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.
The taciturn bird held on my fingers
A swollen lamp of wine and blood
I go down
Towards the tomb of kings
What Ariadne-thread leads me
Along the muted labyrinths?
The echoing steps are swallowed one by one.
(In what dream
Was this child tied by the ankle
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
The smell already stirs in swollen storms,
Oozes under the doorsills
In the round, secret chambers
Where the confined beds are stiffly erect.
The still desire of the stone sleepers draws me on.
I behold with astonishment
In the black bones themselves
Shining blue encrusted stones.
A few patiently wrought tragedies
On the chests of kings, are displayed
In place of jewels
These are offered me
With no regrets, no tears.
Arranged in a single line:
The smoke of incense, the cake of dried rice,
And my quivering flesh:
A ceremonial and submissive offering.
A gold mask on my absent face
Violet flowers for pupils
The shadow of love makes me up with precise little strokes
And this bird I’ve inhaled
And sobs strangely.
A long tremor
Like the wind catching 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 ultimate torment
Seeks its appeasement
And its eternity
In a faint tinkle of bracelets
Vain rings, alien games
Around the sacrificed flesh.
Greedy 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, gorged with the horrible dream
My limbs freed
The dead outside of me, assassinated,
What reflection of dawn wanders in here?
Wherefore does this bird quiver
Trembles and turns towards 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