February 14, 2003

In an uncharacteristic display of sentimentality in honor of Valentine's Day, a "holiday" I denounce at every opportunity, I'm transcribing my favorite scene from my favorite romantic play ever. The bizarre thing about me is: no matter how much I rail against love, men, relationships, and all that jazz...I own a million romantic movies and adore a good tragic love story. Maybe it's one of those things I just want to read about and watch movies about but don't really care to do again...I wonder, do ex-convicts like to watch prison movies?

Regardless of my reasons, I adore this play and the Jose Ferrar movie made of it. And this is my all time favorite scene, the most romantic words I've ever read, the scene that makes my still heart quiver and my cold eyes tear up every time. Hope you like it.

Beautiful Christian loves clever Roxane. Cyrano, with a very big nose, loves Roxane. Roxane treats Cyrano like a brother and confesses to him her feelings for Christian, based only on his beauty. Christian is a good soldier, but not that quick with words. Cyrano writes a beautiful letter expressing his love for Roxane, but gives it to Christian to send. Cyrano gives Christian words to say to Roxane and he memorizes them. Roxane, completely under a Cyrano-induced Christian spell, falls completely in love.

Christian, feeling guilty and believing he can do his own romancing, goes to Roxane on his own, with none of Cyrano's words to help him. He fails miserably, all observed by Cyrano. Roxane is on her balcony and Christian calls to her, Cyrano feeding him words from behind a tree. But it becomes too cumbersome and Cyrano takes over. That's where this starts.

Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand, Translation by Brian Hooker

ROXANE
Your words to-night
Hesitate. Why?

CYRANO
(In a low tone, imitating CHRISTIAN)
Through the warm summer gloom
They grope in darkness toward the light of you.

ROXANE
My words, well aimed, find you more readily.

CYRANO
My heart is open wide and waits for them--
Too large a mark to miss! My words fly home,
Heavy with honey like returning bees,
To your small secret ear. Moreover--yours
Fall to me swiftly. Mine more slowly rise.

ROXANE
Yet not so slowly as they did at first.

CYRANO
They have learned the way, and you have welcomed them.

ROXANE
(Softly)
Am I so far above you now?

CYRANO
If you let fall upon me one hard word,
Out of that height--you crush me!

ROXANE
(Turns)
I'll come down--

CYRANO
(Quickly)
No!

ROXANE
(Points out the bench under the balcony.)
Stand you on the bench. Come nearer!

CYRANO
(Recoils into the shadow.)
No!--

ROXANE
And why so great a No?

CYRANO
(More and more overcome by emotion.)
Let me enjoy
The one moment I ever--my one chance
To speak to you...unseen!

ROXANE
Unseen?--

CYRANO
Yes!--yes...
Night, making all things dimly beautiful,
One veil over us both--You only see
The darkness of a long cloak in the gloom,
And I the whiteness of a summer gown--
You are all light--I am all shadow!...How
Can you know what this moment means to me?
If I was ever eloquent--

ROXANE
You were
Eloquent--

CYRANO
--You have never heard till now
My own heart speaking!

ROXANE
Why not?

CYRANO
Until now,
I spoke through...

ROXANE
Yes?--

CYRANO
--through that sweet drunkenness
You pour into the world out of your eyes!
But to-night...but to-night, I indeed speak
For the first time!

ROXANE
For the first time--Your voice,
Even, is not the same

CYRANO
(Passionately; moves nearer.)
How should it be?
I have another voice--my own,
Myself, darling--
(He stops, confused; then tries to recover himself.)
Where was I?...I forget!...
Forgive me. This is all sweet like a dream...
Strange--like a dream...

ROXANE
How, strange?

CYRANO
Is it not so
To be myself to you, and have no fear
Of moving you to laughter?

ROXANE
Laughter--why?

CYRANO
(Struggling for an explanation)
Because...What am I...What is any man,
That he dare ask for you? Therefore my heart
Hides behind phrases. There's a modesty
In these things too--I come here to pluck down
Out of the sky the evening star--then smile,
And stoop to gather little flowers.

ROXANE
Are they
Not sweet, those little flowers?

CYRANO
Not enough sweet
For you and me, to-night!

ROXANE
(Breathless)
You never spoke
To me like this...

CYRANO
Little things, pretty things--
Arrows and hearts and torches--roses red,
And violets blue--are these all? Come away,
And breathe fresh air! Must we keep on and on
Sipping stale honey out of tiny cups
Decorated with golden tracery,
Drop by drop, all day long? We are alive;
We thirst--Come away, plunge, and drink, and drown
In the great river flowing to the sea!

ROXANE
But...Poetry?

CYRANO
I have made rimes for you--
Not now--Shall we insult Nature, this night,
These flowers, this moment--shall we set all these
To phrases from a letter by Voiture?
Look once at the high stars that shine in heaven,
And put off artificiality!
Have you not seen great gaudy hothouse flowers,
Barren, without fragrance?--Souls are like that:
Forced to show all, they soon become all show--
The means to Nature's end ends meaningless!

ROXANE
But...Poetry?

CYRANO
Love hates that game of words!
It is a crime to fence with life--I tell you,
There comes one moment, once--and god help those
Who pass that moment by!--when Beauty stands
Looking into the soul with grave, sweet eyes
That sicken at pretty words!

ROXANE
If that be true--
And when that moment comes to you and me--
What words will you?...

CYRANO
All those, all those, all those
That blossom in my heart, I'll fling to you--
Armfuls of loose bloom! Love, I love beyond
Breath, beyond reason, beyond love's own power
Of loving! Your name is like a golden bell
Hung in my heart; and when I think of you,
I tremble, and the bell swings and rings--
"Roxane!"...
"Roxane!"...along my veins, "Roxane!"...
I know
All small forgotten things that once meant You--
I remember last year, the First of May,
A little before noon, you had your hair
Drawn low, that one time only. Is that strange?
You know how, after looking at the sun,
One sees red suns everywhere--so, for hours
After the flood of sunshine that you are,
My eyes are blinded by your burning hair!

ROXANE
(Very low)
Yes...that is...Love--

CYRANO
Yes, that is Love--that wind
Of terrible and jealous beauty, blowing
Over me--that dark fire, that music...
Yet
Love seeketh not his own! Dear, you may take
My happiness to make you happier,
Even though you never know I gave it you--
Only let me hear sometimes, all along,
The distant laughter of your joy!...
I never
Look at you, but there's some new virtue born
In me, some new courage. Do you begin
To understand, a little? Can you feel
My soul, there in the darkness, breathe on you?
--Oh, but to-night, now, I dare say these things--
I...to you...and you hear them!...It is too much!
In my most sweet unreasonable dreams,
I have not hoped for this! Now let me die,
Having lived. It is my voice, mine, my own,
That makes you tremble there in the green gloom
Above me--for you do tremble, as a blossom
Among the leaves--You tremble, and I can feel,
All the way down along these jasmine branches,
Whether you will or no, the passion of you
Trembling...
(He kisses wildly the end of a drooping spray of jasmine.)

ROXANE
Yes, I do tremble...and I weep...
And I love you...and I am yours...and you
Have made me thus!

CYRANO
(After a pause; quietly)
What is death like, I wonder?
I know everything else now...
I have done
This, to you--I, myself...
Only let me
Ask one thing more--

CHRISTIAN
(Under the balcony)
One kiss!

ROXANE
(Startled)
One?--

CYRANO
(To CHRISTIAN)
You!...

ROXANE
You ask me
For--


CYRANO
I...Yes, but--I mean--
(To CHRISTIAN)
You go too far!

CHRISTIAN
She is willing!--Why not make the most of it?

CYRANO
(To ROXANE)
I did ask...but I know I ask too much...

ROXANE
Only one--Is that all?

CYRANO
All!--How much more
Than all!--I know--I frighten you--I ask...
I ask you to refuse--

CHRISTIAN
(To CYRANO)
But why? Why? Why?

CYRANO
Christian, be quiet!

ROXANE
(Leaning over.)
What is that you say
To yourself?

CYRANO
I am angry with myself
Because I go too far, and so I say
To myself: "Christian, be quiet!"--

Then someone comes, interrupting. Roxane goes inside and Christian and Cyrano confer.

CHRISTIAN
Win me that kiss!

CYRANO
No.

CHRISTIAN
Sooner or later--

CYRANO
True...
That is true...Soon or late, it will be so
Because you are young and she is beautiful--
(To himself)
Since it must be, I had rather be myself
(The window re-opens. CHRISTIAN hides under the balcony.)
The cause of...what must be.

ROXANE
(Out on the balcony)
Are you still there?
We were speaking of--

CYRANO
A kiss. The word is sweet--
What will the deed be? Are your lips afraid
Even of its burning name? Not much afraid--
Not too much! Have you not unwittingly
Laid aside laughter, slipping beyond speech
Insensibly, already, without fear,
From words to smiles...from smiles to sighs...from
sighing,
Even to tears? One step more--only one--
From a tear to a kiss--one step, one thrill!

ROXANE
Hush--

CYRANO
And what is a kiss, when all is done?
A promise given under seal--a vow
Taken before the shrine of memory--
A signature acknowledged--a rosy dot
Over the i of Loving--a secret whispered
To listening lips apart--a moment made
Immortal, with a rush or wings unseen--
A sacrament of blossoms, a new song
Sung by two hearts to an old simple tune--
The ring of one horizon around two souls
Together, all alone!

ROXANE
Hush!...

CYRANO
Why, what shame?--
There was a Queen of France, not long ago,
And a great lord of England--a queen's gift,
A crown jewel!

ROXANE
Indeed!

CYRANO
Indeed, like him,
I have my sorrows and my silences;
Like her, you are the queen I dare adore;
Like him I am faithful and forlorn--

ROXANE
Like him,
Beautiful--

CYRANO
(Aside)
So I am--I forgot that!

ROXANE
Then--Come;...Gather your sacred blossom...

CYRANO
(To CHRISTIAN)
Go!--

ROXANE
Your crown jewel...

CYRANO
Go on!--

ROXANE
Your old new song...

CYRANO
Climb!--

CHRISTIAN
(Hesitates)
No--Would you?--not yet--

ROXANE
Your moment made
Immortal...

CYRANO
(Pushing him.)
Climb up, animal!
(CHRISTIAN springs on the bench, and climbs by the pillars, the branches, the vines, until he bestrides the balcony railing.)

CHRISTIAN
Roxane!...
(He takes her in his arms and bends over her.)

CYRANO
(Very low)
Ah!...Roxane!...
I have won what I have won--
The feast of love--and I am Lazarus!
Yet...I have something here that is mine now
And was not mine before I spoke the words
That won her--not for me!...Kissing my words
My words, upon your lips!

Sigh. That ought to feed whatever romantics still bother to read my musings. I won't say happy Valentine's day, but I will say happy Friday and may you get whatever it is you want from this particular day.

Posted by Alyssa at 12:25 AM
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