Pierre Corneille

Le Cid

Act I

Le Cid

Le Cid, Abraham Dircksz Santvoort, Abraham Wolfgang, 1663
The Rijksmuseum

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2007 All Rights Reserved

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Don Ferdinand King of Castile

Donna Urraque his daughter, the Infanta of Castile

Don Diegue the father of Don Rodrigue

Don Gomes Count of Gomes, the father of Chimene

Don Rodrigue the lover of Chimene

Done Sanche enamoured of Chimene.

Don Arias a Castilian gentleman

Don Alonso a Castilian gentleman

Chimene daughter of Don Gomes

Leonor governess to the Infanta

Elvire governess to Chimene

A Page to the Infanta

Act I Scene I (Chimene, Elvire)

Chimene Is the report you bring me now sincere?

Are you editing my father’s words, Elvire?

Elvire All my thoughts are still enchanted by them:

He esteems Rodrigue, as you love him,

Reading his soul, if I am free from error,

He’ll wish you to take him as your lover.

Chimene I beg you then, tell me a second time

Why he must approve this choice of mine;

Tell me once more what hopes I may enjoy;

Ever such sweet speech may you employ;

Promise our love’s flame, that flares so bright,

The freedom to display itself outright.

What did he say regarding the intrigue,

Involving you, Don Sanche, and Don Rodrigue?

Did you reveal that inequality

Between the two lovers, that so sways me?

Elvire No, I portrayed indifference to either

Raising or lowering the hopes of neither,

Your eyes neither too gentle nor severe,

Until your father’s choice be made clear.

Your respect pleased him, his oratory,

And look, of this gave noble testimony.

And since I must repeat the whole story,

Here now is what he hastened to tell me:

‘She’s dutiful, and both deserve her hand,

Both are of noble blood, loyal, valiant,

Young, yet it’s clear to see in their eyes

The shining virtue of their ancient ties:

Don Rodrigue above all: in his visage,

Every trait reveals the heroic image,

His house so rich in soldiers of renown,

They seem born to wear the laurel crown.

His father’s valour, unequalled in his age,

As long as his strength lasted, held the stage;

On his brow his exploits are engraved,

Its wrinkles speak to us of former days.

What the father was I look for in the son;

My daughter may love him, pleasing me for one.’

He was on his way to Council, and was pressed,

So cut short what speech he had expressed;

But those last few words show his mind

Is not in doubt between them, you’ll find.

For his son, the king must choose a tutor,

Your father deserves that high honour;

The choice is not in doubt, and his valour

Beyond all competition with another.

Since his lofty exploits have no equal

In such a matter he will have no rival.

Don Rodrigue has convinced his father

To propose him when the council’s over,

Judge then the chance that he’ll be denied.

Rather your wishes shall be satisfied.

Chimene Nonetheless, it seems, my soul is troubled,

Rejects this joy, all its confusion doubled:

Fate may show different faces, all diverse,

And in my bliss I fear some cruel reverse.

Elvire Happily this fear shall disappoint you.

Chimene Come what may, let us await the issue.

Act I Scene II (Infanta, Leonor, Page)

Infanta Page, go now, tell Chimene anew

Her daily visit is long overdue

My love for her bewails her tardiness.

(Exit Page)

Leonor Madame, each day this same wish you express;

And when she’s here, I hear you ask, each day,

How far her love has travelled on its way.

Infanta Not without purpose: almost now I force her

To welcome the pangs that make her suffer.

She loves Rodrigue, I gave her him again,

Through me Rodrigue conquered his disdain;

Having thus forged these lovers’ heavy chains,

I wish to see an end to all their pains.

Leonor Yet, Madame, considering your success

Your show of sadness runs now to excess.

Should love, that’s full for them of happiness,

Cause your noble heart this deep distress?

Why should the interest in them, I see,

Cause you unhappiness if they are happy?

But I presume: forgive my indiscretion.

Infanta My sorrow has increased by being hidden.

Hear, hear how I have struggled, all is true,

Hear of the assaults against my virtue.

Love is a tyrant who spares none, I fear:

This young knight, this lover, aided here,

I love.

Leonor You love him!

Infanta Feel my beating heart,

See how it quivers at the conqueror’s dart,

When it hears his name.

Leonor Madame, pardon me,

If I’m at fault for censuring this folly,

A great princess so strangely to forget

Herself, and love a simple knight as yet!

What will the king, what will Castile say?

Do you forget the role that you must play?

Infanta So little that my blood would drench the earth

Before I’d stoop thus to betray my birth.

I might well answer that among great names,

Worth alone deserves to stir the flames;

Or, if my passion sought for some excuse,

A thousand precedents have lit the fuse:

But I’ll not follow where my thoughts engage;

My depth of feeling will not quench my courage.

I remind myself as a royal daughter

None but royalty is worthy of her.

My heart unable to defend itself,

I gave away what I dared not take myself;

In my stead, let Chimene drink the wine,

And fire their passion to extinguish mine.

No wonder then if my soul, while grieving,

With impatience waits upon their wedding;

You see, my peace of mind depends on it.

If lovers live in hope, love dies with it;

Its fire sinks when the fuel’s no longer there.

Despite the anguish of this sad affair,

When Chimene Rodrigue has secured

All my hopes are dead, my spirit cured.

Meanwhile my suffering none can remove.

Until the marriage, Rodrigue is still my love.

I labour to lose him, lose him with regret,

From that flows all my sorrowful secret.

I see, with pain, that love will now constrain

Me to sigh for that which I must disdain;

I feel my very soul is split in two.

Though my strength is great, my love is too.

This fatal marriage I both wish and fear:

I dare expect only imperfection here.

My honour and my love so fuel this plot,

I perish whether it takes place or not.

Leonor Madame, there is nothing I can say,

Except that I’ll sigh with you, if I may.

I have just blamed you, now I pity you.

Yet since this bittersweet ill your virtue

Combats, as it does its charm and power,

Repulsing the assault, rejecting the allure,

It will bring peace to your troubled mind.

Place your trust in it, and the aid of time,

Above all in Heaven, that will not see

Virtue endure for long such adversity.

Infanta My sweetest hope’s to lose all hope, I fear.

(Page enters)

Page Madame, at your command, Chimene is here.

Infanta (to Leonor)

Go now, and greet her in the gallery.

Leonor You wish to remain here in reverie?

Infanta No, I merely wish, plagued by suffering,

To retrieve my calm, in meditating.

I will follow.

(Leonor and Page leave)

Just Heaven, whose help I need,

Put an end to the evil that possesses me,

Protect my tranquillity and my honour.

My good I seek in the good of another,

This marriage means so much to all three;

Make my soul strong, or complete it swiftly.

To join these lovers in its sacrament,

Is to break my chains and end my torment.

But I delay too long, let me seek Chimene,

And in welcoming her relieve my pain.

Act I Scene III (The Count, Don Diegue)

Count So you carry the day, and the King’s favour

Raises you to a rank that was due my honour:

You are tutor now to the Prince of Castile.

Diegue The mark of honour he grants me must reveal

To all that he is just, and make known to all

That our past service escapes not his recall.

Count Whatever power kings have, they are but human,

They can err as readily as other men.

His choice will prove to courtiers as in this

That there’s but scant reward for present service.

Diegue His choice disturbs you: speak not of it;

Favour may be its cause as well as merit,

We should respect a power so absolute,

By questioning nothing that a King may do.

To the honour he shows me, add another,

Let’s join our houses, one to the other:

You have one daughter, I a single son;

Their marriage will make us more than one.

Grant us this grace, make him your son-in-law.

Count Your brave boy aims higher than before;

And the new brilliance of your nobility

Must swell his heart with greater vanity.

Go on, Monsieur, and educate the prince;

Show him how best to govern a province,

Make the people tremble before the law

Fill the good with love, the bad with awe;

Join to these virtues that of a great captain:

Show him how to inure himself to pain,

In the labour of Mars to meet no equal,

Pass whole days and nights in the saddle,

Sleep while armed, or storm a citadel,

And through himself alone win the battle.

Instruct him by example, make him perfect,

Teaching through your own deeds, in effect.

Diegue To instruct by example, courting envy,

Would simply be to read my history.

There, in a long series of fine actions,

He would see how men conquer nations,

Takes a position, organise an army.

And build their fame on each victory.

Count Living examples offer greater powers;

A prince learns badly from bookish hours.

What after all do your great years portray

That’s not matched by me in a single day?

If you were valiant once, so am I now,

My arm the kingdom’s strong support, allow,

Granada and Aragon fear my sword;

My name’s Castile’s rampart, in a word:

Without me you’d soon bow to other laws,

And your kings be those from other shores.

Each day, each moment, to increase my glory,

Laurels heap on laurels, victory on victory:

The prince, at my side, might test his mettle

Protected by my arm, in every battle;

He would learn to conquer by watching me;

And matching his great character, swiftly

He would see…

Diegue I know you truly serve your king.

I have seen you command: your soldiering:

While age sends ice coursing through my veins,

Your rare courage has secured our gains;

Well, to cut short superfluous discourse,

You are today what I was once, perforce.

Yet nonetheless you see, by this occurrence,

The king between us still detects some difference.

Count All I merited, you have snatched away.

Diegue He conquered who proved better on the day.

Count He who might train the prince is worthiest.

Diegue And yet to be denied seems scarcely best.

Count You won it by intrigue, an old ‘king’s man’.

Diegue The noise of my great deeds proved partisan.

Count Be clear, the king shows honour to your age.

Diegue The king, if so, measures it by my courage.

Count Therefore the honour should have come to me.

Diegue He who could not obtain it is not worthy.

Count Not merit it! I?

Diegue You.

Count Your impudence,

Rash old man, shall find its recompense.

(He strikes Don Diegue)

Diegue (drawing his sword)

Come take my life after such cruel offence,

First of my race to bear such impertinence.

Count What in your weakness can you do, indeed?

Diegue Oh God! My frail strength flees me in my need!

Count Your sword is mine, and you no longer worthy

That my hand should bear this shameful trophy.

Adieu. Let the prince read, courting envy,

For his instruction, all your life history;

For your insolent speech this chastisement

Shall serve him for no small amusement.

Act I Scene IV (Don Diegue)

Diegue O anger! O despair! O age my enemy!

Have I lived simply to know this infamy!

Am I thus whitened by the toil of battles

To witness in a day but withered laurels?

My arm that with respect all Spain admire,

My arm, that often saved that very empire,

So often affirmed the royalty of my king,

Now to betray my quarrel, leave me wanting?

O cruel memory to my past glory!

The work of many days so transitory!

New dignity now fatal in an hour!

Steep abyss where falls all my honour!

Must I see the Count debase my name,

Die without vengeance now, or live in shame?

Count, be the tutor to my prince this day;

Such rank is void when honour is away.

Your jealous pride, this insult signifies,

Despite the King’s choice, that choice belies.

And you, of my victories, glorious instrument,

But a wintry body’s useless ornament,

Blade, once feared, yet, facing this offence

Serving for decoration, not defence,

Go: leave now the very least of men,

Pass into better hands, take my revenge.

Act I Scene V (Don Diegue, Don Rodrigue)

Diegue Rodrigue, are you brave?

Rodrigue Any but my father

Might test it at this moment.

Diegue Righteous anger!

Noble pride to all my grief is sweet!

I recognise my blood in you complete.

My youth lives again in your fine ardour.

Come son and blood, restore my honour;

Come, avenge me.

Rodrigue For what?

Diegue For an affront so cruel,

It strikes our honour a blow that’s fatal:

For an insult! The wretch should have died;

But age robbed me of my noble pride;

And this blade my hand can scarcely bear,

I place in yours to punish and repair.

Oppose the arrogant and prove your courage:

Only blood may redeem this outrage;

Kill, or die. And then, not to mislead,

I give you an adversary to fear indeed.

I have seen him stained with blood and powder,

To a whole army bringing pain and terror.

I’ve seen a hundred fine squadrons shattered

By his valour, to the four winds scattered;

More than a brave soldier, a great captain,

He is…

Rodrigue Ah, tell me.

Diegue Father to Chimene.

Rodrigue Her…

Diegue Do not repeat it, I know your love.

Rodrigue But the infamous shall not remain above.

The dearer he is, the greater the offence.

You know the reason, the sword is vengeance,

No more. Avenge yourself, and avenge me;

Show yourself, of this your father, worthy.

Bowed by the ills fate sends to mortal men,

I’ll go lament them. Go, fly: take revenge.

Act I Scene VI (Don Rodrigue)

Rodrigue Pierced to my heart’s depths, suddenly,

By a stroke as unexpected as it’s mortal,

Wretched avenger in a just quarrel,

Miserable object of unjust severity,

I am transfixed, and my stricken soul

Yields to the killing blow.

So close to seeing my love rewarded,

O God, the bitter pain!

By this affront my father’s the offended,

And the offender is the father of Chimene!

What fierce conflict I feel!

My love takes sides against my honour:

I must avenge a father, lose a lover.

One stirs my wrath, the other one restrains me.

Forced to the sad choice of betraying Chimene,

Or living in infamy,

In both events my pain is infinite.

O God, fresh agony!

Can I let this offender go free?

Can I punish the father of Chimene?

Father, lover, honour, or beloved,

Noble and harsh constraint, sweet tyranny,

All my delight is dead, or honour dulled.

One makes me sad, the other unworthy.

Dear and cruel hope of a generous mind

In love, at the same time

Worthy foe of my greatest pleasure,

Blade that creates my pain,

Were you given me to retain my honour?

Were you given me to lose my Chimene?

Better not to have been born.

I owe as much to my lover as my father;

Avenging myself I earn her hate and anger;

By not taking revenge I earn his scorn.

One of my sweetest hope makes an end,

The other robs me of her hand.

My misfortune grows with the wish to cure it;

All things increase my pain.

Come, my soul; and since we must end it,

Let us die without offending Chimene.

Die without satisfaction!

Seek a death so fatal to my name!

Suffer Spain to denigrate my fame

For having failed the honour of my station!

Defend a love in which my dazed being

Sees but certain ruin!

Listen not to that seductive murmur,

That only swells my pain.

Come, my arm; at least save our honour,

Since after all we must lose Chimene.

Yes, my spirit was deceived,

I must defend my father before my lover:

Whether I die of combat or this torture,

I’ll shed blood as pure as it was received.

I accuse myself already of negligence;

Let me now rush to vengeance;

Ashamed I am of having hesitated,

Let me end this pain,

For my father was the one offended,

Though the offender’s father to Chimene.

End of Act I