The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveller hastens toward the town,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveller to the shore,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Today marks the 121st anniversary of the Enigma Variations’ premiere in 1899, a symphonic work by the British Romantic composer Edward Elgar that catapulted him to international acclaim. This is the fourth installment in a series of articles that explore a trove of cryptograms embedded within three bridge passages from the Enigma Variations. A section in classical music that smoothly connects one movement to another is known as a bridge passage, and there are three in the Enigma Variations. The first in bars 18-19 forms the concluding phrase of the iconic Enigma Theme. It begins at Rehearsal 2 and precedes Variation I (C. A. E.). The second in bars 185-188 completes the closing section of Variation V (R. P. A). It starts four bars before Rehear-al 19 and links to Variation VI (Ysobel). The third bridge passage in bars 306-308 begins three measures before Rehearsal 33 and forms the ending phrase of Variation VIII (W. N.). A soulful melodic G from the tonic cadence is sustained by the first violins over the barline into Rehearsal 33 to herald the sublime dawn of the most elegiac of the movements, Variation IX (Nimrod).
My first essay covers the Opus Dei Cipher. This cryptogram is formed by three performance directions in the first bridge passage that stand out from the others because they end in a period: tempo., dim., and unis. These three performance directions are an anagram of two phrases and one word. The first is the Latin phrase “Opus Dei” which means “The work of God.” The next is “I m,” a phonetic spelling of “I am.” This phrase is a mysterious name given by God to Moses at the burning bush on Mount Horeb. The third is “mnt,” a phonetic rendition of “mount.” Moses first encountered God on Mount Horeb, a place also known as the Mountain of God. The decryptions “Opus Dei”, “I AM,” and “mount” evince a coherent theological framework. They further hint at the identity of the secret friend memorialized in Variation XIII because Christian theologians classify the episode on Mount Horeb as a Christophany, an appearance of the pre-incarnate Jesus in the Old Testament.
My second article describes the Psalm 46 Ciphers. The word “psalm” is encoded as an acrostic anagram by five performance directions in the first bridge passage, and the numbers 4 and 6 are enciphered in multiple ways by its orchestration. The first is conveyed by the breakdown of the notes in the opening G major chord in bar 18. This tonic major chord is constructed of ten written notes that may be categorized as four unisons and six discrete pitches. The numbers four and six turn up again in connection with the melodic eighth notes performed by the first violins (bars 18-19) and harmonic eighth notes played by the violas (bar 19). These eighth notes are beamed into groups of four, and there are a total of six beamed groupings. The encoding of the word “psalm” in conjunction with the numbers 4 and 6 is illuminating because the title of the covert Theme to the Enigma Variations originates from the first line of Psalm 46. The repeated slurred pattern of eighth notes in pairs is a pattern that suggests the chapter number 22, a messianic psalm that describes the crucifixion.
My third article describes the Tau Cross Ciphers. The proximate performance directions “a tempo” and “unis” in the first bridge passage are an acrostic anagram of “tau.” The tau cross is one of the four iconographic representations of the cross, a Christogram that implicates Jesus as Elgar’s secret friend. The sums of the characters in the separate terms in “a tempo” and “unis.” are an anagram of the number 515. That divine number is the cryptic “enigma forte” from Dante’s Divine Comedy. There are multiple coded allusions to the Divine Comedy and the mysterious number 515 within the Enigma Variations. Like the divine number 515, there are at least two coded references in the first bridge passage to a mathematical ratio known as the Divine Number or Golden Section. Similarly, there are two coded references to Pi in bars 1 and 11 of the Enigma Theme. The Golden Section provides the first two words from the title of Longfellow’s book The Golden Legend. That book contains a homage to Martin Luther that cites all four stanzas of his hymn Ein feste Burg, the covert Theme to the Enigma Variations.
The discovery of these ciphers is consistent with Elgar’s compulsion for cryptography, a subject that merits a chapter in Craig P. Bauer’s treatise Unsolved! A decade of concerted analysis of the Enigma Variations has netted over eighty cryptograms in diverse formats that encode a set of mutually consistent and complementary solutions. While this figure may seem incredible, it is entirely consistent with Elgar’s psychological profile. More importantly, their solutions provide definitive answers to the core questions posed by the Enigma Variations. What is the secret melody to which the Enigma Theme is a counterpoint and serves as the foundation of the ensuing movements? Answer: Ein feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress) by Martin Luther. What is Elgar’s “dark saying” ensconced within the Enigma Theme? Answer: A musical Polybius box cipher embedded in the opening six bars. Who is the secret friend and inspiration behind Variation XIII? Answer: Jesus Christ, the Savior of Elgar’s Roman Catholic faith.
Related Performance Directions Ciphers
My first article analyzed how five performance directions from the first bridge passage are an acrostic anagram of “psalm.” Those five performance directions in bar 18 are listed below:
Patterns in the orchestration and notation of the first bridge passage implicate chapters 46 and 22 from the Book of Psalms. The title of the covert Theme originates from the opening line of Psalm 46. A vivid description of the crucifixion of Jesus is given in Psalm 22 that Jesus cited from the cross. These two Psalms reveal the title of the covert Theme and the identity of Elgar’s secret friend depicted in Variation XIII.
These five performance directions are merely one part of a broader interlocking set of acrostic anagrams. Setting aside these five performance directions leaves nine other terms in bar 18 that are shown below in alphabetical order:
When treated as an acrostic anagram, the first letters of these remaining terms may be reshuffled to form “u ffacd ttt.” The easiest of these to decipher is the letter u which is a homophone of you. The German equivalent of you is du, the familiar form of “you” used among friends. This word appears in the initials of Elgar’s musical self-portrait (E.D.U.). The letters “ffacd” may be read phonetically as effaced and faced. Three ts resemble three crosses, a universal Christian symbol of Christ’s crucifixion at Golgotha where he was executed between two criminals. Other coded references to Psalms 22 and 46 support this interpretation of three ts as emblems of the cross. Indeed, the lower case t closely resembles the Latin cross.
The Gospel account records there were three crosses at the crucifixion of Jesus. This revered figure executed almost two millennia ago is the Savior of Elgar’s Roman Catholic faith and the secret friend commemorated in Variation XIII. Three Mendelssohn quotations in his movement symbolize an ocean crossing and are an allegory of three crosses. In Goethe’s poetry that inspired Mendelssohn’s overture, the picture of a calm sea depicts the stillness of death (“Todestille fürchterlich!”). A deadly sea crossing is a nuanced allusion to crossing over from life to death. It is precisely for this reason that Variation XIII was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra at Elar’s Memorial Service in March 1934 along with the Enigma Theme, Variation I (C.A.E.), and Variation IX (Nimrod).
The acrostic anagram “u ffaced ttt” may be interpreted phonetically and symbolically as “you faced crucifixion” and “you effaced death.” These are robust theological allusions to Jesus whose death on the cross defeated death. This is why the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:55-17:
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Elgar was employed for years as the organist of St. George’s Church. His personal library housed multiple hymnals including a copy of Hymns Ancient and Modern. The word “efface” is common in many hymns. For example, it may be found in the fourth and final stanza of Hymn 76:
That He may all our sins efface,
Adorn us with the gifts of Grace,
And join us to the angel band
Forever in the Heavenly Land.
When the priest with holy unction
Prays for mercy and for grace,
May the tears of deep compunction
All my guilty stains efface.
Let me find in thee a refuge,
In thy heart a resting place.
Another possible ordering of the first letters of the nine remaining performance terms is “u facd tttf.” The letters “u facd” is another phonetic rendering of “you faced.” The letters “tttf” are a phonetic version of the German word tief. This is the fourth word in the saying “Stille Wasser sind tief” (Still water runs deep). Stille appears in the title from Mendelssohn’s concert overture (Meerestille) quoted in Variation XIII. When viewed through the poetic prism of the Mendelssohn quotations, the combination “u facd tttf” may be interpolated as “you faced” the depths of death. This conclusion is bolstered by four notes played by the bass section four bars after Rehearsal 55 and 59 that literally spell “DEAD.” The performance of these four notes by the lowest voice of the string choir conveys a sense of depth and portends the deathly stillness of the Mendelssohn quotations. There are a variety of open and concealed allusions to death within the Enigma Variations.
The American educator and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was highly esteemed by Ann Elgar, the mother of Edward Elgar. She faithfully passed on her reverence for Longfellow’s prose and poetry to her son. Longfellow’s writings served as the stimulus for five of Elgar’s compositions. The first is Spanish Serenade Op. 23, a work for chorus and orchestra written in 1892 based on Act I of Longfellow’s play The Spanish Student. The second is The Black Knight Op. 25, an oratorio composed in 1893 and inspired by Longfellow’s translation of Uhland’s “Der schwarze Ritter” from his novel Hyperion. The third is Rondel Op. 16 No. 3, a song for voice and piano set in 1894. The fourth is The Saga of King Olaf, a cantata composed in 1896 that was inspired by Longfellow’s epic poem sharing the same title. The fifth is The Apostles, a sacred oratorio premiered in 1903 that was based in part on Longfellow’s The Divine Tragedy (1871). Longfellow’s epic Christian poem forms a trilogy with The Golden Legend (1851) and The New England Tragedies (1868).
Longfellow composed his poem The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls in 1879 at his seaside summer home in Nahant, Massachusetts. In the first stanza, he describes a traveler walking at dusk on a beach towards a nearby town to represent the inevitable approach of death. In the second stanza, darkness envelops the seascape and town as little sea waves wash away the traveler’s transient footprints left behind on the sand. In the third stanza, a new day dawns but the traveler remains lost to the past. Like his footprints in the sand, death swept him away during the night to nevermore “return to shore.” Four times Longfellow repeats the line, “The tide rises, the tide falls,” to symbolize the cycle of life and death.
The ninth line of the poem reads, “Efface the footprints in the sands.” The word “efface” was uncovered by the decryption of the acrostic anagram formed by nine performance directions from bar 18 of the first bridge passage. The letter e appears twice in “efface,” a suggestive parallel with Elgar’s initials of two capital cursive Es. The marine imagery and the sandy shoreline of Longfellow’s poem allude to the transience of life as the darkness of death overtakes the twilight of life. Three stanzas furnish a parallel with the Enigma Variations’ three bridge passages and three Mendelssohn quotations in Variation XIII. There are fifteen lines in all, and likewise, there are fifteen movements in the Enigma Variations. Like the four-letter word “dead,” the term “dark” also has four letters and begins with the letter d. Elgar was certainly contemplating Longfellow’s poetry when he composed the Enigma Variations because he cites Stanza XIV from Elegiac Verse on the last page of the expanded version of Variation XIV completed in July 1899.
Elgar’s unusual choice of words for the original 1899 program note is redolent of Longfellow. Elgar wrote, “The Enigma I will not explain — it’s ‘dark saying’ must be left unguessed…” An intimate association exists between the words “dark,” “enigma,” and “Christ” in Longfellow’s The Golden Legend. The protagonist Elsie offers to sacrifice her own life to save that of Prince Henry, a redemption theme eerily reminiscent of Senta’s role in The Flying Dutchman. As they journey to the place where Elsie is to lay down her life, the following exchange takes place:
This life of ours is a wild aeolian harp of many a joyous strain,
But under them all there runs a loud perpetual wail, as of souls in pain.
Faith alone can interpret life, and the heart that aches and bleeds with the stigma
Of pain, alone bears the likeness of Christ, and can comprehend its dark enigma.
In her reply, Elsie deftly surmises the crux of Longfellow’s massive trilogy of verse plays, Christus: A Mystery. With terms like “enigma” and “dark saying,” Elgar’s unusual language in the original 1899 program reveals Longfellow’s influence.
Longfellow’s poetry was the foundation of Arthur Sullivan’s cantata The Golden Legend. Elgar served as a sectional violinist in performances of that work in May 1887, September 1887, and November 1892. He also attended a performance of it in September 1898, a month before he began intense work on the Enigma Variations. Elgar’s daughter Carice wrote, “My father always spoke with great feeling and respect for Sullivan and admired The Golden Legend.” The record proves that Elgar was intimately familiar with Sullivan’s cantata and Longfellow’s poetry that inspired it.
This overview identified a variety of interlocking cryptograms within the performance directions of the first bridge passage (bars 18-19). The first was an acrostic anagram of five performance directions that spell “psalm.” The sparse orchestration of this first bridge passage links this decryption to the numbers 22 and 46. Jesus cited the opening line of Psalm 22 from the cross, a chapter that gives a vivid prophetic account of his crucifixion. Martin Luther obtained the title of his most famous hymn from the first line of Psalm 46. It is noteworthy that in both cases, the first line of the respective Psalm is cited. These specific coded references to Psalms 22 and 46 reveal the secret friend and the covert Theme.
A second anagram cipher is constructed from three performance directions that end with a period: tempo., dim., and unis. The letters of those three terms may be reshuffled to spell “Opus Dei” (Latin for “The work of God”), “I M” (phonetic for “I AM”), and “mnt” (a phonetic spelling of “mount”). God told Moses at the burning bush on Mount Horeb that His name is “I AM,” an encounter Christian theologians classify as a Christophany or preincarnate appearance of Jesus in the Old Testament canon. In his correspondence, Elgar used the opening bar of the Enigma Theme as a substitute for the phrase “I am.” This was possible because the pattern of two eighth notes followed by two quarter notes is the equivalent of two dots followed by two dashes in Morse code, the sequence for the letters “i” and “m.”
The proximate performance directions “a tempo” and “unis.” are an acrostic anagram of the word tau, the nineteenth letter in the Greek alphabet. One of the four iconic representations of the cross is the tau cross, a Christogram that implicates Jesus as Elgar’s secret friend. The presence of this cryptogram within the first bridge passage is fitting because a bridge serves as a crossing point. There are fourteen stations of the cross, and similarly, there are fourteen movements numbered by Roman numerals in the Enigma Variations. According to Roman Catholic tradition, Jesus was crucified at the age of 33. Likewise, there are precisely 33 written notes in the first bridge passage, a place to cross over from one movement to the next. There are also 33 characters in all of the Roman numerals from I to XIV.
Setting aside the performance directions that are an acrostic anagram of “psalm” leaves nine other terms. When they are treated like an acrostic anagram, their first letters may be reshuffled to form “u ffacd ttt.” This phrase may be interpreted phonetically and symbolically as “You faced crucifixion” and “You effaced death.” There were three crosses at the crucifixion of Jesus. Likewise, there are three bridge passages and three Mendelssohn quotations in the Enigma Variations. These decryptions bolster the conclusion that Jesus is the secret friend memorialized in Variation XIII. Another possible arrangement is “u facd tttf” in which “tttf” is a phonetic rendering of the German word tief that means “deep.” The German saying “Stille Wasser sind tief” (Still water runs deep) provides a multilayered linkage to the original German title of Mendelssohn’s overture Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt (Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage). “Meeres” is a word for a large body of water, and “stille” is identical to that from the German aphorism. When read from this vantage point, the phrase “u facd tttf” may be interpreted as “You faced [the] deep” depths of death. Two coded references to “dead” in the bass part of Variation XIII bolster this cryptographic interpolation.
Although divergent in their construction, the first bridge passage word ciphers encode a set of mutually consistent and complementary answers to the core riddles of the Enigma Variations. He conveniently signed the first bridge passage as “Ed” using the first letters of the end bar at the beginning of measure 18 and the double bar at the end of measure 19. Some secular academics will reflexively dismiss these cryptograms and their solutions as contrived, the product of confirmation bias or an overactive imagination. Their blind insistence that there can be no definitive answers to the Enigma Variations is the product of a lack of imagination melded with a rigid confirmation bias perpetuated by the echo chambers of academia and a rancid peer-review process. Elgar rightly despised the rigid and soulless formalism of his academic contemporaries. The anomalous Mendelssohn fragments point to the solutions to Elgar’s enigmas. After all, water is a solution and plays an integral role in the Christian rite of baptism. One must first be immersed in a Christian worldview to recognize and comprehend the innermost secrets of Elgar’s Enigma Variations. To learn more about the secrets of the Enigma Variations, read my free eBook Elgar's Enigmas Exposed.