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 have my heart on my fist
Like a blind falcon

The taciturn bird gripping my fingers
Lamp swollen with wine and blood.
I descend
Towards the tomb of the kings
Scarcely born

What Ariadne’s thread leads me
Along the deaf 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
Squeezes the thread
Drawing the naked steps
One by one
Like the first raindrops
On the floor of wells.

Already the odour stirs in swollen storms
Oozes under the sills of doors
Into the round and secret rooms
Where the closed beds are laid out.

The dead’s torpid desire tugs at me.
I see, astonished,
On the black bones gleam
Next to the blackened bones

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

Ranged in a single row:
The smoke of incense, the cake of dried rice,
And my trembling flesh:
A humble ritual offering.

A gold mask on my absent face
Violet flowers for eyes,
The shadow of love, precise little lines of my make-up.
And this bird I have breathes
And sobs strangely.

A long shiver
Like the wind which picks up from tree to tree
Shakes the seven tall ebony Pharaohs
In their stately and ornate cases.

It is only the depth of death that persists,
Simulating the ultimate torment
Seeking 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 vice of bones
And the dry hand seeking my heart to break it.

Livid and stated from a horrid dream
My limbs freed
And the dead out of me, assassinated
What reflection of dawn strays here?
Why does this bird shiver
And turn its punctured eyeballs
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