Parsifal Translation Act 3

German English Notes

Note 1: text in [square brackets] is that which appears in GSD vol.X, where this text differs from that in the score.


In the domain of the Grail. Open, pleasant area on a spring day. Towards the background gently rises a flowery meadow. The foreground includes the edge of a wood, which continues to the right of the scene into rocky ground. In the foreground, at the same side as the wood, a spring; on the opposite side, somewhat deeper, a simple hermit's hut, leaning on the rocks. Very early morning. Gurnemanz, now changed, an old and grey hermit, wearing the tunic of a Grail knight, comes out of the hut and listens.

Note 2: the stage directions in this scene should be given particular attention, especially those concerning Kundry who, although she has hardly anything to sing, is supposed to act. It is implied that the action begins before dawn, so at the beginning of this scene the stage should be dark, becoming gradually brighter as the scene progresses.

Gurnemanz: Von dort her kam das Stöhnen. So jammervoll klagt kein Wild, und gewiss gar nicht am heiligsten Morgen heut'.
(Dumpfes Stöhnen von Kundrys Stimme) Mich dünkt, ich kenne diese[n] Klageruf.

The groaning came from that direction. No wild animal laments in such despair and certainly not on this holy morning.
(Dull groaning in Kundry's voice) I think I recognise these groans.
Note As in the first act Kundry is compared to an animal. This time she seems to be emerging from hibernation on a spring morning. As the scene progresses there are several references to waking up or awakening.
Finally he approaches a thorn bush at the side of the clearing; here the ground is thickly overgrown; with difficulty he forces the briars apart and then stops abruptly.
Gurnemanz: Ha! Sie! - wieder da? Das winterlich rauhe Gedörn' hielt sie verdeckt; wie lang' schon? Auf! Kundry! Auf! Der Winter floh, und Lenz ist da! Erwache! Erwache dem Lenz!
Oh! It's her! - once again? The rough wintery thorn has been concealing her; for how long? Up! Kundry! Rise! Winter flees and spring is here! Wake up! Wake up in the spring!
He drags Kundry, completely stiff and lifeless, out of the bush and carries her to a nearby grassy mound.
Gurnemanz: Kalt und starr! Diesmal hielt' ich sie wohl für tod; doch war's ihr Stöhnen, was ich vernahm?
Cold and stiff! This time I would think she really is dead; but wasn't it her groaning I just heard?
Gurnemanz massages Kundry's stiff hands, rubs her brow and does all he can to restore her circulation. Finally there appear signs of life. Then she wakes completely - when her eyes finally open, she lets out a scream. Kundry is dressed in the rough robe of a penitent, similar to that which she wore in act one, only now her face is paler; the wildness of her appearance and manner has now gone [or: has drained away]. For a long while she stares at Gurnemanz. Then she gets up, adjusts her clothing and hair, and begins to take the role of a serving-maid.
Gurnemanz: Du tolles Weib! Hast du kein Wort für mich? Ist dies der Dank, dass dem Todesschlafe noch einmal ich dich entweckt?
You crazy woman! Don't you have anything to say? Is this how you show your thanks for my waking you once more from your deathlike sleep?
Note Carl Suneson has compared Kundry's Todesschlafe with the deep sleep that Hindu (Brahmin, in Wagner's terms) scriptures call susupti. It is described as a state in which the soul, or atman, is temporarily released from the physical body. Thus Kundry could travel far and see many things (as in the second act she claimed to have done) while her body sleeps.
NoteKundry awakes from her deathlike sleep (in effect reborn), with a scream. In his essay Beethoven (1870) Wagner, following Schopenhauer, wrote: From the most terrifying of such dreams we wake with a scream, the most immediate expression of the anguished will ...
Kundry: (neigt langsam das Haupt; dann bringt sie, rauh und abgebrochen, hervor) Dienen ... dienen!
(slowly bows her head; then speaks roughly and brokenly) Serving ... serving!
Gurnemanz: (den Kopf schüttelnd) Das wird dich wenig müh'n! Auf Botschaft sendet sich's nicht mehr; Kräuter und Wurzeln findet ein jeder sich selbst. Wir lernten's im Walde vom Tier.
(shaking his head) That won't keep you busy! We send out no messengers now. Herbs and roots each finds for himself. We learn from the forest beasts.
Note Now the community, deprived of the nourishment formerly provided by the Grail, forage like animals. In Wolfram's Parzival we read: They went out to forage, with Parzival attending to the fodder, while his host grubbed up roots for them ... the kitchen was bare, there was neither stew nor roast! In another medieval story Josaphat wanders for two years in the wilderness before finding the old hermit Barlaam again. Then, Barlaam spread his lavish table, laden with spiritual dainties, but with little to attract the palate of sense. These were uncooked worts, and a few dates, planted and tended by Barlaam's own hands, such as are found in the same desert, and wild herbs. So they gave thanks and partook of the victuals set before them, and drank water from the neighbour springing well, and again gave thanks to God, who openeth his hand and filleth all things living. [Translated from the Greek by G.R. Woodward and H. Mattingly; Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 1914]
During the preceding lines, Kundry has gone into the hut. Gurnemanz looks in her direction in astonishment.
Gurnemanz: Wie anders schreitet sie als sonst! Wirkte diess der heilige Tag? Oh! Tag der Gnade ohne Gleichen! Gewiss zu ihrem Heile durft' ich der Armen heut' den Todesschlaf verscheuchen.
How differently she moves now! Is it the effect of this holy day? Oh! Day of mercy without equal! Clearly it was for her salvation that I was able to wake the poor woman from deathlike sleep today.
Note As noted in the commentary to act 2, Heil (as a noun) can be used with several meanings including "salvation" and "well-being". Here the first of these meanings seems to be intended; there is dramatic irony in the words of the hermit. On this day, which Kundry has long awaited, she will find her salvation; the salvation or healing that Parsifal brings.
Kundry comes back out of the hut; she carries a water pitcher and takes it over to the spring. There she stops, looking into the forest; in the distance someone approaches and she turns to Gurnemanz to make him aware of this. Gurnemanz looks into the forest. During what follows, as Parsifal enters, Kundry withdraws into the hut with the pitcher, now filled, where she busies herself.
Gurnemanz: Wer nahet dort dem heil'gen Quell in düstrem Waffenschmucke? Das ist der Brüder keiner!
Who approaches the holy spring in the dark armour of a warrior? It is hardly one of the brothers!
Note Wolfram's hermit Trevrizent dwells by a spring called Fontane la Salvæsche, the fountain of salvation. Also the hermit Barlaam lives beside a spring.
Parsifal emerges from the forest; he is completely attired in dark armour; with closed visor and lowered spear he walks slowly and haltingly, his head bowed, moving like a sleep-walker, and sits down on a small grassy mound below the spring. Gurnemanz, after watching Parsifal for a while, now approaches him.
Gurnemanz: Heil dir, mein Gast! Bist du verirrt, und soll ich dich weisen? Parsifal schüttelt sanft das Haupt. Entbietest du mir keinen Gruss? Parsifal neigt das Haupt. Hei? - Was? Wenn dein Gelübde dich bindet, mir zu schweigen, so mahnt das meine mich, dass ich dir sage, was sich ziemt. Hier bist du an geweih'tem Ort; da zieht man nicht mit Waffen her, geschloss'nen Helmes, Schild und Speer; und heute gar! Weisst du denn nicht, welch' heil'ger Tag heut' ist?
(Parsifal schüttelt mit dem Kopfe.) Ja! Woher komm'st du denn? Bei welchen Heiden weiltest du, zu wissen nich, dass heute der allerheiligste Karfreitag ist [sei]?
(Parsifal senkt das Haupt noch tiefer.) Schnell ab die Waffen! Kränke nicht den Herrn, der heute, bar jeder Wehr, sein heilig' Blut der sündigen Welt zur Sühne bot!

Greetings, guest! Are you lost and should I give directions?
(Parsifal slowly shakes his head.) Do you have no greeting for me?
(Parsifal lowers his head.) Hey? What the ... If you have taken a vow that prevents you answering, then mine obliges me to tell you what is fitting. You are here on hallowed ground; here therefore none goes armed, with closed visor, shield and spear; today of all days! Do you not know what holy day it is today?
(Parsifal shakes his head.) So! Whence have you come here? Among which heathens have you lived, not to know that today is holiest Good Friday?
(Parsifal sinks his head even lower.) Put down your weapons! Do not offend the Lord, whom today, once for all, his holy blood shed in atonement for the sinful world!
After further silence, Parsifal gets up and thrusts the spear into the ground, lays down shield and sword beneath it, opens his helmet, takes it off his head and lays it down with the weapons, after which he kneels before the spear in silent prayer. Gurnemanz watches Parsifal with surprise and emotion. He beckons to Kundry, who is emerging from the hut. Parsifal's steady gaze rests devoutly on the tip of the spear.
Gurnemanz: Erkennst du ihn? Der ist's, der einst den Schwan erlegt!
(Kundry bestätigt mit einem leisen Kopfnicken.) Gewiss, 's ist Er, der Tor, den ich zürnend von uns wies.
(Kundry blickt starr, doch ruhig auf Parsifal.) Ha! Welche Pfade fand er? Der Speer - ich kenne ihn.
(In grosser Ergriffenheit) O! Heiligster Tag, an dem ich heut' erwachen sollt'!

Do you recognise him? It is he, who once killed the swan!
(Kundry confirms this with a gentle nod.) Truly, it's him, the fool, whom I chased away in anger. (Kundry looks steadily but peacefully at Parsifal.) Ah! What path did he find? The spear - I recognise it.
(Now greatly moved.) Oh! Holiest of days, that I should have woken today!
Kundry has turned her face away. Slowly Parsifal rises from prayer, looks peacefully around him, recognises [or: sees] Gurnemanz and gently raises a hand in greeting.
Parsifal: Heil mir, dass ich dich wiederfinde!
I rejoice at finding you again!
Gurnemanz: So kenn'st auch du mir noch? Erkenn'st mich wieder, den Gram und Not so tief gebeugt? Wie kam'st du heut? Woher?
So you recognise me too? Recognise me even after care and distress have left their mark? How came you here today? From where?
Parsifal: Der Irrnis und der Leiden Pfade kam ich; soll ich mich denen jetzt entwunden wähnen, da dieses Waldes Rauschen wieder ich vernehme, dich guten Greisen neu begrüsse? Oder - irr' ich wieder? Verändert [Verwandelt] dünkt mich alles.
Straying, I travelled the path of suffering; can I believe that I am now at its end, when I hear once more the rustling leaves of this forest, the good old man greet me again? Or - do I still wander? How different it all seems.
Gurnemanz: So sag', zu wem den Weg du suchtest?
But say, to whom sought you the way?
Parsifal: Zu ihm, dess' tiefe Klagen ich törig staunend einst vernahm, dem nun ich Heil Note 1zu bringen mich auserlesen wähnen darf.
Doch - ach! - den Weg des Heiles nie zu finden, in pfadlosen Irren trieb [jagt'] ein wilder Fluch mich umher;
zahllose Nöten, Kämpfe und Streite zwangen mich ab vom Pfade, wähnt' ich ihn recht schon erkannt.
Da musste mich Verzweiflung fassen, das Heiltum heil mir zu bergen, um das zu hüten, das zu wahren ich Wunden jeder Wehr' mir gewann; denn nicht ihn selber durft' ich führen im Streite; Note 2
unentweih't führ' ich ihn mir zur Seite, den ich nun heim geleite, der dort dir schlimmert heil und hehr, -- des Grales heil'gen Speer.

To him, whose deep laments I once heard in foolish wonder, to bring him salvation I presume to think myself ordained.
But - oh! - not finding the way of salvation, I strayed from the path, driven [chased] off course by a savage curse; countless dangers, battles and conflicts forced me from the path, even when I thought I knew it well.
Then I began to doubt that I could save the holy relic; in its defence, many times, I let myself be wounded; while I never dared to bear it in combat;
unprofaned I kept it at my side, that which I now bring home, gleaming before you bright and noble; the Grail's holy spear.
Note 1 See the earlier note regarding Heil. Parsifal brings salvation. A few lines further down, he refers to the way of salvation.

Note 2 Unlike Amfortas, who bore the spear as a weapon, Parsifal has protected it as a holy relic.
Gurnemanz: (in höchstes Entzücken ausbrechend) O Gnade! Höchstes Heil! O Wunder! Heilig hehrstes Wunder!
(Nachdem er sich etwas gefasst, zu Parsifal)
O Herr! War es ein Fluch, der dich von rechten Pfad vertrieb, so glaub', er ist gewichen. Hier bist du; diess des Grals Gebiet, dein' harret seine Ritterschaft. Ach, sie bedarf des Heiles,Note des Heiles, das du bringst!
Seit dem Tage, den du hier geweilt, die Trauer, so da kund dir ward, das Bangen - wuchs zur höchsten Not.
Amfortas, gegen seiner Wunden, seiner Seele Qual sich wehrend, begehrt' in wütendem Trotze nur den Tod. Kein Fleh'n, kein Elend seiner Ritter bewog ihn mehr, des heil'gen Amts zu walten. Im Schrein verschlossen bleibt seit lang' der Gral; so hofft sein sündenreu'ger Hüter, da er nicht sterben kann, wann je er ihn erschau't, sein Ende zu erzwingen und mit dem Leben seine Qual zu enden.
Die heil'ge Speisung bleibt uns nun versagt, gemeine Atzung muss uns nähren; darob versiegte uns'rer Helden Kraft. Nie kommt uns Botschaft mehr, noch Ruf zu heil'gen Kämpfen aus der Ferne; bleich und elend wankt umher die mut- und führerlose Ritterschaft.
In dieser Waldeck' barg ich selber [einsam] mich, des Todes still gewärtig, dem schon mein alter Waffenherr verfiel. Denn Titurel, mein heil'ger Held, den nun des Grales Anblick nicht mehr labte, er starb - ein Mensch, wie Alle!
(In great delight.) O blessing! Highest grace! O wonder! Holy, most blessed wonder!
(Becoming more composed, to Parsifal) O Lord! If it was a curse, that kept you from the true path, so believe, its power is broken. You are here now; this is the Grail's domain, here wait your knightly brotherhood. Oh, they are in need of salvation, the salvation that you bring! Since that day, when you were here, the grief, of which you know, the sorrow - grew to extreme distress.
Amfortas, fighting against his wound, tormented in his soul, in despair and defiance sought only death. No plea, no misery of his knights could persuade him to perform the holy service. Long the Grail remained closed up in its shrine; thus its guardian, repenting of his sin, since he cannot die while he beholds it, hopes to bring about his death and with his life to end the pain.
The heavenly nourishment is denied us, earthly food must sustain us; therefore our heroes' strength is lost. Messages do not reach us now, nor calls to distant holy war; the dispirited and leaderless knights wander pale and wretched.

In this forest corner I hide myself [alone], to await the peace of death, that my old lord in arms has found. Yes, Titurel, my holy hero, no more able to look upon the Grail, has died - a mortal like us all!
Note See earlier notes regarding Heil. Here Gurnemanz confirms that Parsifal brings salvation.
Parsifal: (vor grossen Schmerz sich aufbäumend) Und ich, ich bin's, der all' dies Elend schuf! Ha! Welcher Sünden, welches [welcher] Frevels Schuld muss dieses Toren Haupt seit Ewigkeit belasten, da keine Busse, keine Sühne der Blindheit mich entwindet, zur Rettung selbst ich auserkoren, in Irrnis wild verloren der Rettung letzter Pfad mir schwindet!
(writhing in great pain) And I, I am the one who caused all this misery! Ah! What sins, what offending guilt must this fool's head bear from all eternity; then no penance, no atonement, can excuse my blindness to the mission for which I was chosen, lost in wandering the last path of deliverance escapes me!
Note Parsifal's guilt would have been easier to understand if Wagner had followed the medieval romances and made the quester's failure to ask the healing question the cause of the king's continued suffering and of the distress of the land. Here Parsifal seems to be referring to the delay in returning the spear to the Grail's domain, too late to save Titurel.
Note ... a bodhisattva shows his karuná [usually translated as compassion or fellow- suffering] chiefly by resolving to suffer the torments and agonies of the dreadful purgatories during innumerable æons, if need be, so that he may lead all beings to perfect Enlightenment.
Parsifal becomes dizzy and begins to faint. Gurnemanz supports him and sits him down on the grassy mound. Kundry dashes to the stream to fetch water with which to sprinkly Parsifal. She returns.
Gurnemanz: Kundry sanft abweisend Nicht so! Die heil'ge Quelle selbst erquicke uns'res Pilgers Bad. Mir ahnt, ein hohes Werk hab' er noch heut' zu wirken, zu walten eines heil'gen Amtes; so sei er fleckenrein, und langer Irrfahrt Staub soll nun [jetzt] von ihm gewaschen sein.
(gently refusing her) Not so! The holy spring itself will refresh our pilgrim. I suspect that today he must perform some great work, fulfil some holy service; for this he must be spotless, and the dust of long wandering must now be washed from him.
Note Stage designers should note that a spring and a stream are important elements of this scene, in which water plays a symbolic role. A jug of holy water is a poor substitute.
Parsifal has been gently led by the others to the edge of the spring. During what follows Kundry removes his greaves while Gurnemanz takes off his body-armour.
Parsifal: (Sanft und matt) Werd' heut' zu Amfortas ich noch geleitet?
(gently and in exhaustion) Shall I be led to Amfortas today?
Gurnemanz: Gewisslich; uns'rer harrt die hehre Burg; die Totenfeier meines lieben Herrn, sie ruft mich selbst dahin. Den Gral noch einmal uns dazu enthüllen, des lang versäumten Amtes noch einmal heut' zu walten -
zur Heiligung des hehren Vaters, der seines Sohnes Schuld erlag, die der nun, also büssen will - gelobt' Amfortas uns.

Certainly; the noble castle awaits us; the funeral of my beloved lord, calls me there myself. The Grail is to be uncovered for us this once; today the long neglected service will be celebrated again -
to sanctify his noble father slain by the son's transgression, for which he now will atone - this Amfortas promised us.
Kundry washes Parsifal's feet with humble zeal. Parsifal looks at her in peaceful wonder.
Parsifal: (zu Kundry) Du wuschest mir die Füsse, nun netze mir das Haupt der Freund.
(to Kundry) You have washed my feet, now the friend shall moisten my head.
Note Kundry's washing of Parsifal's feet and anointing him with oil recalls Mary Magdalene, who did this in Wagner's scenario for a stage drama entitled Jesus of Nazareth.
Gurnemanz dips his hand into the spring and sprinkles Parsifal's head.
Gurnemanz: Gesegnet sei, du Reiner, durch das Reine! So weiche jeder Schuld Bekümmernis von dir!
Be blessed, you pure one, through purity! Thus may every trace of guilt and worry leave you!
While Gurnemanz ceremoniously sprinkles the water, Kundry takes a golden phial from her bosom and pours the contents over Parsifal's feet; then she hastily lets down her long hair and with it dries them.
Parsifal: (nimmt Kundry sanft das Fläscchen ab und reicht es Gurnemanz) Du salbtest mir [Salbtest du mir auch] die Füsse, das Haupt nun salbe Titurels Genoss', dass heute noch als König er mich grüsse!
(gently taking the phial from Kundry and passing it to Gurnemanz) You have anointed my feet, now let Titurel's comrade anoint my head, for today I shall be hailed as king!
During what follows Gurnemanz pours the remaining contents of the phial over Parsifal's head, gently rubs them in and then folds his hands on Parsifal's head.
Gurnemanz: So ward es uns verhiessen; so segne ich dein Haupt, als König dich zu grüssen.
Du - Reiner! -
Mitleidsvoll Duldender, heiltatvoll Wissender!
Wie des Erlös'ten Leiden du gelitten, die letzte Last entnimm nun seinem Haupt!

Thus it was promised to us; thus I bless your head, to hail you as king.
You - pure one! -
Compassionate sufferer, wise and full of healing;
as you have borne the suffering of redemption, lift the last load from his head!
Note It is not clear, and perhaps deliberately ambiguous, to whom these words are addressed. Is Parsifal the pure one, wise and compassionate? How could he lift the last load from his own head?
Note These words are followed by three very emphatic, long-awaited perfect cadences in B major. There is an air of finality about them. It might not be coincidental that the closing chords of Tristan und Isolde also form a perfect cadence in the key of B major.
Unperceived, Parsifal scoops up water from the spring.
Parsifal: Mein erstes Amt verricht' ich so; (Er neigt sich zu der vor ihm noch knienden Kundry und netzt ihr das Haupt.) Die Taufe nimm und glaub' an den Erlöser!
Thus I perform my first duty; (He bends over Kundry, who is kneeling before him, and sprinkles her head with water.) Receive baptism and believe in the Redeemer!
Kundry's head falls to the ground; she appears to be weeping profusely. Parsifal turns away and gazes upon forest and meadow, gently glowing in the morning sunlight, in mild ecstacy.
Parsifal: Wie dünkt mich doch die Aue heut' so schön! Wohl traf ich Wunderblumen an, die bis zum Haupte süchtig mich umrankten; doch sah' ich nie so mild und zart die Halme, Blüten und Blumen, noch duftet' all' so kindisch hold und sprach so lieblich traut zu mir.
How beautiful the meadows seem today! Once I met some magic flowers, who wound their tendrils around my head; but never did I see such mild and gentle grasses, flowers and blooms, nor did they smell so sweet and fresh, nor speak to me so intimately and lovingly.
Note The pizzicato G on lower strings replaced what were originally timpani strokes. See Cosima's Diary entry for 3 February 1879. Obliteration of the whole being, of all earthly desire said Richard. Surely these are Kundry's teardrops we hear?
Gurnemanz: Das ist ... Karfreitagszauber, Herr!
That is ... Good Friday's magic, Sire!
Parsifal: O wehe des höchsten Schmerzentags! Da sollte, wähn' ich, was da blüh't, was atmet, lebt und wieder lebt, nur trauern, ach! und weinen.
O alas the day of greatest pain! Then should, I think, all that blossoms, that breathes, lives and lives again, only mourn, ah! and weep.
Gurnemanz: Du siehst, das ist nicht so. Des Sünders Reuetränen sind es, die heut' mit heil'gem Tau beträufet Flur und Au'; der liess sie so gedeihen. Nun freu't sich alle Kreatur auf des Erlösers holder Spur, will sein Gebet ihm weihen. Ihn selbst am Kreuze kann sie nicht erschauen; da blickt sie zum erlös'ten Menschen auf; der fühlt sich frei von Sündenlast und Grauen, durch Gottes Liebesopfer rein und heil. Das merkt nun Halm und Blume auf den Auen, dass heut' des Menschen Fuss sie nicht zertritt, doch wohl, wie Gott mit himmlischer Geduld sich sein erbarmt' und für ihn litt, der Mensch auch heut' in frommer Huld sie schont mit sanftem Schritt. Das dankt dann alle Kreatur, was all' da blüht und bald erstirbt da die entsündigte Natur heut' ihren Unschuldstag erwirbt.
You see, that's not how it is. It is the tears of repentant sinners, that fall like holy dew today to moisten field and meadow; thus making them fertile. Now all creatures rejoice in visible signs of the Redeemer, to whom they dedicate their prayers. Since they cannot see Him on the Cross, they look up instead to man redeemed, who feels free from dread and the burden of sin because of God's loving sacrifice. The grass and flowers of the meadows notice that the foot of man does not trample them today, but that, as God, with heavenly patience and mercy, suffered for man, so mankind today in pious gratitude spares nature with gentle tread. Then all creatures give thanks, all that blooms and soon will fade, and nature now absolved from sin today enjoys its day of innocence.
Note In 1858 Wagner wrote to Mathilde Wesendonk: ... if this suffering can have a purpose, it is simply to awaken a sense of fellow-suffering in man, who thereby absorbs the creature's defective existence and becomes the Redeemer of the world by recognizing the error of all existence. (This meaning will one day become clearer to you from the Good Friday morning scene in the third act of Parzival). Which became Parsifal in 1877.

Note Gurnemanz is the only character in this scene who refers to God. Parsifal speaks only of the Redeemer.
Kundry has slowly raised her head again, and turns her wet eyes to Parsifal in calm and earnest entreaty.
Parsifal: Ich sah' sie welken, die einst mir lachten; ob heut' sie nach Erlösung schmachten? Auch deine Träne ward zum Segenstaue; du weinest! Sieh' - es lacht die Aue!
I saw them wither, those who once laughed at me; do they long for redemption today? Your tears too fall like dew upon the meadows; you weep! Look - the meadows laugh!
Note In effect Parsifal is saying to Kundry, do not weep but rejoice. He has heard the prayer spoken only in her heart.
Parsifal kisses Kundry gently on her forehead. Distant bells.
Gurnemanz: Mittag. Die Stund' ist da. Gestatte, Herr, dass dein Knecht dich [dass dich dein Knecht] geleite!
Noon. The hour has come. Sire, permit your servant to guide you!
Note   As Dieter Borchmeyer pointed out (in Richard Wagner: Theory and Theatre), the victory of caritas is shown (at the second climax of the drama) in Parsifal's brotherly kiss on Kundry's brow, a victory over the erotic or amorous kiss that Kundry had placed on his lips (at the first climax of the drama). Schopenhauer wrote [On the Basis of Morality, §18] that loving- kindness (like the other principal virtue, justice) flows from compassion. There can be no better preparation for anyone involved in a production of this opera than to spend a few hours reading On the Basis of Morality, which should reveal to them more about Parsifal than all of the books that claim to explain the opera.


Gurnemanz has kept his Grail-knight mantle close by; now he and Kundry place it on Parsifal's shoulders. Solemnly Parsifal grips the spear and with Kundry follows Gurnemnanz who slowly leads them. Gradually the scene changes in the same subtle way it did in the first act, but now from right to left. After remaining visible for a while, the three disappear completely, as the forest progressively gives way to chambers in the rocks. In these passages the sound of bells gradually increases. Now appears an opening in the rock wall and we see the great hall, as in the first act but without the tables. Dim lighting. From the side enter knights bearing Titurel's body in a coffin, from the other side they bear in Amfortas on his litter, preceded by the covered shrine with the Grail.

First procession of knights: (mit Amfortas) Geleiten wir im bergenden Schrein den Gral zum heiligen Amte, wen berget ihr in düst'ren Schrein und führt ihr trauernd daher?
(with Amfortas) In its protective shrine we bring the Grail to this holy service; whom do you carry in that dark shrine and bear in such sorrow?
Second procession of knights: Es birgt den Helden der Trauerschrein, er birgt die heilige Kraft, der Gott einst selbst zur Pflege sich gab; Titurel führen wir hier.
Within the mournful shrine lies the one with holy power, that God himself once gave him; we bring Titurel here.
1st Procession: Wer hat ihn gefällt, der, in Gottes Hut, Gott selbst einst beschirmte?
Who has slain him, who, in God's care, once himself protected God?
Note This appears to be an allusion to Titurel as former guardian of the Grail, in which God's presence might be considered to dwell in the same way as His presence dwelt in the Ark of the Covenant. It suggests a parallel between Titurel and Moses or Solomon.
2nd Procession: Ihn fällte des Alters siegende [tödtende] Last, da den Gral er nicht mehr erschaute.
He was slain by the conquering [deadly] burden of old age, when he looked no more upon the Grail.
1st Procession: Wer wehrt' ihm des Grales Huld zu erschauen?
Who withheld from him the Grail's grace?
2nd Procession: Den dort ihr geleitet, der sündige Hüter.
He is there with you, the sinful guardian.
1st Procession: Wir geleiten ihn heut', weil heut' noch einmal - zum letzten Male! - will des Amtes er walten. Ach, zum letzten Mal!
We bring him today so that once again - for the last time! - the service will be celebrated. Oh, for the last time!
Amfortas remains on the litter in front of the Grail altar, the coffin has been set down before him; the knights turn to him.
2nd Procession: Wehe! Wehe! Der Hüter des Grals! Ach, zum letzten Mal, sie deines Amtes gemahnt! Zum letzten Mal! Zum letzten Mal!
Alas! Alas! The guardian of the Grail! Oh, for the last time, we remind you of your office! For the last time! For the last time!
Amfortas: Ja, Wehe, Wehe! Weh' über mich! So ruf' ich willig mit euch, williger nähm' ich von euch den Tod, der Sünde mildeste Sühne!
Yes, alas, alas! Woe is me! I share your misery and cry with you, of my own free will accepting death, the sinner's mildest penance!
The lid of the coffin is opened - at the sight of Titurel's body all break out in a great cry of woe. Amfortas rises himself up from his bed and turns to the corpse.
Amfortas: Mein vater! Hochgesegneter der Helden! Du Reinster, dem einst die Engel sich neigten; der einzig ich sterben wollt', dir - gab ich den Tod! O! Der du jetzt in göttlichen Glanz den Erlöser selbst erschau'st, erflehe von ihm, dass sein heiliges Blut, wenn noch einmal heut' sein Segen die Brüder soll erquicken, wie ihnen neues Leben mir endlich spende - den Tod!
Tod! Sterben! Einz'ge Gnade! Die schreckliche Wunde, das Gift ersterbe, das es zernagt, erstarre das Herz! Mein Vater! Dich - ruf' ich, rufe du ihm es zu; "Erlöser, gib meinem Sohne Ruh'!"

My father! Most blessed of heroes! Purest one, to whom angels once bowed; Because I alone wished to die, I brought you death! Oh! You who in divine radiance now behold the Redeemer Himself, entreat of him that his holy blood, which once today with blessing shall revive the brothers in newness of life, shall finally bring me death!
Death! To die! The only mercy! The terrible wound, the poison; kill, paralyse the heart at which it gnaws! My father! I call on you, that you may call on Him: "Redeemer, grant peace to my son!"
Knights: (sich näher an Amfortas herandrängend) Enthüllet den Gral [Schrein]! Walte des Amtes! Dich mahnet dein Vater; du musst! Du musst!
(approaching Amfortas threateningly) Uncover the Grail! Serve the office! Your father asked it of you; you must! You must!
Amfortas jumps up in wild despair and throws himself before the retreating knights.
Amfortas: Nein! Nicht mehr! Ha! Schon fühl' ich den Tod mich umnachten und noch einmal sollt' ich ins Leben zurück? Wahnsinnige! Wer will mich zwingen zu leben? Könnt ihr doch Tod mir nur [nur mir] geben!
(Er reisst sich das Gewand auf) Hier bin ich - die off'ne Wunde hier! Das mich vergiftet, hier fliesst mein Blut. Heraus die Waffe! Taucht eure Schwerte, tief - tief, bis an's Heft!
Auf! Ihr Helden! Tötet den Sünder mit seiner Qual, von selbst dann leuchtet euch wohl der Gral!

No! Never more! Ah! Already I can feel the dark embrace of death and you would bring me back to life? Madmen! Who will compel me to live? If only you could bring me death!
(He tears open his robe.) Here I am - here is the open wound, that poisons me - here flows my blood. Take up your weapons! Thrust your swords deep - deep, to the hilt!
Up! You heroes! If you kill the sinner and his suffering, then once more the Grail will shine on you!
Note Umnachten means literally "mental derangement" or "benightment". Here it seems to be used almost in an Homeric sense of "night descending on his eyes".
NoteSuicide is a phenomenon of the will's strong affirmation ... the suicide wills life and is dissatisfied merely with the conditions on which it has come to him. ... Just because the suicide cannot cease willing, he ceases to live; and the will affirms itself even through the cessation of its own phenomenon, because it can no longer affirm itself otherwise. [Schopenhauer on suicide in The World as Will and Representation, part I, section 69]
All have shrunk back from Amfortas, who in terrible delirium stands alone. Led by Gurnemanz and Kundry and unnoticed by the knights, Parsifal enters, comes forward and extends the spear to touch Amfortas with its point.
Parsifal: Nur eine Waffe taugt: - die Wunde schliesst der Speer nur, der sie schlug.
One weapon alone will serve: - only the spear that struck you heals the wound.
Note As with the spear of Achilles in the myth of Telephus, the weapon that caused the wound is able to heal it.
Amfortas' features light up in holy ecstacy; he seems to stagger in the grip of powerful emotion; Gurnemanz supports him.
Parsifal: Sei heil, entsündigt und gesühnt! Denn ich verwalte nun dein Amt. Gesegnet sei dein Leiden, das Mitleids höchste Kraft, und reinsten Wissen's Macht dem zagen Thoren gab!
(Parsifal schreitet nach der Mitte, den Speer hoch vor sich erhebend.) Den heil'gen Speer - ich bring' ihn euch zurück!

Be whole, absolved and healed! Now I shall perform your office. O blessed be your suffering, that gave compassion's highest power and purest wisdom's might to the timid fool!
(Parsifal steps toward the centre. holding the spear high above him.) The holy spear - I bring it back to you!
Note ... if this suffering can have a purpose, it is simply to awaken a sense of fellow-suffering in man ... [Richard Wagner to Mathilde Wesendonk, 1 October 1858] Through suffering, highest compassion, and out of compassion, purest wisdom.

Note At the moment of his total enlightenment, the Buddha is supposed to have cried out: Dried-up wounds do not flow again!
All gaze in supreme rapture at the uplifted spear, to whose point Parsifal raises his own eyes as he continues ecstatically.
Parsifal: O! Welchen Wunder's höchstes Glück!
Der [Die] deine Wunde durfte schliessen, ihm [ihr] seh' ich heil'ges Blut entfliessen in Sehnsucht nach dem verwandten Quelle, der dort fliesst in des Grales Welle.
Nicht soll der mehr verschlossen sein;
enthüllet den Gral! Öffnet den Schrein!

Oh! The highest joy of this miracle!
From this weapon that has healed your wound, I see the holy blood flowing in yearning for the kindred fount that flows and surges in the Grail.
Never more shall it be closed;
uncover the Grail! Open the shrine!
Note When the spear and the Grail are reunited, the spear begins to bleed. Drops of blood flow from the spear into the Grail. Wagner might have intended this to symbolise poetry, the masculine element, uniting with music, the feminine element, in the total work of art. The holy blood might be Christ's blood, the essence of free-willed suffering, or it might be identified with the regenerating mead of poetry, made from the blood of a sage, which was served to heroes in Valhall.

Parsifal ascends the steps of the altar, takes the Grail from the shrine already opened by the squires and falls to his knees in silent prayer. Gradually there appears a gentle light in the Grail. Increasing darkness below and illumination above.
Squires and Knights: (mit stimmen aus der mittleren sowie der obersten Höhe kaum hörbar leise.) Höchsten Heiles Wunder! Erlösung dem Erlöser!
(with barely audible voices from the mid-height and top of the dome.) Supreme miracle of salvation! Redemption to the Redeemer!
Note Commentators have variously interpreted this final line. They disagree about whether the Redeemer referred to is Christ or Parsifal. The line might be deliberately ambiguous.
A beam of light; the Grail now at maximum brightness. From the dome a white dove descends and hovers over Parsifal's head. Kundry, with her gaze resting on Parsifal, sinks lifeless to the ground. Amfortas and Gurnemanz kneel in homage before Parsifal, who swings the Grail over the worshipping knights.

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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