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!
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Copyright: Robert Nichol AudioProductions, London, 2002
Summary and Analysis
Meaning of the Poem
This poem is a short lyrical text 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 met best friend Robert Wilmot, Mrs. Anne Beatrix Wilmot. She was in mourning, wearing a black dress set with spangle she was striking and he adored her and soon fell in love and she became his wife. 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 In this unpublished work, which Byron referred to in his letters as his magnum opus, he switches the gender of Goethe and gives him the same description of his cousin. This idea would have truly put Byron on the avant-garde.