George Gordon Byron, more famously known as Lord Byron was an English Romantic poet and after you are done reading the poem “She Walks in Beauty,” you’ll understand why he was called a romantic poet.
According to us, it is one of the most beautiful, eloquent, and sincere ways of praising the beauty of a woman without too much ornament or complexity. Byron is clear, and sharp, and speaks directly from the heart when describing the beauty of the woman.
The poem was published in 1815 and when you read the poem, you cannot help but notice that the poem feels utterly inspired by seeing someone rather than being the spawn of mechanical imagination.
You’d be right to think that the poem was inspired by a woman named Anne Beatrix Wilmot. He saw her at a party and the next day the poem was ready. Let’s look at the poem and then at the analysis and meaning of it.
She Walks in Beauty by Lord Byron
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!
She looks so beautiful as she walks like a starry night without any clouds And every best quality of dark and bright Meet in her appearance and her eyes This mellow, tender light is something Heaven has not given to any showy day. Anything more or less would have impaired her beauty She is perfect, and everything about her is perfect Her perfection flows in every black lock of her hair Her face lightens up softly The face where her sweet expressions show How pure and beautiful this woman is. And on her cheek and over her brow A smile comes, soft and calm but very noticeable A smile that can win anyone, her face glows It tells that she has spent her days in good deeds Her mind is at peace and her heart’s love is innocent.
Meaning and Analysis of the Poem
The poem “She Walks In Beauty” is a poet’s way to express the beauty of a woman that has astounded him. But it is not just about the physical beauty, but also about the inner beauty; the overall beauty of the woman.
The poem starts with a description of the woman’s beauty and how she looks perfect in every way, but then as the poem progresses, it goes deeper into the idea of inner beauty.
Notice how Byron never talks about her face or her features. No single line talks about how sharp her nose was, or how perfect her eyes were. This is because the meaning of the poem is not about the beauty of the surface.
The poem is about the charm, innocence, and attractiveness people have in the way they behave, act, and conduct themselves. Let’s take a look at each stanza and explain the lines in more detail.
The Outer Beauty
The first stanza is all about outer beauty and appearance. This is the expression of what the poet felt when he saw this woman for the first time.
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.
He compares the way she just looks beautiful without even saying or doing anything. She just walks and that is a beautiful sight to see.
Her beauty is like that of a sky that is filled with stars and a climate that lacks any clouds; a clear sky full of stars. But it is the next time that brings even more beauty to her description.
Byron says that she has the best of both darkness and brightness. We all know that everything has a good side to it. There’s beauty, comfort, and joy in both darkness and brightness.
Byron says that she has the best part of both worlds. And all these best parts show in her appearance and her eyes. It is due to this combination she radiates a tender light.
This tender light is the light of heaven, not the light of daytime which is too bright, harsh, and gaudy.
The second stanza talks about her perfection. Now we get to know more details about the girl and why she looks so beautiful to the poet.
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.
Byron compares the beauty of the woman to a flower or a plant that was nurtured perfectly. He says that if this beauty had gotten just one share more or a moment of sun rays more than it had, it would have been impaired.
The grace of her beauty waves in every black lock of hair over her face. With this line we get to know more about the woman; she had black hair.
This grace that she has also lightened over her face softly. The face expresses her sweetness and shows how pure and how loving her mind is. This line shows the connection between inner and outer beauty.
The Inner Beauty
After describing the beauty of this woman in the most beautiful and poetic way, finally, Byron comes to the source of this beauty. He tells us the reason why looks so beautiful in the final stanza.
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!
The subtle smile on her cheek and over her brows is so soft and calm, yet it catches the attention of the viewers easily and can win over hearts.
This subtle smile and the tints of her face that glows show something inwards. The source of this outer beauty so pure lies inside the woman.
All the outward appearance and the glow of the woman show that she spends her days in virtue and goodness. She spends her time doing good deeds.
And it is due to the virtues that her mind is at peace and has a heart whose love is so pure and innocent.
The Essence of the Poem
While at first read people might assume this is a poem that praises the beauty of a woman, just like the beauty of a person, it is more than what meets the eye.
Byron is not only telling people how beautiful this woman was but also gives a reason why she was so beautiful. What was in her that made him stop and look at her in awe?
The poet says that beauty is just an expression of a pure and good heart, a mind that is at peace, and all the virtue that someone holds. Without these inner qualities, the external appearance can never be beautiful.
Notice how the poet never says anything about her physical appearance? We never can know how the woman looked based on the poem. The beauty was never about the face, but about how she behaves and conducts herself.
The message of the poem would be that when your heart is pure, and your mind is at peace due to your virtues, you will be a beautiful person.
It does not matter how you look. Your heart and soul make you beautiful. What is on the external does not matter that much. In other words, the poem is another way of saying “beauty is only skin-deep.”