Swept Away

The four-minute Prelude to Wagner’s Das Rheingold is based entirely
on a single chord and simulates the Rhine River.

At first a rumble—no, an E-flat drone
Insinuates then bores into the ear.
We vibrate to the low primordial tone
That swells into a major chord. Aware
That we are riverborne, no need for air,
We yield. The undulations spread, immerse
Us as the low bassoons and horns declare
The animation of the universe.
Then cellos, woodwinds, violins rehearse
Two leitmotifs, which we will hear retold
When Wagner weaves the fabric of the curse
An evil dwarf places on stolen gold.
The roaring current lifts us as it brings
The curtain up. The first Rhinemaiden sings.