This is a random poetry generator based on nine different translations of Anne Hébert’s celebrated poem, “The Tomb of Kings.” The code was written by Kris Shaffer and available on GitHub (minus the poetry files). Consider this site a companion piece to my larger research project, A Journey in Translation: Anne Hébert’s Poetry in English, to be published in August by University of Ottawa Press. See below for references.


The Tomb of Kings

My heart is on my fist
Like a blind falcon.

This taciturn bird gripping my fingers
Lamp swollen with wine and blood,
I go down
Toward the tomb of kings
Astonished
Barely born.

What Ariadne’s thread leads me
Along the deaf labyrinths
Echoes of footsteps are swallowed as they fall.

(In what dream
Was this child tied by her ankle
Like an entranced slave?)

The author of the dream
Presses on the thread
And the bare footsteps fall
One by one
Like the first drops of rain
At the bottom of the well.

The smell already stirs in swollen storms,
Oozes under the sills of doors
Of chambers secret and round,
Where the closed beds are laid out.

The motionless desire of effigies moves me.
I behold with astonishment
Black bones
Next to the blackened bones

A few tragedies patiently wrought
Lying on the breasts of kings
As if they were jewels
Are offered me
Without regret or tears.

In one straight line:
Smoke of incense, the cake of dried rice
And my flesh, which trembles:
Ritual and submissive offering.

A gold mask on my absent face
Violet flowers by way of eyes
The shadow of love makes up my face
With accurate little strokes;
And this bird I have
Breathes
Raising its strange complaint.

A long shiver
Like the wind which picks up from tree to tree
Stirs seven great ebony Pharaohs
In the solemn bejeweled cases.

It is only the depth of death that persists
Simulating the final agony
Seeking its appeasement
And her eternity
In a light tinkling of bracelets,
Vain ring games of other places
Around the sacrificed flesh

Avid for the fraternal source of evil in me
They lay me down and drink me;
Seven times I know the tight grip of bones
And the dry hand that seeks the heart to break it.

Livid and satiated with foul dreams,
My limbs unlocked
And the dead outside of me, murdered,
What glimmer of dawn is this, wandering lost?
Why does this bird shiver
And turn toward morning
Its gouged eyes?



The poems are from the following publications:

F.R. Scott, translator, St-Denys Garneau and Anne Hébert, Klanak Press, 1962
Peter Miller, translator, The Tomb of Kings, Contact Press, 1967
F.R. Scott, translator, Dialogue sur la traduction, HMH, 1970
Alan Brown, translator, Poems by Anne Hébert, Musson, 1975
F.R. Scott, translator, Poems of French Canada, Blackfish Press, 1977
Kathleen Weaver, translator, The Penguin Book of Women Poets, 1979
Willis Barnstone, translator, A Book of Women Poets from Antiquity to Now, 1980
Janis L. Pallister, translator, Sinuous Laces, 1986
Alfred Poulin Jr., translator, Anne Hébert: Selected Poems, 1987