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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Chanticleer’s Avowal
By Edmond Rostand (1868–1918)
 
From ‘Chantecler’: Translation of Charles Hall Grandgent in ‘Kittredge Anniversary Papers’

CHANTICLEER—I never sing until my eight good claws,
Tearing away the grass and stones, have found
A spot where I can reach the soft, black loam,
Then, close in contact with our mother earth,
I crow! And that itself is half the mystery,        5
O pheasant, half the secret of my song—
No song for which the singer racks his brain:
It mounts, like sap, up from the native soil!
The moment when this sap rises in me,
The hour when I am certain of my gift,        10
Is when dawn rallies on the dark sky’s rim.
Then, quivering with the thrill of leaves and stalks,
Which fills my being to my pinions’ tips,
I feel my mission, and I magnify
My trumpet posture and my clarion curve;        15
Then Earth resounds in me as in a horn.
Ceasing to be a common fowl, I then
Become the official mouthpiece, so to say,
Thro’ which Earth’s voice emerges to the sky.
  Pheasant—Chanticleer!
  Chanticleer—            This cry that mounts from Earth,
        20
This call, is such a cry of love for light,
A frantic and sonorous peal of love
For something golden which we call the Day,
Which nature craves,—the pine, to gild its bark;
The path uplifted by the writhing roots,        25
To light its moss; the corn, to deck its tips;
The tiny pebbles, for their tiny gleam,—
It is the cry of all the things that miss
Their tint, reflection, flame, their tuft, their pearl,—
The entreating cry with which the dewy field        30
Demands a rainbow on each point of grass;
The forest, at the end of every lane,
Begs for a ruddy glow to pierce the dark,—
This cry, which thro’ my throat climbs to the blue,
Is such a call from everything that feels        35
Neglected in a dim and murky void,
Deprived of sunlight for some unknown crime,
A cry of cold, of fear, of weariness
From every thing made helpless by the Night—
The rose that shivers in the dark, alone;        40
The grain, longing to dry its wetness for the mill;
The tools forgotten by the husbandmen
And rusting in the grass; white-color’d things,
So tired of hiding all their dazzling sheen—
’Tis such a cry from innocent dumb beasts        45
Which never need conceal the things they do;
From brooklets, eager to disclose their beds;
And even (thine own work disowns thee, Night!)
From puddles, hankering to reflect a ray,
From mud that wants to dry itself to earth—        50
’Tis such a grand appeal from all the land,
Aching to feel its wheat or barley grow;
From flowering tree’s desirous of more flowers;
From grapes that long to tinge with green their brown;
From trembling bridge that wants a passenger        55
And wants the shadows of the birds and twigs
Softly to dance once more upon its planks;
From all that fain would sing, quit mourning, live,
Do service, be a threshold, be a bank,
A good warm bench, a stone rejoiced to heat        60
A leaning hand or little prowling ant—
In short, a universal call for day
From all that’s healthy, all that’s beautiful,
From all that’s fond of work in joy and light,
That wants to see its work and make it seen.        65
And when this mighty call surges in me,
My very soul expands and swells and grows
The more sonorous with its own increase,—
To make the great cry loud and louder still,—
So reverently, that ere I send it forth,        70
I hold the cry one instant in my soul;
Then, when, contracting, I let loose my note,
So certain am I that a deed is done,
I have such faith that this good crow of mine
Will make Night crumble like the walls of Jericho—        75
  Pheasant—Chanticleer!
  Chanticleer—            Preluding victory,
My song bursts forth, so clear, so proud, so stern,
That the horizon, with a rosy thrill,
Obeys me!
  Pheasant—Chanticleer!
  Chanticleer—                I crow! And Night
        80
With twilight vainly seeks to compromise.
I crow! And all at once—
  Pheasant—                        O Chanticleer!
  Chanticleer—I start, surprised to see myself quite red,
For I, the cock, have made the sun to rise!
  Pheasant—Then all the secret of thy song?
  Chanticleer—                                Is this:
        85
I dare to fear that if I do not call,
The East will never waken from its sleep.
My “cockadoodledoo!” is not designed
To make a waiting echo from afar
Repeat a feebler “cockadoodledoo!”        90
My thoughts are bent on light and not on fame.
Crowing, for me, is battle and belief.
And so my note is proudest of them all:
I sing so clear to make the heavens clear!
  Pheasant—(His words are madness!)—Thou dost make the dawn?        95
  Chanticleer—Which opens flowers and eyes, windows and souls!
That is the truth. My voice evokes the day.
A murky sunrise means my song was bad.
 
 
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