Day 16: “She Walks in Beauty”

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Keara Moses

“She Walks in Beauty”

I.
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.
II.
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.
III.
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!
Lord Byron (1788- 1824) was one of the premiere poets of the Romantic era. If you’ve never heard of him, you probably studied his more staid contemporaries, like Wordsworth, “Lines Composed Above Tintern Abbey,”  or Coleridge, “Kubla Kahn.  However, Byron was wildly popular in his day, both as a man and a poet. He was wealthy, handsome, defiant, and in some ways the embodiment of what would become known as the “Byronic hero,” which still pops up in television, film and literature to this day.
This is a classic love poem from that period, which we rarely see the likes of any more. Rhyme schemes, especially simplistic ones like we see here (ababab), have gone out of style, so it might sound strange to our modern ears. Also in classic fashion, the author overstates the perfection of his beloved. In each stanza, he heaps on more praise that can’t possibly be true. A pure dwelling place? A mind at peace with all below?  It’s over the top, right, so why include it?
Call me sentimental, I guess.
I fell in love with Byron’s work when I was a teenager, fresh out of high school and newly immersed in great literature as an English major. I had a fantasy of finding my own Romantic hero someday and this poem was the epitome of tenderness and devotion I hoped one day would come to me. While I did find my hero shortly thereafter, he wasn’t one for poetry, but I knew he loved me better than a man like Lord Byron ever could, who would have taken this perfect creature and left her a disgraced and fallen woman. That was his more likely pattern.
But this poem has always stayed with me and when it came time for Keara’s senior high school yearbook page, I was able to use the first lines to honor her:
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:

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