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 have my heart on my fist
Like a blind falcon.

With the taciturn bird taking my fingers
A lamp swollen with wine and blood,
I go down
Toward the tombs of the kings
Astonished
Scarcely born.

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

(In what dream
Was this child tied by her ankle
Like a spellbound slave?)

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

The smell already stirs in swollen storms,
Seeps from the sills of doors
Into rooms, secret and round.
Where the closed beds are laid out.

The still desire of reclining kings
Leads me
Astonished I watch
As set on the black bones
Shining blue encrusted stones.

A few tragedies, patiently wrought,
On the chests of supine kings
Are offered to me
Are offered me
Without regret or tears.

In one straight line:
The smoke of incense, dried rice cakes
And my quivering flesh:
Ritual and submissive offering.

The gold mask on my absent face
Violet flowers for my eyes,
The shadow of love, precise little lines of my make-up.
And this bird I have breathes
And sobs strangely.

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

It’s only the depth of death that survives,
Simulating the final torment
Seeking her appeasement
And its own eternity
In a light tinkling of bracelets,
Vain ring games of elsewhere
Circling the sacrificed flesh.

Craving the brotherly source of evil in me
They lay me down and drink me:
Seven times I know the vice of bones
And the dry hand that seeks the heart to break it.

Livid and satiated with the horrible dream
My limbs freed
The dead outside of me, assassinated,
What reflection of dawn wanders here?
Wherefore does this bird quiver
And turns towards the morning
Its burst pupils?



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