Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > French
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vols. X–XI: French
 
A Duel in Rime
By Edmond Rostand (1868–1918)
 
From “Cyrano de Bergerac”

VALVERT, CYRANO, and SPECTATORS.

Val.  Your—your nose is—er—your nose—is very large!
  1
  Cyr.  Very.  2
  Val.  Ha, ha!  3
  Cyr.  Is that all?  4
  Val.  Why——  5
  Cyr.  Ah, no, young man, that is hot enough! You might have said—dear me, there are a thousand things—varying the tone. For instance, here you are—Aggressive: “I sir, 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, that you have, fond as a father, been at pains to fit the little darlings with a roost?” Blunt: “Tell me, sir, 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 sunshade made for it! It might get freckled!” Learned: “None but the beast, sir, mentioned by Aristophanes, the hippocampelephantocamelos, can have borne beneath his forehead so much cartilage and bone!” Offhand: “What, comrade, is that sort of peg in style? Capital to hang one’s hat upon!” Emphatic: “No wind can hope, oh, 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!” Lyrical: “Art thou a Triton, and is that thy conch?” Simple: “A monument! When is admission free?” Deferential: “Suffer, sir, 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? Ye don’t gull me! It’s either a prize carrot or else a stunted gourd!” Military: “Level against the cavalry!” Practical: “Will you put it 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 would have said to me had you the smallest leaven of letters or of wit; but of wit, oh, 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!”  6
  Val.  Insufferable! A clodhopper, without—without so much as a pair of gloves!  7
  Cyr.  Without gloves? A mighty matter! I only had one left, of a very ancient pair, and even that became a burden to me—I left it in somebody’s face.  8
  Val.  Villain, clod-poll, flat-foot, refuse of the earth!  9
  Cyr.  (taking off his hat and bowing as if VALVERT had been introducing himself).  Indeed? And mine, Cyrano Savinien Hercule de Bergerac!  10
  Val.  (exasperated).  Buffoon!  11
  Cyr.  (crying out suddenly, as if seized with a cramp).  Oh!  (VALVERT, who had started toward the back, turns.)  12
  Cyr.  (screwing up 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!  13
  Val.  What is the matter?  14
  Cyr.  My rapier prickles like a foot asleep!  15
  Val.  (drawing).  So be it!  16
  Cyr.  I shall give you a charming little wound.  17
  Val.  (contemptuously).  You—a poet!  18
  Cyr.  Yes, I, a poet; and to such an extent that while we fence, I will, hop! extempore, compose you a ballade!  19
  Val.  A ballade?  20
  Cyr.  I fear you do not know what that is.  21
  Val.  But——  22
  Cyr.  (as if saying a lesson).  The ballade is composed of three stanzas of eight lines each——  23
  Val.  Outrageous!  24
  Cyr.  And an envoy of four.  25
  Val.  You——  26
  Cyr.  I will in the same breath fight you and compose one. And at the last line I will hit you.  27
  Val.  Indeed you will not!  28
  Cyr.  No?  (Declaiming.)
 Ballade of the duel which in Burgundy House
Monsieur de Bergerac fought with a jackanapes.
  29
  Val.  And what is that, if you please?  30
  Cyr.  That is the title.  31
  The Spectators  (at the highest pitch of excitement).  Make room! Good sport! Stand aside! Keep still!  32
  Cyr.  (closing his eyes for a second).  Wait. I am settling upon the rimes. 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.
  Now guard! 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’s pit?
Let’s come to quick accord;
  At the last line, I hit!
  
You falter, you turn whiter?
  You do so to afford
Your foe a rime in iter?
  You thrust at me—I ward—
And balance is restored.
  Ha, scullion, look to your spit!
No, you shall not be floored
  Before my cue to hit!
  
(He announces solemnly.)
  
Envoy
Prince, call upon the Lord!
  I skirmish—feint a bit—
I lunge! I keep my word!
(vALVERT staggers; CYRANO bows.)
    At the last line, I hit!
  33
 
 
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