Analysis: She Walks in Beauty

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Analysis of She Walks in Beauty by Lord Byron
Posted on August 3, 2011 
In Lord Byron’s poem, She Walks in Beauty, the poet praises a woman’s beauty. Yet, the poet not only focuses on the external appearance of the woman but extends his glorification onto the internal aspect of her, making the woman more divine and praiseworthy. In this analysis, we will first discuss the meaning of the poem, and later consider some of the poetic mechanisms and the form that the poet used to make his poem richer. The first stanza of the poem describes the physical appearance of the woman. Byron starts the poem with the phrase “She walks in beauty, like the night/ Of cloudless climes and starry skies;.”(1-2) Here, the poet creates an image of a dark, clear sky with twinkling stars, and make a contrast between brightness and darkness. This contrast could mean diverse things, such as “black hair” and “white skin”, or “deep, black eyes” and “clear, white parts of the eyes.” The image created by this contrast represents the cloth the woman is wearing; a black dress with sparkles on it. In the next line, “And all that’s best of dark and bright/ Meet in her aspect and her eyes:,”(3-4) we see how the opposite characteristics of darkness and brightness mentioned in previous lines reappear to mingle and create a wonderful harmony. In the last two lines of this stanza, we see another contrast in imagery. The darkness and brightness from lines above have “mellowed”(5) to become a “tender light,”(5) and this gets contrasted with the expression “gaudy day,”(6) which inheres a negative connotation of excessiveness. Thus, the woman that the poet is praising is in great balance. Opposites “meet” in the woman to create a calm, soft image. The second stanza of She Walks in Beauty continues to praise the woman’s appearance, but starting from line 11, the poet extends this external beauty onto the woman’s personality. In the phrase “Had half impaired the nameless grace,”(8) the poet tells us that the woman’s face is in such a perfect portion that just a slight change would damage it. From the expression “half impaired,” we could once again draw out two significant meanings. First, it could mean that although the balance is destroyed, the beauty will still be half marvelous because it is only “half impaired.” Or, if we focus on the notion of “imperfection” when something is in half, the poet might be emphasizing the current, “greatly balanced” status of the woman’s appearance which should not be destroyed. The expression “nameless grace”(8) is also significant. By adding the word “nameless” in front of the word “grace,” the poet enlarged the woman’s beauty and greatness, thereby suggesting it as something so priceless that can’t be defined nor expressed as a name. We could also understand that the woman has a black hair from the expression “Which waves in every raven tress,.”(9) Compared with conventional qualities of “beauty” during the time when Byron wrote this poem, “black hair” which this woman has is extraordinary. This distinctiveness amplifies the woman’s beauty, as she distinguishes herself from others. Lastly, in the last two lines, “Where thoughts serenely sweet express/ How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.,”(11-12) we start to see how the woman’s inner beauty is reflected in her appearance. “Dwelling-place,”(12) which is where the mind and the spirit belong, is also sweet and pure. With this perfect inner quality added to her external beauty, the woman becomes more perfect as she possesses beauty inside out. The last stanza also talks both about the woman’s inner and outer characteristics. Her cheek and her smiles are beautiful. In the phrases “days in goodness spent,”(16) “mind at peace,”(17) and “heat whose love is innocent,”(18) we understand that the woman’s inner thoughts are also as pure and graceful just as her appearance. As in previous stanzas, he once again shows the theme of this poem, which is the woman’s physical beauty along with...
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