Gérard de Nerval: Anteros (From French)

In this sonnet, whose references and récherché twists are numerous and elaborate, the gods of ancient pantheons are nursing an ancient grudge against Yahweh for the tyranny and exclusivity of the monotheism he demands. Banished to the status of devils and demons, the old deities are darkly preparing to do to Yahweh what the Egyptian people did to Mubarak.

By Gérard de Nerval
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

You ask me why I keep such wrath at heart
And on my bowed neck an insurgent face:
Mine is the blood of great Antaeus'2 race.
Back at the conquering god I hurl his dart.

Yea, I am one whom the Avenger3 inspires.
His spited lip has marked me for his creeds.
My brow, Alas!, as pale as Abel's bleeds
The quenchless red of Cain above the fires.

Yahweh! The last who battled thee and fell
Crying out "Tyrant!" from the rift of Hell
Was Baal4 my grandsire, or my father Dagon5...

By them thrice baptized in Cocytus'6 river
I guard my Amalekite7 mother now and ever
And at her feet sow teeth of the old dragon8.


1- Anteros, the speaker, is the Greek god of requital- the fosterer of requited love, and punisher of those who scorn others.
2- Antaeus, son of Poseidon, was a giant who wrestled Heracles.
3-"The Avenger":- probably Phthonos, Greek spirit of envy.
4-Baal is a Canaanite deity whose worship is punished and forbidden by God/Yahweh in the book of Judges.
5-Dagon, the ostensible Canaanite god of fish (though that is actually a folk etymology), is the patron deity of the Philistines in the Book of Samuel where his worship is likewise forbidden by Yahweh/God.
6-Cocytus: the stream of lamentation, one of the Greek rivers of the underworld.
7- The Amalekites, in the Hebrew Bible, were a people who once attacked the Israelites during their exodus. As a result Yahweh commands the Israelites to engage in a protracted campaign of divinely-sanctioned ethnic cleansing, to exterminate every last one of their race from existence.
8- The teeth of a dragon in Greek mythology which, once planted, grow into fully armed warriors

The Original:

Gérard de Nerval

Tu demandes pourquoi j'ai tant de rage au coeur
Et sur un col flexible une tête indomptée;
C'est que je suis issu de la race d'Antée,
Je retourne les dards contre le dieu vainqueur.

Oui, je suis de ceux-là qu'inspire le Vengeur,
Il m'a marqué le front de sa lèvre irritée;
Sous la pâleur d'Abel, hélas! ensanglantée,
J'ai parfois de Caïn l'implacable rougeur!

Jéhovah! le dernier, vaincu par ton génie,
Qui, du fond des enfers, criait: "O tyrannie!"
C'est mon aïeul Bélus ou mon père Dagon...

Ils m'ont plongé trois fois dans les eaux du Cocyte,
Et, protégeant tout seul ma mère Amalécyte,
Je ressème à ses pieds les dents du vieux dragon.

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