from
Cyrano de Bergerac
by
Edmond Rostand
translated by
Brian Hooker

Cyrano de Bergerac

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Cyrano de Bergerac

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Cyrano de Bergerac
by Edmond Rostand

(1898)
an Heroic Comedy in Five Acts

translated into English Verse by Brian Hooker

Copyright © 1923 by Henry Holt and Company
Copyright © 1951 by Doris C. Hooker

The First Act

Ragueneau:

His sword is one half of the shears of Fate!

Cyrano:

Let me hear one more word of that same song,

And I destroy you all!

A Citizen:

Who might you be?

Samson?—

Cyrano:

Precisely. Would you kindly lend me

Your jawbone?

Topic:

Defiance

Cyrano:

Fair ladies—shine upon us like the sun,

Blossom like the flowers around us—be our songs,

Heard in a dream— Make sweet the hour of death,

Smiling upon us as you close our eyes—

Inspire, but do not try to criticise!

Topic:

Critics

Cyrano:

Magnificent,

My nose! . . . You pug, you knob, you button-head,

Know that I glory in this nose of mine,

For a great nose indicates a great man—

Genial, courteous, intellectual,

Viril, courageous—as I am—and such

As you—poor wretch—will never dare to be

Even in imagination.

Topic:

Noses

Cyrano:

I carry my adornments on my soul.

I do not dress up like a popinjay;

But inwardly, I keep my daintiness.

I do not bear with me, by any chance,

An insult not yet washed away—a conscience

Yellow with unpurged bile—an honor frayed

To rags, a set of scruples badly worn.

I go caparisoned in gems unseen,

Trailing white plumes of freedom, garlanded

With my good name—no figure of a man,

But a soul clothed in shining armor, hung

With deeds for decorations, twirling—thus—

A bristling wit, and swinging at my side

Courage, and on the stones of this old town

Making the sharp truth ring, like golden spurs!

Valvert:

But—

Cyrano:

But I have no gloves! A pity too!

I had one—the last one of an old pair—

And lost that. Very careless of me. Some

Gentleman offered me an impertinence.

I left it—in his face.

Valvert:

Dolt, bumpkin, fool,

Insolent puppy, jobbernowl!

Cyrano:

Ah, yes?

And I—Cyrano-Savinien-Hercule

De Bergerac!

Le Bret:

What a fool!—

Cyrano:

But—what a gesture!

The Second Act

De Guiche:

Windmills, remember, if you fight with them—

Cyrano:

My enemies change, then, with every wind?

De Guiche:

—May swing round their huge arms and cast you down

Into the mire.

Cyrano:

Or up—among the stars!

Cyrano:

What would you have me do?

Seek for the patronage of some great man,

And like a creeping vine on a tall tree

Crawl upward, where I cannot stand alone?

No thank you! Dedicate, as others do,

Poems to pawnbrokers? Be a buffoon

In the vile hope of teasing out a smile

On some cold face? No thank you! Eat a toad

For breakfast every morning? Make my knees

Callous, and cultivate a supple spine,—

Wear out my belly grovelling in the dust?

No thank you! Scratch the back of any swine

That roots up gold for me? Tickle the horns

Of Mammon with my left hand, while my right

Too proud to know his partner’s business,

Takes in the fee? No thank you! Use the fire

God gave me to burn incense all day long

Under the nose of wood and stone? No thank you!

[...]

Never to make a line I have not heard

In my own heart; yet, with all modesty

To say: “My soul, be satisfied with flowers,

With fruit, with weeds even; but gather them

In the one garden you may call your own.”

So, when I win some triumph, by some chance,

Render no share to Caesar—in a word,

I am too proud to be a parasite,

And if my nature wants the germ that grows

Towering to heaven like the mountain pine,

Or like the oak, sheltering multitudes—

I stand, not high it may be—but alone!

The Third Act

Ragueneau:

—And so she ran off with a Musketeer!

I was ruined—I was alone— Remained

Nothing for me to do but hang myself,

So I did that. Presently along come

Monsieur de Bergerac, and cuts me down,

And makes me steward to his cousin.

Topic:

Suicide

Roxane:

Your words to-night

Hesitate. Why?

Cyrano:

Through the warm summer gloom

They grope in darkness toward the light of you.

Roxane:

My words, well aimed, find you more readily.

Cyrano:

My heart is open wide and waits for them—

Too large a mark to miss! My words fly home,

Heavy with honey like returning bees,

To your small secret ear. Moreover—yours

Fall to me swiftly. Mine more slowly rise.

Roxane:

Yet not so slowly as they did at first.

Cyrano:

They have learned the way, and you have welcomed them.

Roxane:

Am I so far above you now?

Cyrano:

So far—

If you let fall upon me one hard word,

Out of that height—you crush me!

Cyrano:

[...] Shall we insult Nature, this night,

These flowers, this moment—shall we set all these

To phrases from a letter by Voltaire?

Look once at the high stars that shine in heaven,

And put off artificiality!

Have you not seen great gaudy hothouse flowers,

Barren, without fragrance?—Souls are like that:

Forced to show all, they soon become all show—

The means to Nature’s end ends meaningless!

Cyrano:

And what is a kiss, when all is done?

A promise given under seal—a vow

Taken before the shrine of memory—

A signature acknowledged—a rosy dot

Over the i of Loving—a secret whispered

To listening lips apart—a moment made

Immortal, with a rush of wings unseen—

A sacrament of blossoms, a new song

Sung by two hearts to an old simple tune—

The ring of one horizon around two souls

Together, all alone!

Topic:

Kisses

The Fourth Act

First Cadet:

Always the clever answer!

Cyrano:

Always the answer—yes! Let me die so—

Under some rosy-golden sunset, saying

A good thing, for a good cause! By the sword,

The point of honor—by the hand of one

Worthy to be my foeman, let me fall—

Steel in my heart, and laughter on my lips!

Cyrano:

[...] Now let the fife, that dry old warrior,

Dream, while over the stops your fingers dance

A minuet of little birds—let him

Dream beyond ebony and ivory;

Let him remember he was once a reed

Out of the river, and recall the spirit

Of innocent, untroubled country days . . .

Listen, you Gascons! Now it is no more

The shrill fife— It is the flute, through woodlands far

Away, calling—no longer the hot battle-cry,

But the cool, quiet pipe our goatherds play!

Listen—the forest glens . . . the hills . . . the downs . . .

The green sweetness of night on the Dordogne . . .

Listen, you Gascons! It is all Gascoyne! . . .

Carbon:

You make them weep—

Cyrano:

For homesickness—a hunger

More noble than that hunger of the flesh;

It is their hearts now that are starving.

Carbon:

Yes,

But you melt down their manhood.

Cyrano:

You think so?

Let them be. There is iron in their blood

Not easily dissoved in tears.

Compare to:

“Lili Marlene”

First Cadet:

A counterfeit! Never you trust that man—

Because we Gascons, look you, are all mad—

This fellow is reasonable— nothing more

Dangerous than a reasonable Gascon!

Cyrano:

Henry of Navarre

Being outnumbered, never flung away

His white plume.

De Guiche:

My device was a success,

However!

Cyrano:

Possibly . . . An officer

Does not lightly resign the privilege

Of being a target.

Now, if I had been there—

Your courage and my own differ in this—

When your scarf fell, I should have put it on.

First Cadet:

A Gascon’s gun never recoils!

The Fifth Act

Le Bret:

[...]

His satires make a host of enemies—

He attacks the false nobles, the false saints,

The false heroes, the false artists—in short,

Everyone!

De Guiche:

[...]

Do you know, when a man wins

Everything in this world, when he succeeds

Too much—he feels, having done nothing wrong

Especially, Heaven knows!—he feels somehow

A thousand small displeasures with himself,

Whose whole sum is not quite Remorse, but rather

A sort of vague disgust . . . The ducal robes

Mounting up, step by step, to pride and power,

Somewhere among their folds draw after them

A rustle of dry illusions, vain regrets,

As your veil, up the stairs here, draws along

The whisper of dead leaves.

Cyrano:

The leaves—

Roxane:

What color—

Perfect Venetian red! Look at them fall.

Cyrano:

Yes—they know how to die. A little way

From the branch to the earth, a little fear

Of mingling with the common dust—and yet

They go down gracefully—a fall that seems

Like flying!

Topic:

Dying

text checked (see note) Apr 2005; Mar 2006; Oct 2009

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