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 clutching my fingers
Lamp swollen with wine and blood.
I go down
Towards the tomb of the kings
What Ariadne’s thread draws me
Along the muted labyrinth?
The echo of my steps fades away as they fall
(In what dream
Was this child tied by her ankle
Like a fascinated slave?)
The author of the dream
Draws on the thread
And the naked footfalls come
One by one
Like the first raindrops
At the bottom of the well.
Already the odour stirs in swollen storms
Oozes under doorsills
Of chambers secret and round,
Where the enclosed resting-places rise.
The motionless desire of the recumbent dead draws me
I gaze with astonishment
In the black bones themselves
Shine the encrusted stones.
A few patiently wrought tragedies
On the chests of supine kings
Are offered me
These are offered me
Without tears or regrets.
Ranged in a row:
Smoke of the incense, rice-cakes dried
And my flesh, which trembles:
A humble ritual offering.
A gold mask on my absent face
Violet flowers for eyes,
The shade of love paints me in small sharp strokes;
And my bird breathes
And complains strangely.
A long shudder
Like a wind sweeping from tree to tree,
Shakes seven ebony pharaohs
In the solemn bejeweled cases.
It is only the profundity of death which persists,
Miming a final torment
Seeking its appeasement
And its eternity
In a faint tinkle of bracelets
Vain hoops, alien games
Circling the sacrificed flesh.
Greedy for the fraternal source of evil in me
They lay me down and drink me;
Seven times I’ve known the vise of bones
And the dry hand that looks through the heart to break it.
Livid and satiated with the horrible dream
My limbs unfettered
And the dead outside of me, murdered,
What glimmer of dawn is this, wandering lost?
Wherefore does this bird quiver
And turn toward morning
His pupils put out?
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