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 gripping my fingers
A swollen lamp of wine and blood
I descend
Towards the tomb of kings
Barely born

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

(In what dream
Was this child’s ankle bound
Like a fascinated slave?)

The maker of the dream
Pulls the thread
And the naked footfalls come
One by one
Like the first drops of rain
At the bottom of the well.

Already the odour stirs in swollen storms
Seeps under the edges of the doors
Of chambers secret and round,
Where the enclosed beds are arrayed.

The motionless desire of the recumbent dead lures me.
I gaze with astonishment
On the black bones gleam
Shining blue encrusted stones.

A few tragedies patiently wrought
On the chests of supine kings
As if they were jewels
Are offered to me
Without regret or tears.

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

A gold mask on my absent face,
Violet flowers instead of pupils
The shade of love paints me in small sharp strokes
And this bird I have breathes
Lament so strangely

A long shudder
Like the wind that catches, from tree to tree,
Shakes the seven tall ebony Pharaohs
In the solemn bejeweled cases.

It’s only the depth of death that survives,
Simulating the ultimate torment
Seeking her appeasement
And its eternity
In a faint tinkle of bracelets
Vain playthings from elsewhere
Circling the sacrificed flesh.

Thirsty to sip at the fraternal spring of evil in me
They lay me down and drink:
Seven times I’ve known the vise of bones
And the withered hand that seeks out the heart
So it may break it.

Livid and gorged on horrible dream
My members unknotted
And the dead thrust out of me, assassinated,
What glimmer of dawn strays in here?
Wherefore does this bird quiver
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