Edmond Rostand

French poet and dramatist (1868–1918)

Edmond Eugène Alexis Rostand (1 April 1868 - 2 December 1918) was a French poet and dramatist most famous for his fictional play Cyrano de Bergerac, based upon the life of Cyrano de Bergerac.

To joke in the face of danger is the supreme politeness, a delicate refusal to cast oneself as a tragic hero.


I let off these good things at myself, and with sufficient zest, but do not suffer another to let them off at me!
Except where noted, quotes in this section are from the public domain translation by Gladys Thomas and Mary F. Guillemard - Full text online
I keep my word!
I loved but once, yet twice I lose my love!
Rhymer, brawler, and musician,
Famed for his lunar expedition,
And the unnumbered duels he fought, —
And lover also, — by interposition!
One thing is left, that, void of stain or smutch,
I bear away despite you …
My panache.
  • Valvert: Your … your nose is … errr … Your nose … is very large!
    Cyrano: [gravely] Very.
    Valvert: [laughs] Ha!
    Cyrano: [imperturbable] Is that all?
    Valvert: But …
    Cyrano: Ah, no, young man, that is not enough! You might have said, dear me, there are a thousand things … varying the tone … For instance … Here you are: — Aggressive: "I, monsieur, if I had such a nose, nothing would serve but I must cut it off!" Amicable: "It must be in your way while drinking; you ought to have a special beaker made!" Descriptive: "It is a crag! … a peak! … a promontory! … A promontory, did I say? … It is a peninsula!" Inquisitive: "What may the office be of that oblong receptacle? Is it an inkhorn or a scissor-case?" Mincing: "Do you so dote on birds, you have, fond as a father, been at pains to fit the little darlings with a roost?" Blunt: "Tell me, monsieur, you, when you smoke, is it possible you blow the vapor through your nose without a neighbor crying "The chimney is afire!"?" Anxious: "Go with caution, I beseech, lest your head, dragged over by that weight, should drag you over!" Tender: "Have a little sun-shade made for it! It might get freckled!" Learned: "None but the beast, monsieur, mentioned by Aristophanes, the hippocampelephantocamelos, can have borne beneath his forehead so much cartilage and bone!" Off-Hand: "What, comrade, is that sort of peg in style? Capital to hang one's hat upon!" Emphatic: No wind can hope, O lordly nose, to give the whole of you a cold, but the Nor-Wester!" Dramatic: "It is the Red Sea when it bleeds!" Admiring: "What a sign for a perfumer's shop!" Lyric: "Art thou a Triton, and is that thy conch?" Simple: "A monument! When is admission free?" Deferent: "Suffer, monsieur, that I should pay you my respects: That is what I call possessing a house of your own!" Rustic: "Hi, boys! Call that a nose? You don't gull me! It's either a prize parrot or a stunted gourd!" Military: "Level against the cavalry!" Practical: "Will you put up for raffle? Indubitably, sir, it will be the feature of the game!" And finally in parody of weeping Pyramus: "Behold, behold the nose that traitorously destroyed the beauty of its master! and is blushing for the same!" — That, my dear sir, or something not unlike, is what you could have said to me, had you the smallest leaven of letters or wit; but of wit, O most pitiable of objects made by God, you never had a rudiment, and of letters, you have just those that are needed to spell "fool!" — But, had it been otherwise, and had you been possessed of the fertile fancy requisite to shower upon me, here, in this noble company, that volley of sprightly pleasentries, still should you not have delivered yourself of so much as a quarter of the tenth part of the beginning of the first … For I let off these good things at myself, and with sufficient zest, but do not suffer another to let them off at me!"
    • Act IV, scene 1, as translated by Getrude Hall
  • Valvert: Villain, clod-poll, flat-foot, refuse of the earth!
    Cyrano: [taking off his hat and bowing as if the Vicomte had been introducing himself] Ah? … And mine, Cyrano-Savinien-Hercule of Bergerac!
    Valvert: [exasperated] Buffoon!
    Cyrano: [giving a sudden cry, as if seized with a cramp] Aï! …
    Valvert: [who had started toward the back, turning] What is he saying now?
    Cyrano: [screwing his face as if in pain] It must have leave to stir … it has a cramp! It is bad for it to be kept still so long!
    Valvert: What is the matter?
    Cyrano: My rapier prickles like a foot asleep!
    Valvert: [drawing] So be it!
    Cyrano: I shall give you a charming little hurt!
    Valvert: [contemptous] Poet!
    Cyrano: Yes, a poet, … and, to such an extent, that while we fence, I will, hop!, extempore, compose you a ballade!
    Valvert: A ballade?
    Cyrano: I fear you do not know what that is.
    Valvert: But …
    Cyrano: [as if saying a lesson] The ballade is composed of three stanzas of eight lines each …
    Valvert: [stamps with his feet] Oh!
    Cyrano: [continuing] And an envoi of four.
    Valvert: You …
    Cyrano: I will with the same breath fight you and compose one. And, at the last line, I will hit you.

    Valvert: Indeed you will not!
    Cyrano: No? … [Declaiming]
    Ballade of the duel which in Burgundy house
    Monsieur de Bergerac fought with a jackanape …
    Valvert: And what is that, if you please?
    Cyrano: That is the title.
    [ … ]
    Cyrano: [closing his eyes a second] Wait. I am settling upon the rhymes. There. I have them. [in declaiming, he suits the action to the word]
    Of my broad felt made lighter,
    I cast my mantle broad,
    And stand, poet and fighter,
    To do and to record.
    I bow, I draw my sword …
    En garde! With steel and wit
    I play you at first abord …
    At the last line, I hit!

    [They begin fencing]

    You should have been politer;
    Where had you best be gored?
    The left side or the right — ah?
    Or next your azure cord?
    Or where the spleen is stored?
    Or in the stomach pit?
    Come we to quick accord …
    At the last line, I hit!

    You falter, you turn whiter?
    You do so to afford
    Your foe a rhyme in "iter"? …
    You thrust at me — I ward —
    And balance is restored.
    Laridon! Look to your spit! …
    No, you shall not be floored
    Before my cue to hit!

    [He announces solemnly]


    Prince, call upon the Lord! …
    I skirmish … feint a bit …
    I lunge! … I keep my word!
    [The Vicomte staggers, Cyrano bows.]
    At the last line, I hit!

    • Act IV, scene 1, as translated by Getrude Hall
  • Call no one. Leave me not;
    When you come back, I should be gone for aye.
    • Cyrano, Act 5, Sc. 6
  • Live, for I love you!
    • Roxane, Act 5, Sc. 6
  • 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!
    • Cyrano, Act 5, Sc. 6
  • 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.
    • Cyrano, Act 5, Sc. 6
  • I loved but once, yet twice I lose my love!
    • Roxane, Act 5, Sc. 6
  • 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!
    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.
    • Cyrano, Act 5, Sc. 6
  • 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! Ah!
    I know you now, old enemies of mine!
    Have at you! Ha! and Compromise!
    Prejudice, Treachery! …
    Surrender, I?
    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!
    • Cyrano, Act 5, Sc. 6
  • 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, tonight,
    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 …
    My panache.
    • Cyrano, Act 5, Sc. 6
    • Variant translation: I bear away despite you …
      My plume!

Chantecler (1910)

Full text online
It is at night that faith in light is admirable.
  • Malebranche dirait qu’il n’y a plus une âme:
    Nous pensons humblement qu’il reste encor des cœurs.
    • Malebranche would have it that not a soul is left; we humbly think that there still are hearts.
      • Prelude
  • Sans doute
    Je peux apprendre à coqueriquer: je glougloute.
    • Without doubt
      I can teach crowing: for I gobble.
      • Act I, Sc. 2
  • Et sonnant d’avance sa victoire,
    Mon chant jaillit si net, si fier, si peremptoire
    Que l’horizon, saisi d'un rose tremblement,
    • And sounding in advance its victory,
      My song jets forth so clear, so proud, so peremptory,
      That the horizon, seized with a rosy trembling,
      Obeys me.
      • Act II, Sc. 3
  • Je recule
    Ébloui de me voir moi même tout vermeil
    Et d’avoir, moi, le coq, fait élever le soleil.
    • I fall back
      dazzled at beholding myself all rosy red,
      At having, I myself, caused the sun to rise.
      • Act II, Sc. 3

Quotes about Rostand