She Walks in Beauty Study Guide
Introduction to She Walks in Beauty
“She Walks in Beauty” is a poem by Lord George Gordon Byron. Written in 1814, Byron published the poem in the collection Hebrew Melodies, which he collaborated on with musician Isaac Nathan. It has gone on to become one of Byron’s most famous works. The lyrical poem is written in iambic tetrameter, with an ababab rhyme scheme. It celebrates the beauty of an unnamed woman, within whom darkness and light exist in harmony. These contrasting images are used throughout the poem to illustrate the necessary contrasts that form truly complex beauty, as well as to emphasize the duality of inner and outer beauty that the woman possesses. While her “raven tress[es]” and eyes are physically lovely, it is her inner goodness that makes her truly beautiful. The “mind at peace” and “heart whose love is innocent” speak to a grander sense of purity that is reflected outward through her visage.
A Brief Biography of Lord George Gordon Byron
Lord George Gordon Byron (1788–1824) was born to a family with aristocratic ties. His childhood was troubled; his father was an irresponsible military man who died at a young age, and his mother struggled with alcoholism. Byron did not distinguish himself academically or artistically during his education at Harrow and then Cambridge, but as a young man he turned his attention to poetry. He gained swift fame after publishing the beginning of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage in 1812, and he embarked on a life of adventure, touring Europe extensively and dodging creditors. Byron continued to write and publish, and he achieved a rare kind of celebrity, becoming known as much for his grandiose persona and real-life exploits as for his literary pursuits as. The last of these exploits was his involvement in the Greek War of Independence, in which he fought for the Greek side and died.
Byron brought to the British Romantic movement a narrative sensibility and epic scope, as epitomized in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1818) and especially Don Juan (1824). He also created the literary archetype known as the Byronic hero: a brooding, passionate protagonist who chafes against society’s strictures. This archetype proved influential to later artists and thinkers of the nineteenth century.