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
Lamp swollen with wine and blood.
I go down
Toward the tomb of kings
Scarcely born

What thread of Ariadne leads me
Along the muted labyrinths?
Echoes of footsteps swallow themselves

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

The author of the dream
Presses on the cord
And naked feet are heard
One by one
Like the first drops of rain
At the bottom of the well.

Already the odour stirs in swollen storms
Oozes under doorsills
Into round secret rooms
Where the confined beds are stiffly erect.

The motionless desire of effigies moves me.
Astonished I watch
On the black bones gleam
The blue stones gleaming

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

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

A gold mask on my absent face
Violet flowers for my eyes,
The shade of love paints me in small sharp strokes;
And this bird I have breathes
Raising its strange complaint.

A long shudder
Like the wind catching tree after tree
Shakes seven great ebony Pharaohs
In their solemn decorated cases.

Only the depths of death persists,
Simulating the last torment
Seeking her appeasement
And her eternity
In a faint tinkle of bracelets
Vain rings, alien games
Circling the sacrificed flesh.

They sleep and drink,
They lay me down and drink me;
Seven times, I know the vise of bones
And the withered hand that seeks out the heart
So it may break it.

Livid and satiated with the horrible dream
My limbs freed
And the dead thrown out of me, assassinated,
What glimmer of dawn strays here?
Why then does this bird shiver
And turns towards the morning
Toward the morning?

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