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 mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd 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!
It is said to have been inspired by an event in Byron's life. On 11 June 1814, Byron attended a party in London. Among the guests was Mrs. Anne Beatrix Wilmot, wife of Byron's first cousin, Sir Robert Wilmot. He was struck by her unusual beauty, and the next morning the poem was written.
It is thought that she was the first inspiration for his unfinished epic poem about Goethe, a personal hero of his. In this unpublished work, which Byron referred to in his letters as his magnum opus, he switches the gender of Goethe and gives him the same description of his cousin.
The first two verses are cited in the novel The Philadelphian by Richard P. Powell. The beginning of the poem is quoted by a character in Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia. The poem is also referenced in a House of Night book, where Nathan, in his reminiscences of Byron, suggests (without any justification) that the subject of the poem may have been Byron's half-sister, Augusta Leigh.
The poem is in the thoughts of an American astronaut-explorer traveling in space to Mars intercepted by Martians in short story chapter "The Summer Night" in novel The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury.
The poem has inspired various composers over time, including Roger Quilter, Gerald Finzi, Toby Hession, Ivy Frances Klein, Jean Coulthard, Isaac Nathan, Nicolas Flagello, Connor J. Koppin, and Eric Barnum. The first line of British rock band Suede's song "Heroine" is "She walks in beauty, like the night." The British musical ensemble, Mediaeval Baebes, sing the complete poem on their 2018 album, "Victoriana". It was used by Marianne Faithfull as the title track on her new album, released in 2021.
Part of the poem is recited by Cleaver Greene (Richard Roxburgh) to his son Finnegan (Keegan Joyce) in the initial episode (2010) of the Australian series Rake.
Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) recites much of the poem in the White Collar episode "Upper West Side Story" (season 3, episode 12) while pretending to be a substitute teacher at an elite school.
Spock recites the first line of the poem to Uhura during the original Star Trek series episode "Is There in Truth No Beauty?" (season 3, episode 5).
In The Big Bang Theory (season 1, episode 5) Howard recites the first two lines of the poem to Penny, replacing the word "she" with "and" and adding the word "quiet" ("and walks in quiet beauty like the night").
In the Amen episode "Thelma’s Birthday" (season 2, episode 9) Reverend Gregory recites the first four lines of the poem to Thelma.
In the Bridgerton episode "Off to the Races" (episode 2 of season 2 that plays in 1814) the poem is recited by Lord Lumley for a poetry reading. The complete last verse is heard in the scene.
Wolf J. Flywheel, played by Groucho Marx, recites the first two lines during a scene from The Big Store. Charlie Dalton, played by Gale Hansen, recites the first stanza during a scene from Dead Poets Society. Sir Humphrey Pengallan, played by Charles Laughton, recites the poem's first lines in a scene from Jamaica Inn (1939). The opening credits of Mira Nair’s film Vanity Fair (2004 film) feature this poem, set to music by Mychael Danna and sung by Sissel Kyrkjebø.
- Byron, George Gordon, Lord (1905). The Complete Poetical Works (Cambridge ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. p. 216.
- OED."She Walks in Beauty" Retrieved 3 january 2020
- Cummings, Michael J. (2008) "Byron's She Walks in Beauty" at Cummings Study Guides. Retrieved 10 July 2014
- The complete works of Lord Byron, A. and W. Galignani, 1841, p. 254
- "Suede – Heroine Lyrics | SongMeanings". SongMeanings. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
- Works related to She walks in beauty at Wikisource