Walks in Beauty Perfection in Byron's She Essay

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Walks in Beauty

Perfection in Byron's "She Walks in Beauty"

George Gordon, Lord Byron was a British poet and a founding leader of the Romanticism in literature. Byron's works are infused with his dichotomous persona. Byron has been described as, "[dark] and brilliant, melancholy and vivacious, overtly sexual and sexually ambiguous [whose] shadowy side…has attained the stature of such dangerously attractive figures as Casanova, the Marquis de Sade, and Rasputin" (Pesta 59). "She Walks in Beauty," one of Byron's most well-known poems, reflects the paradoxical nature of his persona, creating a balance between opposing forces through the use of imagery.

Byron was notorious for his sexual exploits. Lady Caroline Lamb, one of his lovers, once famously described the poet as "mad, bad, and dangerous to know," a description that was further emphasized through "his compulsive love affairs with women and boys; his drinking and excess; [and] the scandalous liaison with his half sister" (Castle). However, given Byron's reputation, "She Walks in Beauty" shows an overwhelming amount of restraint, as Byron does not appear to lust over the woman in the poem, but rather appears to admire what she looks like and what she represents.

"She Walks in Beauty" was written by Byron shortly after first meeting his cousin by marriage, Mrs. Robert John Wilmot, who was wearing a black mourning gown brightened with spangles (The Norton Anthology of English Literature 484). Byron's impression of Mrs. Wilmot, from her countenance to what she was wearing, is reflected in the poem's three stanzas, which also reflect upon Byron's conflicting persona.
Byron's attempts to create balance are evident in the first line of the poem as he writes, "She walks in beauty, like the night/Of cloudless climes and starry skies" (Byron 1-2). In this introduction, contrasting imagery is created through Byron's description of "cloudless climes and starry skies;" describing the sky as being cloudless then asserting that the skies are not empty, but rather filled with stars creates balance within the poem. This imagery can also be applied to describe the way the woman's dress flutters as she walks; since the poem is based on Byron's meeting with Mrs. Wilmot, the "cloudless climes and starry skies" imagery could also be alluding to the dress she wore when the two first met, a mourning gown covered in spangles. Byron continues, "And all that's best of dark and bright/Meet in her aspect and her eyes:/Thus mellow'd to that tender light/Which heaven to gaudy day denies" (3-6). By recognizing the balance between dark and light within the woman, Byron insinuates that she is unlike any woman he has ever met before, a quality that he appears to admire and respect.

The balance between light and dark continues into the second stanza. Byron writes, "One shade the more, one ray the less/Had half impair'd the nameless grace," implying that her beauty is so perfectly balanced, that something been slightly out of balance, her entire being would be ruined. Byron also finds a balance in her "raven tress" and the element(s) that "softly lightens o'er her….....

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