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
Lamp swollen with wine and blood,
I go down
Toward the tomb of kings
What Ariadne’s thread leads me
Through the muffled labyrinths?
Echoes of footsteps swallow themselves
(In what dream
Was this girlchild tied by the ankle
Like an entranced slave?)
The author of the dream
Presses on the cord,
So come the naked footsteps,
One by one
Like the first drops of rain
At the bottom of the well.
The smell already stirs in swollen storms,
Seeps under the edges of the doors
Of the rooms, secret and round,
Where the enclosed resting-places rise.
The still desire of the effigies draws me.
I see astonished
Encrusted upon black bones
The blue stones gleaming
A few tragedies, patiently carved out
On the chests of supine kings
As if they were jewels
Are offered to me
Without regret or tears.
In a single row:
The smoke of incense, the cake of dried rice,
And my quivering flesh:
Ritual and submissive offering.
A gold mask on my absent face
Violet flowers for eyes,
The shade of love paints me in small sharp strokes;
And this bird I’ve inhaled
And sobs strangely.
A long shudder
Like the wind catching tree after tree
Shakes seven ebony pharaohs
In their stately and ornate cases.
It is but the last fathom of death persisting
Simulating the last torment
Seeking its appeasement
And its eternity
In a soft clatter of bracelets
Vain rings, alien games
Circling the sacrificed flesh.
Greedy for the fraternal source of evil in me
Avid for the fraternal source of evil in me;
Seven times I know the vise of bones
The dry hand hunting my heart to break it.
Livid and satiated with the horrible dream
My limbs unfettered
The dead outside of me, assassinated,
What glimmer of dawn strays in here?
Wherefore does this bird quiver
And turns towards the morning
His pupils put out?
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