“She Walks in Beauty” was written by George Gordon, Lord Byron, an English poet during the early nineteenth century. The poem falls within the genre of lyric poetry in which the poet expresses his thoughts and imaginations (Clugston, 2010, section 11. 3). Romance is the central emotion in the poem; however, it is governed by a theme of principles which metaphorically balances inner values with sheer external beauty. Being married for many years, my connection with the poem was in looking back to the moments when I used similar forms of romantic poetry to communicate my affections for my wife during the early stages of our engagement.
I also found familiarity in the meaning of the last stanza of the poem which has an almost identical meaning to a line from the closing speech of one of my favorite romantic comedies written by William Shakespeare entitled, “The Taiming of the Schrew. ” “She Walks in Beauty” embodies both engaging content and form using contrasting opposites; however, its theme that external beauty is a reflection of inner goodness has a valuable message for society that real beauty is a combination of inner goodness and outward appearance.
I was engaged by the content of the “She Walks in Beauty” through its image of realism created by the speaker as he is intently focused on a vision of sheer beauty while also recognizing qualities of virtue and innocence. His main convention for holding this image throughout this eighteen-line poem is by contrasting opposites such as the dark with the light or the night with the day. For example, two opposites are brought together in the first two lines of the poem aided by the most obvious setting of a clear and starry, oonlit night in lines 1 and 2 of stanza 1: “She walks in beauty, like the night” followed by “Of cloudless climes and starry skies” and again in line 3 he also compares opposites with “dark and bright” (as cited in Clugston, 2010, section 11. 3, stanza 1). Again in line 7, he compares opposites between “shade and ray” and between “more and less” and again between lines 9 and 10 he compares “ravens” with “lightens” (Clugston, 2010, section 11. 3, stanza 2). His skill here in doing this type of contrasting is quite remarkable and not actually the normal style of comparing two like items used during this romanticism period in history.
The content was very engaging; however, I also found the form of this piece of poetry to be engaging by use of metaphors, enjambed lines, and the whole thought of the poem reflecting the theme throughout with keen observations of inner and outer beauty. For example, he begins to comment on the blend of her morale attributes in lines 11 and 12 where a word picture is used to characterize her mind. He says her “thoughts” (line 11) are a “dwelling place” (lines 12) that are both “pure and dear” (Clugston, 2010, section 11. 3, stanza 2).
Lord Byron makes good use of enjambed lines in the opening of the poem because there should not be a break after line 1. Instead the reader should continue to the end of line 2 without pause which when read thus, a musicality is brought out that makes the first two lines sound as effortless and beautiful as the woman’s remarkable appearance. Since the poem is about a woman’s effortless beauty it is quite cleaver of the poet to assign a rhythmic meter that is balanced with her appearance. The poem is set in limbic tetrameter with an ABABAB rhyme scheme (Shmoop Editorial Team. November 11, 2008). She Walks in Beauty Rhyme, Form & Meter. Retrieved May 16, 2011, from http://www. shmoop. com/she-walks-in-beauty/rhyme-form-meter. html). Both the content and form were appealing to me; however, I had a most remarkable connection to the last stanza regarding its meaning. The most appealing aspect of stanza 3 is that it is central to the theme that inner goodness is a reflection of external beauty.
I found that this theme is also thematically represented in a speech made at the end of William Shakespeare’s romantic comedy entitled, “The Taiming of the Schrew. During the last scene of the play, the character of Kate played by the late Elizabeth Taylor while scolding two companions regarding how and why they should reverence their husbands spoke these words, Why are our bodies soft, and weak, and smooth . . . But that our soft conditions and our hearts Should well agree with our external parts (SparkNotes Editors, 2002, Analysis: Act V, scene ii). This statement is a perfect parallel with the theme for “She Walks in Beauty” which is that inner goodness is a reflection of external beauty. She Walks in Beauty” has wonderful content and form and the poet maintains a sense of realism throughout while keeping the reader focused on a positive theme that inner goodness is a reflection of external beauty. Though it was not the norm to compare opposites in poetry, Lord Byron chose to explore this side of literary writing. Moreover, “She Walks in Beauty” is one of the most memorable forms of lyric poetry ever created crediting Lord Byron as one of the Romantic period’s outstanding poets.
Clugston, R. W. (2010). Journey into literature. San Diego, California: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. Shmoop Editorial Team. (November 11, 2008). She Walks in Beauty Rhyme, Form & Meter. Retrieved May 16, 2011, from http://www.shmoop.com/she-walks-in-beauty/rhyme-form-meter.html SparkNotes Editors. (2002). SparkNote on The Taming of the Shrew. Retrieved May 16, 2011, from http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/shrew/