Byron's She Walks in Beauty: a Study Guide
A Poem by George Gordon Byron (Lord Byron)
A Study Guide
Study Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings..© 2008
Type of Work and Year Written
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, in 1815.
On 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 Byrons 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 wifes 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 (1788-1824)
She walks in beauty, like the night
One shade the more, one ray the less,
And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
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 syllableseight syllables in all. The first two lines demonstrate the pattern followed throughout the poem except for line 6, which has nine syllables:
She WALKS |in BEAU | ty, LIKE |the NIGHT
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.)
Alliteration occurs frequently to enhance the appeal of the poem to the ear. The most obvious examples of this figure of speech include the following:Line 2:....cloudless climes; starry skies.
Line 6:....day denies
Line 8:....Had half
Line 9:....Which waves
Line 11...serenely sweet
Line 14...So soft, so
Line 18...Heart WhoseOther 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
Line 6:............Metonymy, in which heaven is substituted for God or for the upper atmosphere
Lines 8-10:......Metaphor comparing grace, a quality, to a perceivable phenomenon
Lines 11-12:....Metaphor and personification comparing thoughts to people; metaphor and personification comparing the mind to a home (dwelling-place)
Lines 13-16:....Metaphor and personification comparing the woman's cheek and brow to persons who tell of days in goodness spentImagery: 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 firmamentand the landscape belowon 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.
1...What is beauty? To what extent does beauty depend on personality?
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