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 clench my heart on my fist
Like a blind falcon

The taciturn bird gripping my fingers
A swollen lamp of wine and blood
I go down
Toward the tomb of kings
Astonished
Scarcely born.

What thread of Ariadne leads me
Along the deaf labyrinths
The echo of my steps fades away as they fall.

(In what dream
Was this child tied by the ankle
Like a fascinated slave?)

The maker of the dream
Presses on the thread
And my naked footsteps come
One by one
Like the first raindrops
In the bottom of the well

The smell already moves in bloated storms
Seeps under the edges of the doors
Into the round and secret rooms
Where the closed beds stand in a line

The motionless desire of the recumbent dead lures me.
I watch with astonishment
Encrusted upon the black bones
Next to the blackened bones

A few tragedies, patiently wrought,
Lying on the breasts of kings
As if they were jewels
Like jewels
Without tears or regrets.

In a single line arrayed:
The smoke of incense, dried rice cakes
And my flesh, which trembles:
A ceremonial and submissive offering.

Gold mask on my absent face
Violet flowers by way of eyes
The shade of love paints me in small sharp strokes;
And this bird of mine breathes
And complains strangely.

A long tremor
Like the wind catching tree after tree
Shakes seven ebony pharaohs
In their solemn gilded cases.

It is but the last fathom of death persisting
Simulating the last torment
Seeking her 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 know the tight grip of the bones
And the dry hand that looks through the heart to break it.

Livid and stated from a horrid dream
My limbs unraveled
And the dead thrown out of me, assassinated,
What glimmer of dawn strays in here?
How is it then that this bird trembles
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