Medieval Verse: The Alba

Leave a comment

October 17, 2014 by phicks2012

ctree2According to

The alba (literally “sunrise”) is a genre of Old Occitan lyric poetry. It describes the longing of lovers who, having passed a night together, must separate for fear of being discovered by their respective spouses.
A common figure found in the alba is the guaita (“sentry” or “guard”), a friend who alerts the lovers when the hour has come to separate. The lovers often accuse the guaita of dozing, being inattentive or separating them too early. The lovers fear not just the lady’s husband but also the lauzengiers, the jealous rival.
The following example, composed by an anonymous troubadour, describes the longing of a knight for his lady as they part company after a night of forbidden love. Though generally representative of the style, this particular verse uses an atypical strophic pattern.

Quan lo rosinhols escria
ab sa part la nueg e.l dia,
yeu suy ab ma bell’amia
jos la flor,
tro la gaita de la tor
escria: “Drutz, al levar!
Qu’ieu vey l’alba e.l jorn clar.

While the nightingale sings,
both night and day,
I am with my beautiful
beneath the flowers,
until our sentry from the tower
cries: “Lovers, get up!
for I clearly see the sunrise and the day.

Under the influence of the Occitan troubadours, the Minnesingers developed a similar genre, the Tagelied, in Germany, and in northern France the trouvèresdeveloped an equivalent aube genre. The alba itself was imported into the Galician-Portuguese trovadorismo movement, but only one example of it, by Nuno Fernandes Torneol, survives.


In an earlier article I covered and created my interpretation of The Taglied, but this is slightly different, for all that the theme is the same. My attempt at an Alba is short, as is the example shown above, and is written, as the example is, in Trochaic Quatrameter.


Alba No.1: Dawn Arises

Dawn arises, lovers parting.
Both too soon will be departing
From their bower, soft with morning.
At the sentry’s whispered warning
Lovers don their lace and leather,
Now no longer clasped together.

[08 August, 2014]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Topics of Interest

October 2014
« Sep   Nov »


I am an active, outgoing person interested in all sorts of things and all sorts of people! I'm constantly discovering new interests, and expect that to continue right into the grave!

View Full Profile →

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 392 other followers

%d bloggers like this: