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

Perched on my wrist, my heart,
Like a blind falcon.

This taciturn bird gripping my fingers
Lamp swollen with wine and blood,
I go down
Toward the tomb of kings
Astonished
Scarcely born.

What Ariadne’s thread leads me
Along the muted labyrinth?
The echo of footfall is swallowed there step by step.

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

The maker of the dream
Presses on the cord
So come the naked footsteps,
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 confined beds are stiffly erect.

The motionless desire of the recumbent dead draws me
Astonished I watch
The incrusted blue stones shining
The glow of blue encrusted stone.

A few tragedies patiently wrought
Laid on the breast of kings
As if they were jewels
Are offered me
Without regret or tears.

In single rank arrayed:
Incense, dry rice cake.
And my flesh which trembles:
A humble ritual offering.

The golden mask on my absent face
Violet flowers for eyes,
The shadow of love makes me up with precise little strokes
And this bird I’ve inhaled
And sobs strangely.

A long tremor
Like a wind rising, from tree to tree,
Moves the seven great ebony pharaohs
In their solemn gilded cases.

It’s only the depth of death that survives,
Simulating the final agony
Seeking its appeasement
And her eternity
In a light tinkling 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’ve known the vise of bones
And the dry hand that looks through the heart to break it.

Livid and satiated with the horrible dream
My limbs unlocked
And the dead thrust out of me, assassinated,
What reflection of dawn wanders here?
Wherefore does this bird quiver
And turns 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