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She Walks in Beauty
Lord Byron had a concern for liberty which was associated with the romantic poets. He also possessed the love of nature and the concept of love and beauty just like the other romantics. But Lord Byron was an admirer of Pope and the trends of 18th-century poetry. Byron’s natural mode of poetry was narration. He skillfully used Heroic Couplet, the Spencerian and the Ottawa Rima.
Story Behind the Lyric
Written just several months before he met and married his first wife, Anna Milbanke, and published in Hebrew Melodies in 1815, the poem of praise “She Walks in Beauty” was inspired by the poet’s first sight of his young cousin by marriage, Anne Wilmot, who was wearing a black spangled mourning dress. Lord Byron was struck by his cousin’s dark hair and fair face, the mingling of various lights and shades.
According to his friend, James W. Webster, “When we returned to his rooms in Albany (after the party), he said little, but desired Fletcher to give him a tumbler of brandy, which he drank at once to Mrs Wilmot’s health, then retired to rest, and was, I heard afterwards, in a sad state all night. The next day he wrote those charming lines upon her—She walks in Beauty like the Night…”
Of course, it’s obvious that this poem is somewhat of a love poem, expressing how beautiful this woman is that Lord Byron is looking at. Whether it is a true declaration of love or a statement of admiration (of his cousin’s beauty) is left to the reader.
The real power of these, among the most memorable and most quoted lines in romantic poetry, lies in its powerful description not only of a woman’s physical beauty but also of her interior strengths. The poet is obviously after something much larger than mere physical description.
“She Walks in Beauty” is one of the famous poems of Lord Byron written in 1814. At the outset of the poem, the poet describes the beauty of cloudless and starry skies. He compares this beauty to the beauty of a lady. The poet admires her beauty and is inspired by her beauty and wrote this poem to celebrate her beauty. He says the lady’s beauty carries with it the best of both worlds of brightness and darkness which springs from her eyes. This beauty reflects on her face. The heaven has not given this beauty to the gaudy day but made it glitter on her face.
The balance between ‘shade’ and ‘light’ in the lady’s beauty is so perfect that if one more ‘shade’, is added or a single ‘ray’ of light is taken away it would partially damage the woman’s beauty. Her beauty and ‘grace’ are so hard to define that they are ‘nameless’. This ‘nameless grace’ is visible in every lock of her black (raven) hair (tress) and it ‘lightens’ her face. The balance between light and dark that creates her ‘nameless grace’ is apparent in both her dark hair and in the expression that ‘lightens her face.’ Her sweet expressions are reflected of what is going on inside her mind. The sweetness of this lady’s expression suggests that her mind is ‘pure and innocent’.
The smile on her face wins others and the glow of blushes can be seen on her cheek and on her forehead. She is so soft, calm and also elegant. Her face is very expressive. Her calmness reflects that her conscience is at rest and her mind is at peace. Her love is innocent.
Analysis of the poem
The poem “She Walks in Beauty” is a short lyrical poem consisting of three stanzas of six lines each. The rhyme scheme of the poem is ababab, and the lines follow regular rhythm: iambic tetrameter, which means that there are four “iambs” (or pairs of one stressed and one unstressed syllable) in every line.
The word ‘she’ could suggest an air of mystery around the women because he does not know her. She could be anyone. The verb ‘walk’ could imply that everything around her is beautiful. It is not just her physical appearance that he admires but everything about her is charming even the way she walks.
Byron could use the simile ‘like the night’ to symbolise that this woman is different to all other women he has admired because he breaks the ordinary convention of romantic poetry. For example, Shakespeare compares someone to a summer’s day’.
The imagery used here is romantic and mysterious just like the woman he is describing. Byron could be suggesting she is like the stars in the sky and is both lighting up the darkness and unobtainable.
Byron uses the contrast of ‘dark and bright’ throughout the poem. This could suggest that both ‘dark’ and ‘bright’ come together in this woman to create perfection and balance.
‘tender light’ and ‘gaudy day’ could imply that her beauty is understated and natural. The poet admires how effortless her beauty is. He is also admiring her perfection.
By using the adjective ‘raven’ this could suggest an element of danger about the women. Byron is also breaking the conventions of stereotypical sense of beauty.
Byron is admiring not just her physical appearance but her ‘inner beauty’. Her sweat ‘thoughts’ match her external beauty.
By using the adjective could mean that her beauty is clear and sophisticated.
In this stanza, Byron is zooming into specific details of her face. ‘ The smiles that win’ could suggest that she has the best smile he has ever seen.
In the lines:
“But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,”
Byron is admiring her innocence and kindness.
Why does Byron mention ‘love’ in the last line only?
There are many interpretations of this. This could suggest that he is just physically attracted to her and so he does not love her. However this could suggest that by writing the poem in the order he does not show the process of falling live with someone and he realises in the end that, he does love her.
Theme and Poetic Devices
The poem, ‘She Walks in Beauty’ by Lord Byron conveys themes of beauty, amazement and harmony through multiple poetic devices. These devices include simile, personification and metaphor. The poem is about a man admiring a women and her perfection. In terms of simile, the speaker describes the women as ‘She walks in beauty, like the night/ Of cloudless climes and starry skies;’. The night is big and vast, superior to something as small as a human, so by comparing her to this it makes her seem otherworldly. This also shows themes of beauty and amazement as the narrator is in awe at how incredible this woman is. Moving from this the poet uses personification to again portray her beauty, ‘And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,/ So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,/ The smiles that win, the tints that glow,’. This allows the reader to imagine what the women looks like and her complete perfection. The enjambment in the poem assists this in that it adds to the flow of the poem. Furthermore, there is metaphor in many places that further adds to the ability of the reader to see the women in the poem. For example, ‘Where thoughts serenely sweet express/ How pure, how dear their dwelling – place’. This shows her thoughts as people and makes her seem so large that she has people who fit inside her. Moreover, this is very similar to ‘An ode in Grecian Times’ in that its main motif is also beauty, it uses enjambment to keep the poem in the style of the lyric and there are countless a number of poetic devices used to express language. However, some differences include that Byron’s poem is much shorter than Keats’ and the poetic devices used are used for very different reasons.
Questions of She Walks in Beauty
Question 1. What does she walk in beauty mean?
Answer. She walks in beauty celebrates the beauty of a women. There is an air of mystery around her. She could be anyone. The verb ‘walk’ means everything around her is beautiful even the way she walks.
Note: More questions will be added very soon.