December 15, 2017
The Real Cyrano: Big Nose, Little PanacheOn this day in 1655 Hercule Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac died at the age of thirty-six. He was the model for Edmond Rostand's 1897 hit play, and a writer himself -- several plays, and two science-fantasy novels about voyages to the moon and sun. De Bergerac was in the Guards for several years, and injured twice in sword fights, but his reputation as a duelist is largely legend; on the other hand, he did have a very large nose, and a belief that "A large nose is the mark of a witty, courteous, affable, generous, and liberal man." He was also a free spirit and a satirist, the kind who might easily have been provoked into the sarcasm shown by Rostand's proboscidean hero:
You might have said at least a hundred things
By varying the tone. . .like this, suppose,. . .
Aggressive: 'Sir, if I had such a nose
I'd amputate it!' Friendly: 'When you sup
It must annoy you, dipping in your cup;
You need a drinking-bowl of special shape!'
Descriptive: ''Tis a rock!. . .a peak!. . .a cape!
--A cape, forsooth! 'Tis a peninsular!'
Curious: 'How serves that oblong capsular?
For scissor-sheath? Or pot to hold your ink?'
Gracious: 'You love the little birds, I think?
I see you've managed with a fond research
To find their tiny claws a roomy perch!'
Truculent: 'When you smoke your pipe. . .suppose
That the tobacco-smoke spouts from your nose--
Do not the neighbors, as the fumes rise higher,
Cry terror-struck: "The chimney is afire"?'
Considerate: 'Take care,. . .your head bowed low
By such a weight. . .lest head o'er heels you go!'
Tender: 'Pray get a small umbrella made,
Lest its bright color in the sun should fade!'
Pedantic: 'That beast Aristophanes
Must have possessed just such a solid lump
Of flesh and bone, beneath his forehead's bump!'....
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