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 clutching my fingers
A lamp swollen with wine and blood,
I descend
Towards the tomb of kings
Amazed
Scarcely born.

What Ariadne-thread leads me
Along the muted labyrinth?
The echoing steps are swallowed as they fall

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

The maker of the dream
Presses on the cord,
And the bare footsteps fall
One by one
Like the first drops of rain
In the hold of the well

Already the smell is moving in swollen storms
Oozes under the doorsills
Of secret, round chambers,
Where the enclosed resting-places rise.

The motionless desire of the recumbent dead lures me.
I see, astonished,
The incrusted blue stones shining
Shining blue encrusted stones.

A few tragedies, patiently wrought,
Lying on the breasts of kings
In place of jewels
These are offered me
Without tears or regrets.

Arranged in a single line:
The smoke of incense, the cake of dried rice,
And my flesh, trembling:
Ritual and submissive offering.

The golden mask on my absent face
Violet flowers for eyes,
The shade of love paints me in small sharp strokes;
And this bird I have breathes
And complains strangely.

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

It is only the profundity of death that persists,
Simulating the final torment
Seeking its appeasement
And its eternity
In a faint tinkle of bracelets
Circle empty reflections of other places
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 vice of bones
And the dry hand seeking my heart to break it.

Livid and satiated with the horrible dream
My limbs unfettered
And the dead thrust out of me, assassinated,
What glimmer of dawn strays in here?
How comes it that this bird
And turn toward 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