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Cyrano de Bergerac
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READ STUDY GUIDE: Act IV, scenes i–v

 

Act IV, Scene iii

The SAME. Cyrano.
CYRANO (appearing from the tent, very calm, with a pen stuck behind his ear
and a book in his hand):
What is wrong?
(Silence. To the first cadet):
Why drag you your legs so sorrowfully?
THE CADET:
I have something in my heels which weighs them down.
CYRANO:
And what may that be?
THE CADET:
My stomach!
CYRANO:
So have I, 'faith!
THE CADET:
It must be in your way?
CYRANO:
Nay, I am all the taller.
A THIRD:
My stomach's hollow.
CYRANO:
'Faith, 'twill make a fine drum to sound the assault.
ANOTHER:
I have a ringing in my ears.
CYRANO:
No, no, 'tis false; a hungry stomach has no ears.
ANOTHER:
Oh, to eat something—something oily!
CYRANO (pulling off the cadet's helmet and holding it out to him):
Behold your salad!
ANOTHER:
What, in God's name, can we devour?
CYRANO (throwing him the book which he is carrying):
The 'Iliad'.
ANOTHER:
The first minister in Paris has his four meals a day!
CYRANO:
'Twere courteous an he sent you a few partridges!
THE SAME:
And why not? with wine, too!
CYRANO:
A little Burgundy. Richelieu, s'il vous plait!
THE SAME:
He could send it by one of his friars.
CYRANO:
Ay! by His Eminence Joseph himself.
ANOTHER:
I am as ravenous as an ogre!
CYRANO:
Eat your patience, then.
THE FIRST CADET (shrugging his shoulders):
Always your pointed word!
CYRANO:
Ay, pointed words!
I would fain die thus, some soft summer eve,
Making a pointed word for a good cause.
—To make a soldier's end by soldier's sword,
Wielded by some brave adversary—die
On blood-stained turf, not on a fever-bed,
A point upon my lips, a point within my heart.
CRIES FROM ALL:
I'm hungry!
CYRANO (crossing his arms):
All your thoughts of meat and drink!
Bertrand the fifer!—you were shepherd once,—
Draw from its double leathern case your fife,
Play to these greedy, guzzling soldiers. Play
Old country airs with plaintive rhythm recurring,
Where lurk sweet echoes of the dear home-voices,
Each note of which calls like a little sister,
Those airs slow, slow ascending, as the smoke-wreaths
Rise from the hearthstones of our native hamlets,
Their music strikes the ear like Gascon patois!. . .
(The old man seats himself, and gets his flute ready):
Your flute was now a warrior in durance;
But on its stem your fingers are a-dancing
A bird-like minuet! O flute! Remember
That flutes were made of reeds first, not laburnum;
Make us a music pastoral days recalling—
The soul-time of your youth, in country pastures!. . .
(The old man begins to play the airs of Languedoc):
Hark to the music, Gascons!. . .'Tis no longer
The piercing fife of camp—but 'neath his fingers
The flute of the woods! No more the call to combat,
'Tis now the love-song of the wandering goat-herds!. . .
Hark!. . .'tis the valley, the wet landes, the forest,
The sunburnt shepherd-boy with scarlet beret,
The dusk of evening on the Dordogne river,—
'Tis Gascony! Hark, Gascons, to the music!
(The cadets sit with bowed heads; their eyes have a far-off look as if
dreaming, and they surreptitiously wipe away their tears with their cuffs and
the corner of their cloaks.)
CARBON (to Cyrano in a whisper):
But you make them weep!
CYRANO:
Ay, for homesickness. A nobler pain than hunger,—'tis of the soul, not of
the body! I am well pleased to see their pain change its viscera. Heart-ache
is better than stomach-ache.
CARBON:
But you weaken their courage by playing thus on their heart-strings!
CYRANO (making a sign to a drummer to approach):
Not I. The hero that sleeps in Gascon blood is ever ready to awake in them.
'Twould suffice. . .
(He makes a signal; the drum beats.)
ALL THE CADETS (stand up and rush to take arms):
What? What is it?
CYRANO (smiling):
You see! One roll of the drum is enough! Good-by dreams, regrets, native
land, love. . .All that the pipe called forth the drum has chased away!
A CADET (looking toward the back of the stage):
Ho! here comes Monsieur de Guiche.
ALL THE CADETS (muttering):
Ugh!. . .Ugh!. . .
CYRANO (smiling):
A flattering welcome!
A CADET:
We are sick to death of him!
ANOTHER CADET:
—With his lace collar over his armor, playing the fine gentleman!
ANOTHER:
As if one wore linen over steel!
THE FIRST:
It were good for a bandage had he boils on his neck.
THE SECOND:
Another plotting courtier!
ANOTHER CADET:
His uncle's own nephew!
CARBON:
For all that—a Gascon.
THE FIRST:
Ay, false Gascon!. . .trust him not. . .
Gascons should ever be crack-brained. . .
Naught more dangerous than a rational Gascon.
LE BRET:
How pale he is!
ANOTHER:
Oh! he is hungry, just like us poor devils; but under his cuirass, with its
fine gilt nails, his stomach-ache glitters brave in the sun.
CYRANO (hurriedly):
Let us not seem to suffer either! Out with your cards, pipes, and dice. . .
(All begin spreading out the games on the drums, the stools, the ground, and
on their cloaks, and light long pipes):
And I shall read Descartes.
(He walks up and down, reading a little book which he has drawn from his
pocket. Tableau. Enter De Guiche. All appear absorbed and happy. He is
very pale. He goes up to Carbon.)
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