“She Walks in Beauty"
is a lyric poem centering on the extraordinary
beauty of a young lady. George Gordon Byron (commonly known as Lord Byron)
wrote the poem in 1814 and published it in a collection, Hebrew Melodies,
the evening of June 11, 1814, Byron attended a party with his friend, James
Wedderburn Webster, at the London home of Lady Sarah Caroline Sitwell.
Among the other guests was the beautiful Mrs. Anne Beatrix Wilmot, the
wife of Byron’s first cousin, Sir Robert Wilmot. Her exquisite good looks
dazzled Byron and inspired him to write “She Walks in Beauty." (In 1823,
Wilmot inherited the estate of his wife’s father, Eusebius Horton. In accordance
with the will, Sir Robert assumed the additional surname Horton. Thereafter,
he was known as Robert Wilmot-Horton and his wife as Anne Wilmot-Horton.)
The theme of the poem is
the woman's exceptional beauty, internal as well as external. The first
stanza praises her physical beauty. The second and third stanzas praise
both her physical and spiritual, or intellectual, beauty.
. She Walks in Beauty By Lord Byron
She walks in beauty,
like the night Of cloudless
climes and starry skies; And all that's best
of dark and bright Meet in her
aspect and her eyes: Thus mellow'd to that
tender light 5 Which heaven
to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more,
one ray the less, Had half impair'd
the nameless grace Which waves in every
raven tress, Or softly lightens
o'er her face; 10 Where thoughts serenely
sweet express How pure, how
dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and
o'er that brow, So soft, so
calm, yet eloquent, The smiles that win,
the tints that glow, 15 But tell of
days in goodness spent, A mind at peace with
all below, A heart whose
love is innocent! .
. Rhyme Scheme and Meter
The rhyme scheme of the first
stanza is ababab; the second stanza, cdcdcd; and the third stanza, efefef.
All the end rhymes are masculine. The meter
is predominantly iambic tetrameter, a pattern
in which a line has four pairs of unstressed and stressed syllables—eight
syllables in all. The first two lines demonstrate the pattern followed
throughout the poem except for line 6, which has nine syllables:
in BEAU| ty,
less CLIMES| and
Enjambment links the end
of line 1 with line 2. Enjambment means carrying the sense of one
line of verse over to the next line without a pause. (Note that there is
no pause after night. Pauses occur at the end of the other lines.)
occurs frequently to enhance the appeal of the poem to the ear. The most
obvious examples of this figure of speech include the following:
Figures of Speech
Examples of other figures
of speech are the following:
Lines 1, 2:......Simile
comparing the movement of the beautiful woman to the movement of the skies
in which heaven is substituted for God or for the upper atmosphere
comparing grace, a quality, to a perceivable phenomenon
and personification comparing thoughts
to people; metaphor and personification comparing the mind to a home (dwelling-place)
and personification comparing the woman's
cheek and brow to persons who tell of days in goodness spent
Light and Darkness
Byron presents an ethereal
portrait of the young woman in the first two stanzas by contrasting white
with black and light with shadow in the same way that nature presents a
portrait of the firmament—and the landscape below—on a cloudless starlit
evening. He tells the reader in line 3 that she combines “the best of dark
and bright" (bright here serving as an noun rather than an adjective)
and notes that darkness and light temper each other when they meet in her
raven hair. Byron's words thus turn opposites into compeers working together
to celebrate beauty.
Questions and Writing Topics
is beauty? To what extent does beauty depend on personality?
Byron declaring his love for the young woman or simply celebrating her
a poem about a quality—strength, generosity, kindness, beauty, charm, selflessness,
an essay that analyzes another poem by Byron.