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 caught in my fingers
A lamp swollen with wine and blood,
I descend
Towards the tomb of kings
Astonished
Barely born

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

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

The author of the dream
Draws on the thread
And the bare footsteps fall
One by one
Like the first drops of rain
In the bottom of the well

Already the smell is moving in swollen storms
Seeps under the edges of the doors
Of the rooms, secret and round,
Where the closed beds are laid out.

The still desire of the effigies draws me.
I behold with astonishment
As set on the black bones
Shine among black bones.

A few patiently wrought tragedies
Couched on the breast of kings
As if they were jewels
In the guise of jewels
Without regret or tears.

In a single rank arrayed:
The smoke of incense, the cake of dried rice,
And my trembling flesh:
Ritual and dutiful offering.

The gold mask on my absent face
Violet flowers for pupils
Love’s shadow paints me in small precise lines
And this bird of mine breathes
And cries strangely.

A long shiver
Like the wind catching tree after tree
Moves the seven great ebony pharaohs
In their stately and ornate cases.

It is only the depth of death that persists,
Simulating the final torment
Seeking its appeasement
And her eternity
In a light tinkling of bracelets,
Vain ring games of other places
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 tight grip of bones
And the dry hand seeking my heart to break it.

Livid, gorged with the horrible dream
My limbs untied
And the dead thrust out of me, assassinated,
What glimmer of dawn strays in here?
Why then does this bird shiver
And turn 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