Poetry Kaleidoscope: Guide to Poetry

Provenšal - Alba

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Alba (Catalan for sunrise) is a subgenre of Provenšal 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 Alba is the guaita ("sentry" or "watcher"), a female friend who alerts the lovers when the hour has come to separate. The lovers often accuse the guaita of dozing, being inattentive, and separating them too early.

The following example, composed by an anonymous troubador, 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 mockingbird 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."

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