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 carry my heart on my fist
Like a blind falcon

Taciturn bird gripping my fingers
A swollen lamp of wine and blood
I descend
Toward the tomb of kings
Astonished
Barely born

What Ariadne-thread leads me
Leads me through muted labyrinths
The echo of my steps fades away as they fall.

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

The author of the dream
Presses on the thread
And my naked footsteps come
One by one
Like the first drops of rain
At the bottom of wells.

Already the odour stirs in swollen storms
Oozes under the sills of doors
Of the rooms, secret and round,
Where the enclosed resting-places rise.

The motionless desire of the recumbent ones
Pulls me towards them.
I see, astonished,
Black bones
Shine the encrusted stones.

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

In a single line arrayed:
The smoke of incense, dried rice cakes
And my trembling flesh:
Ritual and submissive offering.

A gold mask on my absent face,
Violet flowers for eyes,
The shadow of love, precise little lines of my make-up.
And this bird I have breathes
And complains strangely.

A long tremor
Like the wind catching tree after tree
Shakes seven great ebony Pharaohs
In their stately and ornate cases.

It is only the depth of death that persists,
Simulating the last torment
Seeking her appeasement
And its own eternity
In a faint tinkle of bracelets
Vain rings, alien games
Around the sacrificed flesh

Avid for the fraternal source of evil in me,
They lay me down and drink me;
Seven times I know the vise of bones
And the dry hand seeking my heart to break it.

Livid and glutted on a horrible dream
My limbs unfettered
The dead outside of me, assassinated,
What reflection of dawn wanders in here?
How comes it that this bird
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