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'Cyrano,' Gaining in the Translation

But inwardly, I keep my daintiness.

I do not bear with me, by any chance,

An insult not yet washed away -- a conscience

Jose Ferrer's stirring speeches in the 1950 film came from Brian Hooker's translation of "Cyrano de Bergerac." (File Photo)

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Yellow with unpurged bile -- an honor frayed

To rags, a set of scruples badly worn.

I go caparisoned in gems unseen,

Trailing white plumes of freedom, garlanded

With my good name -- no figure of a man,

But a soul clothed in shining armor, hung

With deeds for decorations, twirling -- thus --

A bristling wit, and swinging at my side

Courage, and on the stones of this old town

Making the sharp truth ring, like golden spurs!

What language that is! "But inwardly, I keep my daintiness," "I go caparisoned in gems unseen," "With deeds for decorations" -- it is difficult to imagine that Rostand's original French could be more musical or evocative than Hooker's English. Here it is again, in an extract from the "No thank you!" speech, which follows Cyrano's friend Le Bret's plea that he "stop trying to be Three Musketeers in one!" Cyrano asks:

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