By THLaird Colyne Stewart AS 50 (2016)
He was the king of dragon lands,
She the queen of tigers,
They met upon disputed sands,
Amid the jangled spurs.
Two lines of war drawn up in arms,
They sat their horse and stared,
And felt they each the others charms,
As love within them flared.
The armies pledged to fight the morn,
For now their camps they made,
The dragon king, his squire sworn,
Took into royal shade
And gave to him a message clear
To take to tiger-fawn,
To steal out to the castle near
And meet before the dawn.
So brave and loyal squire went
Into the foeman camp,
Until he found the royal tent,
While gripping shaded lamp.
A servant maid he took aside,
And bade her message take,
And though afraid so much she cried
She did so for love’s sake.
In hushed tones she told her queen
About the message sent;
Her lady glowed, her eyes were keen,
O to her task she bent.
The queen slipped out with maid in tow,
And went to castle wall,
The maid, afraid, said not to go,
But queen drew close her shawl.
On silent feet they crept through mist
To meet the king and squire,
A chance for love could not be missed,
Among the midnight choir.
The tiger queen, the dragon king,
Beside the stone wall met,
The maid and squire heard them sing,
While watching for the threat
Of jilted king of eastern land
As dew grew on the lawn,
The squire whispered ‘hind his hand,
We must away ere dawn.
The sun slow rising in the east,
When tiger king awoke,
And found her bedding flat, uncreased,
And called out for his cloak.
The maid and squire saw the light
Of torches being lit
And warned their masters to take flight
For time had come to quit.
One bold last kiss the lovers shared
Not wishing to depart,
In eastern camp the trumpets blared,
Caused pounding in each heart.
To each their camp they went their way,
Where lines were being drawn,
The queen held tight to token grey,
In memory of that dawn.
The outraged men of tiger lands,
Mad charged across the field,
To meet the Middle warrior bands,
And clash with sword on shield.
So many fell upon that morn,
It seemed to never end,
Until the king met king, both torn,
And neither one would bend,
Until upon their swords they died,
And fell into the dirt;
The queen in grief at their side cried,
While blood soaked in her skirt.
And long that piece of thin grey cloth
Reminds her of what’s gone,
The man she loved, another’s wroth,
And kisses in the dawn.
Written as an alba, which was a genre of Old Occitan lyric poetry which depicted a pair of lovers who were lamenting the fact that they must part as the sun is rises. These lovers were usually afraid of being discovered by their respective spouses. Alba, in fact, means “sunrise”. They often contained stock characters such as the guard (gualta) who is the one that alerted the lovers that they had to part, and the jealous rival (lauzengiers).
The German minnesingers developed a similar style known as the tagelied.
Albas tended to have no fixed metrical rate. They were broken into stanzas, with each stanza usually ending with the word dawn (alba).
My alba is of a fictitious love affair between a Queen of the East and the King of the Middle. I’m not sure if most albas ended in grief, but this one just seemed destined to go there as I was working on it.