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 bear my heart on my fist
Like a blind falcon

The taciturn bird clutching my fingers
Lamp swollen with wine and blood,
I go down
Toward the tomb of Kings
Astonished
Barely born

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

(In what dream
What this child tied by the ankle
Like a spellbound slave?)

The author of the dream
Squeezes the thread
So come the naked footsteps,
One by one
Like the first drops of rain
At the bottom of the well.

The smell already stirs in swollen storms,
Oozes under doorsills
Into rooms, secret and round.
There, where curtained beds are raised.

The motionless desire of the recumbent dead lures me.
I see, astonished,
In the black bones themselves
Shine the encrusted stones.

Several tragedies patiently wrought,
On the chests of supine kings
As if they were jewels
These are offered me
Without regret or tears.

In a single rank arrayed:
Smoke of the incense, rice-cakes dried
And my quivering flesh:
A ceremonial and submissive offering.

The golden mask on my absent face
Violet flowers by way of eyes
The shadow of love makes up my face
With accurate little strokes;
And this bird I have breathes
And complains strangely.

A long shiver
Like a wind sweeping from tree to tree,
Stirs seven great ebony pharaohs
In their stately and ornate cases.

Only the depths of death persists,
Simulating the ultimate torment
Seeking her appeasement
And its eternity
In a light tinkling of bracelets,
Vain ring games of other places
Around the sacrificed flesh.

Craving the brotherly source of evil in me
They lay me down and drink me;
Seven times I know the tight grip of the bones
And the dry hand seeking my heart to break it.

Livid and satiated with the horrible dream
My limbs unlocked
And the dead out of me, assassinated,
What glimmer of dawn is this, wandering lost?
Why does this bird tremble
And turn toward morning
His punctured 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