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 clutching my fingers
A lamp swollen with wine and blood,
Toward the tomb of kings
What Ariadne’s thread leads me
Along the muted labyrinths?
Echoes of footsteps swallow themselves
(In what dream
Was this child tied by the ankle
Like a fascinated slave?)
The author of the dream
Presses on the cord,
And naked feet are heard
One by one
Like the first drops of rain
At the bottom of the well.
Already the odor stirs in swollen storms
Seeps from the sills of doors
Into rooms, secret and round.
Where the enclosed resting-places rise.
The still desire of the effigies draws me.
Astonished I watch
Encrusted upon the black bones
Shine among black bones.
A few tragedies patiently wrought
Lying on the breasts of kings
In place of jewels
These are offered me
Without tears or regrets.
Arranged in a single line:
The smoke of incense, the cake of dried rice
And my flesh, which trembles:
A humble ritual offering.
A gold mask on my absent face
Violet flowers for eyes,
The shade of love paints me in small sharp strokes;
And this bird I have breathes
And complains strangely.
A long shudder
Like a wind rising, from tree to tree,
Stirs seven great ebony Pharaohs
In their stately and ornate cases.
It is only the depth of death that persists
Simulating the ultimate torment
Seeking its appeasement
And its eternity
In a faint tinkle of bracelets
Vain playthings from elsewhere
Around the sacrificed flesh.
Craving the brotherly source of evil in me
Avid for the fraternal source of evil in me;
Seven times, I know the vise of bones
And the dry hand seeking my heart to break it.
Livid and stuffed with horrible dream
My limbs unlocked
And the dead outside of me, murdered,
What glimmer of dawn strays in here?
How is it then that this bird trembles
And turn toward morning
His punctured 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