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 is on my fist
Like a blind falcon

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

What Ariadne’s thread draws me
Through the muffled labyrinths?
The echoing steps are swallowed one by one.

(In what dream
Was this child tied by her ankle
Like an entranced slave?)

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

Already the odour stirs in swollen storms
Oozes under doorsills
Into rooms, secret and round.
Where the enclosed resting-places rise.

The dead’s torpid desire tugs at me.
I behold with astonishment
The incrusted blue stones shining
Shine the encrusted stones.

A few tragedies patiently elaborated,
On the chests of kings, are displayed
Are offered me
Are offered me
Without regret or tears.

Ranged in a single row:
Smoke of the incense, rice-cakes dried
And my trembling flesh:
A humble ritual offering.

A gold mask on my absent face
Violet flowers for pupils
Love’s shadow paints me in small precise lines
And this bird I have
Breathes
Raising its strange complaint.

A long shudder
Like the wind which picks up from tree to tree
Stirs seven great ebony pharaohs
In their stately and ornate cases.

It is only the depth of death that persists,
Simulating the ultimate torment
Seeking her appeasement
And its own 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:
Seven times I’ve known the vise of bones
And the dry hand that looks through the heart to break it.

Livid and glutted on a horrible dream
My limbs freed
And the dead thrown out of me, assassinated,
What glimmer of dawn strays in here?
Why does this bird shiver
And turn toward 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