(to himself) This is the wound that will never heal.
Note The wound can be interpreted as a symbol for all of the sufferings of mankind. It is a central element of Schopenhauer's philosophy that suffering is an unavoidable aspect of existence.
The third and fourth squires have already sat down at Gurnemanz's feet. The other two join them under the great tree.
3rd Squire: Doch, Väterchen, sag' und lehr' uns fein; Du kanntest Klingsor - wie mag das sein?
But, father, speak and tell us plainly: You knew Klingsor - how could that be?
Gurnemanz: Titurel, der fromme NoteHeld, der kannt' ihn wohl. Denn ihm, da wilder Feinde List und Macht des reinen Glaubens Reich bedrohten, ihn neigten sich in heilig ernster Nacht dereinst des Heilands selige Boten; daraus der trank beim letzten Liebesmahle, das Weihgefäss, die heilig edle Schale, darein am Kreuz sein göttlich' Blut auch floss, dazu den Lanzenspeer, der diess vergoss - der Zeugengüter höchtstes Wundergut - das gaben sie in unsres Königs Hut. Dem Heiltum baute er das Heiligtum. Die seinem Dienst ihr zugesindet auf Pfaden, die kein Sünder findet, ihr wisst, dass nur dem Reinen vergönnt ist, sich zu einen den Brüdern, die zu höchsten Rettungswerken des Grales Wunderkräfte stärken.
D'rum blieb es dem, nach dem ihr fragt, verwehrt, Klingsor, wie hart ihn Müh' auch d'rob beschwert. Jenseits im Tale war er eingesiedelt; darüberhin liegt üpp'ges Heidenland; unkund blieb mir, was dorten er gesündigt, doch wollt' er büssen [büssen wollt' er] nun, ja heilig werden. Ohnmächtig, in sich selbst die Sünde zu ertöten, an sich legt' er die FrevlerhandNote, die nun, dem Grale zugewandt, verachtunsvoll des' Hüter von sich stiess. Darob die Wut nun Klingsor unterwies, wie seines schmäl'chen Opfers Tat ihm gäbe zu bösem Zauber Rat; den fand er nun [jetzt]. -
Die Wüste schuf er sich zum Wonnegarten, d'rinn wachsen teuflisch holde Frauen; dort will des Grales Ritter er erwarten zu böser Lust und Höllengrauen; wen er verlockt, hat er erworben; schon viele hat er uns verdorben.
Da Titurel, in hohen Alters Mühen, dem Sohne die Herrschaft hier verliehen; Amfortas liess es da nicht ruh'n, der Zauberplag' Einhalt zu tun. Das wisst ihr, wie es dort [da] sich fand; der Speer ist nun in Klingsors Hand, kann er selbst Heilige mit dem verwunden, den Gral auch wähnt er fest schon uns entwunden!

Titurel, the pious hero, he knew him well. For to him, when savage foes craft and might threatened the realm of the true faith, the Saviour's angelic messengers descended one holy, solemn night; bearing the sacred vessel, the holy, noble cup from which He drank at the last supper, into which His divine blood flowed on the Cross and with it the Spear that shed it - these wondrous holy relics they gave into our King's charge. For them he built this sanctuary. You who were called to its service, by paths that no sinner can find, you know that it is given only to the pure to join the brothers whose strength to perform the works of righteousness is drawn from the Grail's mighty power.
So it was denied to him, of whom you ask, Klingsor, though he made every effort. Yonder lies the valley where he dwelt alone, beyond it lies a rich heathen land; unknown to me is the sin for which he bore guilt, but I know he would atone, indeed become holy. Powerless to overcome his sinful cravings, he laid blasphemous hands upon himself, to gain the Grail for which he yearned and by its guardian he was turned away. At which, wrath taught Klingsor how his deed of shameful sacrifice could give him access to black magic; this he now found.
He turned the desert into a garden in which bloomed women of infernal beauty; there he lies in wait for the Grail knights, to lure them to shameful desire and defilement; those he entices, fall under his control; many has he ruined.
When Titurel, much burdened with age, passed on the kingship to his son, Amfortas could not wait to put a stop to this plague of sorcery. You know what happened there; the spear is now in Klingsor's hand; if he can wound even a holy one with it, he must imagine the Grail already firmly his.
Note It was a weighty feature of the Christian Church, that none but sound and healthy persons were admitted to the vow of total world-renunciation; any bodily defect, not to say mutilation, made them unfit. [Wagner's essay Herodom and Christendom]

NoteThe MHG word vrum meant brave. It was only under the influence of Luther that its later form fromm acquired a connotation of piety.

NoteGrimms' dictionary does not have an entry for Frevlerhand although it does give examples in which Frevelhand has been used. Also: es wagte niemand eine frevlerische Hand an die Majestät Gottes selbst zu legen (Wieland).
Kundry, seriously agitated, has been turning back and forth.
4th Squire: Vor allem nun; der Speer kehr' uns zurück!
Above all else; we must recover the spear!
3rd Squire: Ha! Wer ihm brâcht'. Ihm wär's zu Ruhm und Gluck!
Ha! Whoever does so will win fame and joy!
Gurnemanz: Vor dem verwaisten Heiligtum in brünst'gem Beten lag Amfortas, ein Rettungszeichen bang [heiss] erflehend; ein sel'ger Schimmer da entfloss dem Grale; en heilig' Traumgesicht nun deutlich zu ihm spricht durch hell erschauter Wortezeichen Male;
"Durch Mitleid wissend, der reine Tor; harre sein', den ich erkor."

Before the desecrated sanctuary Amfortas lay in fervent prayer, imploring a sign of salvation; a blessed radiance then came upon the Grail; a holy dream-vision now clearly addressed him in brightly shining characters:
"By compassion made wise, the pure fool; wait for him, whom I appoint."
Four squires: (in grosser Ergriffenheit) "Durch Mitleid wissend, der reine Tor..."
(deeply moved) "By compassion made wise, the pure fool;"
Note The fool is described as pure. Some translators have misleadingly translated reine as sinless. When Parsifal arrives, we discover that he is capable of sin, as this community define it. In the second act Parsifal will describe himself as a sinner. Parsifal is a fool because he is both foolish (lacking in wisdom) and ignorant (lacking in knowledge).
From the lake are heard shouts and cries from the knights and squires. Gurnemanz and the four squires, alarmed, jump to their feet and turn.
Squires: Weh'! Wehe!
Alas! Alas!
Knights: Hoho!
Squires: Auf!
Knights: Wer ist der Frevler?
Who is the blasphemer?
A wild swan flutters unsteadily from over the lake.
Gurnemanz: Was gibt's?
What is it?
4th Squire: Dort!
3rd Squire: Hier!
2nd Squire: Ein Schwan!
A swan!
4th Squire: Ein wilder Schwan!
A wild swan!
3rd Squire: Er ist verwundet!
He is wounded!
All Knights and Squires: Ha! Wehe! Weh'!
Ha! Alas! Alas!
Gurnemanz: Wer schoss den Schwan?
Who shot the swan?
A wild swan falls, after unsteady flight, to the ground, exhausted. The second knight draws an arrow from its breast.
1st Knight: Der König grüste ihn als gutes Zeichen, als über dem See kreis'te der Schwan, da flog ein Pfeil.
The King greeted it as a good omen, when the swan circled over the lake, then an arrow flew.
Note Carl Suneson, in Richard Wagner och den indiske tankevärlden, relates this incident to the killing of one of a pair of birds over a lake described by the Indian poet Valmiki in his Ramayana (4th century BC). This identification is plausible in view of the enthusiasm with which Richard Wagner was reading Adolf Holtzmann's German translation of Ramayana (Rama, ein indisches Gedicht nach Walmiki, Stuttgart 1845-7) during August 1865, immediately before writing the Prose Draft of Parsifal. See Das Braune Buch, pp 35-36; or The Brown Book, pp 33-34.
Squires and knights lead in Parsifal.
Knights: Der war's!
It was him!
Squires: Der schoss! Diess der Bogen!
He shot it! Here's the bow!
2nd Knight: Hier der Pfeil, den seinen gleich.
Here's the arrow, just like his.
Gurnemanz: zu Parsifal Bist du's, der diesen Schwan erlegte?
Was it you, who shot this swan?
Parsifal: Gewiss! Im Fluge treff'ich, was fliegt!
Indeed! In flight I can hit anything that flies!
Note In Wolfram's Parzival the young lad was reported to have killed birds.
Gurnemanz: Du tatest das? Und bangt' es dich nicht vor der Tat?
You did this? And feel no remorse for the deed?
Squires and Knights: Strafe dem Frevler!
Punish the offender!
Gurnemanz: Unerhörtes Werk! Du konntest morden, See note 1
hier, im heil'gen Walde, dess' Stiller Frieden dich umfing? Des Haines Tiere nahten dir nicht zahm? Grüssten dich freundlich und fromm? See note 2
Aus den Zweigen was sangen die Vöglein dir? Was tat dir der treue Schwan? Sein Weibchen zu suchen flog er auf, mit ihm zu kreisen über dem See, den so er herrlich weih'te zum [heilenden] Bad. Dem stauntest du nicht? Dich lockt' es nur zu wild kindischem Bogengeschoss? Er war uns hold; was ist er nun dir? Hier - schau her! - hier trafst du ihn, da starrt noch das Blut, matt hängen die Flügel, das Schneegefieder dunkel befleckt - gebrochen das Aug',
siehst du den Blick? See note 3
Unprecedented deed! You could commit murder,
here in the holy forest, surrounded by stillness and peace? Did not the woodland beasts approach you tamely? Did they not greet you as friends?
From the branches what did the birds sing to you? What had the faithful swan done to you? Seeking his mate he flew up to circle over the lake with her, gloriously to bless the bath. Did this not impress you? Did it only tempt a wild, childish shot from your bow? We cherished him; what is he now to you? Here - see here! - here you hit him, see how the blood congeals, how the wing droops, the snowy feathers flecked with blood - the eyes glazed;
do you see his look?
Note 1 Wagner's use of the verb morden (to commit murder) here is deliberate. Schopenhauer had objected to the use of one word for an action related to humans where a different word would be used for the same action related to animals. See his Über die Grundlage der Moral (On the Basis of Morality), pub. 1841, §19, p 176 and p 179 in Payne's translation.
Note 2 Ulrike Kienzle (in Das Weltüber- windungswerk -- Wagner's 'Parsifal') suggests that here Wagner is alluding to Genesis 9:2 where Yahweh promises Noah, and the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. This passage from the Old Testament describes, as a divine institution, a relationship between man and other creatures that was rejected by Arthur Schopenhauer and by his disciple, Richard Wagner. Part of the agenda of Parsifal appears to be an attempt to split off the New Testament from the Old Testament.
Note 3 There can be no doubt that here Wagner is thinking of a passage in Schopenhauer's Über die Grundlage der Moral, §19: I recall having read of an Englishman who, while hunting in India, had shot a monkey; he could not forget the look which the dying animal gave him, and since then had never again fired at monkeys.
Parsifal has been increasingly moved as he listens to Gurnemanz; now he breaks his bow and throws away his arrows.
Wirst deiner Sündentat du inne? Do you realise your sinfulness?  
Parsifal passes his hand over his eyes.
Sag', Knab', erkennst du deine grosse Schuld? Wie konntest du sie begeh'n? Tell me, boy, do you acknowledge your great guilt? How could you do this?  
Parsifal: Ich wüsste sie nicht.
I did not know.
Gurnemanz: Wo bist du her?
Whence came you here?
Parsifal: Das weiss ich nicht.
I don't know.
Gurnemanz: Wer ist sein Vater?
Who is your father?
Parsifal: Das weiss ich nicht.
I don't know.
Gurnemanz: Wer sandte dich dieses Weges?
Who sent you this way?
Parsifal: Das weiss ich nicht.
I don't know.
Gurnemanz: Dein Name dann?
Your name then?
Parsifal: Ich hatte viele, doch weiss ich ihrer keinen mehr.
I have had many, but I know none of them any more.
Note This might be interpreted as an indication that Parsifal is aware that, like Kundry, he has had earlier lives. Or it might simply be that, as a beloved child, his mother called him by many names.
Gurnemanz: Das weisst du alles nicht? (Für sich) So dumm wie den erfand bisher ich Kundry nur!
You know nothing at all then? (aside) I've never met anyone so stupid - except maybe Kundry!
To the squires, who have gathered in increasing numbers.
Jetzt geht! Versäumt den König im Bade nicht! Helft! Go away! Don't neglect the King while he's bathing. Go help!  
The squires reverently lift the dead swan on a bier of fresh branches and move away with it towards the lake. Finally only Gurnemanz, Parsifal and - apart - Kundry remain behind. Gurnemanz turns back to Parsifal.
Note: the swan is borne away to the accompaniment of a muffled drum, as if it were a human funeral.
Nun sag'! Nichts weisst du, was ich dich frage; jetzt meld', was du weisst; denn etwas musst du doch wissen.
Now tell me! You can answer none of my questions; but tell me what you know; you must know something.
Parsifal: Ich hab' eine Mutter, Herzeleide sie heisst. Im Wald und auf wilder Aue waren wir heim.
I have a mother, Herzeleide is her name. In woods and wild meadows was our home.
Gurnemanz: Wer gab dir den Bogen?
Who gave you the bow?
Parsifal: Den schuf ich mir selbst, vom Forst die wilden Adler zu verscheuchen [zu scheuchen].
I made it myself, to scare the savage eagles from the forest.
Gurnemanz: Doch adelig scheinst du selbst und hochgeboren; warum nicht liess deine Mutter bessere Waffen dich lehren?
Yet eagle-like yourself and nobly born you seem; why did your mother not allow you to learn better weapons?
Note Here Wagner makes a pun on Adler (eagle) and adelig (noble).
Parsifal is silent. Kundry has listened uneasily to Gurnemanz's account of the fate of Amfortas with frequent violent movements; now, still lying in the undergrowth, she eyes Parsifal keenly and, as he is silent, calls out in a rough voice.
Kundry: Den Vaterlosen gebar die Mutter, als im Kampf erschlagen Gamuret; vor gleichem frühen Heldentod den Sohn zu wahren, waffenfremd in Oeden erzog sie [ihn] zum Toren - die Törin! (Sie lacht)
The fatherless one was born to his mother while Gamuret was slain in battle; from such an untimely heroic death to save him, far from weapons in a wilderness she reared the fool - like a fool! (She laughs)
Parsifal: (der mit jäher Aufmerksamkeit zugehört hat) Ja! Und einst am Waldessaume vorbei, auf schönen Tieren sitzend, kamen glänzende Männer; ihnen wollt' ich gleichen; sie lachten und jagten davon. Nun lief ich nach, doch konnt' ich sie nicht [konnte sie nicht] erreichen; durch Wildnisse kam ich, bergauf, talab; oft ward es Nacht, dann wieder Tag; mein Bogen musste mir frommen gegen Wild und grosse Männer.
(Who has listened to her with sudden attention) Yes! And once along the forest's edge, sitting on beautiful animals, came shining men; I wanted to be like them; they laughed and resumed their hunt. I ran after but could not overtake them; through the wilderness I came, up hill, down dale; often night fell, then the next day came; I used my bow to defend myself against wild beasts and giants.
Note This is a very compressed version of Wolfram's account of how Parzival left his mother to follow a company of knights and squires.
Kundry has risen and moved closer to the men.
Kundry: Ja! Schächer und Riesen traf seine Kraft; den freislichen Knaben lernten sie fürchten [fürchten sie alle].
Yes! Robbers and giants felt his strength; the learned to fear the fierce boy.
Parsifal: (verwundert) Wer fürchtet mich? Sag!
(amazed) Who feared me? Say!
Kundry: Die Bösen!
The wicked!
Parsifal: Die mich bedrohten, waren sie bös? (Gurnemanz lacht)
Those who threatened me, were they wicked? (Gurnemanz laughs)
Parsifal: Wer ist gut?
Who is good?
Note This tells us that the widow's son Parsifal is innocent of the knowledge of good and evil. It might be that he is in the same state of dreaming innocence as pre-fallen Adam. To Gurnemanz he simply appears both foolish and ignorant.
Gurnemanz: (wieder ernst) Deine Mutter, der du entlaufen und die um dich sich nun härmt und grämt.
(serious again) Your mother, whom you deserted and who now frets and grieves for you.
Kundry: Zu End ihr' Gram; seine Mutter ist todt.
She grieves no more; you mother is dead.
Parsifal: (in furchtbaren Schreken) Todt? Meine - Mutter? Wer sagt's?
(in fearful panic) Dead? My - mother? Who says?
Kundry: Ich ritt vorbei und sah sie sterben; dich Toren hiess sie mich grüssen.
As I rode past I saw her die; she bade me give the fool her greetings.
Parsifal springs at Kundry and seizes her by the throat. Gurnemanz restrains him.
Gurnemanz: Verrücketer Knabe! Wieder Gewalt?
Was tat dir das Weib? Es sagte wahr; denn nie lügt Kundry, doch sah sie viel.

Crazy youth! Violence again?
What has the woman done to you? She speaks the truth; Kundry never lies, no matter what she has seen.
Parsifal: Ich verschmachte!
I am fainting!
Kundry, realising Parsifal's condition, runs to a spring in the woods and brings water in a horn, which she sprinkles on Parsifal and gives him to drink.
Gurnemanz: So recht! So nach des Grales Gnade; das Böse bannt, wer's mit Gutem vergilt.
That's right! According to the Grail's mercy; evil is defeated when good is returned.
Kundry: Nie tu' ich Gutes; nur Ruhe will ich, nur Ruhe, ach! Der Müden.
I never do good; I long only for rest, only rest, in my weariness.
Sadly she turns away and, while a fatherly Gurnemanz tends Parsifal, she drags herself, seen by neither of them, into the forest undergrowth.
Schlafen! O, dass mich keiner wecke! Nein! Nicht schlafen! Grausen fasst mich!
To sleep! O that I might never wake again! No! Not sleep! Horror seizes me!
Note Kundry wishes to return to her "deathlike sleep" and never wake again. In other words she desires to die and never to be reborn. She is unable to do so while carrying the burden of sin that she acquired in an earlier life. So far we have not been told what this sin was.
She falls into a violent trembling, then lets her limbs fall, her head drops wearily and she staggers away.
Machtlose Wehr! Die Zeit ist da. Resistance is futile! Now it is time.  
Movement is seen by the lake and at length in the background the returning procession of knights and squires with Amfortas' litter.
Schlafen - schlafen - ich muss.
To sleep - to sleep - I must.
Kundry sinks down behind a bush and is not seen again.
Gurnemanz: Vom Bade kehrt der König heim; hoch steht die Sonne; nun lass' zum frommen Mahl mich dich geleiten; denn, - bist du rein, wird nun der Gral dich tränken und speisen.
From the bath the King returns homeward; the sun is high; now let me lead you to our solemn meal; then if you are pure, the Grail will give you food and drink.
Note Seeing Parsifal's remorse for his killing of the swan, Gurnemanz has decided to take him into the Grail Temple. Here Wagner is referring to the traditional cornucopia aspect of the Grail; it will provide nourishment only to those who are worthy.
He has gently laid Parsifal's arm around his neck and puts his own arm around his body; thus he leads him with very slow steps.
Parsifal: Wer ist der Gral?

Who is the Grail?
Note Parsifal has gathered from Gurnemanz's references to the Grail the understandable impression that the Grail is a person.
Gurnemanz: Das sagt sich nicht; doch, bist du selbst zu ihm erkoren, bleibt dir die Kunde unverloren. Und sieh'! Mich dünkt, dass ich dich recht erkannt; kein Weg führt zu ihm durch das Land, und Niemand könnte ihn beschreiten, den er nicht selber möcht' geleiten.
That cannot be spoken; but if you yourself are called to its service, the knowledge will be revealed to you. Now look! I think I know you aright; no path leads to it through the land, and nobody finds their way there, unless the Grail itself leads them.
Note The Grail and its mysteries are secret; this is a feature that Wagner found in his medieval sources. For example, in the Elucidation: The Grail's secret must be concealed and never by any man revealed ...; or as the maiden of the white mule tells Chrétien's Perceval: Sire, it cannot be that I may tell this mystery, if a hundred times you ask, I may not speak more of my task, for this would be too bold, it is too secret to be told.
Parsifal: Ich schreite kaum, doch wähn' ich mich schon weit.
I scarcely move, yet already it seems I have travelled far.
Gurnemanz: Du sieh'st, mein Sohn, zum Raum wird hier die Zeit.
You see, my son, here time becomes space.
Gradually, as Gurnemanz and Parsifal continue to move, has the scene changed more and more noticeably; the woods have disappeared and in the rocky wall a doorway has opened, through which they pass and which closes behind them. On a rising path they move between the rocks until the scene has completely changed. Gurnemanz and Parsifal now enter the great hall of the Grail Castle.
Gurnemanz: (sich zu Parsifal wendend, der wie verzaubet steht) Nun achte wohl und lass' mich seh'n; bist du ein Tor und rein, welch Wissen dir auch mag beschieden sein.
(turning to Parsifal, who stands as if bewitched) Now pay attention and let me see; if you are a fool and pure what wisdom may be revealed to you.


A pillared hall with dome above, over the feast chamber. On both sides at the far end the doors are opened; from the right enter the Grail knights, who range themselves at the feast tables.

Grail Knights: Zum letzten Liebesmahle gerüstet Tag für Tag,
(Ein Zug von Knappen durchschreitet schnelleren Schrittes die Scene nach hinten zu.) gleich ob zun letzten Male es heut' uns letzten mag,
(Ein zweiter Zug von Knappen durchschreiten den Saal.) wer guter Tat sich freu't, ihm wird des Mahl erneu't; der Labung darf er nah'n, die herhste Gab' empfah'n.

To the last supper renewed from day to day, (A procession of squires passes with rapid steps across the scene into the background.) as if for the last time may it refresh us today.
(A second procession of squires passes through the hall.) Who delights in doing good, will be renewed by this meal; he will find refreshment and receive the highest gift.
Note The nourishment provided by the Grail is no ordinary food; it revives, revitalises and regenerates; like the mead that was served to heroes in Valhall. Some commentators see here and elsewhere in Wagner's text a tension or even conflict between Christian and pagan concepts.
The collected knights stand behind the dining tables. Voices of boys are heard from half-way up the dome. Knights and serving brothers carry in Amfortas on a litter through the door opposite; before him walk four squires bearing the shrine that contains the Grail. This procession moves into the centre foreground, where stands a raised couch, on which Amfortas is set down from the litter; in front of it stands an oblong stone table, on which the squires place the covered shrine of the Grail.
Boys: Den sündigen Welten, mit tausend Schmerzen, wie einst sein Blut geflossen - dem Erlösungshelden sei nun mit freudigem Herzen [mit freudigem Herzen sei nun] mein Blut vergossen. Der Leib, den er zur Sühn' uns bot, er lebt in kuns durch seinen Tod.
As once the blood of the redeeming hero flowed, for the sinful world of a thousand pains; So now with joyful heart let my blood be offered. His body, which he offered for our sins, lives in us through his death.
Note In what appears to be a reference to Christ, Wagner in one of his last writings uses the term Erlösungshelden. He wrote: It is just the strength of consciousness of suffering that can raise the intellect of higher natures to knowledge of the meaning of the world. Those natures in which the completion of this lofty process is evidenced by a corresponding deed, we call heroic. [Richard Wagner, Herodom and Christendom, 1881]
Squires: (aus der äussersten Höhe der Kuppel) Der Glaube lebt; die Taube schwebt, des Heilands holder Bote. Der für euch fliesst, des Weines geniesst und nehmt vom Lebensbrote!
(from the summit of the dome) Faith endures; the dove hovers, messenger of the Saviour. Poured out for you enjoy the wine and take the bread of life!
Note According to Wolfram (Parzival book 9) the Grail receives its sustaining power from a wafer that, each Good Friday, a dove brings to the Grail from Heaven.
Once all have arrived at their appointed places and after a complete silence has settled on the scene, the voice of Titurel is heard from a vaulted niche behind Amfortas' couch, as if from a tomb.
Titurel: Mein Sohn Amfortas, bist du am Amt? Soll ich den Gral heut noch erschau'n und leben? Muss ich sterben, vom Retter ungeleitet?
Amfortas, my son, will you serve? Shall I once more look on the Grail and live? Must I die for want of my Deliverer?
Note Amt can mean authority but here it means either a religious service or an acolyte who serves at such a service. Titurel calls on Amfortas to serve.
Amfortas: Wehe! Wehe mir der Qual! Mein Vater, o! Noch einmal verrichte du das Amt! Lebe, leb' - und lass mich sterben!
Alas! Woe is me for my pain! My father, oh once more serve the office! Live, live - and let me die!
Note It is implicit here that both the aged Titurel and the wounded Amfortas are being kept alive by the sustaining power of the Grail. Amfortas wishes to die but knows that, deprived of the sight of the Grail, his father would die first.
Titurel: Im Grabe leb' ich durch des Heilands Huld; Zu schwach doch bin ich, ihm zu dienen. Du büss' im Dienste deine Schuld! Enthüllet den Gral!
In the grave I live by the Saviour's grace; but I am too feeble now to serve Him. In His service can you expiate your sin! Uncover the Grail!
Note Just as Amfortas is extremely sick (Wagner called Amfortas his third-act Tristan inconceivably intensified, letter to Mathilde Wesendonk of 30 May 1859), so his father Titurel is extremely old and therefore feeble.
Amfortas: Nein! Lass ihn unhenthüllt! Oh! Dass keiner, keiner diese Qual ermisst, die mir der Anblick weckt, der euch entzückt! Was ist die Wunde, ihrer Schmerzen Wut, gegen die Not, die Höllenpein, zu diesem Amt - verdammt zu sein! Wehvolles Erbe, dem ich verfallen, ich, einz'ger Sünder unter allen, des höchtsten Heiligtums zu pflegen, auf Reine herabzuflehen seinem Segen!
O Strafe, Strafe ohne gleichen des - ach! - gekränkten Gnadenreichen! See note- Nach ihm, nach seinem Weihegrusse, muss sehnlich mich's verlangen; aus tiefster Seele Heilesbusse zu Ihm muss ich gelangen.
Die Stunde naht; ein [der] Lichtstral senkt sich auf das heilige Werk; die Hülle fällt [sinkt]. Des Weihgefässes göttlicher Gehalt erglüht mit leuchtender Gewalt; -
durchzückt von seligsten Genusses Schmerz, des heiligsten Blutes Quell fühl' ich sie giessen in mein Herz; des eig'nen sündigen Blutes Gewell' in wahnsinniger Flucht muss mir zurück dann fliessen, in die Welt der Sünden sucht mit wilder Scheu sich ergiessen; von Neuem springt es das Tor, daraus es nun strömt hervor, hier, durch die Wunde, der seinem gleich, geschlagen von desselben Speeres Streich, der dort dem Erlöser die Wunde stach, aus der mit blut'gen Tränen der Göttliche weint' ob der Menschheit Schmach, in Mitleids heiligem Sehnen - und aus der nun mir, an heiligster Stelle, dem Pfleger göttlischer Güter, des Erlösungsbalsams Hüter, das heisse Sündenblut entquillt, ewig erneu't aus des Sehnens Quelle, das, ach! Keine Büssung je mir stillt!
Erbarmen! Erbarmen! Du Allerbarmer! Ach, Erbarmen! Nimm mir mein Erbe, schliesse die Wunde, dass heilig ich sterbe, rein - Dir gesunde!

No! Leave it covered! Oh! May no-one, no-one suffer this pain, brought on me by that which gives you joy! What is the wound, its raging pain, compared to the distress, the hellish torment, of this office which I am damned to serve! Woeful inheritance that has fallen upon me, that I, the only sinner of us all, must attend that which is supremely sacred, must ask the Pure One for his blessing!
O punishment, unparallelled punishment of one - oh! - injured in blessedness. For Him, for His holy greeting must I ardently yearn; in repentance, deep in my soul, I desire union with Him.
The hour draws near; a ray of light descends upon the holy vessel; the covering falls. The divine contents of the holy chalice glow with radiant glory; -
Enraptured in agony of ecstasy, I feel the fount of divine blood pour into my heart, whose own guilty blood surging in mad flight sweeps me back, in wild terror it gushes into the world of sin; once again it breaks open the door and now rushes out, here, through my wound, like His, made by a blow from the same Spear which wounded the Saviour, a wound from which He wept tears of blood for man's disgrace, in compassion's holy desire - and now from my wound, in the holiest place, serving the most divine treasure, the guardian of the balm of redemption, spills forth the fevered blood of sin, ever renewed from the fount of desire that - ah! - no repentance can ever still!
Mercy! Mercy! All-merciful one! Have mercy upon me! Take back my inheritance, close my wound, that I may die holy, pure and whole for Thee!
Note As an adjective gnadenreich means "full of grace" or "rich in blessings", appearing for example in Faust:
du schwebst zu höhen
der ewigen Reiche,
vernimm das flehen,
du ohnegleiche!
du gnadenreiche!
According to Grimms' dictionary the noun Gnadenreich means das Reich der göttlichen Gnade, the realm of divine grace.

Note Not only does the Grail ceremony keep Amfortas alive, but it also exacerbates the pain of his wound.

Note The divine contents of the holy vessel, the balm of redemption, are on one level the blood of the Saviour, the divine essence of free-willed suffering (des bewusst vollenden Leidens selbst Wagner called it in his late essay Herodom and Christendom, 1881), and on another level, in some mystical sense, the Saviour Himself.

Note Commentators have had difficulty in reconciling Amfortas' burden of guilt with the Christian teaching that a sinner by repentance can obtain forgiveness. Yet Amfortas believes that repentance cannot help him, only death.
He sinks back as if unconscious.
Squires and Knights: aus der mittleren Höhe "Durch Mitleid wissend, der reine Tor; harre sein', den ich erkor!"
"By compassion made wise, the pure fool; wait for him, whom I appoint!"
Knights: So ward es dir verhiessen [verfündet]; harre getrost, des Amtes walte heut'!
So it was promised you; secure in expectation, serve the office today!
Titurel: Enthüllet den Gral! [Der Segen!]
Uncover the Grail! [Benediction!]
Note But I won't let the old man appear again, said Wagner, he would remind me too much of the old gondolier in Venice who always butted in when others were singing. [Cosima's Diaries, 22.01.1878]
Amfortas gets up slowly and with difficulty. The squires take the cover from the golden shrine and take out an ancient crystal chalice, from which they also remove a covering, and place it before Amfortas.
Youths voices from above: Nehmet hin meinen Leib, nehmet hin mein Blut, um unsrer Liebe willen! [Nehmet hin mein Blut, um uns'rer Liebe Willen!]
Take this my body, take this my blood, for the sake of our love.
While Amfortas bows devoutly in silent prayer before the Chalice, the light dims until the hall is in twilight.
Knights from high up: Nehmet hin mein Blut, nehmet hin meinen Leib, auf dass ihr mein' gedenkt! [Nehmet hin meinen Leib, auf dass ihr mein' gedenkt.]
Take this my blood, take this my body, in remembrance of me!
Note This is resonant of the institutional words of the Last Supper as recorded by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 11 v. 24-25):
Nehmet, esset, das ist mein Leib, der für euch gebrochen wird; solches tut zu meinem Gedächtnis.
Desgleichen auch den Kelch nach dem Abendmahl und sprach:
Dieser Kelch ist das neue Testament in meinem Blut; solches tut, so oft ihr's trinket, zu meinem Gedächtnis.
Here a dazzling ray of light falls on the crystal chalice, which now glows bright crimson, softly illuminating everything. Amfortas, transfigured, elevates the Grail and waves it gently in each direction, to bless the bread and wine. All are on their knees.
Titurel: O heilige Wonne! Wie hell grüsst uns heute der Herr!
O holy rapture! How brightly our Lord greets us today!
Amfortas sets down the Grail again, and its grow gradually fades as the darkness lifts; then the squires enclose it in the shrine and cover it again. Daylight returns. The four squires during what follows distribute the two flagons of wine and baskets of bread.
Knights from high up: Wein und Brot des letzten Mahles wandelt' einst der Herr des Grales durch des Mitleids Liebesmacht in das Blut, das er vergoss, in den Leib, den dar er bracht'.
Wine and bread of the last supper the Lord of the Grail once turned through the loving power of compassion into the blood which he shed, into the body which he broke.
The four squires, after covering the shrine, now take from the altar-table the two wine flagons and the two bread baskets, which Amfortas had blessed with the Grail, distribute the bread to the knights and fill their beakers with wine. The knights seat themselves at the feast, including Gurnemanz, who has kept a place empty beside him and who beckons Parsifal to come and partake of the meal. But Parsifal stays put, motionless and silent, clearly overwhelmed by what he has witnessed.
Youths from half-way up the dome: Blut und Leib der heil'gen Gabe wandelt heut zu eurer Labe sel'ger Tröstung Liebesgeist in den Wein, der euch nun floss, in das Brot, das heut' ihr [euch] speist.
Blood and body of the holy gift, loving spirit of blessed consolation , today for our delight turned into the wine poured out for you, into the bread that feeds you today.
Knights: (erste Hälfte) Nehmet vom Brot, wandelt es kühn in Leibes Kraft und Stärke; treu bis zum Tod; fest jedem Müh'n, zu wirken des Heilands Werke!
(first half) Take of the bread, turn it confidently into bodily strength and power; faithful unto death; steadfast in effort, to work the Saviour's will!
Knights: (zweite Hälfte) Nehmet vom Wein, wandelt ihn neu zu Lebens feurigem Blute, froh im Verein, brudergetreu zu kämpfen mit seligem Mute!
(second half) Take of the wine, turn it anew into the fiery blood of life. Joyful in unity, in brotherly faith let us fight with holy courage!
All knights: Selig im Glauben! Selig im Glauben und Liebe! [Selig im Liebe!]
Blessed in Faith! Blessed in Faith and Love!
Boys und Squires: Selig im Liebe! Selig im Glauben!
Blessed in Love! Blessed in Faith!
The knights rise and walk from the sides to the centre, where they solemnly embrace each other during the following. During the meal Amfortas, who has not partaken, has gradually relapsed from his inspired ecstacy; his head sinks and he puts his hand on the wound. The squires approach him, their movements indicate that the wound has begun to bleed again; they attend to Amfortas, helping him back into his litter, and while all prepare to depart, bear him out with the shrine in the same order as they came. The knights likewise fall into solemn procession and slowly leave the hall. The daylight fades. Squires once more pass quickly through the hall. The last of the knights and squires have left the hall; the doors are closed.
On hearing Amfortas' previous loud cry of agony, Parsifal has made a violent movement towards his own heart, clutching his chest convulsively for a long time. Now he stands stiff and motionless again. Gurnemanz approaches him ill- humouredly and shakes his arm.
Gurnemanz: Was stehst du noch da? Weisst du, was du sahst?
Why are you still standing there? Do you understand what you have seen?
Parsifal presses his heart convulsively and slightly shakes his head.
Du bist doch eben nur ein Tor! You are nothing but a fool!  
He opens a narrow side-door.
Dort hinaus, deine[m] Wege zu! Doch rät dir Gurnemanz; lass' du hier künftig die Schwäne in Ruh' und suche dir, Gänser, die Gans! Off with you, on your way! Take this advice from Gurnemanz; from now on leave our swans in peace and find some geese, you gander! Note This is a reference to the passage in Wolfram's Parzival in which the boy, awaking to find the castle deserted, finds his horse and weapons and takes his leave. As he crosses the drawbridge, the voice of someone unseen calls out, you are a goose! If he had asked the Question, Parzival would have healed the Fisher King. For Wagner, however, the Question was irrelevant. In this scene it is Gurnemanz who will hear the voice of an unseen speaker.
He pushes Parsifal out and angrily slams the door behind him. As he follows after the knights, on the last fermata the curtain falls.
Alto voice from on high: "Durch Mitleid wissend, der reine Tor."
"Through compassion made wise, the pure fool."
Voices from mid-height and summit: Selig im Glauben!
Blessed in faith!

This English translation and commentary are copyright © 2001 by Derrick Everett. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Permission is hereby granted for electronic distribution by non-commercial services such as internet, provided that it is posted in its entirety and includes this copyright statement. This document may not be distributed for financial gain. Any other use, or any commercial use of this document without permission is prohibited by law. Applications for permission to reproduce all of part of the translation or commentary should be directed to the author and copyright holder.

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