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!
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As the title says, SHE walks in beauty, the main theme of the poem is the description of a lady, the enumeration of certain qualities that the author considers give her beauty. The introduction of the verb to “walk” in the title is important because it gives connotations of advancing, not only in space but also in time. It makes reference to the movement of walking, introducing the reader this way into a bidimensional reading which is going to be constant through out all of the poem.
The center of the poem is the lady, and the author expresses that central importance by capitalizing the whole pronoun SHE .
As I said before, the observation, and the following description of Byron leads the reader to a dual dimension that enriches the poem. Evidences of this dualism are some interesting contrasts reflected in the poem: line 3 “ and all that’s best of dark and bright” that gives us the idea that such a lady includes amongst her qualities light and darkness, good and evil, she is a mixture of both. This is not an archetypical description that gives only a positive and idealized point of view. But, being a Romantic description it is also a profound and realistic one. The vision of the poet describes a beauty of “shade” and “ray”, giving us again the impression that she is not only positive.
Another interesting contrast that reinforces the dualism is that of introducing the word “mellow’d” in line 5, giving her qualities of mature and experienced beauty, and it is in contrast with the last word of the poem “innocent”, this way Byron expresses the contradictions that the beauty of that lady can posses.
It is also important the contrast that Byron makes in the last two verses with the words “mind” and “heart” by separating them and making a clear distinction between the experience and the peace of her mind, and the innocence of her heart, of her feelings. This makes reference to the eternal separation of feelings and thoughts, the fight of the two realities inside of a person, in this case, the lady. Dualism is present in the poem to the end.
It is important the introduction of the theme of the passing time and the aquisition of experience. Evidence of this is verse 16 where the author atributes the lady the property of experience of “days in goodness spent”.
The vocabulary that Byron uses is clear, simple and accessible to all kind of readers. The Semantic field is based on two branches: on the one hand the introduction of terms referring to the phisical description of the lady: “face, cheek, brow, aspect, smiles, eyes”. On the other hand they are in contrast with terms linked to a more internal description: “thought, grace, tender, peace, love, calm” stressing again this bidimensional property of the lady.
The tone used by the author is serious, and this can be observed in the strict use of the Structure :
All the verses have 8 syllables, the rhymes are regular and perfect: ababab cdcdcd efefef.
The conclussion of this analysis is that the vision of the lady that Byron gives us is a mixture of several elements, always dual, full of contradictions that takes the reader to a more realistic anc complete vision of the conception of a lady that the author has. It is not a simple vision where everything is lovely, positive and innocent, it is not a naive expression of feelings that can blind the lover taking only into account the positive qualities of the lady. It is more a contrast between two realities, mind and heart, experience and innocence, the physical and the psychological worlds.