Aubade / Alborada

Photo by Torsten Dederichs on Unsplash

Dorothy Lawrenson: The image of two people embracing as tightly as a spliced rope opened the door to a lot of nautical imagery, which leads up to an allusion (in the penultimate line) to the ballad of Sir Patrick Spens. In the ballad, seeing the new moon holding the old moon in her arms is a bad omen. Here, though, I think it’s an image of tenderness, with an underlying acknowledgement that the lovers must inevitably part with the arrival of the dawn. 

Carlos Llaza: I’ve been meaning to use ‘alborada’ in a poem for a while. Dorothy’s ‘Aubade’ is the perfect occasion. ‘Alborada’ is an unusual word compared to ‘alba’, ‘aurora’ or ‘amanecer’. There seems to be an aching promise in it, just like in ‘aubade’. Both words share the longing flavour of ‘saudade’, arguably the most beautiful word of the Portuguese language. This is a poem of encounter and departure; hence of nostalgia, tenderness and hope.

Scroll down to see a video of poet and translator reading this poem, with English subtitles.

bi Dorothy Lawrenson

Yestreen we twa smoort the fire,
dreeblin ess on ilka yella glaim
tae mak it smooder till morn.

We cooried doon, doverin taigled
ticht as a wappit raip
abuird a ship on a gurly sea.

Whiles yin o’s wad feeze or jee,
as if ettlin tae mak an affgang
in’s ain dozent currach.

Sae ye girded your barrel-breist
wi ma airms, but fient a craw-nest
could gainstaun when keek-o-day’s

essie glowe wis sent tae sinder us:
auld mune i the new mune’s airms,
fou as the fouth o ma hert.

traducido al español por Carlos Llaza

Anoche los dos apagamos el fuego,
rociando ceniza en cada llama amarilla
para que ardiera hasta el amanecer.

Nos fuimos a dormir, entrelazados
como una soga empalmada
a bordo de un barco en un mar tempestuoso.

Por momentos uno de nosotros giraba,
como si intentase partir
en su soñoliento bote.

Así que ceñiste el barril de tu pecho
con mis brazos, aunque ningún nido de cuervos
pudo resistir cuando el brillo cenizo

de la aurora fue enviado a separarnos:
la luna vieja en brazos de la luna nueva,
plena cual mi corazón en plenitud.

translated into English by Dorothy Lawrenson

Last night we two smothered the fire,
dribbling ash on each yellow flame
to make it smoulder till morning.

We went to bed, dozing off tangled
tight as a spliced rope
aboard a ship on a stormy sea.

Sometimes one of us would twist or turn,
as if trying to make a departure
in an individual coracle of sleep.

So you girded your barrel chest
with my arms, but no crow’s-nest
could withstand when dawn’s

ashen glow was sent to separate us:
old moon in the new moon’s arms,
full as the fullness of my heart.


  1. Even before I read the commentary, this Scots poem brought Sir Patrick to my mind! The ‘gurly sea’ and ‘the auld mune in the new mune’ s airms’ in this case, though, are without the ill omen of the ballad.

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