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

With the taciturn bird taking my fingers
A lamp swollen with wine and blood,
I descend
Toward the tomb of Kings
Astonished
Scarcely born.

What Ariadne’s thread leads me
Along thudding labyrinths?
The echo of my steps fades away as they fall.

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

The maker of the dream
Pulls the thread
So come the naked footsteps,
One by one
Like the first drops of rain
At the bottom of wells.

Already the smell is moving in swollen storms
Sweats under door-sills
Of chambers secret and round
Where the walled-in beds are raised.

The dead’s torpid desire tugs at me.
I behold with astonishment
In the black bones themselves
The blue stones gleaming.

A few tragedies, patiently wrought,
Couched on the breast of kings
In place of jewels
Like jewels
Without tears or regrets.

In a single rank arrayed:
Incense, dry rice cake.
And my trembling flesh:
Ritual and submissive offering.

Gold 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 cries strangely.

A long shiver
Like the wind catching tree after tree
Shakes seven ebony pharaohs
In the solemn bejeweled cases.

It is only the depth of death that persists
Simulating the final agony
Seeking its appeasement
And its eternity
In a soft clatter of bracelets
Vain ring games of elsewhere
Around the sacrificed flesh.

Craving the brotherly 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 and satiated with the horrible dream
My limbs freed
And the dead 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