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

The taciturn bird held on my fingers
Lamp swollen with wine and blood,
I go down
Toward the tomb of kings
Astonished
Scarcely born.

What Ariadne-thread leads me
Along the muted labyrinths?
Echoes of footsteps swallow themselves

(In what dream
Was this child bound by her ankle
Like a fascinated slave?)

The author of the dream
Presses on the cord,
And naked steps start coming
One by one
Like the first drops of rain
At the bottom of the well.

Already the odour stirs in swollen storms
Oozes under doorsills
Of chambers secret and round,
Where the walled-in beds are raised.

The motionless desire of the sculpted dead draws me.
I behold with astonishment
In the black bones themselves
Blue inlaid stones.

A few tragedies patiently wrought
On the breasts of reclining kings
As if they were jewels
Are offered to me
Without regret or tears.

In single rank arrayed:
Smoke of incense, the cake of dried rice
And my quivering flesh:
Ritual and submissive offering.

A gold mask on my absent face
Purple flowers like the pupils of my eyes,
The shadow of love, precise little lines of my make-up.
And this bird of mine breathes
And complains strangely.

A long shiver
Like the wind that catches, from tree to tree,
Moves the seven great ebony pharaohs
In their solemn, ornate encasings.

It is only the profundity of death which persists,
Feigning the last torment
Seeking its appeasement
And its eternity
In a light clicking 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 break it.

Livid and satiated with the horrible dream
My limbs freed
And the dead out of me, assassinated
What reflection of dawn strays here?
Why 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