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She Walks in Beauty, Like the Night

Apart from his rather exotic taste in headwear (see icon, left), Byron had rather interesting tastes in other things as well. You can read a bit of his history in a prior post. Still, he wrote some gloriously beautiful poetry, and the poem I'm posting today is one of them. It falls into the best-known/best-loved category for a lot of people:

She Walks in Beauty
by George Gordon, Lord Byron

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!

The form and metre here are quite simple, yet extremely difficult to pull off well without it sounding forced or awkward. It's written in iambic tetrameter (four iambic feet per line), in cross-rhymed stanzas of six lines each. (ABABAB CDCDCD EFEFEF)

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( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 6th, 2009 10:33 pm (UTC)
"Mad, bad, and dangerous to know," said one of his mistresses, as well as good looking (not necessarily in the exotic headgear).

This poem is an exception to something that has always struck me about Byron, namely his disgust with humanity in general. Although disillusion might be a better word. This one, however, is purely lovely.
Jan. 6th, 2009 10:45 pm (UTC)
I love that quote about him - in fact, I quoted it to S, who was lying against my shoulder when I posted this one. Caroline Lamb, wasn't it?

Jan. 6th, 2009 11:53 pm (UTC)
I love that poem and Byron and Shelly.

He was quite a pill in real life though. But lots of the good ones were.
Jan. 7th, 2009 01:27 am (UTC)
If he did even half of what he's reputed to have done, he was quite a rogue and a scoundrel. And odds seem good that he did all of it, and then some.
Jan. 7th, 2009 01:54 am (UTC)
i read a few biographies on him and the shelly's and their old gang. quite an interesting lot!
Jan. 7th, 2009 02:15 am (UTC)
While that first line hits me every time, the one that got me tonight was "One shade the more, one ray the less." Wow.
Jan. 7th, 2009 02:23 am (UTC)
Love those lines, too, but what really grabbed me today were these:

And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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