Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Although his greatest success was as a dramatist, Edmond Rostand was first of all a poet. All of his plays are written in verse, and despite his real flair for dramatic situations, it is the wit and lyricism of his verse that raise his best plays above the level of ordinary melodrama. His first published work was a volume of poetry, Les Musardises (1890). The title is untranslatable. Its basic meaning is “daydreams,” but in a preface, Rostand explained that he also meant to evoke a kind of melancholy—muzer, in the Walloon dialect, meaning “to be sad”—as well as the source of poetic inspiration—the Muse. He published two later volumes of verse, Le Cantique de l’aile (1910; the canticle of the wing), including a paean to the first aviators, and Le Vol de la Marseillaise (1914; the flight of the Marseillaise), a collection of patriotic poems inspired by World War I. He wrote little prose, but a boyhood essay on Honoré d’Urfé andÉmile Zola, which won for him first prize in a contest sponsored by the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences of Marseilles, proved important because it introduced him to the strain in French literature known as préciosité, of which d’Urfé’s work was a classic expression. Rostand’s speech on his induction into the Académie Française is also revealing; in it, he discusses the notion of panache, the “spirit of bravura” central to his masterpiece, Cyrano de Bergerac.