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.

With the taciturn bird taking my fingers
A lamp swollen with wine and blood,
I descend
Toward the tomb of Kings
Astonished
Barely born.

What thread of Ariadne leads me
Along the muted labyrinth?
The echoing steps are swallowed one by one.

(In what dream
Was this girlchild tied by the ankle
Like an entranced slave?)

The author of the dream
Presses on the thread,
Drawing the naked steps
One by one
Like the first drops of rain
In the bottom of the well

Already the odor stirs in swollen storms
Sweats under the doorsteps
Of secret, round chambers,
There, where curtained beds are raised.

The motionless desire of the recumbent ones
Pulls me towards them.
I see, astonished,
Encrusted upon the black bones
Shining blue encrusted stones.

Several tragedies patiently wrought,
Laid on the breast of kings
Are offered to me
These are offered me
Without tears or regrets.

In a single row:
The smoke of incense, dried rice cakes
And my trembling flesh:
A ceremonial and submissive offering.

Gold mask on my absent face
Violet flowers for pupils
Love’s shadow paints me with small, sure strokes;
And my bird breathes
And complains strangely.

A long tremor
Like wind that lifts from tree to tree
Shakes the seven tall ebony Pharaohs
In their solemn ornate casings.

Only the depths of death persists,
Simulating the ultimate torment
Looking for appeasement
And its eternity
In a faint tinkle of bracelets
Vain hoops, alien games
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 the bones
And the dry hand seeking my heart to crush it.

Livid, gorged with the horrible dream
My limbs freed
And the dead thrust out of me, assassinated,
What reflection of dawn strays here?
How is it then that this bird trembles
And turn toward dawn
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