Types of Poem Forms - Alba Poems

Depending on which source you consult, Alba poems (aka Aube, Aubades, or Morning Love Songs) are claimed to have originated by several different cultures. However, all point to an emergence in the Middle Ages where Occitan Lyric poetry was born and the Alba poems evolved. For those not familiar with the term “Occitan” it refers to a number of Romance language dialects that were (and still are to a lesser extent) spoken in Southern France, Italy (Occitan Valleys), Monaco, and Spain’s Val d’ Aran regions.

As one can imagine there is nothing like the theme of adultery to inspire more than a few poems over the course of history. Again, the mystic and romance of knighthood tempting and sweeping ladies into an illicit relationship trumps other forbidden love affairs in terms of how many of these Alba poems were being performed by troubadours. Alba poems further expand this subject matter by alluding to the lust of lovers who are caught up in having to part from each other because their spouse(s) becomes either suspicious or possibly caught them.

Variations In Alba Poem Themes

One variant is the addition of a third character to the whole mix – who is a sympathetic guard or female friend who aids the lovers in their deception (usually a sentry or handmaid). Another variant is the subplot of the lovers becoming agitated with the one who aids them in covering up their affair by accusing them of being asleep on the job, not watchful, or getting them up too early. Still another variant is a jealous rival (usually male) who also covets the female cheater.

Huguenot lovers on St. Bartholomew's Day, by artist John Everett Millais, 1852.  Source: Англоязычная википедия, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Huguenot lovers on St. Bartholomew's Day, by artist John Everett Millais, 1852. Source: Англоязычная википедия, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons. | Source

The Occitan Language

The Occitan language (which is a number of dialects combined into a common language but not always the same in different regions) is still spoken by several million people across France, Italy and Spain. The majority of people speaking Occitan are in rural parts of France. Technically, it is not one language, but a conglomerate of several regional languages with a common base.

The Spread of Alba Poem In Terms Of Popularity

Alba poems were sometimes performed in Northern France by trouvères in the Royal Courts, and referred to as “Aube” poems. While over in Germany, not to be left out Minnesingers, called the poems “Tagelied.” The entire fixed poem form eventually spread all over parts of Spain and even Portugal during the Medieval time period.


The Structure of An Alba Poem

  • Albas can be of any length but generally they are short.
  • The most common length of an Alba is three lines
  • Albas are often a discussion between two lovers (Some are revolving around it being near day-break and arguing about whether or not they should leave their love nest. )
  • Some Albas are abstract or metaphysical in topic, often where flora and fauna greet the new day in joy
  • Refrains are warnings (usually by the guard or jealous lover) about how it is almost morning and the need to separate.
  • Typical Albades are always in a strophic pattern (repeating refrain).
  • Rhyme scheme of: 1, 1R, 1R, 2, 2R, 2R and refrain

The Knight and the Lady, Engraving by: Master E. S. (1460-1465), Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
The Knight and the Lady, Engraving by: Master E. S. (1460-1465), Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons. | Source

When The Rooster Crows

The rooster soon crows

And with him my love now goes

My maiden already whispers she knows


“Lover come back,” I cry

Before my heart and I die

I cannot keep living a lie

My maiden already whispers she knows

Jerilee Wei © 2011

Examples of Alba Poems

Albas can be incredibly short poems, but at other times long in length. Older examples of them are sometimes religious in nature, and others can be considered profane. Here are a couple of examples (unfortunately most of the better ones do not have English translations easily found online):

Alba by Ezra Pound

Aubade by Philip Larkin (abstract/metaphysical example)

Book III, Troilus and Criseyde by Chaucer

False Love by Bernart de Venzac

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (Alba begins at the line: Wilt thou be gone?...)

The Sunne Rising by John Donne

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Comments 9 comments

WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 5 years ago from Templeton, CA

I'm sure learning a lot about types of poetry from you in this series. Not sure how long it will be before I attempt this one. I'll have to study some more first. I need to brush up on my vocabulary.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 5 years ago from United States

I'm learning a lot from this series, too! Thanks for another great article with great poetry in it!


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 5 years ago from United States Author

Thanks WannaB Writer! I read the dictionary like I'm having a box of rare chocolates, each word a complete delight.

Thanks Tom Rubenoff! Often I find writing a series a great way to expand on what I know.


Ann 5 years ago

Alba sounds like succulent poetry. I learned something new today! Thanks Jerrilee We. :)

http://ravensartshack.blogspot.com/2011/11/behind-...


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 5 years ago from United States Author

Thanks Ann! I think succulent sums it up quite well.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Gosh I never knew. Thank you for the information.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 5 years ago from United States Author

Thanks Hello, hello! Most people didn't study the French forms of poetry in school I suspect.


htodd profile image

htodd 4 years ago from United States

Very interesting poem..Thanks


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

Very interesting and a new one for me.

Eddy.

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