She Walks in Beauty

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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 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!

"She Walks in Beauty" is a short lyrical poem in iambic tetrameter written in 1813 by Lord Byron, and is one of his most famous works.

It is said to have been inspired by an event in Byron's life; while at a ball, Byron saw Mrs. Anne Beatrix Wilmot, the wife of his cousin, Robert Wilmot. He was struck by her unusual beauty, and the next morning the poem was written.[1]

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 In this unpublished work, which Byron referred to in his letters as his magnum opus, he switches the gender of Goethe and gives him the same description of his cousin.[citation needed]

Cultural references[edit]

Literature

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 Arcadia, one of the major plays of Tom Stoppard. 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.[2]

Musical settings

The poem has inspired various composers over time, including Roger Quilter, Gerald Finzi, Isaac Nathan, Nicolas Flagello, Connor J. Koppin and Chanticleer Men's Chorus Conductor/Composer Eric Barnum. The first line of British rock band Suede's song "Heroine" is "She walks in beauty, like the night."[3]

Television

The first four lines of the poem are recited by Major Charles Winchester, played by David Ogden Stiers, in the 1979 M*A*S*H episode "Ain't Love Grand". Also in an episode of The Cosby Show when mother, Clair Huxtable recites the poem to her former professor of Hillman College. Part of the poem is recited by Cleaver Greene, played by Richard Roxburgh, to his son, Finnegan "Fuzz" Greene, played by Keegan Joyce, in the initial episode (2010) of the Australian television series Rake.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cummings, Michael J. (2008) "Byron's She Walks in Beauty" at Cummings Study Guides. Accessed 10 July 2014
  2. ^ The complete works of Lord Byron, A. and W. Galignani, 1841, p. 254 
  3. ^ "Suede – Heroine Lyrics | SongMeanings". SongMeanings. Retrieved 2018-01-22. 

External links[edit]