Composer: Guiraut de Bornelh

Piece: Reis glorios

Date: Approx. 1200

Form: Alba or Dawn Song

Texture: Homophonic

Rhyme Scheme: a-a-b-b (always followed by a refrain)

The troubadour alba (trouvére aube), a morning or dawn song, has two distinct meanings; one literal and the other symbolic. In the case of the former there is a concern in either the parting of lovers at daybreak, or a warning given to lovers that the dawn is approaching. In the latter the alba symbolizes the rebirth of the sun after the night has wiped it out, as well as the resumption of everyday life after the lovers had found fulfillment. The alba was usually sung by a friend who stood guard while the lovers met. As dawn approached, the danger increased that the lady’s jealous husband, or a daughter’s angry father, might return.


Some albas express concern for a friend who has been gone through the night, as does Reis glorios (Glorious King) by de Bornelh, “the Master of the Troubadours.” Very little is known about him except that he flourished in the years 1165-1215 and cultivated several types of troubadour poetry. This poem is in four stanzas, each consisting of four lines followed by a refrain.


When troubadour music was written down, only the intervals of the melody were indicated, as a kind of shorthand reminder for the singer. Here is the opening line:

The interval of the rising fifth at the beginning stands out prominently in a melody that otherwise moves mostly by step, often circling around the pivotal notes of D and A.