How To Write an Aubade

Who among us hasn’t awoken in the morning with a certain amount of longing for the night to continue? Such longing isn't the sole territory of the sleep-deprived, either; whether it’s a one-night stand, a serious relationship or a guilty secret, we often greet the dawn with contempt when we happen to be sharing the bed with someone else. No wonder, then, that the aubade has remained a vital kind of poetry for centuries.

  1. The “rules”… The only rule of an aubade is that it somehow involves the arrival of dawn and a human response to it. But there are traditional modes and themes that appear in aubades throughout the centuries.
  2. Dialogue. Originally an aubade was a song or poem comprising a dialogue between two lovers whose bliss is truncated by the dawn. But in other cases, the dialogue is internal or entirely one-sided, as in a person addressing a herald of dawn - like the sun or birds - or even life itself.
  3. To rhyme? Many aubades rhyme, though there’s no rule stating that they must. And if there were such a rule, it would only invite sedition. Perhaps the inspiration for rhyming in an aubade resides partly in the poem’s musical roots. Perhaps the subject of morning simply leads some people to desire rhyme. Personally, I don’t feel like rhyming at all when I wake up in the morning, but everybody’s different.
  4. Love and responsibility? Some would argue that every poem is a love poem of some sort. When it comes to the aubade, love – and, specifically, the opposition of love and responsibility – rests very near the heart of the poem. But sexual love isn’t necessarily central to an aubade’s tension. Consider the aubade a far broader opportunity for all of us to flex our Romantic muscles… Who doesn’t occasionally long for a tender, morning-time embrace to last forever undisturbed? Or, if not a tender embrace, who wouldn’t love for the tranquility of the morning to endure? As night gives way to day, we find ourselves in a brightening world still free from the sun’s full glare and replete with the delicate residues of our dreams. Yet we all know that this tenderness and comfortable self-absorption is fleeting by nature, and with the beauty of morning come the duties of the day. Have you ever wished the alarm clock wouldn’t ring, or that your lover didn’t have to go to work? That is the spirit of the aubade!
  5. Learn from famous aubades. There’s no better way to learn about the aubade tradition than by reading successful aubade poems. Check out great aubades like Donne’s “The Sunne Rising” or Larkin’s “Aubade.” Soak up as many different examples as you can, and then try your hand at composing an aubade for yourself!

As poet, the choice is yours to adhere to traditional patterns and themes as you compose your aubade, or instead deliberately break with tradition. How will your morning poem read?


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