She Walks in Beauty
A Poem by George Gordon Byron (Lord Byron)
A Study Guide
Cummings Guides Home..|..Contact This Site
Type of Work
Text of the Poem
Rhyme and Meter
Other Figures of Speech
Imagery: Light and Darkness
Study Questions
Essay Topics
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 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 (1788-1824)


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: 

              1................2........... 3...............4
    She WALKS | in BEAU | ty, LIKE | the NIGHT

            1.................2................. 3...............4
    Of CLOUD | less CLIMES | and STAR | ry SKIES


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.)

Use of Alliteration

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 Whose
Other 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 spent
Imagery: 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.

Study Questions and Writing Topics

1...What is beauty? To what extent does beauty depend on personality?
2...Was Byron declaring his love for the young woman or simply celebrating her beauty?
3...Write a poem about a quality—strength, generosity, kindness, beauty, charm, selflessness, etc. 
4...Write an essay that analyzes another poem by Byron.