She Walks In Beauty, usually taken as a love lyric, is not a typical poem of Lord Byron. It has nothing of his burning passion nor of his biting derision. This is rather a simple, restrained idealistic poem in which the poet speaks of the ideal feminine grace and quality.
The poem is actually not a love poem in the sense in which Shelley’s One Word is too often Profaned and I Arise from Dreams of thee, and Keats’s Bright Star are. It is rather an unqualified admiration of the perfectly feminine grace in which rare beauty and high quality are found perfectly and finely blend. The lady, addressed here, is Lady Horton who was the wife of Lord Horton, one of Byron’s cousins. The poem does not indicate in any way that Byron had any amorous relationship with her and there is no justifiable reason to take her as the poet’s ladylove. As a matter of fact, the lady concerned was not his beloved, and had no affair, open or secret, with him. In fact, the poem is simply an appreciation of the lady who combines perfectly in her beauty and virtue and stands out as an emblem of feminine charm and grace.
The poet expresses in the lyric his impression of the lady whom he met on some occasion when she was in mourning. The poem records his spontaneous reaction to her graceful, well-proportioned beauty, that is sufficiently expressive of her innate goodness.
“But tell of days in goodness spent,-
A mind at peace with all below.
A heart whose love is innocent.”
As already indicated, the poem has nothing to do with any sexual attachment or love, as noted so decisively in Keats’s Bright Star and Shelley’s lyrics, already mentioned. It is rather on her balanced beauty with the rare quality of her mind and heart. Studied from this angle, the poem has an idealistic tone, in which virtue is joyfully celebrated along with beauty. Byron here appears to be less passionate but more adoring.
Technically, the lyric is well-conceived with Byron’s poetic excellences distinctly borne out. Byron has usually complimented for his graphic poetical description. This is well evident in the poem all through. The very description of the lady, walking in beauty, with the beauty of the night of cloudless climes and starry skies, is commendable enough. Again, the representation of the perfect balance in the beauty of the lady marks equally Byron’s descriptive art.
“One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair’d the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress.”
Byron’s poetic diction here is unusually restrained and simple with some most appropriately used epithets. In this connection ‘tender’, ‘gaudy’, ‘raven’, and ‘serenely’, may be particularly mentioned.
The poem has three stanzas of six lines each. In each stanza the alternate lines rhyme, giving thereby two rhymes in it. The rhyme-scheme is musically patterned in the whole poem that has rhythmical harmony with an orchestral sonority. This is clearly evident in the lines quoted below :
“She walks in beauty, like the night a
Of cloudless climes and starry skies, b
And all that’s best of dark and bright a
Meet in her aspect and her eyes. b
Thus mellow’d to that tender night a
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.” b