alba


alba
(aube, aubade)
   The word alba means “dawn” in Old Provençal, and refers to a particular type of love poem introduced by the TROUBADOURS that concerned the parting of lovers at dawn. As this “dawn song” trope spread to northern France, it was called an aubade, and in Germany became known as a tagelied. There are some 11 dawn songs surviving from Provence, six or so from Old French, and well more than 100 from German lyric poetry dating from the end of the 12th century to the end of the 14th. The genre was certainly known in England, where CHAUCER creates a lyrical dawn song within the context of his longer narrative in TROILUS AND CRISEYDE and parodies the form in his REEVE’S TALE.
   The dawn song typically depicts a dramatic situation in which a pair of lovers, having secretly spent the night together, are awakened at dawn, usually by a watchman who is their ally. Sometimes the lady argues that it cannot be dawn and is therefore not time to part. The lovers take turns chiding the night for not staying longer and the day for arriving too soon. There is danger involved because of the lovers’ enemies: Talebearers and scandalmongers, or more often the “jealous one” or gilos as he is called in Provençal—the lady’s husband. The lovers finally part while pledging mutual fidelity and commending one another to God’s care. There are usually two speaking voices in the poem—the lover and his lady—but sometimes the watchman has a part as well. Though this formula may make the dawn songs appear quite conventional, a poet’s genius within the convention can make a poem particularly memorable, as, for example, the imagery of the first stanza ofWOLFRAM VON ESCHENBACH’s tagelied “Sîne klâwen durh die wolken sint geslagen” demonstrates, comparing the rising sun to a great bird of prey:
   “Its claws have struck through the clouds,
   it rises up with great power,
   I see it turning gray, like day about to
   dawn,
   I see day, . . .”
   (Goldin 1973, 147, ll. 1–4)
   Bibliography
   ■ Goldin, Frederick, ed.German and Italian Lyrics of the Middle Ages. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor, 1973.
   ■ Hatto, Arthur T. EOS: An Inquiry into the Theme of Lovers’ Meetings and Partings at Dawn in Poetry. The Hague:Mouton, 1965.
   ■ Kaske, R. E. “The Aube in Chaucer’s Troilus.” In Troilus and Criseyde and the Minor Poems: Chaucer Criticism. Vol. 2, edited by Richard J. Schoeck and Jerome Taylor, 167–179. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1961.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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