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The Awakening: Wagner and Rumi

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday 28 May 2019 | 8:54:00 pm

The Awakening is a short film by Ivan Maria Friedman, taking the poem of Sufi mystic Rumi and setting it to the Vorspiel of Das Rheingold.
The juxtaposition of a Sufi mystic and Wagner might at first seem a strange one, but in truth, it was  Wagner who first noted, in his letters to his longtime friend August Röckel, a link between the Ring and another Sufi mystic, and poet, Hafiz. As noted by Wagner scholar Peter Bassett, in his monograph "Buddhist and Hindu Concepts in Wagner’s Stage Works":

"His awakening, so to speak, to the literature of the east, can be traced to the early 1850s. In 1852 he wrote from Zürich to his former assistant August Röckel languishing in Waldheim prison, about the poetry of the fourteenth-century Persian mystic, Hafiz, whose works were then being edited by Hermann Brockhaus. ‘We with our pompous European intellectual culture’ wrote Wagner, ‘must stand abashed in the presence of this product of the Orient, with its self-assured and sublime tranquillity of mind.’ In 1814, Goethe had been drawn to the poetry of Hafiz and used it in his collection of twelve lyrical poems West-Eastern Divan, symbolizing exchanges and mixtures between the orient and the occident.

Wagner’s reading of Hafiz informed his ideas on a number of Ring-related issues. He wrote again to Röckel while working on his Rheingold poem, saying: ‘Study Hafiz properly. … something similar will also become clear in my Nibelungen.’ Perhaps he had in mind these words of the poet: ‘Man of self, raised up with endless pride, we forgive thee – for love’s to thee denied’.

The Persian poet also had something to say about fate and destiny that is relevant to Wagner’s treatment of Erda. Wotan believes that success, life and power are all that matters, but Erda tells him that all things that are will end; he is not the ultimate controller of his fate. Hafiz describes the futility of resisting an appointed destiny, and offers only one solution: ‘cast the world aside, yes abandon it’."

Keeping this in mind, let us introduce, "The Awakening: A Cinematic Poem" by Ivan Maria Friedman, performed by Elena Samuylova:

“The Awakening”

By Djalâl ad-Dîn Rûmî (1207-1273)

In the early dawn of happiness
you gave me three kisses
so that I would wake up
to this moment of love

I tried to remember in my heart
what I’d dreamt about
during the night
before I became aware
of this moving
of life

I found my dreams
but the moon took me away
It lifted me up to the firmament
and suspended me there
I saw how my heart had fallen
on your path
singing a song

Between my love and my heart
things were happening which
slowly slowly
made me recall everything

You amuse me with your touch
although I can’t see your hands.
You have kissed me with tenderness
although I haven’t seen your lips
You are hidden from me.

But it is you who keeps me alive

Perhaps the time will come
when you will tire of kisses
I shall be happy
even for insults from you
I only ask that you
keep some attention on me.