Lord Byron is famous for love affairs and scandals. His sexuality is even questionable. Byron is rumored to have dated famous authors both men and women. “She Walks In Beauty” is a poem Byron wrote about his own cousin who he saw in mourning. Because of his eccentricity it is interesting to see his perspective on beauty as illustrated through his writings. In “She Walks In Beauty”, Byron uses strong imagery, metaphorical diction, and literary techniques to describe perfect beauty sourcing from both internal and external attributes. Throughout “She Walks In Beauty” Lord Byron characterizes a woman whose beauty is so beyond this world, that it makes the impossible, possible. Her beauty allows darkness and light to coexist. Byron begins by illustrating a starry night (light) and compares this woman’s beauty to that of the night (dark). She brings together these opposites in her beauty and creates a “tender light” (line 5). This “tender light” she creates is not like that of daytime, because he describes daylight as gaudy, but a light that “heaven” refuses even daytime. The women’s beauty and tenderness are like the beauty and “tender light” of the stars.
The setting can be visualized as a dark sky filled bright stars, an ideal evening, which can be compared to his ideal woman. Byron goes on to explain that if this darkness and lightness were not in the right quantities, “One shade the more, one ray the less”, her beauty would not be spoiled (line 7). He explains that she would only be “half impaired,” and therefore still radiant. Also, the combination of opposite forces, “shade” and “ray”, create balance in this woman. Byron implies that the convergence of light and dark within this woman creates a new thing that is greater than the sum of the two. The darkness of her “raven tresses” and the lightness of her skin do not contrast with each other, they create a well-rounded whole that is great enough to hold contrasting elements. Byron’s bold and striking comparisons must correlate to this woman’s striking external features. His use of imagery allows for the picturing of an angelic looking woman with dark hair and a lightface, with a soft aura surrounding her gingerly.
On the contrary, Byron uses different literary techniques to prove beauty is spawned from an interior source. The enjambment used throughout the poem aids in the deviating effect. For example, “the best of dark and bright/meet in her aspect and her eyes,” here Byron substitutes a trochaic foot for an iambic foot at the start of the fourth line because he wants to emphasize the word “meet” (lines 3-4). He is accenting this unique quality the woman possesses that makes her beautiful. In the same way that enjambment forces lines together, this woman joins together darkness and light within her features. They “meet” in her. It is also important to notice that the joining together can be seen in her “aspect” and her “eyes”. Eyes are usually associated with external beauty; however, eyes have also been linked to a window into one’s soul.
Another literary method Byron uses to distinguish beauty’s source is alliteration. “Where thoughts serenely sweet express / How pure, how dear their dwelling place,” focuses on this woman’s mind (lines 11-12). The repetition of the “s” sound is soothing and serene; it emphasizes the purity of her mind. The alliteration describes the inner beauty of her mind. These are vital techniques Byron uses to describe the woman’s inner source of beauty. Byron uses different techniques to fill “She Walks In Beauty” with contrasting light and dark imagery. In the first verse there is assonance present in words such as “night”, “bright”, “light”, “skies”, “eyes”, and “denies”. Although the same vowel is used in each one of these words the rhyming scheme is ababab causing a type of double effect. Byron uses this literary technique to subtly further the contrast between light and dark. However, his biggest comparison is between the woman’s natural beauty and the beauty found in nature. He implies that God bestows the woman’s beauty by saying ” Had half impaired the nameless grace” (line 8). He indicates that something so contradicting yet still so exquisite could only be formed by a “nameless grace”. Byron is convinced that a form of beauty so perfect could only be compared to the beauty in nature and is heaven-sent. She Walks In Beauty” flawlessly conveys the image of a stunning woman who possesses all of nature’s beauty, in its entirety, from the inside and out. Even though the descriptions of this woman may have contradicting attributes, the overall portrayal of this woman implies that these qualities have created a perfect harmony within her.
The overlying contrasts of darkness verses light have helped solidify this balance. The diction, imagery, and literary techniques Byron creates prove that this woman’s astounding natural beauty can be illustrated through the comparison of darkness and light.
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