'Tannhäuser' - Operntext in English

© Copyright Zac Sawyer 2015
TANNHÄUSER AND THE SONG CONTEST ON THE WARTBURG

Richard Wagner

Cast

COUNT HERMANN OF THURINGIA, THE LANDGRAVE (Bass)
ELIZABETH, his niece (Soprano)

Minstrel Knights (Minnesingers):
TANNHÄUSER (Heinrich von Ofterdingen) (Tenor)
WOLFRAM VON ESCHENBACH (Baritone)
WALTHER VON DER VOGELWEIDE (Tenor)
BITEROLF (Bass)
HEINRICH DER SCHREIBER (Tenor)
REINMAR VON ZWETER (Bass)

VENUS, goddess of love (Soprano)
A SHEPHERD BOY (Soprano)
FOUR PAGES (Soprano / Alto)

CHORUS
Thuringian knights, counts and nobles, noblewomen, older and younger pilgrims,
sirens, naiads, nymphs, maenads,

Place
Thuringia, near Eisenach

Time
13th century


Overture

ACT ONE

The Venusberg

SCENE ONE
The stage represents the interior of the Venusberg.
Sirens, Venus, Tannhäuser, Nymphs, Bacchantes, Amorous couples

SIRENS
Come to this shore!
Come to the land
where in glowing Love's
fond embrace
blessed balm
shall soothe your longings!


SCENE TWO
Venus, Tannhäuser

VENUS
Beloved, say, where dwell your thoughts?

TANNHÄUSER
Too long! Too long!
O that I might wake now!

VENUS
Say, what troubles you?

TANNHÄUSER
In a dream it was as if I heard
what long has been unfamiliar to my ear,
as if I heard the joyous peal of bells!
Ah say, how long is it since I heard it?

VENUS
Where strays your mind? What possesses you?

TANNHÄUSER
I cannot measure
the time that I have tarried here.
Days, months, exist no more for me,
for no more do I see the sunlight,
no more the friendly stars of heaven;
I see no more the fields which, freshly green,
herald a new summer; no more
I hear the nightingale, harbinger of spring.
Shall I never hear or see them again?

VENUS
Ah, what do I hear? What foolish complaints!
Are you so soon weary of the sweet wonders
which my love has lavished on you?
Or can it be you so regret being a god?
Have you so soon forgotten how once you suffered,
while now you live here lapped in delights?
My singer, rise! Take up your harp!
Extol love, which you lauded with such rapture
that you won for yourself the goddess of love!
Extol love, for its highest prize is yours!

TANNHÄUSER
Let your praises resound! Glorified be
the wonders your might has wrought for my bliss!
Let my song in loud and joyful tones
extol the sweet delights flowing from your bounty!
My heart yearned, my soul thirsted
for joy, ah! for divine pleasure:
what once you showed only to gods
your favour has bestowed upon a mortal.
But alas! I have remained mortal,
and your love overwhelms me.
Though a god can savour joy for ever,
I am subject to change;
I have at heart not pleasure alone,
and in my joy long for suffering.
From your kingdom I must flee;
O queen, o goddess, set me free!

VENUS
Must I listen to this? What a song!
What mournful mood clouds your lay?
Where has that rapture flown
which inspired you only to songs of delight?
What is it? In what has my love been lacking?
Beloved, with what do you reproach me?

TANNHÄUSER
Gratitude for your favour and praise for your love!
Forever blessed is he who has dwelt here!
Forever envied is he who, hot with desire,
has in your arms shared the divine glow!
The wonders of your realm cast a spell,
here I breathe the magic of unalloyed bliss;
no land in the wide world offers the like;
all it holds seems in comparison of little worth.
Yet from these rosy scents I long
for the woodland breezes,
for the clear blue of out sky,
for the fresh green of out meadows,
for the sweet song of out birds,
for the dear sound of out bells.
From your kingdom I must flee;
O queen, o goddess, set me free!

VENUS
Faithless one! Alas, what is this I hear?
You dare to spurn my love?
You praise it but seek from it to fly?
Has my allure grown wearisome?

TANNHÄUSER
Ah fair goddess! Do not be angry with me!
It is your unbounded allure from which I fly!

VENUS
Shame on you! Traitor, dissembler, ingrate!
O will not let you go! You shall not leave me!
Ah!

TANNHÄUSER
Never was my love greater, never more true
than now, when I must leave you for ever!

VENUS
Beloved, come! See yonder grotto,
permeated with the soft perfume of roses,
the abode of sweetest joys
which might enchant even a god!
Resting on the softest pillow,
all pain shall quit your limbs,
cool airs shall play about your burning brow,
a rapturous glow shall course through your veins.
From afar sweet sounds softly whisper
for my arms to enfold you in a fond embrace:
from my lips you shall sip the nectar of the gods,
from my eyes will glow love's gratitude!
A feast of joy shall spring from our union;
let us gladly celebrate the rite of love!
No timid offering shall you dedicate to it,
no! revel in union with love's own goddess!

SIRENS
Come to this shore!
Come to this land!

VENUS
My cavalier! My beloved! Will you fly me?

TANNHÄUSER
To you, to you alone shall my song ever be raised!
Your praise alone will I sing aloud!
Your soft charms are the fount of all beauty,
and every fair wonder springs from you.
The fire you kindled in my heart
shall in flame brightly burn to you alone!
Yes, against the whole world henceforth
will I be your bold and tireless champion.
But I must hence to the earthly world,
with you I can only be a slave:
for freedom I am consumed with longing,
for freedom I thirst;
to strife and struggle will I go,
even though it be to downfall and death!
So from your kingdom I must flee;
O queen, o goddess, set me free!

VENUS
Then go, madman, go!
Traitor, see, I am not holding you!
I set you free! Away!
What you desire shall be your doom!
Fly to the cold world of men,
from whose feeble, cheerless fancies
we gods of joy fled
into the warming depths of the earth's womb.
Go then, poor fool! Seek there
the happiness you never shall find!
Soon the arrogance in your heart will weaken,
and I shall see you return humbled,
remorseful, crestfallen, to seek me out,
pleading for the magic of my might!

TANNHÄUSER
Ah, goddess of beauty, farewell!
Never will I return to you!

VENUS
Ha! Never will you return to me!
lf you do not return, then the entire
race of men shall be accursed!
For my marvels shall it then seek in vain!
The world shall be desolate, and its champion a menial!
Return, o return to me!

TANNHÄUSER
Nevermore will the pleasures of love delight me!

VENUS
Return, if your heart bids you.

TANNHÄUSER
Your beloved flies for ever.

VENUS
If all the world repulses you?

TANNHÄUSER
Repentance will free me from your spell.

VENUS
Forgiveness never will be granted you!
Return, if you wish for happiness!

TANNHÄUSER
My happiness? My happiness lies in Mary!


SCENE THREE
The valley before the Wartburg: the Hörselberg in the far distance.
A Shepherd, Pilgrims, Tannhäuser

SHEPHERD
Dame Holda came forth from the hill
to roam through fields arid meadows:
surpassing sweet sounds reached my ear,
my eyes craved to see her.
There I dreamed many a fair dream,
and scarcely had I opened my eyes
than the sun was shining warm,
and May had come.
Now I merrily play my pipe,
for May is here, lovely May!

PILGRIMS
To thee I turn my steps, Lord Jesus Christ,
for the pilgrim's hope art thou!
Praise to thee, O Virgin sweet and pure,
and deign to smile upon this pilgrimage!
Ah, the burden of sin weighs heavy upon me
and I can no longer bear it:
therefore I seek neither rest nor repose
and choose for myself pain and toil.
At the high celebration of God's grace
I will expiate my guilt;
blessed is he who is steadfast in his faith:
through repentance shall he be redeemed.

SHEPHERD
God speed! God speed to Rome!
Pray for my poor soul!

TANNHÄUSER
Almighty God be praised!
Great are the marvels of thy mercy.

PILGRIMS
To thee I turn my steps, Lord Jesus Christ,
for the pilgrim's hope art thou!
Praise to thee, O Virgin sweet and pure,
and deign to smile upon this pilgrimage!

TANNHÄUSER
Ah, the burden of sin weighs heavy upon me
and I can no longer bear it:
therefore I seek neither rest nor repose
and choose for myself pain and toil.

PILGRIMS
At the high celebration of God's grace
I will expiate my guilt;
blessed is he who is steadfast in his faith!


SCENE FOUR
Landgrave, Minstrels, Tannhäuser

LANDGRAVE
Who is that yonder, deep in prayer?

WALTER
Surely a penitent.

BITFROLF
A knight, by bis garb.

WOLFRAM
lt is he!

THE OTHER MINSTRELS
Heinrich! Heinrich! Do I see aright?

LANDGRAVE
Is it really you? Are you returning to us,
whom in your haughty pride you abandoned?

BITEROLF
Say, what means your return to us?

LANDGRAVE, WALTER, HEINRICH, REINMAR
Tell us!

BITFROLF
Reconciliation, or renewed strife?

WALTER
Do you come to us as friend or foe?

MINSTRELS
As foe?

WOLFRAM
Do not ask! Is this the demeanour of pride?
We welcome you, valiant minstrel, that has
ah! so long been absent from our midst!

WALTER
Welcome, if you come in peace!

BITEROLF
Greetings, if you treat us as friends!

WALTER, HEINRICH, BITEROLF, REINMAR
Greetings! We welcome you!

LANDGRAVE
Then let me too welcome vou!
But say, where have you been so long?

TANNHÄUSER
I wandered in far, far distant lands,
where repose or rest I never found.
Do not ask! I came not here to contend with you.
Let us make peace, and let me go my way!

LANDGRAVE
Not yet! You are one of us again.

WALTER
You must not go.

BITEROLF
We will not let you go.

WALTER, HEINRICH, WOLFRAM, REINMAR, LANDGRAVE
Stay with us!

TANNHÄUSER
Let me go! To linger is of no avail,
and never can I rest in peace.
My way urges me to hasten only onwards,
and never may I look back.

LANDGRAVE AND MINSTRFLS
O stay! You must remain with us;
we will not let you go again.
Having sought us out, why hurry away
after so brief a reunion?

TANNHÄUSER
I must away from here!

LANDGRAVE, WALTER, HEINRICH, BITEROLF, REINMAR
Stay, o stay with us!

WOLFRAM
Stay for Elisabeth!

TANNHÄUSER
Elisabeth! O might of heaven,
is it you that recalls to me that sweet name?

WOLFRAM
Abuse me not as foe
when I speak that name to you!
to Landgrave
My lord, will you permit me
to tell him of his fortune?

LANDGRAVE
Tell him of the magic that he wrought,
and God grant him virtue that he may use it worthily.

WOLFRAM
When you contended with us for the palm in singing,
sometimes you were victorious over our songs,
sometimes you suffered defeat through our art:
one prize there was which you alone won.
Was it magic, was it a divine power,
by which you wrought such a miracle,
enchanting that maid of matchless virtue
by your song of joy and sorrow?
But ah! when in your pride you left us,
she closed her heart against our song;
we saw her cheeks grow pale,
and she henceforth avoided our company.
O come back, valiant minstrel,
and do not deprive us of your song.
Let her no longer be absent from our festivals,
and may her star shine on us once more!

MINSTRELS
Be one of us, Heinrich! Come back to us!
Let discord and strife be laid aside!
United let our songs arise
and henceforth let us be brothers!

LANDGRAVE
O come back, valiant minstrel, return to us!
Let discord and strife be laid aside!

TANNHÄUSER
To her! To her! O lead me to her!
Ah, now I recognise again
the beautiful world from which I fled!
The heavens shine down upon me,
the fields are resplendent in rich array.
Spring with a thousand charming sounds
has filled my heart with joy:
in sweet, urgent eagerness
my heart cries aloud,
"To her! To her! Lead me to her!"

LANDGRAVE AND MINSTRELS
He who was lost has returned!
A miracle has brought him back.
Praised be the gentle power
which has banished his pride!
Now let the maid we prize
once again hearken to our noblest lays!
In joyful tones let a song
resound from every throat!




ACT TWO

The Minstrels' Hall in the Wartburg

SCENE ONE
Elisabeth

ELISABETH
Dear hall, I greet thee again!
Gladly I greet thee, beloved place!
In thee his songs will waken
and rouse me from my gloomy dreams.
When he from here departed,
how bleak thou didst seem to me!
All peace forsook me,
all pleasure in thee vanished.
But now my heart is exalted
and thou dost seem proud and stately once again,
for he who revives both thee and me
no longer tarries far away.
Greetings, greetings!
Dear hall, I greet thee!


SCENE TWO
Wolfram, Tannhäuser, Elisabeth

WOLFRAM
There she is: approach her undisturbed!

TANNHÄUSER
O princess!

ELISABETH
Heavens! Do not kneel! Leave me!
I may not see you here!

TANNHÄUSER
You may! O stay
and let me remain at your feet!

ELISABETH
Rise, I beg you!
You must not kneel here, for this hall
is your kingdom. Arise!
Accept my thanks for your return!
Where have you tarried so long?

TANNHÄUSER
Far from here,
in very distant lands. Dark oblivion
has fallen between yesterday and today.
All memory has suddenly deserted me
and one thing only must I remember,
that I never dared hope to greet you again
nor raise my eyes to you.

ELISABETH
What was it then that led you back?

TANNHÄUSER
It was a miracle,
a mysterious, mighty miracle! 

ELISABETH
This miracle I praise
from the depths of my heart!
Forgive me if I know not what I say!
I am in a dream, and more foolish than a child.
helpless before the might of this marvel.
I scarcely know myself any longer: o help me
solve the riddle in my heart!
To minstrels' beguiling music I formerly
lent a willing and a constant car;
their singing and their paeans
seemed a delightful recreation.
But what a strange new life
your song aroused in my breast!
Now I was as if wracked with pain,
now as if pierced with sudden joy.
Emotions I had never felt!
Longings I had never known!
What once had delighted me had vanished
before these yet unnamed raptures!
And then when you left us,
my peace and joy were gone;
the melodies the minstrels sang
seemed stale to me, and cheerless their ideas.
In dreams I felt dull pain;
waking, I was filled with troubled fancies;
joy had fled from my heart -
Heinrich! What did you do to me?

TANNHÄUSER
The god of love be praised:
he touched my harpstrings,
spoke to you in my melodies,
and has led me here to you!

ELISABETH
Blessed be this hour,
blessed be the power
that brought me the wondrous tidings
that you were near.
Encircled by the glow of bliss,
on me the sun now smiles;
awakened to new life,
I can call joy mine!

TANNHÄUSER
Blessed be this hour,
blessed be the power
that brought me the wondrous tidings
from your lips.
To this new-found life
may I now wholly devote myself;
trembling with joy,
I name its fairest wonder mine!

WOLFRAM
So am I bereft
of all light of hope in this life!


SCENE THREE
Landgrave, Elisabeth

LANDGRAVE
Do I find you in this hall,
which you have avoided for so long?
Does the festival of song that we prepare
at last attract you?

ELISABETH
O uncle, who are a father to me!

LANDGRAVE
Would you then at last
unlock your heart to me?

ELISABETH
Look in my eyes! I cannot speak.

LANDGRAVE
Then for a little while
let your sweet secret remain undisclosed,
the spell remain unbroken
until you are able to reveal it.
So be it! The wonder
that by song was awakened and aroused
today by song shall be revealed
and crowned with fulfilment.
Our gracious art shall do the deed!
Already the nobles of my land are approaching,
whom I have bidden to this solemn tournament;
more numerous than ever they come, for they have heard
that you will be the princess of the festival.


SCENE FOUR
Counts, Knights, Pages, Landgrave, Wolfram, Tannhäuser, Minstrels, Elisabeth

CHORUS
Joyfully we greet this noble hall
where only art and peace shall ever dwell,
where long the glad cry shall resound,
"Hail to Thuringia's prince, the Landgrave Hermann!"

LANDGRAVE
Full often, dear minstrels, in this hall
have your fine songs resounded;
with wise allegories and merry lays alike
you have gladdened our heart.
If our sword in stern bloody battles
fought for the supremacy of the German State,
if we withstood the savage Guelphs
and held disastrous discord in check,
you won no less a prize.
For charm and gracious ways,
for virtue and unsullied faith,
you achieved with your art
a great and mighty victory.
Prepare then for us today another festival,
now that the valiant singer, whom we for long
so sadly missed, has returned to us.
What brought him back among us
remains to me a mysterious secret:
you shall reveal it to us through the art of song,
therefore I now propose this theme to you:
Can you fathom the nature of love?
He who most worthily succeeds
shall from Elisabeth receive the prize;
let his claim be as bold and lofty as he please,
I undertake that she shall grant it.
Up, dear minstrels! Strike your strings!
The theme is set, strive for the prize,
and let all accept our thanks in advance!

KNIGHTS AND NOBLE LADIES
Hail! Hail to Thuringia's prince!
Hail to the protector of the gracious art!

FOUR PAGES
Wolfram von Eschenbach, begin!

WOLFRAM
As I look around on this noble assembly,
what a glorious sight makes my heart glow!
So many heroes, valiant, upright and wise,
like a proud oakwood, splendid, fresh and green;
and I see ladies lovely and virtuous,
a fair garland of most fragrant flowers.
My gaze is dazzled by this display,
my song is silenced before such beauteous lustre.
Then I raise my eyes to one single star
up in the heavens which shines on me:
my spirit is comforted by that distant radiance
and my soul devoutly sinks in prayer.
And lo! I behold a fountain of delights
on which my spirit gazes, filled with wonder:
from it there flows blissful joy
by which my heart is inexpressibly refreshed.
O never may I sully that fountain
or cloud its limpid waters with impure thoughts!
In devotion I would sacrifice myself
and gladly shed the last drop of my heart's blood.
You nobles may gather from these words
how I regard the purest essence of love.

KNIGHTS AND LADIES
'Tis so! 'Tis so! Praised be your song!

TANNHÄUSER
I too may count myself lucky enough
to see what you, Wolfram, saw!
Who should not know that fountain?
Hearken, its virtues I will cry aloud!
But I cannot approach its source
without feeling ardent longing:
my burning thirst I must assuage
by confidently pressing my lips to it:
I drink down bliss in full draughts,
unhindered by any hesitation;
for the fountain is inexhaustible,
as my longing is insatiable.
Thus I constantly refresh myself at the spring
so that my craving may burn for ever:
know then, Wolfram, how I regard
the true nature of love!

WALTER VON DER VOGELWEIDE
The fountain of which Wolfram told us
is known to the light of my spirit too;
but you, Heinrich, who were afire
with thirst for it, truly know it not.
Let me then declare it and teach you
that the fountain is true virtue.
Ardently you must revere it
and worship its sweet limpiditv.
If you lay your lips to its waters
to cool impure passions,
yes, if you will but sip at the brink,
its magic power will vanish for ever!
If you wish for refreshment from this source,
it must be through your heart, not your lips.

THE LISTENERS
Hail WalterI Praises to your song!

TANNHÄUSER
O Walter, if thus you sing,
you badly belie love!
If so timid is your longing,
your world will truly run dry.
Look up to heaven, behold its stars,
in praise of God in the supreme heights!
Give humble worship to such wonders,
for you shall never know them!
But that which deigns to human contact,
which lies near to heart and thought,
that which, created for like matter,
inclines to us in soft flesh,
that is for enjoyment in happy desire,
and in enjoyment alone do I recognise love!

BITEROLF
Come forth to combat with us all!
Who could hear you in silence?
If your pride will allow you,
now listen to me, blasphemer!
When great love inspires me,
it steels my sword and my spirit;
to preserve it in its purity for ever
I would proudly shed my lifeblood.
Woman's virtue and high honour will I,
as a knight, defend with my sword;
but those delights that captured your immaturity
are shoddy, not worth a blow.

KNIGHTS AND LADIES
Hail, Biterolf!

KNIGHTS
Here are our swords!

TANNHÄUSER
Ha, you foolish braggart, Biterolf!
Do you sing of love, you fierce wolf?
Assuredly you have never known
that which I find pleasurable.
What, poor wretch, have you known of pleasure?
Your life was lacking in love,
and what paltry joys befell you
were indeed not worth a blow!

KNIGHTS
We'll hear no more! End this audacity!

LANDGRAVE
to Biterolf
Put up your sword! Minstreis, keep the peace!

WOLFRAM
O heaven, let me now implore thee,
grant my song divine approval!
Let me see sin banished
from this noble, pure assembly!
Let my song resound
inspired by thee, sacred love,
that pierced my very soul
in angelic beauty!
Thou didst come from heaven,
I follow from afar;
so guide me to that land
where thy star shines for ever.

TANNHÄUSER
To you, goddess of love, shall my song be raised!
Loudly let me now sing your praise!
Your sweet charms are the source of all beauty,
and every fair wonder springs from you.
Only he who has known
your ardent embrace knows what love is;
poor wretches who have never tasted love,
away! hasten to the hill of Venus!

ALL
Oh, he is wicked! Fly from him!
Hark, he was in the Venusberg!

NOBLE LADIES
Away! Away from his presence!

WOLFRAM
You heard it!

LANDGRAVE, MINSTRELS AND KNIGHTS
You heard it! His sinful lips
have confessed his fearful crime.
He has shared the joys of Hell,
he has dwelt within the Venusberg!
Abominable! Monstrous! Damnable!
Steep your swords in his blood!
Let him be condemned and banished
and sent back to the bottomless pit of Hell!

ELISABETH
Stay your hands!

WALTER, BITEROLF, REINMAR
What do I hear?

LANDGRAVE, KNIGHTS AND MINSTRELS
What? What do I see? Elisabeth!
The chaste maiden shielding the sinner?

ELISABETH
Stand back! For death I care nothing!
What are the wounds your swords could cause
against the deadly blow he has dealt me?

LANDGRAVE, KNIGHTS AND MINSTRELS
Elisabeth! Can we believe it?
How can your heart so delude you
as to stave off punishment from him
who so vilely has deceived you?

ELISABETH
What do I matter? But he must be saved!
Would you rob him of eternal salvation?

LANDGRAVE, KNIGHTS AND MINSTRELS
He has forfeited all hope,
never will he earn salvation!
The curse of heaven has fallen on him:
let him go hence with his sins upon his head!

ELISABETH
Stand back from him! 'Tis not for you to judge him!
Shame on you! Cast aside your cruel swords,
and give ear to a spotless virgin's words'.
Through me learn what is God's will!
This hapless man, that a fearful,
mighty spell holds captive -
what, may he never find salvation
through repentance and atonement in this world?
You who are so strong in purity of faith,
is this how you understand the will of heaven?
If you would deny hope to the sinner,
then say, what harm did he do you?
Behold me, a maiden whose blossoming
he has cut short with one sudden blow;
exultantly he has broken my heart,
I who loved him with all my being.'
I plead for him, I plead for his life,
let him contritely turn his steps to atonement!
Let him regain the strength of the belief
that the Saviour once suffered for him too!

TANNHÄUSER
Alas! Wretch that I am!

LANDGRAVE, KNIGHTS AND MINSTRELS
An angel has descended from the realms of light
to bring us God's holy message.
Look up, vile traitor,
and realise your sin!
You gave her death, she begs for vour life;
who could hear an angel's plea unmoved?
Though I may not forgive the sinner,
I cannot oppose Heaven's word.

TANNHÄUSER
To lead the sinner to salvation
an angel was sent down to me from heaven!
But ah, profaning her by my presence,
I turned on her a lascivious gaze!
O thou, high above this mortal earth,
who sent me my guardian angel,
have mercy on me, so deep in sin, alas,
that to my shame I did not recognise heaven's messenger!
Have mercy, o have mercy on me!

ELISABETH
I plead for him, I plead for his life,
let him contritely turn his steps to atonement!
Let him regain the strength of the belief
that the Saviour once suffered for him too!

LANDGRAVE, KNIGHTS AND MINSTRELS
What? What do I see? Elisabeth!
The chaste maiden shielding the sinner?

LANDGRAVE
A fearful misdeed has been committed.
Into our midst in treacherous guise
there stole sin's curse-laden son.
We cast you out - you shall not dwell among us;
through you our hearth is defiled,
and heaven itself looks menacingly on this roof
which sheltered you too long.
But one way lies open to save you
from eternal perdition; though I banish you,
I point it out. Take it and save your soul!
From my lands a throng of pilgrims
has assembled, intent on penance.
The elders have already set forth,
the younger are still halted in the valley.
Their hearts will give them no peace
even for more venial sins,
and to still the pious promptings of repentance
they go to the shrine of grace in Rome.

LANDGRAVE, MINSTRELS AND KNIGHTS
With them you shall travel
to the city of gracious mercy,
there prostrate yourself in the dust
and atone for your sin!
Humble yourself before him
who pronounces God's judgement;
and never return
until you have gained his pardon!
Our vengeance we were forced to temper
because an angel interceded for you,
but this sword will smite you
if you remain in sin and shame!

ELISABETH
O God of grace and mercy,
let him seek and find thee!
Though he has fallen so low,
forgive his debt of sin!
For him alone will I plead,
and spend my life in prayer;
let him see thy radiance
before eternal night claims him!
O receive a sacrifice
made with fearful joy!
Take, o take my life:
I count it no longer my own!

TANNHÄUSER
How shall I find pardon,
how atone for my sin?
I have seen salvation vanish,
heaven's mercy withdrawn from me.
But I will go forth as a penitent,
to beat my breast
and kneel in the dust,
contrition be my willing lot.
O could she but forgive me,
my guardian angel,
who, so rudely betrayed,
yet offers herself as sacrifice for me!

PILGRIMS
At the high celebration of God's grace
I will humbly expiate my guilt;
blessed is he who is steadfast in his faith:
through repentance shall he be redeemed,

TANNHÄUSER
To Rome!

ELISABETH, LANDGRAVE, KNIGHTS AND MINSTRELS
To Rome!




ACT THREE

Introduction

The Valley in Front of the Wartburg,
the Hörselberg

SCENE ONE
Wolfram, Pilgrims, Elisabeth

WOLFRAM
I well knew that I would find her here in praver,
as I have so often seen her when I’ve wandered
alone from the wooded heights into the valley,
With the deathblow he dealt her in her heart,
racked with burning sorrow,
day and night she prays for his salvation:
O blessed love, how great thy power!
She awaits the pilgrims' return from Rome.
The leaves are already falling, soon they will be home.
Will he return with them, pardoned?
That is her question, that is her prayer;
ye holy ones, let it be fulfilled!
But if her wound remains unhealed,
O grant her some solace!

PILGRIMS
With joy, my home, I now behold thee,
and gladly greet thy smiling meadows;
now I lay down my pilgrim's staff,
for, submissive to God, I have made my pilgrimage.
By atonement and repentance I have made my peace
with the Lord, to whom my heart bows down,
who has crowned my remorse with blessing,
the Lord to whom I raise my song.
The grace of salvation is granted to the penitent,
who shall enter into the peace of heaven!
Hell and death cannot affright him,
therefore will I praise God all the days of my life.
Halleluja for evermore!

ELISABETH
That is their song -'tis they, they have returned!
Ye holy ones, show me now my task,
that I may worthily fulfil it!

WOLFRAM
It is the pilgrims - it is the pious hymn
telling of grace and mercy received.
O heaven, now strengthen her heart
for this crucial moment of her life!

ELISABETH
He has not returned!

PILGRIMS
With joy, my home, I now behold thee,
and gladly greet thy smiling meadows;
now I lay down my pilgrim's staff …

ELISABETH
Almightv Virgin, hear my plea!
Queen of glory, to thee I call!
Let me turn to dust before thee,
O take me from this earth!
Let me enter, pure and spotless,
into thy blessed kingdom!

If ever, engrossed in vain fancies,
my heart turned away from thee,
if ever a sinful desire
or earthly longing rose within me,
I strove with untold anguish
to stifle it in my heart!

Then, though of every fault I am not shriven,
turn thy gracious face to me,
that I may, a worthy maid,
approach thee with humble devotion
to implore the rich bounty
of thy mercy for his offence!

WOLFRAM
Elisabeth, may I not escort you home?


SCENE TWO
Wolfram

WOLFRAM
Like a portent of death, twilight shrouds the earth
and envelops the valley in its sable robe;
the soul, that yearns for those heights,
dreads to take its dark and awful flight.
There you shine, o fairest of the stars,
and shed your gentle light from afar;
your friendly beam penetrates the twilight gloom
and points the way out from the valley.

O my fair evening star,
I always gladly greeted thee:
from a heart that never betrayed its faith
greet her when she passes,
when she soars above this mortal vale
to become a blessed angel in heaven!


SCENE THREE
Tannhäuser, Wolfram, Venus, Landgrave, Minstrels, Knights, Pilgrims

TANNHÄUSER
I heard a harp - how sad a sound!
It could not be from her.

WOLFRAM
Who are you, pilgrim,
who wander so alone?

TANNHÄUSER
Who am I?
But I know you full well;
you are Wolfram, the skilled minstrel.

WOLFRAM
Heinrich! You!
What brings you back here? Speak!
Do you dare, still unabsolved,
to set foot in this region?

TANNHÄUSER
Have no fear, worthy minstrel!
I seek not you nor any of your company.
I seek for one who can show me the way,
that way which once I found with such ease.

WOLFRAM
Which way is that?

TANNHÄUSER
The way to the Venusberg!

WOLFRAM
Monster! Do not profane my ear!
Is that your goal?

TANNHÄUSER
Do you know the way?

WOLFRAM
Madman! To hear you fills me with horror!
Where have you been? Did you not go to Rome?

TANNHÄUSER
Do not speak of Rome!

WOLFRAM
Were you not at the holy service?

TANNHÄUSER
Speak not of that!

WOLFRAM
Were you not there?
Speak, I implore you!

TANNHÄUSER
I was indeed in Rome.

WOLFRAM
Then speak! Tell me all, unhappy man!
I am seized with deep compassion for you.

TANNHÄUSER
What say you, Wolfram? Are you not, then, my foe?

WOLFRAM
I was never that, while I thought you honourable!
But speak! You made your pilgrimage to Rome?

TANNHÄUSER
Well then, listen!
Wolfram, you shall learn what happened.
Wolfram is about to sit by his side
Away from me! Wherever I rest
is accursed.
Now listen, Wolfram, listen well!
With a fervour in my heart such as no penitent
had ever felt, I sought the way to Rome.
An angel had banished
my overweening sin of pride:
for her sake 1 wished humbly to atone,
to beg for the grace once denied me,
to lighten for her those tears
which she once shed for me, a sinner.
When at my side the heaviest laden pilgrim
took the road, his burden seemed for me too light:
when his foot trod the soft ground of the meadow,
my naked sole sought thorns and stones;
when he refreshed his lips at some fountain,
I drank in the sun's scorching heat;
when he offered up his pious prayers to heaven,
I shed my blood in praise of God;
when in the hospice he eased his weariness,
I laid my limbs in snow and ice.
With eyes closed, not to see its beauties,
I blindly passed through Italy's fair fields.
All this I did, wishing to atone in remorse,
so as to lighten my angel's tears!
Thus I reached Rome and the holy places
and lay in prayer at the threshold of the shrine.
Daylight broke, bells pealed,
heavenly strains rang out from on high;
an ardent cry of joy burst forth
that grace and healing were promised to the throng.
Then I saw him through whom God speaks;
before him all abased themselves in the dust;
to thousands he gave his blessing,
thousands, pardoned, he bade joyfully arise.
Then I too drew near; my head bowed to the ground
and beating my breast in sorrow, I confessed my sins,
the evil desires that had filled my mind,
the longing that no penance yet had stilled;
and for deliverance from these burning fetters
I cried, pierced with bitter anguish.
And he to whom I prayed replied:
"If you have felt such sinful desires
and warmed yourself at Hell's fires,
if you have dwelt within the Venusberg,
you are forever accursed!
As this staff in my hand
will nevermore put forth a living leaf,
so from the burning brand of Hell
salvation never will bloom for you!
Then I sank down, crushed and in despair,
my senses left me. When I awoke,
night had fallen on the empty square,
but from afar sounded joyful hymns of praise.
The sweet songs sickened me:
from the lying sounds of promise
which pierced my soul with icy chill,
horror drove me forth in wild flight.
It drove me here, where once I so enjoyed
bliss and pleasure on her warm breast!
To you, fair Venus, I return,
to the sweet darkness of your spell;
I will come down to your court,
where your charms now shall ever smile on me!

WOLFRAM
Stop, stop, unhappy man!

TANNHÄUSER
Ah, let me not seek in vain;
how easily I once did find you!
You hear that by men I am accursed;
now, sweet goddess, lead me to you!

WOLFRAM
Madman, whom are you calling?

TANNHÄUSER
Ha! Do you not feel gentle breezes?

WOLFRAM
Stay with me, or you are lost!

TANNHÄUSER
And do you not breathe sweet fragrance?
Do you not hear rapturous voices?

WOLFRAM
My heart trembles with wild dread.

TANNHÄUSER
That is the dancing host of nymphs!
Come on! Come on to bliss and joy!

WOLFRAM
Alas! Black magic is abroad!
Hell's wild course draws near.

TANNHÄUSER
Rapture surges through my senses
as this roseate glow I see;
this is the magic realm of love.
Let us away to the Venusberg!

VENUS
Welcome, fickle man!
Did earth reject and banish you?
And do you nowhere find compassion,
and seek for love in my arms?

TANNHÄUSER
O Venus, generous of mercy!
To you, to you I am driven!

WOLFRAM
Enchantments of Hell, away, away!
Do not ensnare the hearts of the righteous!

VENUS
If you again approach my realm,
your pride shall be forgiven;
the fount of pleasure will flow for you forever
and never shall you fly from me!

TANNHÄUSER
All hope of salvation is lost to me;
now let me choose the delights of Hell!

WOLFRAM
Almighty Lord, help thy servant!
Heinrich, one word will set you free:
your salvation!

VENUS
O come!

TANNHÄUSER
to Wolfram
Away from me!

VENUS
O come! Be mine now for ever!

WOLFRAM
You can still gain pardon for your sins!

TANNHÄUSER
Never, Wolfram, never! I must away!

WOLFRAM
An angel prayed for you on earth,
soon she will send her blessing down to you.

VENUS
Come to me!

WOLFRAM
Elisabeth!

TANNHÄUSER
Elisabeth!

MINSTRELS AND MALE CHORUS
Hail to the soul that now has flown
from the body of this virtuous sufferer!

WOLFRAM
Your angel pleads for you at God's throne,
and her prayer is heard! Heinrich, you are saved!

VENUS
Alas! Lost to me!

From the Wartburg a funeral procession bears an open coffin

MINSTRELS AND MALE CHORUS
Hers be the angels' blessed reward,
the rich crown of heavenly joys.

WOLFRAM
Do you hear the chant?

TANNHÄUSER
I hear it!

MINSTRELS AND MALE CHORUS
Blessed be the pure one, who now stands
among the heaveniv host before the Eternal!
Blessed be the sinner for whom she wept,
for whom she implored heaven's mercy!

Wolfram leads Tannhäuser to the coffin, on which he sinks

TANNHÄUSER
Holy Elisabeth, pray for me!

He dies.

PILGRIMS
carrying in their midst a priest's staff covered in fresh, green leaves
Hail! Hail! Hail to this miracle of grace!
Salvation to the world is given.
In this holy hour of night the Lord
hath manifested himself through a miracle.
The barren staff in the priest's hand
he has decked with fresh green:
so to the sinner in Hell's flames
shall redemption bloom anew!
Proclaim it through every land
that through this miracle he found grace!
God reigns high above the whole world,
and his compassion is never sought in vain!
Halleluja! Halleluja
Halleluja!

LANDGRAVE, MINSTRELs, KNIGHTS AND PILGRIMS
The grace of God is granted to the penitent;
now he enters into the bliss of heaven!