Cyrano de Bergerac By Edmond Rostand Act II — Scenes 7-8

Act II. Scene 8

Cyrano, Le Bret, the cadets, who are eating and drinking at the tables right and left.

CYRANO (bowing mockingly to those who go out without daring to salute him): Gentlemen . . . Gentlemen . . .

LE BRET (coming back, despairingly): Here's a fine coil!

CYRANO: Oh! scold away!

LE BRET: At least, you will agree That to annihilate each chance of Fate Exaggerates . . .

CYRANO: Yes! — I exaggerate!

LE BRET (triumphantly): Ah!

CYRANO: But for principle — example too, — I think 'tis well thus to exaggerate.

LE BRET: Oh! lay aside that pride of musketeer, Fortune and glory wait you! . . .

CYRANO: Ay, and then? . . . Seek a protector, choose a patron out, And like the crawling ivy round a tree That licks the bark to gain the trunk's support, Climb high by creeping ruse instead of force? No, grammercy! What! I, like all the rest Dedicate verse to bankers? — play buffoon In cringing hope to see, at last, a smile Not disapproving, on a patron's lips? Grammercy, no! What! learn to swallow toads? — With frame aweary climbing stairs? — a skin Grown grimed and horny, — here, about the knees? And, acrobat-like, teach my back to bend? — No, grammercy! Or, — double-faced and sly — Run with the hare, while hunting with the hounds; And, oily-tongued, to win the oil of praise, Flatter the great man to his very nose? No, grammercy! Steal soft from lap to lap, — A little great man in a circle small, Or navigate, with madrigals for sails, Blown gently windward by old ladies' sighs? No, grammercy! Bribe kindly editors To spread abroad my verses? Grammercy! Or try to be elected as the pope Of tavern-councils held by imbeciles? No, grammercy! Toil to gain reputation By one small sonnet, 'stead of making many? No, grammercy! Or flatter sorry bunglers? Be terrorized by every prating paper? Say ceaselessly, 'Oh, had I but the chance Of a fair notice in the "Mercury"!' Grammercy, no! Grow pale, fear, calculate? Prefer to make a visit to a rhyme? Seek introductions, draw petitions up? No, grammercy! and no! and no again! But — sing? Dream, laugh, go lightly, solitary, free, With eyes that look straight forward — fearless voice! To cock your beaver just the way you choose, — For 'yes' or 'no' show fight, or turn a rhyme! — To work without one thought of gain or fame, To realize that journey to the moon! Never to pen a line that has not sprung Straight from the heart within. Embracing then Modesty, say to oneself, 'Good my friend, Be thou content with flowers, — fruit, — nay, leaves, But pluck them from no garden but thine own!' And then, if glory come by chance your way, To pay no tribute unto Caesar, none, But keep the merit all your own! In short, Disdaining tendrils of the parasite, To be content, if neither oak nor elm — Not to mount high, perchance, but mount alone!

LE BRET: Alone, an if you will! But not with hand 'Gainst every man! How in the devil's name Have you conceived this lunatic idea, To make foes for yourself at every turn?

CYRANO: By dint of seeing you at every turn Make friends, — and fawn upon your frequent friends With mouth wide smiling, slit from ear to ear! I pass, still unsaluted, joyfully, And cry, — What, ho! another enemy?

LE BRET: Lunacy!

CYRANO: Well, what if it be my vice, My pleasure to displease — to love men hate me! Ah, friend of mine, believe me, I march better 'Neath the cross-fire of glances inimical! How droll the stains one sees on fine-laced doublets, From gall of envy, or the poltroon's drivel! — The enervating friendship which enfolds you Is like an open-laced Italian collar, Floating around your neck in woman's fashion; One is at ease thus, — but less proud the carriage! The forehead, free from mainstay or coercion, Bends here, there, everywhere. But I, embracing Hatred, she lends, — forbidding, stiffly fluted, The ruff's starched folds that hold the head so rigid; Each enemy — another fold — a gopher, Who adds constraint, and adds a ray of glory; For Hatred, like the ruff worn by the Spanish, Grips like a vice, but frames you like a halo!

LE BRET (after a silence, taking his arm): Speak proud aloud, and bitter! — In my ear Whisper me simply this, — She loves thee not!

CYRANO (vehemently): Hush!

(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.)

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As Cyrano writes a love letter to Roxane, he does not sign it because