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
The taciturn bird held on my fingers
Lamp swollen with wine and blood
I go down
Toward the tomb of kings
What Ariadne’s thread leads me
Through the muffled labyrinths?
The echo of my steps fades away as they fall.
(In what dream
Was this child’s ankle bound
Like some fascinated slave?)
The maker of the dream
Pulls the thread
And naked feet are heard
One by one
Like the first drops of rain
At the bottom of the well
Already the odour stirs in swollen storms
Oozes under the doorsills
Of secret, round chambers,
Where the closed beds are laid out
The still desire of reclining kings
I see, astonished,
As set on the black bones
Shine among black bones.
A few tragedies, patiently wrought,
On the chests of supine kings
Are offered to me
In the guise of jewels
Without regret or tears.
In single rank arrayed:
The smoke of incense, the cake of dried rice,
And my flesh which trembles:
A humble ritual offering.
Gold mask on my absent face
Violet flowers for my eyes,
The shade of love paints me in small sharp strokes;
And this bird I’ve inhaled
And complains strangely.
A long shudder
Like a wind rising, from tree to tree,
Shakes seven great ebony Pharaohs
In their solemn decorated cases.
It’s only the depth of death that survives,
Simulating the last torment
Seeking its appeasement
And its eternity
In a slight clinking of bracelets
Vain rings, alien games
Circling the sacrificed flesh.
Craving the brotherly source of evil in me
They lay me down and drink me;
Seven times I’ve known the vise of bones
And the dry hand that looks through the heart to break it.
Livid and satiated with foul dreams,
My limbs unlocked
The dead outside of me, assassinated,
What reflection of dawn wanders in here?
Wherefore does this bird quiver
And turn toward morning
Its blinded 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