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
Perched on my wrist, my heart,
Like a blind falcon
With the taciturn bird taking my fingers
A swollen lamp of wine and blood
I go down
Towards the tomb of the kings
What Ariadne-thread leads me
Leads me through muted labyrinths
The echo of footfall is swallowed there step by step.
(In what dream
Was this child’s ankle bound
Like some fascinated slave?)
The maker of the dream
Pulls the thread
So come the naked footsteps,
One by one
Like the first drops of rain
At the bottom of the well.
Already the odor stirs in swollen storms
Seeps under the edges of the doors
Of chambers secret and round,
Where the confined beds are stiffly erect.
The dead’s torpid desire tugs at me.
I behold with astonishment
The blue encrusted stones
The blue stones gleaming.
A few tragedies patiently fashioned
On the chests of supine kings
Are offered to me
Are offered me
Without tears or regrets.
Ranged in a row:
The smoke of incense, the cake of dried rice
And my flesh, which trembles:
A ceremonial and submissive offering.
The golden mask on my absent face
Violet flowers for eyes,
Love’s shadow paints me in small precise lines
And this bird of mine breathes
And complains strangely.
A long shiver
Like the wind which picks up from tree to tree
Stirs seven great ebony Pharaohs
In their stately and ornate cases.
Only the depths of death persists,
Simulating the ultimate torment
Seeks its appeasement
And its eternity
In a light tinkling of bracelets,
Vain rings, 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’ve known the vise of bones
And the dry hand seeking my heart to crush it.
Livid and stated from a horrid dream
My limbs unlocked
And the dead out of me, assassinated,
What glimmer of dawn strays in here?
How does it come that this bird quivers
Trembles and turns towards 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