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She Walks in Beauty

By xhjoyce Jun 11, 2005 900 Words
There is a spectacular use of assonance in the first verse here:- look at the rime words night, skies, bright, eyes ... same vowel throughout ... so the whole stanza rimes ababab but assonates aaaaaa this kind of double-effect was highly prized by keats, shelley and Byron, all of whom took the technical side of writing poetry extremely seriously.

Lord Byron describes a night (associated with darkness) with bright stars (light) and compares this woman to that night. She brings together these opposites in her beauty and creates a "tender light." Not a light like the daytime, since he describes that as gaudy (showy in a vulgar way), but a light that "heaven" doesn't even honor the daytime with. Byron¡¯s diction in this poem is quite metaphorical. "She walks in beauty, like the night / Of cloudless climes and starry skies" (lines 1-2 ). His use of imagery has allowed us to visualize an atmosphere that surrounds this woman. The imagery he uses also brings together two opposing forces, darkness and light which works quite well together as one united force. We can visualize a dark sky filled bright stars, a perfect picture for an ideal evening, which can be compared to his picture of a perfect woman. This woman, as well as the night, contains opposite features within her. "And all that¡¯ s best of dark and bright / Meet in her aspect and her eyes" (lines 3-4 ). The joining of these opposite forces can be associated with internal aspects of this woman. Although this poem begins with a description of a woman walking, there are not any images of her body. Byron continuously refers to her hair and face. These lines work well because they employ an enjambed line as well as a metrical substitution ¡ª a momentary change in the regular meter of the poem. When poets enjamb a line and use a metrical substitution at the beginning of the next line, they are calling attention to something that is a key to a poem. Here Byron substitutes a trochaic foot (an accented syllable followed by an unaccented one) for the iambic foot at the start of the fourth line. Why? Because he is putting particular emphasis on that word "meet." He is emphasizing that the unique feature of this woman is her ability to contain opposites within her; "the best of dark and bright / meet" in her. In the same way that enjambment forces lines together, and a metrical substitution jars the reader somewhat, this woman joins together darkness and light, an unlikely pair. They "meet" in her, and perhaps nowhere else besides a starry night. It's also important to note that the joining together can be seen in her "aspect," or appearance, but also in her "eyes." A reader might think of the eyes simply as a feature of beauty, but the eyes also have been associated in literature with the soul, or the internal aspect of the person: the eyes reveal the heart. "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;" (lines 7-10 ). Again, the combination of opposite forces, "shade" and "ray", used to create balance in this woman. If the woman were any different, she would be less perfect. His use of imagery allows the picturing of an angelic looking woman with dark hair and a light face. The woman, similar to the night creates a "tender light". This type of light cannot be presented during the day, and is so powerful that not even heaven can bestow this light on any day. Byron also has demonstrated the use of alliteration by focusing on her mind. "Where thoughts serenely sweet express / How pure, how dear their dwelling place"(lines 11-12). This description creates an insight of a woman¡¯s mind, not her body. The repetition of the "s" sound is soothing because he is describing her thoughts. Again, Byron is more focused on this woman¡¯s internal features. For alliteration look at thoughts serenely sweet express ,4 ¡°s¡± sounds in 4 words _ the s implicit in x. Byron would be unlikely to use a heavyweight technique like alliteration without a good reason, here he's probably using it to slow up the motion of the line to let the full lusciousness of the sound develop in our inner ear. Byron has successfully convinced his readers that this woman is perfect. Even though the descriptions of this woman may have contradictory attributes, the overall portrayal of this woman implies that these attributes have created a perfect balance within her. The use of the opposites darkness and light has helped to create this balance. The language, rhythm, and the use of human characteristics have proved that external and internal beauty can be viewed on the same scale, as well as darkness and light. Byron says that if this darkness and lightness wouldn't be in the right proportions ("One shade the more, one ray the less"), her beauty wouldn't be completly ruined as you might expect. He says that she would only be "half impaired," and thus still half magnificent. The use of his metaphorical description of this particular woman allows us to imagine that this woman¡¯s beauty is strong enough to brighten up the sky at nighttime.

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