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,
I go down
Toward the tomb of kings
What thread of Ariadne
Along the deaf labyrinths
The echo of footsteps is devoured there
As I proceed
(In what dream
Was this child’s ankle bound
Like a fascinated slave?)
The author of the dream
Draws on the thread
And naked steps come
One by one
Like the first drops of rain
In the bottom of the well
Already the odour stirs in swollen storms
Seeps from the sills of doors
Of chambers secret and round
Where the enclosed beds are arrayed.
The still desire of reclining kings
I behold with astonishment
Encrusted upon black bones
Next to the blackened bones
A few tragedies, patiently wrought,
On the chests of supine kings
Are offered me
Are offered to me
Without regret or tears.
In single rank arrayed:
Smoke of incense, the cake of dried rice
And my quivering flesh:
Ritual and submissive offering.
The golden mask on my absent face
Violet flowers for eyes,
The shadow of love pains my face with careful needle- strokes;
And this bird I have
And sobs strangely.
A long shiver
Like wind that lifts from tree to tree
Shakes the seven tall ebony Pharaohs
In the solemn bejeweled cases.
It is only the profundity of death which persists,
Simulating the ultimate torment
Seeks its appeasement
And her eternity
In a light tinkling of bracelets,
Circle empty reflections of other places
Around the sacrificed flesh.
Thirsty to sip at the fraternal spring of evil in me
Avid for the fraternal source of evil in me;
Seven times I feel the grip of bones,
And the dry hand seeking my heart to crush it.
Livid and glutted on a horrible dream
My limbs unlocked
And the dead thrust out of me, assassinated,
What faint glint of dawn strays here?
Why does this bird tremble
And turns towards the morning
Its burst pupils?
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