CYRANO DE BERGERAC
A Play in Five Acts
by Edmond Rostand
Translated by A. S. Kline © 2003 All Rights Reserved
This work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose. Permission to perform this version of the play, on stage or film, by amateur or professional companies, and for commercial purposes, should be requested from the translator at: email@example.com.
The Poets’ Pastry-Shop.
Ragueneau’s bakery and pastry-shop. A large place at the corner of the Rue Saint Honoré and the Rue de l’Arbre Sec, which is seen in the background through the glass door, in the first light of dawn.
On the left, in the foreground, a counter surmounted by a stand of forged iron, on which are hung geese, ducks, and white peacocks. In great china vases there are tall bouquets of ordinary flowers, mainly yellow sunflowers.
On the same side, farther back, an immense fireplace, in front of which, between great firedogs on each of which hangs a little saucepan, roasts are dripping into pans.
In the right foreground a door.
Farther back a staircase leading to a little room under the eaves, the interior of which is visible through the open shutter. A table is laid, there. A small Flemish candlestick is alight. It is a private place for eating and drinking. A wooden gallery, continuing the staircase, apparently leads to other similar little rooms.
In the middle of the shop an iron ring is suspended from the ceiling by a rope with which it can be drawn up and down, and game is hung around it, like a chandelier.
The ovens in the darkness under the stairs give out a red glow. The copper pans shine. The spits are turning. Heaps of food formed into pyramids. Hams suspended. It is the busy hour of the morning. Bustle and hurry of scullions, fat cooks, and diminutive apprentices, their caps decorated with cock’s feathers and the wings of guinea-fowl.
On metal dishes and wicker platters they bring in quincunxes of cakes and villages of tarts.
The tables are covered with rolls and dishes of food. Other tables surrounded with chairs are ready for the winers and diners.
A small table in a corner is covered with papers, at which Ragueneau is seated writing as the curtain rises.
Ragueneau, pastry-cooks, then Lise. Ragueneau is writing, with an inspired air, at a small table, and counting on his fingers.
FIRST PASTRY-COOK (bringing in an elaborate fancy dish):
SECOND PASTRY-COOK (bringing another dish):
THIRD PASTRY-COOK (bringing a roast, decorated with feathers):
FOURTH PASTRY-COOK (bringing a batch of cakes on a slab):
FIFTH PASTRY-COOK (bringing a sort of pie-dish):
RAGUENEAU (ceasing to write, and raising his head):
On copper pans dawn’s silver rays, already, glow!
Quench the god who sings within you, Ragueneau!
The lute’s hour is done! It’s the oven’s moment now!
(He rises. To a cook)
You, give that sauce a longer measure, it’s too short!
(He passes on farther.)
FIRST PASTRY-COOK (showing a dish to Ragueneau):
RAGUENEAU (before the fire):
My Muse, be distant, since your lovely eyes
must not be reddened by these vinous fires!
(To a cook, showing him some loaves)
You’ve misplaced the split in these, the poet teaches
that the caesura’s between - the double hemistiches!
(To another, showing him an unfinished pasty)
To this palace of pastry you must add the roof ...
(To a young apprentice, who, seated on the ground, is spitting the fowls)
and you, on your interminable spit, son, you
vary the little pullet and turkey the superb,
alternately, my child, as our old Malherbe
varied his grander verses with the lesser;
and turn the strophes of roast fowl in the fire!
ANOTHER APPRENTICE (also coming up with a tray covered by a napkin):
Master, I thought of something you might desire.
I’ve baked it in the oven, to please you.
(He uncovers the tray, and shows a large lyre made of pastry.)
It’s made with brioche pastry.
And candied fruit!
And the strings, see, of sugar, I made them too.
RAGUENEAU (giving him a coin):
Here, drink a health to me!
(Seeing Lise enter)
Sssh! My wife. Keep it hid
(To Lise, showing her the lyre, with a conscious look)
Isn’t it sweet?
(She puts a pile of paper bags on the counter.)
Paper bags? Good. Thanks.
(He looks at them.)
Heavens! My old manuscripts!
The poems of my friends! Dismembered, torn to bits
to make bags for putting bread and pastries in...
Ah! Orpheus, the Bacchantes, all over again!
Haven’t I the right to put to good employment
what they leave behind them as their only payment,
those limping lines, from your wretched scribblers!
Ant! ... Don’t insult those heavenly cicadas!
Before you spent your time with that crew, dear man,
you didn’t call me a Bacchante, - or an ant!
With poetry…to do that!
What else, do you suppose?
Then, madam, what on earth would you do with prose?
The same. Two children, who’ve just entered the pastry-shop.
What do you want, little ones?
RAGUENEAU (serving them):
There, well cooked,
and well heated.
Please, will you wrap them for us?
RAGUENEAU (aside, distressed):
Alas! One of my bags!
(To the children)
What? Must I wrap them? See!
(He takes a bag, and just as he is about to put in the pies, he reads)
‘So Ulysses, on the day he left Penelope ...’
Not that one!
(He puts it aside, and takes another, and as he is about to put in the pies, he reads)
‘Golden-haired Phoebus ...’
No, nor that! ...
(The same again)
What are you waiting for?
Not that! Not that! That!
(He chooses a third, resignedly.)
The sonnet to Phyllis! ...it’s hard all the same!
Thank goodness he’s decided!
(Shrugging her shoulders)
What a game!
(She climbs on a chair, and begins to range plates on a dresser.)
RAGUENEAU (taking advantage of the moment she turns her back, calls back the children, who are already at the door):
Psst! Little ones! ... give me the sonnet to Phyllis,
and instead of those three pies I’ll give you six.
(The children give him back the bag, take the pies quickly, and go out.)
RAGUENEAU (smoothing out the paper, begins to declaim):
‘Phyllis! ...’ On that sweet name, a smear of butter!
(Cyrano enters hurriedly.)
Ragueneau, Lise, Cyrano, then the musketeer.
What time is it?
RAGUENEAU (bowing low):
CYRANO (with emotion):
In an hour!
(He paces up and down the shop.)
RAGUENEAU (following him):
Bravo! I saw ...
Your duel! ...
The one in the Hotel Burgundy!
Ah! ... that duel!
Yes, the duel in verse! ...
He’s full of it…overmuch!
That’s all the better!
RAGUENEAU (making passes with a spit that he catches up):
‘At the envoi’s end, I touch!…
At the envoi’s end, I touch!…’ Isn’t that fine, though!
(With increasing enthusiasm)
‘At the envoi’s end…’
What time is it, Ragueneau?
RAGUENEAU (stopping short, in the act of thrusting with an imaginary sword, to look at the clock):
Five after six! ... ‘I touch!’
(He straightens up.)
... Oh! To write a ballad!
LISE (to Cyrano, who, as he passes by the counter, has absently shaken hands with her):
What’s wrong with your hand?
Nothing. A fight I had.
Have you been running some danger?
LISE (shaking her finger at him):
I think you’re lying?
Did my nose grow longer?
It must have taken a giant lie to do so!
(Changing his tone)
I’m waiting for someone. You can leave us though,
if that’s alright.
That’s just what I can’t do:
My poets are due…
And for their first sitting too!
Draw them aside when I make you a sign then, man…
Ten past six.
CYRANO (nervously seating himself at Ragueneau’s table, and drawing some paper toward him):
RAGUENEAU (giving him the one from behind his ear):
A quill, from a swan.
A MUSKETEER (with a fine moustache, enters, and in a stentorian voice):
(Lise goes up to him quickly.)
CYRANO (turning round):
A friend of my wife. A fighter.
Fierce - so he says…
CYRANO (taking up the pen, and motioning Ragueneau away):
I’ll write, fold, give it to her,
and run away!
(Throws down the pen.)
Coward! ... But then how I’d die
if I dared to speak, to say one word to her!
Six fifteen! ...
CYRANO (striking his chest):
…one word of all those I have waiting!
While to write it…
(He picks up the pen again.)
Well, let’s write the thing!
That letter of love I’ve written in my heart
and re-written a hundred times, it’s easy to start
and then set out my innermost soul on paper,
I’ve only to copy it out, nothing’s simpler.
(He writes. Through the glass door the silhouettes of figures are visible, thin and hesitant.)
Ragueneau, Lise, the musketeer. Cyrano at the little table writing. The poets, dressed in black, their stockings slipping down and covered in mud.
LISE (entering, to Ragueneau):
Here they are your goat’s turds!
FIRST POET (entering, to Ragueneau):
SECOND POET (to Ragueneau, shaking his hands):
Eagle among pastry-cooks!
It smells good up here!
O Phoebus Oven-blessed!
RAGUENEAU (surrounded, embraced, clapped on the back):
How quickly you’re put at ease by their kindness!...
We were retarded by the crowd that’s gathered
at the Porte de Nesle! ...
Eight brigands with gashes,
slit-open, all blood-stained, strewn over the stones.
CYRANO (raising his head a minute):
Eight? ... Ah, seven I thought.
(He goes on writing.)
RAGUENEAU (to Cyrano):
Is it perhaps known
who’s the hero?
I don’t know.
LISE (to the musketeer):
THE MUSKETEER (twirling his moustache):
CYRANO (writing a little way off, - he’s heard to murmur a word from time to time):
I love you…
One man, they say, single-handedly,
put the whole lot to flight!
Oh! Quite a surprise!
Pikes and bludgeons all over the ground!..
As far as the Quai d’Orfèvres the hats and the cloaks!
Sapristi! He must be ferocious ...
CYRANO (as before):
A dreadful giant the author of such a to-do!
CYRANO (as before):
….And I faint with fear whenever I look at you.’
SECOND POET (stealing a cake):
What have you rhymed lately, Ragueneau?
CYRANO (as before):
...Who loves you...
(He stops, on the point of signing it, and gets up, slipping the letter into his doublet.)
No need to sign. I’ll place it in her hand, too.
RAGUENEAU (to the second poet):
A recipe set to verse.
THIRD POET (seating himself by a plate of cream-puffs):
Let’s hear this verse!
FOURTH POET (looking at a cake which he has taken):
This brioche is cocking its hat at me, or worse!
(He bites the top off.)
See how this spice-bread woos the hungry rhymer
with almond eyes, and eyebrows of angelica!
(He takes it.)
THIRD POET (squeezing a cream-puff gently in his fingers):
The cream-puff dribbles cream: smiles with desire.
SECOND POET (biting a bit off the great lyre of pastry):
For the first time in my life I’m nourished by the lyre!
RAGUENEAU (who has readied himself for his recital, cleared his throat, settled his cap, and struck a pose):
A recipe in verse...
SECOND POET (to the first, nudging him):
FIRST POET (to second):
You dine, it seems!
How one makes ‘tartelettes amandines’.
Beat several eggs, till they’re quite
Mix in slowly with their froth
Juice from your chosen lemon:
Then pour on
Milk of almonds, sweet enough.
Spread a layer of custard paste
Round the waist
Of your tartlet-moulds: and so,
With quick fingers, pinch
Half an inch:
Drop by drop your mousse must go
Into those little wells, and when
The moulds, then,
To and from the oven have been,
Browned, and cheerfully arrayed,
You’ll have made
THE POETS (their mouths full):
A POET (choking):
(They go upstage, eating.)
CYRANO (who has been watching, goes toward Ragueneau):
Lulled by your voice,
didn’t you see how they stuffed themselves?
RAGUENEAU (in a low voice, smiling):
I saw it…
without seeing it, for fear it might trouble them:
poetry gives me double pleasure all the same
since I indulge the sweet weakness I possess
while letting those eat who’d otherwise eat less.
CYRANO (clapping him on the shoulder):
You, you please me! ...
(Ragueneau goes after his friends. Cyrano follows him with his eyes, then, rather sharply)
Ho there! Lise!
(Lise, who is talking tenderly to the musketeer, starts in surprise, and comes down toward Cyrano.)
Oh! My eyes know how to conquer,
with a haughty look, those who attack my virtue.
Pooh! Those conquering eyes, I see they’re conquered too.
LISE (choking with anger):
I like Ragueneau, Lise, that’s the reason
I prevent him being mocked by anyone
CYRANO (who has raised his voice so as to be heard by the gallant):
A word to the wise ...
(He bows to the musketeer, and goes to the doorway to look out, after checking the time by the clock.)
LISE (to the musketeer, who has merely bowed in answer to Cyrano’s bow):
Really, you astonish me!
Reply….mock his nose…
His nose? ... yes, his nose, I see…
(He goes quickly farther away; Lise follows him.)
CYRANO (from the doorway, signing to Ragueneau to draw the poets away):
RAGUENEAU (showing the poets the door on the right):
We’ll be better through there ...
Psst! Psst! ...
RAGUENEAU (drawing them farther):
FIRST POET (despairingly, with his mouth full):
But the cakes? ...
Take them with us.
(They all follow Ragueneau in procession, after sweeping all the cakes off the trays.)
Cyrano, Roxane, the duenna.
If I see
I’ve the least glimmer of hope I’ll show my letter,
the very least!…
(Roxane, masked, appears at the glass pane of the door, followed by the duenna. He opens it quickly.)
(Walking up to the duenna)
You, two words, Duenna.
You like sweet things?
I eat myself sick, it’s bad!
CYRANO (catching up some of the paper bags from the counter):
Good. Here’s two sonnets by Monsieur Benserade ...
...that I fill for you with these éclairs!
THE DUENNA (changing her expression):
Do you like these little cakes they call cream-puffs?
THE DUENNA (with dignity):
Sir, I put up with them, so long as it’s fresh cream.
I’ll drown six for you here in the breast of a poem,
by Saint-Amant! And, into these lines of Chapelain,
…I slip a feather-light morsel, for your hand.
- Ah! You like fresh-made cakes?
Well, they interest me!
CYRANO (filling her arms with the bags):
Please go, then, and eat them all, in the street.
CYRANO (pushing her out):
And don’t come back again until they’re eaten!
(He shuts the door, comes down toward Roxane, and, removing his hat, stands at a respectful distance from her.)
How blessed the moment among all these moments
when, ceasing to forget I humbly breathe
you come to speak to me.….to speak to me?
ROXANE (who has unmasked):
Why, first to thank you, since that dullard, that jay,
checked outright by your brave sword, yesterday,
it’s him whom a great lord, in love with me…
ROXANE (casting down her eyes):
Sought to force on me ... as a husband ...
In his reach?
Then I fought, Madame, so much the better, I
fought not for my nose, but for your lovely eyes.
Then…I wish... But, to say what I came to say,
you must be that almost-brother once again
in the park - by the lake - where we played together!...
Yes…you came to Bergerac every summer!
The reeds furnished you with leaves to make your swords...
And the wheat the golden plaits you wove for your dolls!
That was the age of play...
And sour mulberries...
A time when you did everything I wished! ...
Roxane, in her short frock, was called Madeleine...
Was I pretty, then?
Ah, you were not plain!
Often you’d run to me with your hand bleeding
from some fall! – Then, I’d say, playing at being
mother, in a voice that tried to be severe,
(She takes his hand.)
‘What is this scratch, again, that I see here?’
(She starts, surprised.)
Oh! This is very bad! And this?
(Cyrano tries to draw away his hand.)
No, show me!
At your age, still! What gave you this injury?
Playing, down by the side of the Porte de Nesle.
ROXANE (seating herself by the table, and dipping her handkerchief in a glass of water):
Give it me!
CYRANO (sitting by her):
So gentle! So joyfully maternal!
And tell me - while I just wipe away the blood,
How many were there against you?
Oh! Not a hundred.
No. Let it be. But you, you can share
that thing, just now, you dared not say...
ROXANE (keeping his hand):
Now, I dare!
the past emboldens me with its perfume!
Yes, I dare now. Well. I love someone.
Who doesn’t know, besides.
But who will know soon, if he doesn’t know it.
A poor boy who’s loved me from afar
until now, timidly, without daring to say...
Let me have your hand, see how feverish it is! -
But I, I’ve seen his love trembling on his lips.
ROXANE (finishes bandaging his hand with her handkerchief):
And imagine now, hold still, fate has meant
yes, dear cousin, that he serves in your regiment!
since he’s a cadet in your own company!
There’s intellect in his face, nobility,
he’s proud, young, brave and beautiful ...
CYRANO (rising suddenly, very pale):
(He shows his hand, smiling.)
This scratch, that’s all!
That’s it, I love him. But I should tell you, you see,
I’ve never seen him except at the Comedy...
You’ve never spoken together?
Only our eyes.
But how do you know, then?
Under the limes
of the Place Royale, people talk ... chattering words
inform me ...
He’s a cadet?
A cadet in the Guards.
Baron Christian de Neuvillette.
He’s not in the Guards.
Yes, since this morning, he is:
Captain Carbon de Castel-Jaloux.
so quickly, we lose our hearts!... But, my little one...
THE DUENNA (opening the door):
I’ve finished the cakes, Monsieur Bergerac!
Well! Read the verses written on the bag!
(The Duenna vanishes.)
... My poor child, you who only love pretty language,
fine wit, - what if he’s illiterate, a savage?
No, he has hair like one of D’Urfé’s heroes...
If he’s as tongue-tied as he is well clothed?
No, every word he speaks is fine: I just know it!
Yes every word’s fine if the face is fine above it!
- But if he were a fool!...
ROXANE (stamping her foot):
Well! I’d die of it, there!
CYRANO (after a pause):
Was it to tell me this that you brought me here?
I don’t quite see the point of it, Madame.
Ah, yesterday someone filled my soul with alarm,
by telling me that you’re all, all of you, Gascons
in your company ...
And we have no mercy on
any of those white-lipped favourites who’re admitted
among us pure Gascons, not being one born and bred?
That’s what they told you?
And is it any wonder
I trembled for him!
CYRANO (between his teeth):
Not without cause!
when you appeared to us last night, brave, invincible,
punished that rogue, and those brutes, so formidable -
I thought: if he would, he, who frightens everyone…
All right! I’ll defend your little Baron.
Oh! Are you really going to defend him for me?
I’ve long held such tender friendship for you, truly.
You will be his friend?
Iwill be so!
And he’ll never be in a duel?
I swear it. No.
Oh! I love you, truly. And now, I must fly.
(She puts on her mask and veil, quickly: then, carelessly)
You haven’t told me about your fight, last night
It must have been extraordinary, no less!….
- Tell him to write to me.
(She blows him a little kiss with her fingers.)
Oh! I love you!
A hundred men against you? Let’s go, farewell then. -
We’re great friends!
Let him write! - A hundred men! -
I can’t stop to listen, now. You’ll tell me later.
A hundred! How brave!
CYRANO (bowing to her):
Oh! Since then, I’ve done better.
(She goes out. Cyrano stands motionless, his eyes on the ground. A silence. The door opens. Ragueneau looks in.)
Cyrano, Ragueneau, poets, Carbon de Castel-Jaloux, the cadets, a crowd, then De Guiche.
Can we come in?
CYRANO (without stirring):
(Ragueneau signs to his friends, and they come in. At the same time, by the door at back, Carbon de Castel-Jaloux enters in Captain’s uniform. He makes a gesture of surprise on seeing Cyrano.)
Here he is!
CYRANO (raising his head):
Ah, Captain! ...
Our hero! We know all! Thirty of the men
CYRANO (shrinking back):
CARBON (trying to draw him away):
Come on! They all want to see you!
They drink over there, at The Cross of Toulouse.
CARBON (going to the door and calling across the street in a voice of thunder):
The hero refuses! He’s in a bad mood!
A VOICE (outside):
(Tumult outside. Noise of boots and swords is heard approaching.)
CARBON (rubbing his hands):
They’re running across to you!
Mille-dioux! Cap-de-dious! Mor-dious! Pocap-de-dious!
RAGUENEAU (drawing back startled):
Gentlemen, you all come from Gascony?
A CADET (to Cyrano):
ANOTHER (shaking his hands):
Let us embrace!
CYRANO (not knowing whom to reply to):
Baron! ... Baron! ...your grace…
You are all Barons, Sirs!
You could build a tower with only our coronets!
LE BRET (entering, and running up to Cyrano):
They’re looking for you! A crowd: they’re all alight,
led by those men who followed behind you last night...
You haven’t told them where to find me?
LE BRET (rubbing his hands):
A CITIZEN (entering, followed by a group of men):
Sir, all the Marais’s on its way, at a guess!
LE BRET (in a low voice, smiling, to Cyrano):
THE CROWD (calling outside):
(A crowd rush into the shop, pushing one another. Acclamations.)
RAGUENEAU (standing on a table):
is invaded! Magnificent! They’ll break the lot!
PEOPLE (crowding round Cyrano):
My friend... my friend...
Yesterday, it would appear
I’d not so many!
LE BRET (delighted):
A YOUNG MARQUIS (hurrying up with his hands held out):
If you knew, my dear….
Dear?...My dear?... When were we intimate together?
I’d like to present you to some ladies, Sir,
there, in my carriage, who ...
And you first, my friend,
who’ll present you to me?
LE BRET (astonished):
A MAN OF LETTERS (with a notebook):
May I have a few details? ...
LE BRET (nudging his elbow):
Renaudot! ... Creator of the ‘Gazette’.
A newspaper where one prints what each day brings!...
They say his idea’s quite the coming thing!
A POET (advancing):
I wish to make a pent-acrostic
on your name...
SOMEONE (also advancing):
(A movement in the crowd. De Guiche appears, escorted by officers, Cuigy, Brissaille, the officers who went with Cyrano the night before. Cuigy comes rapidly up to Cyrano.)
CUIGY (to Cyrano):
Monsieur de Guiche!
(A murmur—every one makes way.)
He comes on behalf of Marshal De Gassion!
DE GUICHE (bowing to Cyrano):
... Who would like to express his admiration,
for your new exploit that’s resounding so freely.
The Marshal’s a judge of bravery.
He’d have considered the thing a pack of lies,
if these gentlemen hadn’t seen it.
With our own eyes!
LE BRET (aside to Cyrano, who has an absent air):
You seem to suffer?
Before the world?...
(He draws himself up, twirls his moustache, and throws back his shoulders.)
I? Suffer?...You shall see!
DE GUICHE (to whom Cuigy has spoken in a low voice):
Your career is filled
by great deeds, now. - You serve with those furious
Gascons, is that right?
Yes, with the Cadets.
A CADET (in a terrible voice):
DE GUICHE (looking at the cadets, ranged behind Cyrano):
Aha!...These gentlemen, all these haughty men,
Are they the famous? ...
Since all my company is, I think, complete,
present them to the count, if you please.
CYRANO (making two steps toward De Guiche, and with a gesture presenting the cadets):
They’re the Cadets of Gascony,
Of Carbon de Castel-Jaloux!
Who fight and lie, most shamelessly,
They’re the Cadets of Gascony!
They brag of weapons and heraldry,
All nobler than your rascally crew
They’re the Cadets of Gascony,
Of Carbon de Castel-Jaloux:
Eagle-eyed, shanks from a heronry,
Cat’s moustaches, and wolves’ teeth too!
Slashing the rogues who make too free,
Eagle-eyed, shanks from a heronry,
They pass, – with their ancient hats, you see,
Whose feathers conceal a hole or two! -
Eagle-eyed, shanks from a heronry,
Cat’s moustaches, and wolves’ teeth too!
They’re the gentlest names they choose:
With glory, their souls are a little tipsy!
In every place you’ll find them ready
to offer the chance for a rendez-vous…
They’re the gentlest names they choose!
Here come the Cadets of Gascony,
They’ll make jealous cuckolds of you!
O women, adorable to see,
Here come the Cadets of Gascony
Old husbands welcome sullenly:
Blow, the trumpets! Sing, ‘cuckoo’!
Here come the Cadets of Gascony,
They’ll make jealous cuckolds of you!
DE GUICHE (seated nonchalantly in an armchair quickly brought by Ragueneau):
A poet’s the fashion, now, to have about one.
- Would you like to be mine?
No, Sir, no one’s!
Your witty words pleased my uncle Richelieu,
yesterday. I’d like to advance you.
LE BRET (overjoyed):
You’ve rhymed five acts at least, I’d imagine?
LE BRET (in Cyrano’s ear):
You’ll stage your play, dear friend, your ‘Agrippine’!
Take them to him.
CYRANO (beginning to be tempted and attracted):
He’s most expert:
he’ll alter only a line or two of your verse…
CYRANO (whose face stiffens at once):
Impossible! Sir: my blood is stirred
at the thought of anyone changing a single word .
But when a verse is pleasing to him, you see,
He pays for it most generously.
He pays less generously
than I: when I’ve made a verse I love to own,
I pay myself, by saying it through alone!
Really? You’ve noticed that of me?
A CADET (entering, with a string of old battered plumed beaver hats, full of holes, slung on his sword):
See, Cyrano, - this morning, along the quay,
the strange feathered game we managed to catch!
The turn-tails’ plumage...
A spoil of princely hats!
Ha! Ha! Ha!
Whoever laid that ambush, why,
he must be in a rage today!
Who was it?
(The laughter stops.)
I ordered them to punish - work one doesn’t care
to do oneself, - to punish…. a drunken rhymester.
The CADET (in a low voice, to Cyrano, showing him the beavers):
What should one do with them? They’re greasy!…a stew?
CYRANO (taking the sword and, with a salute, dropping the hats at De Guiche’s feet):
Sir, will you return these to your friends? Please do.
DE GUICHE (rising, sharply):
My chair and porters, quickly: I’m leaving here!
(To Cyrano passionately)
As to you, Monsieur! ...
VOICE (in the street):
The porters for Monseigneur
the Comte De Guiche!
DE GUICHE (who has controlled himself, smiling):
…Have you read ‘Don Quixote’?
And take off my hat to that knight of mad excess.
So think again...
A PORTER (appearing at back):
The chair for His Excellency.
About the chapter on windmills!
For when you tilt at windmills you often find...
You tilt at men who change with every wind?
That a swirl of the sails on their huge arms
will hurl you in the mire!...
Or among the stars!
(De Guiche goes out, and climbs into his chair. The other lords go away whispering together. Le Bret goes to the door with them. The crowd disperses.)
Cyrano, Le Bret, the cadets, who are eating and drinking at the tables to right and left.
CYRANO (bowing mockingly to those who go out without daring to salute him):
Gentlemen ... Gentlemen ...
LE BRET (coming downstage, despairingly, arms to the heavens):
Ah! What a fine mess!
Oh! You! You’re going to moan!
Even you must confess,
that to spoil every opportunity that comes your way
Yes! - I exaggerate!
LE BRET (triumphantly):
But I think it’s right as a matter of principle,
to exaggerate that way, and as an example.
If you’d set aside your musketeer’s pride then you’d,
find fame and glory...
What would you have me do?
Find a powerful protector: and choose a patron,
like the dark ivy that creeps round a tree-trunk,
and gains its support by licking at its length,
to climb by a ruse instead of rise by strength?
No, thank you! Dedicate, as others do
my poetry to bankers? Become a buffoon
in the base hope of seeing a less than sinister
smile quiver on the lips of some Minister?
No, thank you! Dine each day on a toad?
Own a belly worn out with crawling? Show
a skin that’s dirtied quicker than my knees,
and with a supple spine do tricks to please?
No, thank you! Pat the goat’s neck all over,
with one hand, water the lettuce with the other,
a dealer in senna for rhubarb lovers, I suppose
always wafting a censer under someone’s nose?
No, thank you! Urge myself on from lap to lap:
be a little maestro pacing round in a trap,
or navigate with oars made from madrigals,
and old ladies’ sighs the breezes in my sails?
No, thank you! At some editor’s in the City
edit his verse for pay? No, thank you! Try
to get myself named the high Pope of councils
held in the taverns by imbecilic scoundrels?
No, thank you! Work to be a presence known
for one sonnet, instead of writing many? No,
thank you! Not reveal a talent that amazes?
Not be terrorized by the morning papers?
Not say endlessly: ‘Oh, could I but see
myself in small print in the ‘Mercury’!’
No thank you! Calculate, show fear, grow pallid,
prefer to make a visit than a ballad?
Get myself presented, write petitions to the king?
No, thank you! No, thank you! No, thank you! But…to sing,
to dream, to smile, to walk, to be alone, be free,
with a voice that stirs, and an eye that still can see!
To cock your hat on one side, when you please
at a yes, a no, to fight, or – make poetry!
To work without a thought of fame or fortune,
on that journey, that you dream of, to the moon!
Never to write a line that’s not your own,
and, humble too, say to oneself: My son,
be satisfied with flowers, fruit, even leaves,
if they’re from your own garden, your own trees!
And then should chance a little glory bring,
don’t feel you need to render Caesar a thing,
but keep the merit to yourself, entirely
in short, don’t deign to be the parasitic ivy,
even though you’re not the oak tree or the elm,
rise not so high, maybe, but be there all alone!
All alone, fine! But not against all! What reason
have you for indulging this strange obsession
making yourself enemies on every corner?
Because I see you make friends of one another,
and laugh at all those friends, of whom you’ve crowds,
with smiles borrowed from the rump-ends of fowls!
I like to make my greetings rare, you see,
to say, with pleasure: one more enemy!
Well! It’s my vice, for a certainty.
To displease is my pleasure. I like men to hate me!
If you knew, dear friend, how much better we advance
under the pressure of that hostile glance!
How the gall of envy, and the froth of fear
makes pretty spots all down their doublets, here!
You - that sluggish friendship that surrounds you
is like those great Italian collars, embroidered too
and floating, in which the neck’s bared, effeminate:
one’s in an easier…but in a far meaner state,
the forehead has no bearing, shows no nobility,
left to bend in all directions. But Hate teaches me
each day, stiffly fluted, the ruff instead
whose starched rim forces me to raise my head:
and each new enemy adds another fold,
one more discomfort, one more shining spoke:
since Hatred’s like the Spanish ruff, and though
it forms an iron yoke, it is a halo!
LE BRET (after a silence, taking his arm):
Speak loudly of your pride and bitterness, but softly,
say that she does not love you, tell me simply!
(Christian has just entered, and mingled with the cadets, who do not speak to him; he has seated himself at a table, where Lise serves him.)
Cyrano, Le Bret, the cadets, Christian de Neuvillette.
A CADET (seated at a table, glass in hand):
(Cyrano turns round.)
All in good time!
(He goes upstage arm in arm with Le Bret. They talk in low voices.)
THE CADET (rising and coming downstage):
The tale of a fight! That would be really fine
(He stops before the table where Christian is seated.)
…this timid apprentice!
CHRISTIAN (raising his head):
Yes you Hyperborean virus!
FIRST CADET (mockingly):
Monsieur de Neuvillette: understand something:
there’s a song, here, one no more dares to sing,
than to say ‘rope’ in the household of the hanged!
And that is?
ANOTHER CADET (in a terrible voice):
Look, at me!
(He puts his finger three times, mysteriously, on his nose.)
Do you understand?
Sssh!…Never dare to breathe that word,
(He points to Cyrano, who is talking with Le Bret.)
Or you’ll have to deal with him, over there!
ANOTHER (who, while is turned towards the first cadet, has meanwhile approached noiselessly to sit on the table, behind him):
Two snivellers were despatched, in a few blows,
because he deplored them talking through their nose!
ANOTHER (in a hollow voice, darting on all-fours from under the table, where he had crept):
One cannot, without perishing at a tender age,
make the least allusion to that dread cartilage!
ANOTHER (clapping him on the shoulder):
A word’s enough? A word? Not one gesture’s allowed!
And to lift a handkerchief’s to lift your shroud!
(Silence. All, with crossed arms, look at Christian. He rises and goes over to Carbon de Castel-Jaloux, who is talking to an officer, and feigns to see nothing.)
CARBON (turning and looking at him from head to foot):
What does one do when one finds
Southerners too boastful? ...
One shows, to my mind,
that one may be a Northerner, yet brave!
(He turns his back on him.)
FIRST CADET (to Cyrano):
And now your story!
CYRANO (coming toward them):
(All bring their stools up, and group round him, listening eagerly. Christian is astride a chair.)
Well! Off, all alone, to meet them I went, in haste.
The moon in the sky shone like a great watch-face,
when, suddenly, some delicate watchmaker
drew a pale handkerchief of cloudlets over
that watch’s round silver case. He gave birth
to the darkest night ever seen on earth,
and the quays were dark, not a light glows,
Mordious! One can see no further ...
Than one’s nose!
(Silence. All slowly rise, looking in terror at Cyrano, who has stopped dumbfounded. Pause.)
Who is that man there?
A CADET (whispering):
It’s a man: it’s the same
one who arrived to-day.
CYRANO (making a step toward Christian):
CARBON (in a low voice):
Yes ... his name
is the Baron de Neuvil ...
CYRANO (checking himself):
Ah! That’s fine...
(He turns pale, flushes, makes as if to fall on Christian.)
(He controls himself, and in a low voice says)
That’s perfectly fine...
I was saying
(With a burst of rage)
(Then continues calmly.)
…one couldn’t read a line.
(Astonishment. The cadets reseat themselves, staring at him.)
On I went, thinking that for the slightest of quarrels
I was going to provoke some great man, some noble,
who’d surely have me..
By the nose!...
(Every one starts up. Christian balances on his chair.)
CYRANO (in a choked voice):
In his teeth!
Who’d have me in his teeth…and I, imprudently,
Was going to poke…
My finger...between bark
and wood, since he might be strong enough to crack
me a fine blow…
On the nose ...
CYRANO (wiping his forehead):
…On the fingers.
- I cried: Come, Gascon, do what you must, don’t linger !
On, Cyrano! And so saying, I went on, hopeful,
when, from the shadow, someone gave me..
I parry it, and suddenly find myself...
Nose to nose ...
CYRANO (bounding towards him):
(All the Gascons leap up to see, but when he is close to Christian he controls himself and continues.)
…With a hundred drunken foes,
To the nose...
CYRANO (white, but smiling):
Of onions and brandy!
I leap out, head well down ...
Nose to the wind!
I charge! Disembowel two: impale another thief!
One aims towards me: Paf! And I parry...
CHRISTIAN (tweaking his own nose significantly, note that Pif means nose, conk, schnozzle in French as well as the sound of a whack!):
CYRANO (bursting out):
Thunder! Out! All of you!
(The cadets rush to the doors.)
The tiger’s awake!
All! And leave me alone with him!
We’ll find him turned into hash!
In one of your pies!
I’ve turned to ash:
all white I feel, and limp like a serviette!
He’ll not leave the tiniest bit!
I’m dying of fright imagining what might be!
ANOTHER (shutting door right):
Something too horrible!
(All have gone out by different doors, some by the staircase. Cyrano and Christian are face to face, looking at each other for a moment.)
Come, embrace me!
Very brave. If you’d rather.
You’re telling me?...
Embrace me! I’m her brother.
CHRISTIAN (rushing up to him):
You, her brother...?
Much the same: fraternal cousin.
She’s told you...?
Does she love me?
CHRISTIAN (taking his hands):
Sir, how happy I am to make your acquaintance!
That’s what we call a sudden change of heart!
CYRANO (looking at him, with his hand on his shoulder):
It’s true, he’s a handsome work of art!
Sir! If you only knew my admiration!
But all those noses you own? ...
Oh! I withdraw them!
Roxane expects a letter...
I’d be lost if I forgot to stay silent!
Ah! I’m a fool who should die of shame!
No, you’re no fool, since you give yourself that name.
Besides, you didn’t attack me like a fool.
Bah! One finds the words when war’s the rule!
Yes, I’ve a kind of simple soldierly wit,
but with a woman I’m silent: I confess it.
Oh! Their eyes, when I pass, show kindness to me...
Won’t their hearts do, more so, if you stop to see?
No! For I’m one of those men - I know it…and fear!-
Who don’t know how to speak of love…
if they’d taken greater care when I was made,
I’d have been one who knew how to persuade!
Oh, to be able to express such things with grace!
To be a musketeer, with a handsome face!
Roxane’s intelligent and I know I’ll surely
CYRANO (looking at him):
And yet, if only
I’d a true interpreter to express my soul!
CHRISTIAN (with despair):
I need eloquence!
I’ll lend you all I know:
lend me your charms that conquer every glance:
we’ll make, from us both, one hero of romance!
Do you think you’ve the wit to repeat each day
the things I’ll teach you?
Then, you mean to say…
Roxane will experience no disillusion!
Say, shall we win her with a joint seduction?
Do you wish the spirit I’ll fill you with to race
from my leather doublet to your embroidered lace!…
Will you, Christian?
You make me fear!
Since, all alone, you’re scared you’ll chill her here,
in the heart, shall we create – surely you’ll embrace it! -
a collaboration of your lips and my phrases?..
Your eyes flash!…
Will you, then?…
What! Will that give you
so much pleasure?
(Then calmly, business-like)
Would amuse me so!
It’s an experience to tempt a poet.
Will you complete me, to be yourself complete?
You’ll advance – I’ll, by your side, a shadow be:
I’ll be your wit, and you will be my beauty!
But the letter, we must quickly send her!
I could never ...
CYRANO (taking out the letter he has written):
See! Here it is, your letter!
Save the address, it wants for nothing.
You can send that. Be calm. It’s the very thing.
Oh! We’ve pockets full, we poets, all the time
of letters to Chloris’s….that in our heads we rhyme,
for we are the men who only have, for lovers,
dreams blown into names like soap-bubbles!..
Take it, and you’ll change false words to true:
I loosed, at random, vows, complaints: and you,
you’ll see these wandering birds come home to roost.
You’ll see in this letter I was - take it, you must -
more eloquent, as well, the less I was sincere!
Take it, and be done!
Aren’t there places where
words need to be changed? Written, not for love,
will it fit Roxane?
It will fit her like a glove!
The credulity of true love’s well known,
and Roxane will think it written for her alone!
Ah! My friend!
(He throws himself into Cyrano’s arms. They remain clasped.)
Cyrano, Christian, the Gascons, the musketeer, Lise.
A CADET (half opening the door):
Nothing!... The silence of the dead!
I daren’t look ...
(He puts his head in.)
ALL THE CADETS (entering, and seeing Cyrano and Christian embracing):
Look at this, instead!
THE MUSKETEER (mockingly):
How’s this! ...
Our demon’s surely turned apostle?
Strike him on one – he turns the other nostril?
So we can talk about his nose, from now on! ...
(Calling to Lise, boastfully)
- Hey, Lise, see here!
What an odour!
(Going up to Cyrano, whose nose he gazes at impertinently)
But you, Monsieur, must have nosed it!
What is the smell round here?
CYRANO (cuffing his head):
Cabbage head with garlic!
(General delight. The cadets have found the old Cyrano again! They turn somersaults.)