A Play in 5 Acts
by Edmond Rostand
Cyrano de Bergerac: Characters | Act I | Act II | Act III | Act IV | Act V
Translated from the French by Gladys Thomas and Mary F. Guillemard
Fifteen years later, in 1655. Park of the Sisters of the Holy Cross in Paris.
Magnificent trees. On the left the house: broad steps on to which open
several doors. An enormous plane tree in the middle of the stage, standing
alone. On the right, among big boxwood trees, a semicircular stone bench.
The whole background of the stage is crossed by an alley of chestnut trees
leading on the right hand to the door of a chapel seen through the branches.
Through the double row of trees of this alley are seen lawns, other alleys,
clusters of trees, winding of the park, the sky.
The chapel opens by a little side door on to a colonnade which is wreathed
with autumn leaves, and is lost to view a little farther on in the right-hand
foreground behind the boxwood.
It is autumn. All the foliage is red against the fresh green of the lawns.
The green boxwood and yews stand out dark.
Under each tree a patch of yellow leaves.
The stage is strewn with dead leaves, which rustle under foot in the alleys,
and half cover the steps and benches.
Between the benches on the right hand and the tree a large embroidery frame,
in front of which a little chair has been set.
Baskets full of skeins and balls of wool. A tapestry begun.
At the rising of the curtains nuns are walking to and fro in the park; some
are seated on the bench around an older Sister.
The leaves are falling.
Mother Marguerite, Sister Martha, Sister Claire, other sisters.
SISTER MARTHA (to Mother Marguerite):
Sister Claire glanced in the mirror, once--nay, twice, to see if her coif
MOTHER MARGUERITE (to Sister Claire):
'Tis not well.
But I saw Sister Martha take a plum
Out of the tart.
MOTHER MARGUERITE (to Sister Martha):
That was ill done, my sister.
A little glance!
And such a little plum!
I shall tell this to Monsieur Cyrano.
Nay, prithee do not!--he will mock!
He'll say we nuns are vain!
MOTHER MARGUERITE (smiling):
Ay, and kind!
Is it not true, pray, Mother Marguerite,
That he has come, each week, on Saturday
For ten years, to the convent?
Ay! and more!
Ever since--fourteen years ago--the day
His cousin brought here, 'midst our woolen coifs,
The worldly mourning of her widow's veil,
Like a blackbird's wing among the convent doves!
He only has the skill to turn her mind
From grief--unsoftened yet by Time--unhealed!
ALL THE SISTERS:
He is so droll!--It's cheerful when he comes!--
He teases us!--But we all like him well!--
--We make him pasties of angelica!
But, he is not a faithful Catholic!
We will convert him!
My daughters, you attempt that subject. Nay,
Weary him not--he might less oft come here!
But. . .God. . .
Nay, never fear! God knows him well!
But--every Saturday, when he arrives,
He tells me, 'Sister, I eat meat on Friday!'
Ah! says he so? Well, the last time he came
Food had not passed his lips for two whole days!
Who told you so, dear Mother?
Monsieur Le Bret.
None help him?
He permits not.
(In an alley at the back Roxane appears, dressed in black, with a widow's coif
and veil. De Guiche, imposing-looking and visibly aged, walks by her side.
They saunter slowly. Mother Marguerite rises):
'Tis time we go in; Madame Madeleine
Walks in the garden with a visitor.
SISTER MARTHA (to Sister Claire, in a low voice):
The Marshal of Grammont?
SISTER CLAIRE (looking at him):
'Tis he, I think.
'Tis many months now since he came to see her.
He is so busy!--The Court,--the camp!. . .
(They go out. De Guiche and Roxane come forward in silence, and stop close to
the embroidery frame.)
Roxane; the Duke de Grammont, formerly Count de Guiche. Then Le Bret and
And you stay here still--ever vainly fair,
Ever in weeds?
THE DUKE (after a pause):
Am I forgiven?
Ay, since I am here.
His was a soul, you say?. . .
Ah!--when you knew him!
Ah, may be!. . .I, perchance, too little knew him!
. . .And his last letter, ever next your heart?
Hung from this chain, a gentle scapulary.
And, dead, you love him still?
He is but partly dead--our hearts still speak,
As if his love, still living, wrapped me round!
THE DUKE (after another pause):
Cyrano comes to see you?
Dear, kind old friend! We call him my 'Gazette.'
He never fails to come: beneath this tree
They place his chair, if it be fine:--I wait,
I broider;--the clock strikes;--at the last stroke
I hear,--for now I never turn to look--
Too sure to hear his cane tap down the steps;
He seats himself:--with gentle raillery
He mocks my tapestry that's never done;
He tells me all the gossip of the week. . .
(Le Bret appears on the steps):
Why, here's Le Bret!
(Le Bret descends):
How goes it with our friend?
ROXANE (to the Duke):
All that I prophesied: desertion, want!. . .
His letters now make him fresh enemies!--
Attacking the sham nobles, sham devout,
Sham brave,--the thieving authors,--all the world!
Ah! but his sword still holds them all in check;
None get the better of him.
THE DUKE (shaking his head):
Time will show!
Ah, but I fear for him--not man's attack,--
Solitude--hunger--cold December days,
That wolf-like steal into his chamber drear:--
Lo! the assassins that I fear for him!
Each day he tightens by one hole his belt:
That poor nose--tinted like old ivory:
He has retained one shabby suit of serge.
Ay, there is one who has no prize of Fortune!--
Yet is not to be pitied!
LE BRET (with a bitter smile):
My Lord Marshal!. . .
Pity him not! He has lived out his vows,
Free in his thoughts, as in his actions free!
LE BRET (in the same tone):
My Lord!. . .
THE DUKE (haughtily):
True! I have all, and he has naught;. . .
Yet I were proud to take his hand!
(Bowing to Roxane):
I go with you.
(The Duke bows to Le Bret, and goes with Roxane toward the steps.)
THE DUKE (pausing, while she goes up):
Ay, true,--I envy him.
Look you, when life is brimful of success
--Though the past hold no action foul--one feels
A thousand self-disgusts, of which the sum
Is not remorse, but a dim, vague unrest;
And, as one mounts the steps of worldly fame,
The Duke's furred mantles trail within their folds
A sound of dead illusions, vain regrets,
A rustle--scarce a whisper--like as when,
Mounting the terrace steps, by your mourning robe
Sweeps in its train the dying autumn leaves.
You are pensive?
True! I am!
(As he is going out, suddenly):
Monsieur Le Bret!
A word, with your permission?
(He goes to Le Bret, and in a low voice):
True, that none
Dare to attack your friend;--but many hate him;
Yesterday, at the Queen's card-play, 'twas said
'That Cyrano may die--by accident!'
Let him stay in--be prudent!
LE BRET (raising his arms to heaven):
Prudent! He!. . .
He's coming here. I'll warn him--but!. . .
ROXANE (who has stayed on the steps, to a sister who comes toward her):
What is it?
Ragueneau would see you, Madame.
Let him come.
(To the Duke and Le Bret):
He comes to tell his troubles. Having been
An author (save the mark!)--poor fellow--now
By turns he's singer. . .
Bathing-man. . .
Then actor. . .
Beadle. . .
Wig-maker. . .
Teacher of the lute. . .
What will he be to-day, by chance?
RAGUENEAU (entering hurriedly):
(He sees Le Bret):
Ah! you here, Sir!
Tell all your miseries
To him; I will return anon.
But, Madame. . .
(Roxane goes out with the Duke. Ragueneau goes toward Le Bret.)
Le Bret, Ragueneau.
Since you are here, 'tis best she should not know!
I was going to your friend just now--was but
A few steps from the house, when I saw him
Go out. I hurried to him. Saw him turn
The corner. . .suddenly, from out a window
Where he was passing--was it chance?. . .may be!
A lackey let fall a large piece of wood.
Cowards! O Cyrano!
I ran--I saw. . .
Saw our poet, Sir--our friend--
Struck to the ground--a large wound in his head!
No--but--I bore him to his room. . .
Ah! his room! What a thing to see!--that garret!
No, his consciousness has flown.
Saw you a doctor?
One was kind--he came.
My poor Cyrano!--We must not tell this
To Roxane suddenly.--What said this leech?--
Said,--what, I know not--fever, meningitis!--
Ah! could you see him--all his head bound up!--
But let us haste!--There's no one by his bed!--
And if he try to rise, Sir, he might die!
LE BRET (dragging him toward the right):
Come! Through the chapel! 'Tis the quickest way!
ROXANE (appearing on the steps, and seeing Le Bret go away by the colonnade
leading to the chapel door):
Monsieur le Bret!
(Le Bret and Ragueneau disappear without answering):
Le Bret goes--when I call!
'Tis some new trouble of good Ragueneau's.
(She descends the steps.)
Roxane alone. Two sisters, for a moment.
Ah! what a beauty in September's close!
My sorrow's eased. April's joy dazzled it,
But autumn wins it with her dying calm.
(She seats herself at the embroidery frame. Two sisters come out of the
house, and bring a large armchair under the tree):
There comes the famous armchair where he sits,
Dear faithful friend!
It is the parlor's best!
(The sisters go):
He'll be here now.
(She seats herself. A clock strikes):
The hour strikes.
--My silks?--Why, now, the hour's struck!
To be behind his time, at last, to-day!
Perhaps the portress--where's my thimble?. . .
Here!--Is preaching to him.
Yes, she must be preaching!
Surely he must come soon!--Ah, a dead leaf!--
(She brushes off the leaf from her work):
Nothing, besides, could--scissors?--In my bag!
--Could hinder him. . .
A SISTER (coming to the steps):
Monsieur de Bergerac.
Roxane, Cyrano and, for a moment, Sister Martha.
ROXANE (without turning round):
What was I saying?. . .
(She embroiders. Cyrano, very pale, his hat pulled down over his eyes,
appears. The sister who had announced him retires. He descends the steps
slowly, with a visible difficulty in holding himself upright, bearing heavily
on his cane. Roxane still works at her tapestry):
Time has dimmed the tints. . .
How harmonize them now?
(To Cyrano, with playful reproach):
For the first time
Late!--For the first time, all these fourteen years!
CYRANO (who has succeeded in reaching the chair, and has seated himself--in a
lively voice, which is in great contrast with his pale face):
Ay! It is villainous! I raged--was stayed. . .
By?. . .
By a bold, unwelcome visitor.
ROXANE (absently, working):
Ay, cousin,--the last creditor
Who has a debt to claim from me.
Have paid it?
No, not yet! I put it off;
--Said, 'Cry you mercy; this is Saturday,
When I have get a standing rendezvous
That naught defers. Call in an hour's time!'
Oh, well, a creditor can always wait!
I shall not let you go ere twilight falls.
Haply, perforce, I quit you ere it falls!
(He shuts his eyes, and is silent for a moment. Sister Martha crosses the
park from the chapel to the flight of steps. Roxane, seeing her, signs to her
ROXANE (to Cyrano):
How now? You have not teased the Sister?
CYRANO (hastily opening his eyes):
(In a comically loud voice):
Sister! come here!
(The sister glides up to him):
Ha! ha! What? Those bright eyes
Bent ever on the ground?
SISTER MARTHA (who makes a movement of astonishment on seeing his face):
CYRANO (in a whisper, pointing to Roxane):
Hush! 'tis naught!--
(Loudly, in a blustering voice):
I broke fast yesterday!
SISTER MARTHA (aside):
I know, I know!
That's how he is so pale! Come presently
To the refectory, I'll make you drink
A famous bowl of soup. . .You'll come?
There, see! You are more reasonable to-day!
ROXANE (who hears them whispering):
The Sister would convert you?
Nay, not I!
Hold! but it's true! You preach to me no more,
You, once so glib with holy words! I am
Astonished!. . .
(With burlesque fury):
Stay, I will surprise you too!
Hark! I permit you. . .
(He pretends to be seeking for something to tease her with, and to have found
. . .It is something new!--
To--pray for me, to-night, at chapel-time!
Good Sister Martha is struck dumb!
SISTER MARTHA (gently):
I did not wait your leave to pray for you.
(She goes out.)
CYRANO (turning to Roxane, who is still bending over her work):
That tapestry! Beshrew me if my eyes
Will ever see it finished!
I was sure
To hear that well-known jest!
(A light breeze causes the leaves to fall.)
The autumn leaves!
ROXANE (lifting her head, and looking down the distant alley):
Soft golden brown, like a Venetian's hair.
--See how they fall!
Ay, see how brave they fall,
In their last journey downward from the bough,
To rot within the clay; yet, lovely still,
Hiding the horror of the last decay,
With all the wayward grace of careless flight!
CYRANO (collecting himself):
Nay, nay, Roxane!
Then let the dead leaves fall the way they will. . .
And chat. What, have you nothing new to tell,
My Court Gazette?
CYRANO (growing whiter and whiter):
The nineteenth: having eaten to excess
Of pear-conserve, the King felt feverish;
The lancet quelled this treasonable revolt,
And the august pulse beats at normal pace.
At the Queen's ball on Sunday thirty score
Of best white waxen tapers were consumed.
Our troops, they say, have chased the Austrians.
Four sorcerers were hanged. The little dog
Of Madame d'Athis took a dose. . .
You hold your tongue, Monsieur de Bergerac!
Monday--not much--Claire changed protector.
CYRANO (whose face changes more and more):
Tuesday, the Court repaired to Fontainebleau.
Wednesday, the Montglat said to Comte de Fiesque. . .
No! Thursday--Mancini, Queen of France! (almost!)
Friday, the Monglat to Count Fiesque said--'Yes!'
And Saturday the twenty-sixth. . .
(He closes his eyes. His head falls forward. Silence.)
ROXANE (surprised at his voice ceasing, turns round, looks at him, and rising,
(She runs toward him crying):
CYRANO (opening his eyes, in an unconcerned voice):
What is this?
(He sees Roxane bending over him, and, hastily pressing his hat on his head,
and shrinking back in his chair):
Nay, on my word
'Tis nothing! Let me be!
But. . .
That old wound
Of Arras, sometimes,--as you know. . .
'Tis nothing, 'twill pass soon;
(He smiles with an effort):
See!--it has passed!
Each of us has his wound; ay, I have mine,--
Never healed up--not healed yet, my old wound!
(She puts her hand on her breast):
'Tis here, beneath this letter brown with age,
All stained with tear-drops, and still stained with blood.
(Twilight begins to fall.)
His letter! Ah! you promised me one day
That I should read it.
What would you?--His letter?
Yes, I would fain,--to-day. . .
ROXANE (giving the bag hung at her neck):
See! here it is!
CYRANO (taking it):
Have I your leave to open?
(She comes back to her tapestry frame, folds it up, sorts her wools.)
'Roxane, adieu! I soon must die!
This very night, beloved; and I
Feel my soul heavy with love untold.
I die! No more, as in days of old,
My loving, longing eyes will feast
On your least gesture--ay, the least!
I mind me the way you touch your cheek
With your finger, softly, as you speak!
Ah me! I know that gesture well!
My heart cries out!--I cry "Farewell"!'
But how you read that letter! One would think. . .
CYRANO (continuing to read):
'My life, my love, my jewel, my sweet,
My heart has been yours in every beat!'
(The shades of evening fall imperceptibly.)
You read in such a voice--so strange--and yet--
It is not the first time I hear that voice!
(She comes nearer very softly, without his perceiving it, passes behind his
chair, and, noiselessly leaning over him, looks at the letter. The darkness
'Here, dying, and there, in the land on high,
I am he who loved, who loves you,--I. . .'
ROXANE (putting her hand on his shoulder):
How can you read? It is too dark to see!
(He starts, turns, sees her close to him. Suddenly alarmed, he holds his head
down. Then in the dusk, which has now completely enfolded them, she says,
very slowly, with clasped hands):
And, fourteen years long, he has played this part
Of the kind old friend who comes to laugh and chat.
No, never; Roxane, no!
I should have guessed, each time he said my name!
No, it was not I!
It was you!
I see through all the generous counterfeit--
The sweet, mad love-words!
The voice that thrilled the night--you, you!
I swear you err.
The soul--it was your soul!
I loved you not.
You loved me not?
You loved me!
See! how you falter now!
No, my sweet love, I never loved you!
Things dead, long dead, see! how they rise again!
--Why, why keep silence all these fourteen years,
When, on this letter, which he never wrote,
The tears were your tears?
CYRANO (holding out the letter to her):
The bloodstains were his.
Why, then, that noble silence,--kept so long--
Broken to-day for the first time--why?
Why?. . .
(Le Bret and Ragueneau enter running.)
The same. Le Bret and Ragueneau.
What madness! Here? I knew it well!
CYRANO (smiling and sitting up):
He has brought his death by coming, Madame.
Ah, then! that faintness of a moment since. . .?
Why, true! It interrupted the 'Gazette:'
. . .Saturday, twenty-sixth, at dinner-time,
Assassination of De Bergerac.
(He takes off his hat; they see his head bandaged.)
What says he? Cyrano!--His head all bound!
Ah, what has chanced? How?--Who?. . .
'To be struck down,
Pierced by sword i' the heart, from a hero's hand!'
That I had dreamed. O mockery of Fate!
--Killed, I! of all men--in an ambuscade!
Struck from behind, and by a lackey's hand!
'Tis very well. I am foiled, foiled in all,
Even in my death.
Ah, Monsieur!. . .
CYRANO (holding out his hand to him):
Weep not so bitterly!. . .What do you now,
RAGUENEAU (amid his tears):
Trim the lights for Moliere's stage.
Yes; but I shall leave to-morrow.
I cannot bear it!--Yesterday, they played
'Scapin'--I saw he'd thieved a scene from you!
What! a whole scene?
Oh, yes, indeed, Monsieur,
The famous one, 'Que Diable allait-il faire?'
Moliere has stolen that?
Tut! He did well!. . .
How went the scene? It told--I think it told?
Ah! how they laughed!
Look you, it was my life
To be the prompter every one forgets!
That night when 'neath your window Christian spoke
--Under your balcony, you remember? Well!
There was the allegory of my whole life:
I, in the shadow, at the ladder's foot,
While others lightly mount to Love and Fame!
Just! very just! Here on the threshold drear
Of death, I pay my tribute with the rest,
To Moliere's genius,--Christian's fair face!
(The chapel-bell chimes. The nuns are seen passing down the alley at the
back, to say their office):
Let them go pray, go pray, when the bell rings!
ROXANE (rising and calling):
CYRANO (holding her fast):
Call no one. Leave me not;
When you come back, I should be gone for aye.
(The nuns have all entered the chapel. The organ sounds):
I was somewhat fain for music--hark! 'tis come.
Live, for I love you!
No, In fairy tales
When to the ill-starred Prince the lady says
'I love you!' all his ugliness fades fast--
But I remain the same, up to the last!
I have marred your life--I, I!
You blessed my life!
Never on me had rested woman's love.
My mother even could not find me fair:
I had no sister; and, when grown a man,
I feared the mistress who would mock at me.
But I have had your friendship--grace to you
A woman's charm has passed across my path.
LE BRET (pointing to the moon, which is seen between the trees):
Your other lady-love is come.
I loved but once, yet twice I lose my love!
Hark you, Le Bret! I soon shall reach the moon.
To-night, alone, with no projectile's aid!. . .
What are you saying?
I tell you, it is there,
There, that they send me for my Paradise,
There I shall find at last the souls I love,
LE BRET (rebelliously):
No, no! It is too clumsy, too unjust!
So great a heart! So great a poet! Die
Like this? what, die. . .?
Hark to Le Bret, who scolds!
LE BRET (weeping):
Dear friend. . .
CYRANO (starting up, his eyes wild):
What ho! Cadets of Gascony!
The elemental mass--ah yes! The hic. . .
His science still--he raves!
Said. . .
Mais que diable allait-il faire,
Mais que diable allait-il faire dans cette galere?. . .
Rhymer, brawler, and musician,
Famed for his lunar expedition,
And the unnumbered duels he fought,--
And lover also,--by interposition!--
Here lies Hercule Savinien
De Cyrano de Bergerac,
Who was everything, yet was naught.
I cry you pardon, but I may not stay;
See, the moon-ray that comes to call me hence!
(He has fallen back in his chair; the sobs of Roxane recall him to reality; he
looks long at her, and, touching her veil):
I would not bid you mourn less faithfully
That good, brave Christian: I would only ask
That when my body shall be cold in clay
You wear those sable mourning weeds for two,
And mourn awhile for me, in mourning him.
I swear it you!. . .
CYRANO (shivering violently, then suddenly rising):
Not there! what, seated?--no!
(They spring toward him):
Let no one hold me up--
(He props himself against the tree):
Only the tree!
It comes. E'en now my feet have turned to stone,
My hands are gloved with lead!
(He stands erect):
But since Death comes,
I meet him still afoot,
(He draws his sword):
And sword in hand!
ROXANE (half fainting):
(All shrink back in terror.)
Why, I well believe
He dares to mock my nose? Ho! insolent!
(He raises his sword):
What say you? It is useless? Ay, I know
But who fights ever hoping for success?
I fought for lost cause, and for fruitless quest!
You there, who are you!--You are thousands!
I know you now, old enemies of mine!
(He strikes in air with his sword):
Have at you! Ha! and Compromise!
Prejudice, Treachery!. . .
Parley? No, never! You too, Folly,--you?
I know that you will lay me low at last;
Let be! Yet I fall fighting, fighting still!
(He makes passes in the air, and stops, breathless):
You strip from me the laurel and the rose!
Take all! Despite you there is yet one thing
I hold against you all, and when, to-night,
I enter Christ's fair courts, and, lowly bowed,
Sweep with doffed casque the heavens' threshold blue,
One thing is left, that, void of stain or smutch,
I bear away despite you.
(He springs forward, his sword raised; it falls from his hand; he staggers,
falls back into the arms of Le Bret and Ragueneau.)
ROXANE (bending and kissing his forehead):
'Tis?. . .
CYRANO (opening his eyes, recognizing her, and smiling):
Cyrano de Bergerac: Characters | Act I | Act II | Act III | Act IV | Act V
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