Cyrano tells his friend, Le Bret, of his fear of being laughed at if he reveals his love for his cousin, Roxanne. Regarding Cyrano's uncompromising attitude to the world, Le Bret advises Cyrano that if he softens his haughty spirit a little, fortune and glory would come his way. Cyrano launches into his no thank you speech.
But what would I have to do? Cover myself with the protection of some powerful patron? Imitate the ivy that licks the bark of a tall tree while entwining itself around its trunk, and make my way upward by guile, rather than climbing by my own strength? No, thank you.
Dedicate poems to financiers as so many others do? Change myself into a buffoon in the hope of seeing a minister give me a condescending smile? No, thank you.
Swallow insults every day? Crawl till the skin of my belly is rubbed raw? Dirty my knees and make my spine as limber as an eel's? No, thank you.
Develop the art of sitting on both sides of a fence at once? Pay for an ounce of favor with a ton of flattery? No, thank you.
Use women as stepping-stones? Make headway in the sea of life with madrigals for oars and the sighs of old ladies for the wind in my sails? No, thank you.
Have poetry published at my own expense? No, thank you.
Attend councils held in taverns by imbeciles, trying to win the honor of being chosen as their pope? No, thank you.
Work to make a name for myself with one sonnet, instead of writing others? No, thank you.
See talent only in nonentities? Be terrified of the gazettes, and constantly be thinking, "Oh, if only the Mercure François will say a kind word about Me?" No, thank you.
Be always scheming and afraid of schemes? Like paying visits better than writing poetry? Make humble requests? Seek introductions to useful people? No, thank you. No! I thank you and again I thank you!
I prefer to lead a different kind of life. I sing, dream, laugh, and go where I please, alone and free. My eyes see clearly and my voice is strong. I'm quarrelsome or benign as it suits my pleasure, always ready to fight a duel or write a poem at the drop of a hat. I dream of flying to the moon but give no thought to fame or fortune. I write only what comes out of myself, and I make it my modest rule to be satisfied with whatever flowers, fruit, or even leaves I gather, as long as they are from my own garden. Then if I should happen to gain some small success I'm not obliged to render any of it unto Caesar. In short, I scorn to be like parasitic ivy, even though I'm not an oak. I may not rise very high, but I'll climb alone!
Le Bret, passing his arm under Cyrano's, mutters: "yes, proclaim your pride and bitterness to the whole world, but to me you say softly, she loves me not."