George Gordon Noel Byron's poem titled, "She Walks in Beauty," is a love poem about a beautiful woman and all of her features. The poem follows a basic iambic tetrameter with an unaccented syllable followed by an accented syllable that allows for a rhythm to be set by the reader and can be clearly seen when one looks at a line:
She walks / in beau / ty like / the night.
T.S. Eliot, an American poet criticizes Byron's work by stating the poem, "needs to be read very rapidly because if one slows down the poetry vanishes and the rhyme is forced" (Eliot 224). With this rhythm the reader can, however, look deeper into the contents of Byron's poem and discover a battle of two forces. The two forces involved in Byron's poem are the darkness and light- at work in the woman's beauty, and also the two areas of her beauty-the internal and the external. The poem appears to be about a lover, but in fact was written about "Byron's cousin, Anne Wilmot, whom he met at a party in a mourning dress of spangled black" (Leung 312). This fact, the black dress that was brightened with spangles, helps the reader to understand the origin of the poem. Byron portrays this, the mixing of the darkness and the light, not by describing the dress or the woman's actions, but by describing her physical beauty as well as her interior strengths. In the beginning of the poem, the reader is given the image of darkness: "She walks in beaut...
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...the reader to decipher"(25). Without the two forces and the struggle within this woman, Byron's poem would have been a plain love poem, but because the forces are so pronounced by his use of colorful language, rhythm, and use of human characteristics, "She Walks in Beauty" is world renowned for its powerful description. Not only does it describe a woman's physical beauty, but also her interior strengths.
Eliot, T.S., "Byron," in On Poetry and Poets, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1957, p.224.
Martin, L.C., in Byron's Lyrics, The University of Nottingham, 1948, pp. 24-25.
Leung, Mathew, preface to Poetry of Byron, by Lord Byron, Macmillian, 1881, Reprinted as "Byron, "in Essays in Criticism, Dutton, 1964, pp. 312-30.
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