A look this week at the powerful, evocative language of Lord Byron with She Walks in Beauty.
My chosen poem, She Walks in Beauty. was published in Hebrew Melodies, a book featuring Byron’s poems set to Jewish melodies by Isaac Nathan.
Byron provides a unique description of a lady who walks ‘in Beauty‘, a phrase which is in itself, packed with questions and meanings, how can somebody be “in beauty“? I can’t help but think of Zadie Smith’s recent novel titled, In Beauty, and wonder what the significance of this evocative phrase might mean to her? Is it full of individual meaning for all of us?
The beauty defined by Byron concerns the external beauty of one individual who he sees as walking ‘in beauty‘, and is wrapped up in juxtaposing adjectives such as ‘pure‘, ‘dark‘, ‘innocent‘, ‘shining‘, and ‘calm‘. Through these words, I felt a sense of mystery come from the poem, an almost untouchable aspect to the lady who ‘walks in Beauty‘, which is full of feeling and depth.
Byron concentrates on her appearance in the poem, but I feel he describes seeing something more than simply a beautiful appearance when he uses numerous references to nature, to natural processes, to a calmness, and a mood. Is this depiction expressing an all encompassing power that beauty holds?
I am struck by some sort of force running through the poem, that suggests to me, that Byron needs to share this vision of beauty, to make sense of and to put into words something he has witnessed, and that thing, he defines as beauty, or rather as something being ‘in beauty’ – a unique observation. The poem feels like the result of being quite simply struck by a beauty – this is an important moment – and it is perhaps for this reason, that it has been recorded by Byron and I wondered if we have all, at some point have been simply struck by beauty, stopped in our tracks with the desire to share the beauty we have seen, felt or believed in. This might be the beauty we have seen from the top of a mountain, or the internal beauty of somebody’s actions. Of course, we don’t all share it, we don’t all write it down, or perhaps even remember it, but maybe sometimes we should.
She Walks in Beauty
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.
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.
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!