How does "She Walks in Beauty" by Lord Byron relate to Transcendentalist philosophy?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Byron's "She Walks in Beauty" is written in the British Romantic tradition, a movement that influenced American Transcendentalist philosophy.  In this regard, there are some distinct points where the poem can relate to Transcendentalist philosophy.  One of the critical elements in Transcendentalism was the belief that the individual followed a calling and sense of self which was rooted in confidence and authenticity. Transcendentalist thinkers did not hesitate to affirm the way in which the individual viewed reality.  This affirming of subjective voice can be seen in Byron's poem.  The opening stanza speaks to the power in which the speaker sees this woman.  There is no hesitation in his description of her and its continuance is critical throughout the poem.  The speaker's forceful voice affirms the woman's internal and external beauty.  It is reflective of the confidence with which the Transcendentalist viewed the subjective voice.

Another connection between Transcendentalism and the Byron poem exists in the peace with which the speaker views the woman.  Transcendentalists sought to ensure that human endeavor was part of the world.  With their emphasis on unity and love of nature, and their conviction that human beings can be a functioning part of larger worlds, Transcendentalists loved to view individuals as a part of an exciting cosmological reality.  This idea is evident in the closing couplet of the Byron poem: "A mind at peace with all below,/ A heart whose love is innocent!"  Part of the reason the speaker is so in love with the woman in the poem is because she exemplifies a part of the world that one cannot help but love.  She is of the world and yet beyond it.  This is a Trancendentalist idea.  It reflects how individuals can be a part of a larger cosmological reality.  In doing so, they affirm both the best in themselves and the world around them.  Transcendentalist thinkers were fascinated with this aspect of unity, something that Byron brings out in the poem's conclusion.

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