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!
[Although it seems like a love poem, “She Walks in Beauty,” it is really a tribute to the beauty of art. The subject of the poem was either Byron’s cousin by marriage or his half-sister. She was wearing a black dress with spangles, which is why Byron compares her to a starry night.
The beginning uses a technique called enjambment. When one verse of a poem is presented with no punctuation, and is followed by a second verse that clarifies the previous statement, it is referred to as enjambment.
To see the difference that enjambment makes, read this version of the beginning without enjambment:
She walks in beauty like the night.
And the night is cloudless and starry.
There are several places in the poem that contrast light and dark as this is one of the features that makes art beautiful. See phrases like “dark and bright” and “One shade the more, one ray the less.”
Notice the verse: “Where thoughts serenely sweet express.” Byron uses alliteration of s sounds to give the poem a pleasant, graceful sound.
Her beauty is not only physical but also spiritual. Byron describes her life as “days in goodness spent.” Furthermore, he declares she has “[a] heart whose love is innocent!” To him, these virtues make her all the more beautiful.]