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The Rhine Gold

Let me assume for a moment that you are a young and good-looking
woman. Try to imagine yourself in that character at Klondyke five
years ago. The place is teeming with gold. If you are content to
leave the gold alone, as the wise leave flowers without plucking
them, enjoying with perfect naivete its color and glitter and
preciousness, no human being will ever be the worse for your
knowledge of it; and whilst you remain in that frame of mind the
golden age will endure.

Now suppose a man comes along: a man who has no sense of the
golden age, nor any power of living in the present: a man with
common desires, cupidities, ambitions, just like most of the men
you know. Suppose you reveal to that man the fact that if he will
only pluck this gold up, and turn it into money, millions of men,
driven by the invisible whip of hunger, will toil underground and
overground night and day to pile up more and more gold for him
until he is master of the world! You will find that the prospect
will not tempt him so much as you might imagine, because it
involves some distasteful trouble to himself to start with, and
because there is something else within his reach involving no
distasteful toil, which he desires more passionately; and that
is yourself. So long as he is preoccupied with love of you, the
gold, and all that it implies, will escape him: the golden age
will endure. Not until he forswears love will he stretch out his
hand to the gold, and found the Plutonic empire for himself. But
the choice between love and gold may not rest altogether with
him. He may be an ugly, ungracious, unamiable person, whose
affections may seem merely ludicrous and despicable to you. In
that case, you may repulse him, and most bitterly humiliate and
disappoint him. What is left to him then but to curse the love he
can never win, and turn remorselessly to the gold? With that, he
will make short work of your golden age, and leave you lamenting
its lost thoughtlessness and sweetness.

In due time the gold of Klondyke will find its way to the great
cities of the world. But the old dilemma will keep continually
reproducing itself. The man who will turn his back on love, and
upon all the fruitful it, and will set himself single-heartedly
to gather gold in an exultant dream of wielding its Plutonic
powers, will find the treasure yielding quickly to his touch.
But few men will make this sacrifice voluntarily. Not until
the Plutonic power is so strongly set up that the higher human
impulses are suppressed as rebellious, and even the mere
appetites are denied, starved, and insulted when they cannot
purchase their satisfaction with gold, are the energetic spirits
driven to build their lives upon riches. How inevitable that
course has become to us is plain enough to those who have the
power of understanding what they see as they look at the
plutocratic societies of our modern capitals.

First Scene

Here, then, is the subject of the first scene of The Rhine Gold.
As you sit waiting for the curtain to rise, you suddenly catch
the booming ground-tone of a mighty river. It becomes plainer,
clearer: you get nearer to the surface, and catch the green light
and the flights of bubbles. Then the curtain goes up and you see
what you heard--the depths of the Rhine, with three strange fairy
fishes, half water-maidens, singing and enjoying themselves
exuberantly. They are not singing barcarolles or ballads about
the Lorely and her fated lovers, but simply trolling any nonsense
that comes into their heads in time to the dancing of the water
and the rhythm of their swimming. It is the golden age; and the
attraction of this spot for the Rhine maidens is a lump of the
Rhine gold, which they value, in an entirely uncommercial way,
for its bodily beauty and splendor. Just at present it is
eclipsed, because the sun is not striking down through the
water.

Presently there comes a poor devil of a dwarf stealing along the
slippery rocks of the river bed, a creature with energy enough to
make him strong of body and fierce of passion, but with a brutish
narrowness of intelligence and selfishness of imagination: too
stupid to see that his own welfare can only be compassed as part
of the welfare of the world, too full of brute force not to grab
vigorously at his own gain. Such dwarfs are quite common in
London. He comes now with a fruitful impulse in him, in search
of what he lacks in himself, beauty, lightness of heart,
imagination, music. The Rhine maidens, representing all these to
him, fill him with hope and longing; and he never considers that
he has nothing to offer that they could possibly desire, being
by natural limitation incapable of seeing anything from anyone
else's point of view. With perfect simplicity, he offers himself
as a sweetheart to them. But they are thoughtless, elemental,
only half real things, much like modern young ladies. That the
poor dwarf is repulsive to their sense of physical beauty and
their romantic conception of heroism, that he is ugly and
awkward, greedy and ridiculous, disposes for them of his claim to
live and love. They mock him atrociously, pretending to fall in
love with him at first sight, and then slipping away and making
game of him, heaping ridicule and disgust on the poor wretch
until he is beside himself with mortification and rage. They
forget him when the water begins to glitter in the sun, and the
gold to reflect its glory. They break into ecstatic worship of
their treasure; and though they know the parable of Klondyke
quite well, they have no fear that the gold will be wrenched away
by the dwarf, since it will yield to no one who has not forsworn
love for it, and it is in pursuit of love that he has come to
them. They forget that they have poisoned that desire in him by
their mockery and denial of it, and that he now knows that life
will give him nothing that he cannot wrest from it by the
Plutonic power. It is just as if some poor, rough, vulgar, coarse
fellow were to offer to take his part in aristocratic society,
and be snubbed into the knowledge that only as a millionaire
could he ever hope to bring that society to his feet and buy
himself a beautiful and refined wife. His choice is forced on
him. He forswears love as thousands of us forswear it every day;
and in a moment the gold is in his grasp, and he disappears in
the depths, leaving the water-fairies vainly screaming "Stop
thief!" whilst the river seems to plunge into darkness and sink
from us as we rise to the cloud regions above.

And now, what forces are there in the world to resist Alberic,
our dwarf, in his new character of sworn plutocrat? He is soon at
work wielding the power of the gold. For his gain, hordes of his
fellow-creatures are thenceforth condemned to slave miserably,
overground and underground, lashed to their work by the invisible
whip of starvation. They never see him, any more than the victims
of our "dangerous trades" ever see the shareholders whose power
is nevertheless everywhere, driving them to destruction. The very
wealth they create with their labor becomes an additional force
to impoverish them; for as fast as they make it it slips from
their hands into the hands of their master, and makes him
mightier than ever. You can see the process for yourself in every
civilized country today, where millions of people toil in want
and disease to heap up more wealth for our Alberics, laying up
nothing for themselves, except sometimes horrible and agonizing
disease and the certainty of premature death. All this part of
the story is frightfully real, frightfully present, frightfully
modern; and its effects on our social life are so ghastly and
ruinous that we no longer know enough of happiness to be
discomposed by it. It is only the poet, with his vision of what
life might be, to whom these things are unendurable. If we were a
race of poets we would make an end of them before the end of this
miserable century. Being a race of moral dwarfs instead, we think
them highly respectable, comfortable and proper, and allow them
to breed and multiply their evil in all directions. If there were
no higher power in the world to work against Alberic, the end of
it would be utter destruction.

Such a force there is, however; and it is called Godhead. The
mysterious thing we call life organizes itself into all living
shapes, bird, beast, beetle and fish, rising to the human marvel
in cunning dwarfs and in laborious muscular giants, capable,
these last, of enduring toil, willing to buy love and life, not
with suicidal curses and renunciations, but with patient manual
drudgery in the service of higher powers. And these higher powers
are called into existence by the same self-organization of life
still more wonderfully into rare persons who may by comparison be
called gods, creatures capable of thought, whose aims extend far
beyond the satisfaction of their bodily appetites and personal
affections, since they perceive that it is only by the
establishment of a social order founded on common bonds of moral
faith that the world can rise from mere savagery. But how is this
order to be set up by Godhead in a world of stupid giants, since
these thoughtless ones pursue only their narrower personal ends
and can by no means understand the aims of a god? Godhead, face
to face with Stupidity, must compromise. Unable to enforce on the
world the pure law of thought, it must resort to a mechanical law
of commandments to be enforced by brute punishments and the
destruction of the disobedient. And however carefully these laws
are framed to represent the highest thoughts of the framers at
the moment of their promulgation, before a day has elapsed that
thought has grown and widened by the ceaseless evolution of life;
and lo! yesterday's law already fallen out with today's thought.
Yet if the high givers of that law themselves set the example of
breaking it before it is a week old, they destroy all its
authority with their subjects, and so break the weapon they have
forged to rule them for their own good. They must therefore
maintain at all costs the sanctity of the law, even when it has
ceased to represent their thought; so that at last they get
entangled in a network of ordinances which they no longer believe
in, and yet have made so sacred by custom and so terrible by
punishment, that they cannot themselves escape from them. Thus
Godhead's resort to law finally costs it half its integrity--as
if a spiritual king, to gain temporal power, had plucked out one
of his eyes--and it finally begins secretly to long for the
advent of some power higher than itself which will destroy its
artificial empire of law, and establish a true republic of free
thought.

This is by no means the only difficulty in the dominion of Law.
The brute force for its execution must be purchased; and the mass
of its subjects must be persuaded to respect the authority which
employs this force. But how is such respect to be implanted in
them if they are unable to comprehend the thought of the
lawgiver? Clearly, only by associating the legislative power with
such displays of splendor and majesty as will impress their
senses and awe their imaginations. The god turned lawgiver, in
short, must be crowned Pontiff and King. Since he cannot be known
to the common folk as their superior in wisdom, he must be known
to them as their superior in riches, as the dweller in castles,
the wearer of gold and purple, the eater of mighty feasts, the
commander of armies, and the wielder of powers of life and death,
of salvation and damnation after death. Something may be done in
this way without corruption whilst the golden age still endures.
Your gods may not prevail with the dwarfs; but they may go to
these honest giants who will give a day's work for a day's pay,
and induce them to build for Godhead a mighty fortress, complete
with hall and chapel, tower and bell, for the sake of the
homesteads that will grow up in security round that
church-castle. This only, however, whilst the golden age lasts.
The moment the Plutonic power is let loose, and the loveless
Alberic comes into the field with his corrupting millions, the
gods are face to face with destruction; since Alberic, able with
invisible hunger-whip to force the labor of the dwarfs and to buy
the services of the giants, can outshine all the temporal shows
and splendors of the golden age, and make himself master of the
world, unless the gods, with their bigger brains, can capture his
gold. This, the dilemma of the Church today, is the situation
created by the exploit of Alberic in the depths of the Rhine.

Second Scene

From the bed of the river we rise into cloudy regions, and
finally come out into the clear in a meadow, where Wotan, the
god of gods, and his consort Fricka lie sleeping. Wotan, you
will observe, has lost one eye; and you will presently learn
that he plucked it out voluntarily as the price to be paid for
his alliance with Fricka, who in return has brought to him as
her dowry all the powers of Law. The meadow is on the brink of
a ravine, beyond which, towering on distant heights, stands
Godhome, a mighty castle, newly built as a house of state for the
one-eyed god and his all-ruling wife. Wotan has not yet seen this
castle except in his dreams: two giants have just built it for
him whilst he slept; and the reality is before him for the first
time when Fricka wakes him. In that majestic burg he is to rule
with her and through her over the humble giants, who have eyes to
gape at the glorious castles their own hands have built from his
design, but no brains to design castles for themselves, or to
comprehend divinity. As a god, he is to be great, secure, and
mighty; but he is also to be passionless, affectionless, wholly
impartial; for Godhead, if it is to live with Law, must have no
weaknesses, no respect for persons. All such sweet littlenesses
must be left to the humble stupid giants to make their toil sweet
to them; and the god must, after all, pay for Olympian power the
same price the dwarf has paid for Plutonic power.

Wotan has forgotten this in his dreams of greatness. Not so
Fricka. What she is thinking of is this price that Wotan has
consented to pay, in token whereof he has promised this day to
hand over to the giants Fricka's sister, the goddess Freia, with
her golden love-apples. When Fricka reproaches Wotan with having
selfishly forgotten this, she finds that he, like herself, is not
prepared to go through with his bargain, and that he is trusting
to another great worldforce, the Lie (a European Power, as
Lassalle said), to help him to trick the giants out of their
reward. But this force does not dwell in Wotan himself, but in
another, a god over whom he has triumphed, one Loki, the god of
Intellect, Argument, Imagination, Illusion, and Reason. Loki has
promised to deliver him from his contract, and to cheat the
giants for him; but he has not arrived to keep his word: indeed,
as Fricka bitterly points out, why should not the Lie fail Wotan,
since such failure is the very essence of him?

The giants come soon enough; and Freia flies to Wotan for
protection against them. Their purposes are quite honest; and
they have no doubt of the god's faith. There stands their part
of the contract fulfilled, stone on stone, port and pinnacle all
faithfully finished from Wotan's design by their mighty labor.
They have come undoubtingly for their agreed wage. Then there
happens what is to them an incredible, inconceivable thing. The
god begins to shuffle. There are no moments in life more tragic
than those in which the humble common man, the manual worker,
leaving with implicit trust all high affairs to his betters, and
reverencing them wholly as worthy of that trust, even to the
extent of accepting as his rightful function the saving of them
from all roughening and coarsening drudgeries, first discovers
that they are corrupt, greedy, unjust and treacherous. The shock
drives a ray of prophetic light into one giant's mind, and gives
him a momentary eloquence. In that moment he rises above his
stupid gianthood, and earnestly warns the Son of Light that all
his power and eminence of priesthood, godhood, and kingship must
stand or fall with the unbearable cold greatness of the
incorruptible law-giver. But Wotan, whose assumed character of
law-giver is altogether false to his real passionate nature,
despises the rebuke; and the giant's ray of insight is lost in
the murk of his virtuous indignation.

In the midst of the wrangle, Loki comes at last, excusing himself
for being late on the ground that he has been detained by a
matter of importance which he has promised to lay before Wotan.
When pressed to give his mind to the business immediately in
hand, and to extricate Wotan from his dilemma, he has nothing to
say except that the giants are evidently altogether in the right.
The castle has been duly built: he has tried every stone of it,
and found the work first-rate: there is nothing to be done but
pay the price agreed upon by handing over Freia to the giants.
The gods are furious; and Wotan passionately declares that he
only consented to the bargain on Loki's promise to find a way for
him out of it. But Loki says no: he has promised to find a way
out if any such way exist, but not to make a way if there is no
way. He has wandered over the whole earth in search of some
treasure great enough to buy Freia back from the giants; but in
all the world he has found nothing for which Man will give up
Woman. And this, by the way, reminds him of the matter he had
promised to lay before Wotan. The Rhine maidens have complained
to him of Alberic's theft of their gold; and he mentions it as
a curious exception to his universal law of the unpurchasable
preciousness of love, that this gold-robber has forsworn love for
the sake of the fabulous riches of the Plutonic empire and the
mastery of the world through its power.

No sooner is the tale told than the giants stoop lower than the
dwarf. Alberic forswore love only when it was denied to him and
made the instrument for cruelly murdering his self-respect. But
the giants, with love within their reach, with Freia and her
golden apples in their hands, offer to give her up for the
treasure of Alberic. Observe, it is the treasure alone that they
desire. They have no fierce dreams of dominion over their
superiors, or of moulding the world to any conceptions of their
own. They are neither clever nor ambitious: they simply covet
money. Alberic's gold: that is their demand, or else Freia, as
agreed upon, whom they now carry off as hostage, leaving Wotan
to consider their ultimatum.

Freia gone, the gods begin to wither and age: her golden apples,
which they so lightly bargained away, they now find to be a
matter of life and death to them; for not even the gods can live
on Law and Godhead alone, be their castles ever so splendid. Loki
alone is unaffected: the Lie, with all its cunning wonders, its
glistenings and shiftings and mirages, is a mere appearance: it
has no body and needs no food. What is Wotan to do? Loki sees the
answer clearly enough: he must bluntly rob Alberic. There is
nothing to prevent him except moral scruple; for Alberic, after
all, is a poor, dim, dwarfed, credulous creature whom a god can
outsee and a lie can outwit. Down, then, Wotan and Loki plunge
into the mine where Alberic's slaves are piling up wealth for him
under the invisible whip.

Third Scene

This gloomy place need not be a mine: it might just as well be
a match-factory, with yellow phosphorus, phossy jaw, a large
dividend, and plenty of clergymen shareholders. Or it might be
a whitelead factory, or a chemical works, or a pottery, or a
railway shunting yard, or a tailoring shop, or a little
gin-sodden laundry, or a bakehouse, or a big shop, or any other
of the places where human life and welfare are daily sacrificed
in order that some greedy foolish creature may be able to hymn
exultantly to his Platonic idol:

Thou mak'st me eat whilst others starve,
And sing while others do lament:
Such untome Thy blessings are,
As if I were Thine only care.

In the mine, which resounds with the clinking anvils of the
dwarfs toiling miserably to heap up treasure for their master,
Alberic has set his brother Mime--more familiarly, Mimmy--to make
him a helmet. Mimmy dimly sees that there is some magic in this
helmet, and tries to keep it; but Alberic wrests it from him, and
shows him, to his cost, that it is the veil of the invisible
whip, and that he who wears it can appear in what shape he will,
or disappear from view altogether. This helmet is a very common
article in our streets, where it generally takes the form of a
tall hat. It makes a man invisible as a shareholder, and changes
him into various shapes, such as a pious Christian, a subscriber
to hospitals, a benefactor of the poor, a model husband and
father, a shrewd, practical independent Englishman, and what not,
when he is really a pitiful parasite on the commonwealth,
consuming a great deal, and producing nothing, feeling nothing,
knowing nothing, believing nothing, and doing nothing except what
all the rest do, and that only because he is afraid not to do it,
or at least pretend to do it.

When Wotan and Loki arrive, Loki claims Alberic as an old
acquaintance. But the dwarf has no faith in these civil
strangers: Greed instinctively mistrusts Intellect, even in the
garb of Poetry and the company of Godhead, whilst envying the
brilliancy of the one and the dignity of the other. Alberic
breaks out at them with a terrible boast of the power now within
his grasp. He paints for them the world as it will be when his
dominion over it is complete, when the soft airs and green mosses
of its valleys shall be changed into smoke, slag, and filth; when
slavery, disease, and squalor, soothed by drunkenness and
mastered by the policeman's baton, shall become the foundation of
society; and when nothing shall escape ruin except such pretty
places and pretty women as he may like to buy for the slaking of
his own lusts. In that kingdom of evil he sees that there will be
no power but his own. These gods, with their moralities and
legalities and intellectual subtlety, will go under and be
starved out of existence. He bids Wotan and Loki beware of it;
and his "Hab' Acht!" is hoarse, horrible, and sinister. Wotan
is revolted to the very depths of his being: he cannot stifle the
execration that bursts from him. But Loki is unaffected: he has
no moral passion: indignation is as absurd to him as enthusiasm.
He finds it exquisitely amusing--having a touch of the comic
spirit in him--that the dwarf, in stirring up the moral fervor of
Wotan, has removed his last moral scruple about becoming a thief.
Wotan will now rob the dwarf without remorse; for is it not
positively his highest duty to take this power out of such evil
hands and use it himself in the interests of Godhead? On the
loftiest moral grounds, he lets Loki do his worst.

A little cunningly disguised flattery makes short work of
Alberic. Loki pretends to be afraid of him; and he swallows that
bait unhesitatingly. But how, enquires Loki, is he to guard
against the hatred of his million slaves? Will they not steal
from him, whilst he sleeps, the magic ring, the symbol of his
power, which he has forged from the gold of the Rhine? "You think
yourself very clever," sneers Alberic, and then begins to boast
of the enchantments of the magic helmet. Loki refuses to believe
in such marvels without witnessing them. Alberic, only too glad
to show off his powers, puts on the helmet and transforms himself
into a monstrous serpent. Loki gratifies him by pretending to be
frightened out of his wits, but ventures to remark that it would
be better still if the helmet could transform its owner into some
tiny creature that could hide and spy in the smallest cranny.
Alberic promptly transforms himself into a toad. In an instant
Wotan's foot is on him; Loki tears away the helmet; they pinion
him, and drag him away a prisoner up through the earth to the
meadow by the castle.

Fourth Scene

There, to pay for his freedom, he has to summon his slaves from
the depths to place all the treasure they have heaped up for him
at the feet of Wotan. Then he demands his liberty; but Wotan must
have the ring as well. And here the dwarf, like the giant before
him, feels the very foundations of the world shake beneath him at
the discovery of his own base cupidity in a higher power. That
evil should, in its loveless desperation, create malign powers
which Godhead could not create, seems but natural justice to him.
But that Godhead should steal those malign powers from evil, and
wield them itself, is a monstrous perversion; and his appeal to
Wotan to forego it is almost terrible in its conviction of wrong.
It is of no avail. Wotan falls back again on virtuous
indignation. He reminds Alberic that he stole the gold from the
Rhine maidens, and takes the attitude of the just judge
compelling a restitution of stolen goods. Alberic knowing
perfectly well that the judge is taking the goods to put them m
his own pocket, has the ring torn from his finger, and is once
more as poor as he was when he came slipping and stumbling among
the slimy rocks in the bed of the Rhine.

This is the way of the world. In older times, when the Christian
laborer was drained dry by the knightly spendthrift, and the
spendthrift was drained by the Jewish usurer, Church and State,
religion and law, seized on the Jew and drained him as a
Christian duty. When the forces of lovelessness and greed had
built up our own sordid capitalist systems, driven by invisible
proprietorship, robbing the poor, defacing the earth, and forcing
themselves as a universal curse even on the generous and humane,
then religion and law and intellect, which would never themselves
have discovered such systems, their natural bent being towards
welfare, economy, and life instead of towards corruption, waste,
and death, nevertheless did not scruple to seize by fraud and
force these powers of evil on presence of using them for good.
And it inevitably happens that when the Church, the Law, and all
the Talents have made common cause to rob the people, the Church
is far more vitally harmed by that unfaithfulness to itself than
its more mechanical confederates; so that finally they turn on
their discredited ally and rob the Church, with the cheerful
co-operation of Loki, as in France and Italy for instance.

The twin giants come back with their hostage, in whose presence
Godhead blooms again. The gold is ready for them; but now that
the moment has come for parting with Freia the gold
does not seem so tempting; and they are sorely loth to let her
go. Not unless there is gold enough to utterly hide her from
them--not until the heap has grown so that they can see nothing
but gold--until money has come between them and every human
feeling, will they part with her. There is not gold enough to
accomplish this: however cunningly Loki spreads it, the glint of
Freia's hair is still visible to Giant Fafnir, and the magic
helmet must go on the heap to shut it out. Even then Fafnir's
brother, Fasolt, can catch a beam from her eye through a chink,
and is rendered incapable thereby of forswearing her. There is
nothing to stop that chink but the ring; and Wotan is as greedily
bent on keeping that as Alberic himself was; nor can the other
gods persuade him that Freia is worth it, since for the highest
god, love is not the highest good, but only the universal delight
that bribes all living things to travail with renewed life. Life
itself, with its accomplished marvels and its infinite
potentialities, is the only force that Godhead can worship. Wotan
does not yield until he is reached by the voice of the fruitful
earth that before he or the dwarfs or the giants or the Law or
the Lie or any of these things were, had the seed of them all in
her bosom, and the seed perhaps of something higher even than
himself, that shall one day supersede him and cut the tangles and
alliances and compromises that already have cost him one of his
eyes. When Erda, the First Mother of life, rises from her
sleeping-place in the heart of the earth, and warns him to yield
the ring, he obeys her; the ring is added to the heap of gold;
and all sense of Freia is cut off from the giants.

But now what Law is left to these two poor stupid laborers
whereby one shall yield to the other any of the treasure for
which they have each paid the whole price in surrendering Freia?
They look by mere habit to the god to judge for them; but he,
with his heart stirring towards higher forces than himself, turns
with disgust from these lower forces. They settle it as two
wolves might; and Fafnir batters his brother dead with his staff.
It is a horrible thing to see and hear, to anyone who knows how
much blood has been shed in the world in just that way by its
brutalized toilers, honest fellows enough until their betters
betrayed them. Fafnir goes off with his booty. It is quite
useless to him. He has neither the cunning nor the ambition to
establish the Plutonic empire with it. Merely to prevent others
from getting it is the only purpose it brings him. He piles it in
a cave; transforms himself into a dragon by the helmet; and
devotes his life to guarding it, as much a slave to it as a
jailor is to his prisoner. He had much better have thrown it all
back into the Rhine and transformed himself into the
shortest-lived animal that enjoys at least a brief run in the
sunshine. His case, however, is far too common to be surprising.
The world is overstocked with persons who sacrifice all their
affections, and madly trample and batter down their fellows to
obtain riches of which, when they get them, they are unable to
make the smallest use, and to which they become the most
miserable slaves.

The gods soon forget Fafnir in their rejoicing over Freia.
Donner, the Thunder god, springs to a rocky summit and calls the
clouds as a shepherd calls his flocks. They come at his summons;
and he and the castle are hidden by their black legions. Froh,
the Rainbow god, hastens to his side. At the stroke of Donner's
hammer the black murk is riven in all directions by darting
ribbons of lightning; and as the air clears, the castle is seen in
its fullest splendor, accessible now by the rainbow bridge which
Froh has cast across the ravine. In the glory of this moment
Wotan has a great thought. With all his aspirations to establish
a reign of noble thought, of righteousness, order, and justice,
he has found that day that there is no race yet in the world that
quite spontaneously, naturally, and unconsciously realizes his
ideal. He himself has found how far short Godhead falls of the
thing it conceives. He, the greatest of gods, has been unable to
control his fate: he has been forced against his will to choose
between evils, to make disgraceful bargains, to break them still
more disgracefully, and even then to see the price of his
disgrace slip through his fingers. His consort has cost him half
his vision; his castle has cost him his affections; and the
attempt to retain both has cost him his honor. On every side he
is shackled and bound, dependent on the laws of Fricka and on the
lies of Loki, forced to traffic with dwarfs for handicraft and
with giants for strength, and to pay them both in false coin.
After all, a god is a pitiful thing. But the fertility of the
First Mother is not yet exhausted. The life that came from her
has ever climbed up to a higher and higher organization. From
toad and serpent to dwarf, from bear and elephant to giant, from
dwarf and giant to a god with thoughts, with comprehension of the
world, with ideals. Why should it stop there? Why should it not
rise from the god to the Hero? to the creature in whom the god's
unavailing thought shall have become effective will and life, who
shall make his way straight to truth and reality over the laws of
Fricka and the lies of Loki with a strength that overcomes giants
and a cunning that outwits dwarfs? Yes: Erda, the First Mother,
must travail again, and breed him a race of heroes to deliver the
world and himself from his limited powers and disgraceful
bargains. This is the vision that flashes on him as he turns to
the rainbow bridge and calls his wife to come and dwell with him
in Valhalla, the home of the gods.

They are all overcome with Valhalla's glory except Loki. He is
behind the scenes of this joint reign of the Divine and the
Legal. He despises these gods with their ideals and their golden
apples. "I am ashamed," he says, "to have dealings with these
futile creatures." And so he follows them to the rainbow bridge.
But as they set foot on it, from the river below rises the
wailing of the Rhine maidens for their lost gold. "You down there
in the water," cries Loki with brutal irony: "you used to bask in
the glitter of your gold: henceforth you shall bask in the
splendor of the gods." And they reply that the truth is in the
depths and the darkness, and that what blazes on high there is
falsehood. And with that the gods pass into their glorious
stronghold.


George Bernard Shaw