She Walks in Beauty
Lord Byron (George Gordon)
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 mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
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,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
George Gordon Byron
George Gordon Byron was born on January 22, 1788, in Aberdeen, Scotland, and inherited his family’s English title at the age of ten, becoming Baron Byron of Rochdale. Byron received his early formal education at Aberdeen Grammar School, and in August 1799 entered the school of Dr. William Glennie, in Dulwich. Placed under the care of a Dr. Bailey, he was encouraged to exercise in moderation but could not restrain himself from "violent" bouts in an attempt to overcompensate for his deformed foot. As a teenager, Byron discovered that he was attracted to men as well as women, which made him all the more remote and secretive. His mother interfered with his studies, often withdrawing him from school, with the result that he lacked discipline and his classical studies were neglected. He attended Trinity College in Cambridge. During this time Byron collected and published his first volumes of poetry. As a whole, the collection was considered obscene, in part because it ridiculed specific teachers by name, and in part because it contained frank, erotic verses.
Meaning of the Poem
Themes of the Poem
In "She Walks in Beauty," Byron borrows from a long tradition of poetry that praises a woman's beauty by breaking her down into her component parts. This approach effectively objectifies and silences the unnamed woman.
Many feminist critics have criticized "She Walks in Beauty" for its apparent objectification of the unnamed woman. However, Byron breaks from tradition by acknowledging that the woman has "thoughts" and an inner life that he cannot access.
By emphasizing that the woman's beauty really couldn't be any darker without throwing off the delicate balance, Byron might be tacitly acknowledging that he's going against the conventional standards of beauty.