Daily Archives: June 27, 2022

Cyrano de Bergerac

Jack wrote this in August, 2006:

Evening to you:Finished the re-read of Cyrano de Bergerac.  I forget between those readings what a sweet piece of work it is.  It’s it’s good mind-food.  If you prefer, a fine movie was made of it in the ’50s…. might still be available somewhere.  Jose Farrar starred in it as I recall.

Cyrano, a man blessed with the heart of a poet, the courage, pride, physical prowess of a great warrior.  A man the sensitivity and intelligence to recognize the nose too large to qualify as a deformity is just a piece of life, a personal cross to bear without complaint.

A man stares at his nose.

Cyrano:  You may go— or tell me why you are staring at my nose

Meddler.  No.

Cyrano:  Does it astonish you?

Meddler:  Your Grace misunderstands my

Cyrano:  Is it long and soft and dangling like a trunk?

Meddler:  I never said

Cyrano:  Or crooked, like an owl’s beak?  A pimple ornaments the end of it?  Or a fly parading up and down?  What is the portent, this phenomenon?

Meddler:  I have been careful not to look

Cyrano:  And why, if you please?  It disgusts you then?  Does its color appear to you unwholesome?  Or is its form obscene?  Why assume this deprecating manner?  Perhaps you find it just a trifle large?

Meddler:  Not in the least.  Oh, no!  Small, very small, infinitisimol!

Cyrano:  What!  How?  You accuse me of absurdity?  Small-my nose?

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,

Virile, courageous- as I am- and such

As you, poor wretch, will never dare to be

Even in imagination.  For that face

That blank, inglorious concavity

Which my hand finds now

(He strikes him)

The beautiful Roxanne, whom he loves but never tells, is smitten by the pretty face of young Baron Christian de Neuvillette, a cadet in Cyrano’s regiment of Gasconeers.  Christian’s not a man of words, so during the brief courtship Cyrano writes for him love letters, stands under a balcony whispering to him what to say to Roxanne to win her heart and her hand.

Earlier, by a series of mistaken communications, Cyrano was led to hope it was he Roxanne’s heart chose.  Then, after a resounding shock as she unknowingly confided her love of Christian, she leaves:

His friend, Le Bret, cautions him he’s making too many enemies.

Le Bret:  Alone, yes!  But why stand against the world?  What devil has possessed you now, everywhere making yourself enemies?

Cyrano:  Watching  other people making friends everywhere as a dog makes friends!  I mark the manner of these canine courtesies and think:  “My friends are of a cleaner breed;  Here comes – thank God! – another enemy!”

Le Bret:  But this is madness!

Cyrano:  Method, let us say.  It is my pleasure to displease.  I love hatred.  Imagine how it feels to face the volley of a thousand angry eyes, the bile of envy and the froth of fear spattering little drops about me.  I hold myself erect perforce, wearing the hatred of the common herd.

Le Bret:  (After a silence, draws Cyrano’s arm through his own.)  Yes. Tell this to all the world – and then to me say very softly that . . . She loves you not.

Much later, he’s fatally injured.  Near death:

Cyrano:  I can see him there.  He grins.  He is looking at my nose, that skeleton. (To Death):  What’s that you say?  Hopeless?  Why, very well!  But a man does not fight merely to win!  No, no, better to know one fights in vain!  You there – Who are you?  A hundred against one.  I know them now, my ancient enemies – (He lunges at the empty air.)

Falsehood! There!  There!  Prejudice!  Compromise!  Cowardice!  (Thrusting)

Surrender, you say?  Never!  Never!

Ah, you too, Vanity!  I knew you would overthrow me in the end.

No!  I fight on.  I fight on!  I fight on!.  (He swings the blade in great circles, then pauses gasping.)

Old Edmond Rostand managed to write that thing without ever even knowing me. Felt middling strange reading it, though I imagine when I read it previous times it felt equally strange.