The Other Wagner, Part 2: A Personal Message From Richard Wagner

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 24 January 2014 | 6:35:00 pm

Wagner wrote much. Alas, only a tiny percentage of it ever seems to receive attention - normally his less "charming" material. But Wagner was much more than his work or those of his writings that seem to receive so much attention. Following the re-print of one of his letters recently, we have decided to commit to a series we are calling "The Other Wagner". The following, "famous" to some of you we know, first appeared in Volksblätter no 14, Dresden, Sunday 8 April, 1849. Written only a year after the the first prose sketch for Ring of the Nibelung - of which some argue it share similarities. What is interesting about this work is that it suggests a very different person to that, that commentators such as Gutman, Kohler, et al, suggest was the forerunner of Adolf Hitler.

Richard Wagner: The Revolution. Printed in Volksblätter no 14, Dresden, Sunday 8 April, 1849.

"I am the e'er-rejuvenating, ever-fashioning Life; where I am not, is Death! I am the dream, the balm, the hope of sufferers ! I bring to nothing what exists, and whither I turn there wells fresh life from the dead rock. I come to you, to break all fetters that oppress you, to redeem you from the arms of Death and pour young Life through all your veins. Whatever stands, must fall:  such is the everlasting law of Nature, such the condition of Life; and I, the eternal destroyer, fulfil the law and fashion ever-youthful life. From its root up will I destroy the order of things in which ye live, for it is sprung from sin, its flower is misery and its fruit is crime; but the harvest is ripe, and I am the reaper. I will destroy each phantom (Wahn) that has rule o'er men. I will destroy the dominion of one over many, of the dead o'er the living, of matter over spirit; I will break the power of the mighty, of law, of property. Be his own will the lord of man, his own desire his only law, his strength his whole possession, for the only Holiness is the free man, and naught higher there is than he. Annulled be the fancy that gives One power over millions, makes millions subject to the will of one, the doctrine that One has power to bless all others. Like may not rule over like; like has no higher potence than its equal: and as ye all are equal, I will destroy all rulership of one over other."

I will destroy the existing order of things, which parts this one mankind into hostile nations, into powerful and weak, privileged and outcast, rich and poor; for it makes unhappy men of all. I will destroy the order of things that turns millions to slaves of a few, and these few to slaves of their own might, own riches. I will destroy this order of things, that cuts enjoyment off from labour, makes labour a load (Last), enjoyment a vice (Laster), makes one man wretched through want, another through overflow. I will destroy this order of things, which wastes man's powers in service of dead matter, which keeps the half of humankind in inactivity or useless toil, binds hundreds of thousands to devote their vigorous youth-in busy idleness as soldiers, placemen, speculators and money-spinners-to the maintenance of these depraved conditions, whilst the other half must shore the whole disgraceful edifice at cost of over-taxing all their strength and sacrificing every taste of life. Down to its memory will I destroy each trace of this mad state of things, compact of violence, lies, care, hypocrisy, want, sorrow, suffering, tears, trickery and crime, with seldom a breath of even impure air to quicken it, and all but never a ray of pure joy. Destroyed be all that weighs on you and makes you suffer, and from the ruins of this ancient world let rise a new, instinct with happiness undreamt! Nor hate, nor envy, grudge nor enmity, be henceforth found among you; as brothers shall ye all who live know one another, andfree, free in willing, free in doing, free in enjoying, shall ye attest the worth of life. So up, ye peoples of the earth! Up, ye mourners, ye oppressed, ye poor! And up, ye others, ye who strive in vain to cloak the inner desolation of your hearts by idle show of might and riches! Up, in miscellany follow my steps; for no distinction can I make 'twixt those who follow me. Two peoples, only, are there from henceforth: the one, that follows me, the other, that withstands me. The one I lead to happiness; over the other grinds my path: for I am Revolution, I am the ever-fashioning Life, I am the only God, to whom each creature testifies, who spans and gives both life and happiness to all that is!



If we peer across its lands and peoples, we find throughout the whole of Europe the effervescence of a mighty movement, whose first vibrations have already reached us, whose full weight threatens soon to crash upon us. Europe seems to us a huge volcano, from whose inside an ever-waxing fearsome roar resounds, from out whose crater columns of black smoke ascend to heaven big with storm, and mantle all the earth with darkness, while here and there a lava-stream, a fiery harbinger, breaks through the hard-set crust and bears destruction to the vale below.

A supernatural force seems clutching at our quarter of the globe, intent on lifting it from its old rut and hurling it to pathways new.

Ay, we behold it, the old world is crumbling, a new will rise therefrom; for the lofty goddess Revolution comes rustling on the wings of storm, her stately head ringed round with lightnings, a sword in her right hand, a torch in her left, her eye so stern, so punitive, so cold; and yet what warmth of purest love, what wealth of happiness streams forth toward him who dares to look with steadfast gaze into that eye! Rustling she comes, the e'er-rejuvenating mother of mankind; destroying and fulfilling, she fares across the earth; before her soughs the storm, and shakes so fiercely at man's handiwork that vasty clouds of dust eclipse the sky, and where her mighty foot steps falls in ruins what an idle whim had built for æons, and the hem of her robe sweeps its last remains away. But in her wake there opens out a ne'er-dreamt paradise of happiness, illumed by kindly sunbeams; and where her foot had trodden down, spring fragrant flowers from the soil, and jubilant songs of freed mankind fill full the air scarce silent from the din of battle.

Now turn and look below, around you. There you see one, the mightiest prince, with halting heart and catching breath, yet seeking to assume a tranquil, cool demeanour, to shut his eyes and those of others to what he clearly sees to be inevitable. There see another, his leathern face all ploughed by vices, exerting all those petty sharper's arts that have brought him in so many a titlet, so many an order's crosslet ; you see him with his diplomatic smile and air of mystery among the teethnipped lordlings, the ladylings all snatching at their smelling-salts, whom he tries to reassure by half-official information that highest personages have deigned to pay attention to this strange phenomenon, that couriers have been sent already to various parts with Cabinet-orders, that the advice of that wise government-artist Metternich is even on the road from London, that the right authorities have had instructions all around, and accordingly the interesting surprise is in preparation for high-born society, at the next Court-ball, of taking a peep at this horrid vagrant Revolution-of course in an iron cage and fetters. -There see a third man, speculating on the approach of the apparition, running off to the Bourse, minutely reckoning the rise and fall of bondlets, higgling and haggling, alert to catch the least per-centlet, till all his plunder scatters to the winds. There, behind the dusty office-desk, you see one of those warped and rusted wheels of our present State-machine, scratching away with its stump of a quill, and doing its unceasing best to add fresh lumber to a paper world. Between these files of documents and contracts the hearts of live humanity are pressed like gathered leaves, and fall to powder in these modern torture-rooms. Here rules a strenuous activity, for the web outspun across the continent is torn in many a corner, and the startled spiders are busy knitting up fresh threads to rectify the holes. Here not a ray of light breaks in, here reign eternal night and darkness; and into night and darkness will the whole dissolve. -But listen! from that side there sounds shrill warlike music, swords flash and bayonets, heavy guns clatter past, and serried ranks of troops unroll their length. The valiant host of heroes has set out for its brush with Revolution. The General bids march to right and left, here stations infantry, there cavalry, and wisely parcels out his bristling columns and his dread artillery; and Revolution comes apace, her head high in the clouds, -they see her not, but wait for the foe; and she stands already in their midst, -they see her not, still waiting for the foe; and she has seized them in her mighty whirlwind, has scattered the ranks, dispersed the force which craft had stolen, -but the General, he sits there, absorbed in his map, and calculating from which side the foe may be expected, and what his strength, and when he will arrive! -Stay! there you see a troubled face: an upright, thrifty burgher it belongs to. He has toiled and moiled his whole life long, has honestly cared for the weal of all, so far as lay within his power ; no shame, no wrong attaches to the mite his useful diligence has earned, to keep himself in feeble age, to give his sons a footing in this joyless life. He feels indeed the advent of the storm, he knows full well that no force can withstand it; yet his heart is sad when he looks back upon his life of hardships, whose only fruit is destined to destruction. We cannot gird at him, if timidly he grapples to his hoard, if futilely he puts forth all his blindfold strength 'gainst the invader. Unhappy man! uplift thine eyes, look up to where a thousand thousands gather on the hills in joyous expectation of the, dawn! Regard them, they are all thy brothers, sisters, the troops of those poor wights who hitherto knew naught of life but suffering, have been but strangers on this earth of joy; they all are waiting for that Revolution which affrights thee, their redemptrix from this world of sorrow, creatrix of a new world blessing all! See there, there stream the legions from the factories; they've made and fashioned lordly stuffs, -themselves and children, they are naked, frozen, hungry; for not to them belongs the fruit of all their labour, but to the rich and mighty one who calls men and the earth his own. See, there they troop, from fields and farmyards; they've tilled the earth and turned it to a smiling garden, and fruits in plenty, enough for all who live, have paid their pains, -yet poor are they, and naked starving; for not to them, or others who are needy, belongs earth's blessing, but solely to the rich and mighty one who calls men and the earth hisown. They all, the hundredthousands, millions, are camped upon the hills and gaze into the distance, where thickening clouds proclaim the advent of emancipating Revolution; they all, to whom nothing is left to grieve for, from whom men rob the sons to train them into sturdy gaolers of their fathers, whose daughters walk the city's streets with burden of their shame, an offering to the baser lusts of rich and mighty; they all, with the sallow, careworn faces, the limbs devoured by frost and hunger, they all who have never known joy, encamp there on the heights and strain their eyes in blissful expectation of her coming, and listen in rapt silence to the rustle of the rising storm, which fills their ears with Revolution's greeting:

"I am the e'er-rejuvenating, ever-fashioning Life; where I am not, is Death! I am the dream, the balm, the hope of sufferers ! I bring to nothing what exists, and whither I turn there wells fresh life from the dead rock. I come to you, to break all fetters that oppress you, to redeem you from the arms of Death and pour young Life through all your veins. Whatever stands, must fall:  such is the everlasting law of Nature, such the condition of Life; and I, the eternal destroyer, fulfil the law and fashion ever-youthful life. From its root up will I destroy the order of things in which ye live, for it is sprung from sin, its flower is misery and its fruit is crime; but the harvest is ripe, and I am the reaper. I will destroy each phantom (Wahn) that has rule o'er men. I will destroy the dominion of one over many, of the dead o'er the living, of matter over spirit; I will break the power of the mighty, of law, of property. Be his own will the lord of man, his own desire his only law, his strength his whole possession, for the only Holiness is the free man, and naught higher there is than he. Annulled be the fancy that gives One power over millions, makes millions subject to the will of one, the doctrine that One has power to bless all others. Like may not rule over like; like has no higher potence than its equal: and as ye all are equal, I will destroy all rulership of one over other.

Annulled be the fancy that gives Death power over Life, the Past o'er the Future. The law of the dead is their own law; it shares their lot, and dies with them; it shall not govern Life. Life is law unto itself. And since the Law is for the living, not the dead, and ye are living, with none conceivable above you, ye yourselves are the law, your own free will the sole and highest law, and I will destroy all dominion of Death over Life.

Annulled be the fancy that makes man bondslave to his handiwork, to property. Man's highest good is his fashioning force, the fount whence springs all happiness forever; and not in the created, in the act of creation itself, in the exercise of your powers lies your true highest enjoyment. Man's work is lifeless; the living shall not bind itself to what is lifeless, not make itself a thrall to that. So away with the bugbear that restrains enjoyment, that hems free force, that sets up Property outside of Man, and makes him thrall to his own work.


Look hence, ye wretched ones, upon those blessed fields ye now flit through as thralls, as aliens. Free shall ye wander there, free from the yoke of the living, free from the chains of the dead. What Nature made, what men have tilled and turned into a fruitful garden, belongs to men, the needy, and none shall come and say: "To mealone belongs all this; ye others are but guests I tolerate so long as I may please and they shall yield me tribute, guests I drive forth when so inclined. To me belongs what Nature Made, what Man has wrought, and the living needs." Away with that lie; to Need alone, belongs what satisfies it, and such is offered in abundance by Nature and your own strong arm. See there the houses in the cities, and all that gives delight to men, which ye must journey past as strangers; Man's mind and strength have made it, and therefore it belongs to men, the living, and one man shall not come and say: "To me belongeth all that toiling men have made. I alone have a right to it, and the others shall enjoy but what I please and they pay toll for." Destroyed be this lie, with the others; for what the strength of men hath made, belongs to mankind for its unrestricted use, as everything besides on earth.

I will destroy the existing order of things, which parts this one mankind into hostile nations, into powerful and weak, privileged and outcast, rich and poor; for it makes unhappy men of all. I will destroy the order of things that turns millions to slaves of a few, and these few to slaves of their own might, own riches. I will destroy this order of things, that cuts enjoyment off from labour, makes labour a load (Last), enjoyment a vice (Laster), makes one man wretched through want, another through overflow. I will destroy this order of things, which wastes man's powers in service of dead matter, which keeps the half of humankind in inactivity or useless toil, binds hundreds of thousands to devote their vigorous youth-in busy idleness as soldiers, placemen, speculators and money-spinners-to the maintenance of these depraved conditions, whilst the other half must shore the whole disgraceful edifice at cost of over-taxing all their strength and sacrificing every taste of life. Down to its memory will I destroy each trace of this mad state of things, compact of violence, lies, care, hypocrisy, want, sorrow, suffering, tears, trickery and crime, with seldom a breath of even impure air to quicken it, and all but never a ray of pure joy. Destroyed be all that weighs on you and makes you suffer, and from the ruins of this ancient world let rise a new, instinct with happiness undreamt! Nor hate, nor envy, grudge nor enmity, be henceforth found among you; as brothers shall ye all who live know one another, andfree, free in willing, free in doing, free in enjoying, shall ye attest the worth of life. So up, ye peoples of the earth! Up, ye mourners, ye oppressed, ye poor! And up, ye others, ye who strive in vain to cloak the inner desolation of your hearts by idle show of might and riches! Up, in miscellany follow my steps; for no distinction can I make 'twixt those who follow me. Two peoples, only, are there from henceforth: the one, that follows me, the other, that withstands me. The one I lead to happiness; over the other grinds my path: for I am Revolution, I am the ever-fashioning Life, I am the only God, to whom each creature testifies, who spans and gives both life and happiness to all that is!

And lo! the legions on the hills, voiceless they fall to their knees and listen in mute transport; and as the sunbaked soil drinks up the cooling drops of rain, so their sorrow-parching hearts drink in the accents of the rustling storm, and new life courses through their veins. Nearer and nearer rolls the storm, on its wings Revolution; wide open now the quickened hearts of those awaked to life, and victrix Revolution pours into their brains, their bones, their flesh, and fills them through and through. In godlike ecstasy they leap from the ground; the poor, the hungering, the bowed by misery, are they no longer; proudly they raise themselves erect, inspiration shines from their ennobled faces, a radiant light streams from their eyes, and with the heaven-shaking cry I am a Man! the millions, the embodied Revolution, the God become Man, rush down to the valleys and plains, and proclaim to all the world the new gospel of Happiness.