Play # 61: Cyrano Leaves the World

The play—for which much of the historical material has been gratefully lifted from Marjorie Hope Nicolson’s noble book, Voyages to the Moon (1948)--is set in the apartment of Cyrano de Bergerac, where he and his friends are discussing theories of space travel and the constitution of the moon.  The year is 1640.


CYRANO (with great conviction): I maintain that the sun and the moon are no great mysteries, gentlemen.  And certainly not mysteries that can withstand the focus and impress of our imaginations!

FIRST FRIEND:  Tell us more, then, of the relation between the sun and the moon, O Pixilated One!

CYRANO (with even more conviction): The Moon is a world like ours, to which this world of ours serves likewise for a moon!

There is great merriment among the company, and a consequent recharging of their glasses.

CYRANO:  You make merry, you amiable doubting Thomases, but I am telling you the plain truth!

SECOND FRIEND:  Talk, as they will say in the future, is  cheap, Cyrano. What we desire is experiment, enactment, engagement, recounting! 

CYRANO (exitedly):  And you shall have it all, my friends! Tomorrow morning, while you are all sleeping off this robust wine, I shall be on my way to the skies!


SCENE 2:  A forest glade, not far from Cyrano’s home.  It is five a.m.  The sun is rising.  The world is wet with dew.

CYRANO (carefully, logically):  It seems to me [he plucks a leaf from, a tree and shakes away the dewy liquid] that since the morning sun sucks up the dew engendered by the heavy night, that if a man—that is to say, if I—were to fasten about myself a number of glass vials filled to the brim with dew, why then should I not also be sucked up high into the air?  Why not?  How could it be otherwise, dew being dew and the sun being the sun?

[he leaves the stage, to repair to his workshop at home] 

SCENE 3: The forest glade again.  It is the next day, and Cyrano is back with the equipment he has devised for space flight.

CYRANO (both careful and eager):  And now for the great ascension! 

[He checks the details of his space costume—which consists of a tight-fitting suit of leather, to which is affixed a hundred small glass vials.  The sun is rising rapidly and hotly]

CYRANO (with great excitement):  And now, Venerable Sun, do your evaporative work and lift me to the heavens! 

]And much to his delight—and, if truth be told, amazement—he begins to rise slowly into the air….]

SCENE 4:  Cyrano’s apartments, six months later.  He is with the same crowd of carousers as before]

FOURTH GUEST:  And so the drying dew did lift you into the air?

CYRANO (proudly):  It did indeed.  And my rise was so rapid, I quickly found myself in the middle air with the clouds, and I was now being hurried up higher with so much rapidity, I felt sure I should bypass the moon altogether!!….

FIFTH FRIEND (breathlessly curious):  And so, what did you do??

CYRANO (smugly):  I began breaking vials, thereby adjusting, as best I could, the forces of attraction and gravity in order to make a safe landing in the moon.

THIRD FRIEND:  And so you actually got to the moon!!

CYRANO (smiling ruefully):  Alas, no.  You see, in my zeal to attain the moon, I broke too many  of the dew-filled vials, and, earth’s gravity being what it is, I found myself back on our own dear planet—but on the other side of it!

SECOND FRIEND: And was this part of the world inhabited?

CYRANO (highly amused to recall his adventure):  Yes, indeed it was. This place was peopled by savages, and they all spoke French!

FIRST FRIEND (astounded):  French!!!

CYRANO: Yes, apparently I had drifted down into New France!

THE FRIENDS (uncomprehending): New France??

CYRANO:  Yes.  In Canada!