“She Walks in Beauty” is a short poem, consisting of three six-line stanzas. On the surface it is a fairly conventional description of a beautiful woman, evidently someone with whom Byron is acquainted. The poet does not identify her by name, indicate his relationship to her, or hint as to the occasion that brought them together. (Scholars have ferreted out these matters.) Even if such information is not essential to understanding the poem, it is surprising that Byron provides so little concrete detail about the actual appearance of the woman he is describing. He does not speak of her as tall or short, slender or statuesque; he does not tell his readers the color of her dress or the color of her eyes. In fact, at the end of the poem the only specific fact the reader knows is that she has black hair.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the lady has made a definite impression on the poet. To him, she is beautiful in the same way that “night” is beautiful, and, as he hastens to add, he means a particular kind of night, one of “cloudless climes and starry skies.” There is no threat of a storm in this imagined landscape; there are no clouds to produce even a shower. Such a night is not really dark, for, as readers are told, the sky is filled with stars. Their light is soft and subdued; similarly, the dark lady has “tender” eyes, as unlike those of less subtle women as the light of a “starry” night is from that of “gaudy day.”
Byron proceeds to amplify his earlier suggestion that a perfect combination of “dark and bright” is the secret of his subject’s beauty. The second stanza of the poem begins with an explicit statement to this effect: either more or less light, he insists, would have at least to some degree “impair’d” her “grace.” At this point, the poet finally gives his readers a clue as to what may have triggered his response, for it appears that the lady does have “raven” hair. However, Byron does not have so specific an explanation for the brightness of “her face.” He does not seem to mean that she has a rosy complexion; instead, it is her “thoughts serenely sweet,” so evident in her facial expressions, that account for the impression she makes on all those who observe her.
In the final stanza, Byron continues to explore the relationship between inner and outer beauty. The blushes that appear on the lady’s “cheek,” her “smiles,” everything on her “brow,” or countenance, all reveal her sterling virtue. In the last lines of the poem, Byron sums up what he surmises: that the lady spends much of her time doing good deeds, that her “mind” harbors no animosity toward anyone, and that when love enters her heart, it is an “innocent” emotion. Byron’s description of a dark-haired lady thus becomes much more: It is also his definition of the ideal woman.
West Chester University
An Explication of "She Walks in Beauty"
Many Romantic poets embrace the concept of self -expression through the use of imagination to convey their personal visions of love and life. The power of emotions is evident in Lord Byrons poems. It can be possible that light can be emitted through the darkness of night. In his poem, "She Walks In Beauty", Lord Byron epitomizes the balance between two opposing forces. The two forces involved are the darkness and the light at work in a womans beauty both internal and external. Throughout the poem, Byron uses imagery through the visual senses that allows us to observe the symmetry between a womans beauty and the mixing of the darkness and light.
"She Walks in Beauty" can be viewed as a love poem about a beautiful woman. It seems as though the poem is addressed to a lover. In fact, the poem was written about Byrons cousin, Anne Wilmot, who was dressed in a black mourning gown brightened with spangles. (Norton 556) This fact lends support to understanding the origin of the poem. Byron portrays the mixing of the darkness and light by describing her physical beauty, as well as, her interior strengths. . The use of his metaphorical description of this particular woman allows us to imagine that this womans beauty is strong enough to brighten up the sky at nighttime.
Byrons diction in this poem is quite metaphorical. "She walks in beauty, like the night / Of cloudless climes and starry skies" (lines 1-2 Norton 556). His use of imagery has allowed us to visualize an aura that surrounds this woman. The imagery he uses also brings together two opposing forces, darkness and light which works quite well together as one united force. We can visualize a dark sky filled bright stars, a perfect picture for an ideal evening, which can be compared to his picture of a perfect woman.
This woman, as well as the night, contains opposite features within her. "And all thats best of dark and bright / Meet in her aspect and her eyes" (lines 3-4 Norton 556). The joining of these opposite forces can be associated with internal aspects of this woman. Although this poem begins with a description of a woman walking, there are not any images of her body. Byron continuously refers to her hair and face. "One shade the more, one ray the less, / Had half impaird the nameless grace / which waves in every raven tress, / Or softly lightens oer her face;" (lines 7-10 Norton). Again, the combination of opposite forces, "shade" and "ray", used to create balance in this woman. If the woman were any different, she would be less perfect. His use of imagery allows the picturing of an angelic looking woman with dark hair and a light face. The woman, similar to the night creates a "tender light". This type of light cannot be presented during the day, and is so powerful that not even heaven can bestow this light on any day.
Byron also has demonstrated the use of alliteration by focusing on her mind. "Where thoughts serenely sweet express / How pure, how dear their dwelling place"(lines 11-12 Norton 556). This description creates an insight of a womans mind, not her body. The repetition of the s sound is soothing because he is describing her thoughts. Again, Byron is more focused on this womans internal features.
Byron has successfully convinced his readers that this woman is perfect. Even though the descriptions of this woman may have contradictory attributes, the overall portrayal of this woman implies that these attributes have created a perfect balance within her. The use of the opposites darkness and light has helped to create this balance. The language, rhythm, and the use of human characteristics have proved that external and internal beauty can be viewed on the same scale, as well as darkness and light.