Wagner - The Ashes

( Originally Published 1894 )

AFTER the little girl had gone, I still sat for a long time looking into the fire. I was seeing pictures for myself, not now of the days so long gone by, but of days not yet come, pictures with the little girl in them. There, in the flames where we had seen so much together, I could see pretty clearly, as I thought, what she would be and all that she would be some time. But when I tried to see what she would do and how her lot should fall, the fire would tell me no more. Yet wherever and however it shall fall, may she not be a little better, a little wiser, a little happier perhaps, for knowing these old stories that have helped so many women and so many men before her to live their lives? Will it not be good for her to remember Brunnhilde's fearless truth, Senta's sacrifice, Elizabeth's constancy ? And if to the thoughts of these she add Parsifal's lesson of compassion, surely then even a little of Eva's coquetry can do no harm.

And then I tried to see something of her knight. But the fire had all died down now, and was only a heap of ashes. I could question as much as I would, but there was no reply. Would he seek her out and come to her like Siegfried, through struggles and through fire ? Would he find and help her in her greatest need, like Lohengrin ? Would he only love lier and sing a song for her, like Walter? Or would it be for her to help and to save him, like Vanderdecken ?—Surely not like Tannhduser. No, no answer. I stirred the ashes. Underneath there was still a bright, ruddy, friendly glow, but nothing more.

A clock somewhere in the house, with a low, musical note, struck midnight. But what was this other music that followed it? Was it again the bells of Monsalvat, this soft chime that came on the still air? No, no, only church bells far off, ringing in the New Year. Many times I had heard them and well I knew their sound. And all around those bells, I knew too, at this moment, there were noise and up-roar and confusion, so much that those who stood nearest to them in the street could not tell whether they were ringing, just as many other sweet and pleasant things are made to seem lost among the coarse and the commonplace. But to me here, away from the vulgar crowd and forgetting it, the music came, faint indeed, yet clear and pure. I opened the window and the chime came plainer with the keen winter air, and the bells—I am sure of it—answered all my questions and rang a promise for the New Year and for all the years.

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