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She Walks in Beauty

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“She Walks in Beauty” is a poem that uses juxtaposition to help emphasize the object of magnificence. Daniel Moran, a secondary school teacher of English and American literature, states that the object is “made beautiful by a perfect combination of opposites” (Moran 276). Uma Kukathas, a freelance writer and editor, further explains that “Byron overturns the reader’s expectations by associating beauty with darkness rather than light and also by showing how light and darkness merge to create a perfect harmony” (Kukathas 279). However, it is the object of beauty Byron is describing, as well as why, that receives debate. In Lord Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty,” there is controversy around who or what the beauty is, and the depth in which Byron describes it.
It is a known fact that the beauty Lord Byron describes is his cousin by marriage, Mrs. Wilmot (Kelly 275); however, Kukathas claims that “Byron, in praising and describing the lovely Mrs. Wilmot, is also praising and describing what he thinks of as the power of art and poetry” (Kukathas 279). Mrs. Wilmot is described as being beautiful on the outside as well as the inside, in which Kukathas states, “[p]oetry too can be thought of as having the internal and external beauty that is mentioned in the poem as well as a perfect balance of what is revealed (light) and what is concealed (darkness) to convey meaning” (Kukathas 279). By taking “a mortal woman” who is “elevated to a divine status,” it explains “the power that poetry has, as it takes something from the earthly world and renders it immortal” (Kukathas 280). Besides, “one of the goals of the romantic poets was to convey ideas not only through rational means but by conveying feelings and moods” (Kukathas 280). On the other hand...

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...er appearance” (Moran 277). Although it is not definite, Byron demonstrates that even though he does not know the person, if a person is pure on the outside, he or she must be fully pure on the inside as well.
Is there a deeper meaning behind Byron’s poem? Kukathas states, “[a]t first reading, it might seem that the poem is merely a beautiful tribute to a lovely woman…which does not offer much else of intellectual interest. But, upon closer examination…another interpretation suggested itself that shows the poem to be far richer and subtler than most critics have allowed” (Kukathas 279). Both Kelly and Moran agree that going so far as to judge a person’s character based on her appearance shows something deeper about Byron’s thoughts. While Byron may have been writing about a simple topic, critics today view his poem as an attempt to understand the way people think.
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