Cyrano De Bergerac – A Hero in the Romantic Tradition

Naturalism is probably the most prominent literary style today. I find it dull.
I like romanticism far better, for it is concerned with things as they might be and ought to be.

Cyrano is a hero in the romantic (the style) tradition. Another one is Howard Roark.

This is the splendid “No thank you” speech, from Edmund Rostand’s “Cyrano de Bergerac” (the Brian Hooker translation).

Cast:
Cyrano de Bergerac, a poet, swordsman, and man made ugly by a very large nose
De Guiche, a rich dandy, enemy of Cyrano
Le Bret: fellow soldier and close friend of CYRANOS.

DE GUICHE: (recovering his self-control after being insulted by CYRANO)
Have you read Don Quixote?

CYRANO:
I have ~ and found myself the hero.

DE GUICHE:
Be so good as to read once more
The chapter of the windmills.

CYRANO:
Chapter Thirteen.

DE GUICHE:
Windmills, remember, if you fight with them ~

CYRANO:
My enemies change, then, with every wind?

DE GUICHE:
~ may swing round their huge arms and cast you
Down into the mire!

CYRANO:
Or up ~ among the stars!

DE GUICHE goes out. We see him get into his sedan chair. LE BRET joins CYRANO.

Cyrano: (saluting with burlesque politeness those who go out)
Gentlemen. Gentlemen.

LE BRET:
You have done it now! You have made
Your fortune! Hah! A bad enemy, that one.
You made him look a fool!

CYRANO:
There you go again, growling!

LE BRET:
At least this latest pose of yours ~ ruining every chance
That comes your way ~ becomes exaggerated ~

CYRANO:
Very well, then. I exaggerate!
Yes. I exaggerate! On principle. There are things
In this world a man does well to carry to extremes.

LE BRET:
Stop trying to be Three Musketeers in one!
Fortune and glory ~

CYRANO:
What would you have me do?
Seek for the patronage of some great man,
And like a creeping vine on a tall tree
Crawl upward, where I cannot stand alone?
No thank you! Dedicate, as others do,
Poems to pawnbrokers? Be a buffoon
In the vile hope of teasing out a smile
On some cold face? No thank you! East a toad
For breakfast every morning? Make my knees
Callous, and cultivate a supple spine, ~
Wear out my belly groveling in the dust?
No thank you! Scratch the back of any swine
That roots up gold for me? Tickle the horns
Of Mammon with my left hand, while my right
Too proud to know his partners business,
Takes in the fee? No thank you! Use the fire
God gave me to burn incense all day long
No thank you! Publish verses at my own
Expense? No thank you! Be the patron saint
Of a small group of literary souls
Who dine together every Tuesday? No,
I thank you! Shall I labor night and day
To build a reputation on one song,
And never write another? Shall I find
True genius only among Geniuses,
Palpitate over little paragraphs,
And struggle to insinuate my name
In the columns of the Mercury:?
No thank you! Calculate, scheme, be afraid,
Love more to make a visit than a poem,
Seek introductions, favors, influences? ~
No thank you! No, I thank you! And again
I thank you! But
To sing, to laugh, to dream,
To walk in my own way, and be alone,
Free, with an eye to see things as they are,
A voice that means manhood ~ to cock my hat
Where I choose ~ At a word, at a Yes, a No,
To fight ~ or write. To travel any road
Under the sun, under the stars, nor doubt
If fame or fortune lie beyond the bourne ~
Never to make a line I have not heard
In my own heart; yet, with all modesty
To say: My soul, be satisfied with flowers,
With fruit, with weeds even; but gather them
In the one garden you may call your own.
So, when I win some triumph, by some chance,
Render no share to Caesar ~ in a word,
I am too proud to be a parasite,
And if my nature wants the germ that grows
Towering to heaven like the mountain pine,
Or, like the oak, sheltering multitudes ~
I stand, not high it may be ~
But, I stand alone!

LE BRET:
Alone! Yes! But why stand against the world?
What devil has possessed you now, to go
Everywhere making yourself enemies?

CYRANO:
Watching you 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!

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