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 have my heart on my fist
Like a blind falcon.
This taciturn bird gripping my fingers
A lamp swollen with wine and blood,
I go down
Towards the tomb of the kings
What thread of Ariadne leads me
Along the muted labyrinths?
The echoing steps are swallowed as they fall
(In what dream
Was this child tied by her ankle
Like a fascinated slave?)
The author of the dream
Tugs at the thread
And naked steps start coming
One by one
Like the first drops of rain
In a well’s depth.
The smell already moves in bloated storms
Oozes under doorsills
Of the rooms, secret and round,
Where the closed beds stand in a line
The motionless desire of the recumbent dead draws me
I behold with astonishment
On the black bones gleam
Next to the blackened bones
A few tragedies patiently fashioned
Couched on the breast of kings
In place of jewels
Are offered me
Without tears or regrets.
In a single rank arrayed:
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 my eyes,
The shadow of love makes me up with precise little strokes
And this bird I’ve inhaled
And complains strangely.
A long tremor
Like the wind catching tree after tree
Stirs seven great ebony pharaohs
In their solemn gilded cases.
It is only the profundity of death which persists,
Simulating the last torment
Seeking her appeasement
And its eternity
In a faint tinkle of bracelets
Vain playthings from elsewhere
Around the sacrificed flesh.
Avid for the fraternal source of evil in me,
They lay me down and drink me;
Seven times I feel the grip of bones,
And the dry hand seeking my heart to break it.
Livid and stuffed with horrible dream
My limbs untied
The dead outside of me, assassinated,
What reflection of dawn wanders here?
Wherefore does this bird quiver
And turns 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