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’s on my fist
like a blind falcon

The taciturn bird clutching my fingers
A swollen lamp of wine and blood
I go down
Toward the tomb of kings
Scarcely born

What Ariadne’s thread leads me
Along the deaf labyrinths
The echoing steps are swallowed one by one.

(In what dream
Was this child tied by the ankle
Like some fascinated slave?)

The maker of the dream
Presses on the thread
So come the naked footsteps,
One by one
Like the first drops of rain
At the bottom of the well

The smell already moves in bloated storms
Oozes under doorsills
Of secret, round chambers,
Where the confined beds are stiffly erect.

The still desire of the stone sleepers draws me on.
I see astonished
The incrusted blue stones shining
The blue stones gleaming

Several tragedies patiently wrought,
On the chests of supine kings
In place of jewels
Are offered to me
Without regret or tears.

In a single line arrayed:
The smoke of incense, the cake of dried rice
And my trembling flesh:
Obedient, ritual offering.

The golden mask on my absent face
Violet flowers for eyes,
Love’s shadow paints me with small, sure strokes;
And this bird I have
And complains strangely.

A long shudder
Like a wind sweeping from tree to tree,
Stirs seven great ebony pharaohs
In their stately and ornate cases.

It is only the profundity of death which persists,
Simulating the final torment
Seeks its appeasement
And its eternity
In a light tinkling of bracelets
Vain hoops, alien games
Around the sacrificed flesh.

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

Livid and stuffed with horrible dream
My limbs unfettered
And the dead thrust out of me, assassinated,
What reflection of dawn wanders here?
Why then does this bird shiver
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