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

I bear my heart on my fist
Like a blind falcon

The taciturn bird gripping my fingers
Lamp swollen with wine and blood,
I descend
Toward the tomb of Kings
Scarcely born.

What Ariadne-thread leads me
Along the muted labyrinth?
The echo of my steps fades away as they fall

(In what dream
Was this child bound by her ankle
Like a fascinated slave?)

The author of the dream
Presses on the thread,
And naked steps come
One by one
Like the first drops of rain
In the bottom of the well

The smell already stirs in swollen storms,
Oozes under the doorsills
Into round secret rooms
Where the closed beds are laid out.

The still desire of reclining kings
Leads me
Astonished I watch
The incrusted blue stones shining
The blue stones gleaming

A few patiently wrought tragedies
Couched on the breast of kings
As if they were jewels
Are offered to me
Without tears or regrets.

Arranged in a single line:
The smoke of incense, dried rice cakes
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 pains my face with careful needle- strokes;
And this bird of mine breathes
And cries strangely.

A long tremor
Like a wind rising, from tree to tree,
Moves the seven great ebony pharaohs
In their stately and ornate cases.

It is only the profundity of death which persists,
Simulating the last torment
Looking for appeasement
And its own eternity
In a soft clatter of bracelets
Vain circles of foreign games
Around the sacrificed flesh.

Hungry for the fraternal source of evil in me
They lay me down and drink me;
Seven times I know the tight grip of the bones
The dry hand hunting my heart to break it.

Livid and satiated with the horrible dream
My limbs freed
And the dead out of me, assassinated
What reflection of dawn strays here?
Why does this bird shiver
And turn toward dawn
Toward the morning?

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