تابعنا على شبكاتنا الإجتماعية

Monday, April 22, 2013

Lord Byron‟s “She Walks in Beauty” Analysis

Lord Byron
s She Walks in Beauty


Of course it's obvious that this poem is somewhat of a love poem, expressing how beautiful this woman is that Lord Byron is looking at. She combines opposites (or extremes) in perfect proportions in her looks and in her personality. Whether it is a true declaration of love or a statement of admiration (of her beauty) is left to the reader, since it's known that this poem was about his cousin, Mrs. Wilmot, whom he met at a party in a mourning dress of spangled black.


The poem opens with a line that doens't have punctuation (enjambment): it runs over to the next. Not only that but the next line has a different kind of meter. Poets use this mechanism together with enjabment to attract attention to certain words. For example in the fourth line, the word "meet" is emphasized. It is an important word in the poem because it is the premise of the entire poem. Opposites "meet" in this woman. Just as enjabment and a change in meter are joined as mechanisms in this poem, the unlikely pair of darkness and light meet in this woman. 
Also, this poem makes use of alliteration, the repeating of the first letter of a word to get an easy-reading effect. Look at the second line: "Of cloudless climes and starry skies."


Lord Byron describes a night (associated with darkness) with bright stars (light) and compares this woman to that night. She brings together these opposites in her beauty and creates a "tender light." Not a light like the daytime, since he describes that as gaudy (showy in a vulgar way), but a light that "heaven" doesn't even honor the daytime with.
Byron describes light and dark coming together in her appearance (or "aspect"), as in her dark hair ("tress") and the light complextion of her face. But her also says they meet in her eyes. The eyes are often associated with a person's soul, and reveal the heart. So he is suggesting that opposites meet in her soul as well. 
Note also, that Byron says that if this darkness and lightness wouldn't be in the right proportions ("One shade the more, one ray the less"), her beauty wouldn't be completly ruined as you might expect. He says that she would only be "half impaired," and thus still half magnificent.

the artist:

Sandro Botticelli was a Florentine (Italian) painter, and well-known and succesfull during his career. The name "Botticelli" mean "little barrel" in Italian. It was originally the nickname of his older brother. For some reason it must have rubbed off on Sandro.
Although Botticelli's career was a succes, near the end of his life the High Renaissance style emerged and he was old news. He had no real followers except for the son of his own master. Botticelli died in obscurity but after his death his position returned when Ruskin and some Pre-
Raphaelites announced interest in his works. 

the painting:
It's clear from the title of the painting that it represents the birth of the goddess Venus. During the Renaissance in Italy, the people tried to recapture the glory of ancient Rome and mythology became very popular, even among the educated common folk. They were so convinced of the wisdom of the ancient Romans that they believed the myths must contain some profound truth.
The scenario of the painting is clear: Venus comes to life from a seashell and it brought to shore by wind-gods. An Hour or a Nymph is waiting for Venus to get to shore, and is ready to receive her with a robe.
Notice however that Venus' neck is strangely unnatural and her face is unproportionally small. Not only that but her shoulders are oddly steep, and her left arm is sort of pinned on to her body rather than being truly connected. Also, Botticelli goes against the style of the time by making the figures not solid models who are grounded, but rather outlined figures who float on the foreground.
But Botticelli uses these irregularities to emphasize her beauty. She is so beautiful you wouldn't even really notice the imperfections. Botticelli's composition also makes Venus seem extremly delicate and tender, like a true gift from Heaven. 


“She Walks in Beauty” is written in iambic tetrameter, “a meter commonly found in hymns and associated with ‘sincerity’ and ‘simplicity’” (Moran 2). Byron’s chosen meter conveys to the reader both his purity of intent (there is but one subject for this poem, the lady’s virtuous beauty) and a poetic parallel to his subject (the lady’s beauty arises from her purity or simplicity of nature). It is an astonishingly chaste poem given its author’s reputation for licentiousness, lust, and debauchery.
Byron wrote this poem about Mrs. Wilmot, his cousin Robert Wilmot’s wife. It echoes Wordsworth’s earlier “The Solitary Reaper” (1807) in its conceit: the speaker’s awe upon seeing a woman walking in her own aura of beauty. While ostensibly about a specific woman, the poem extends to encompass the unobtainable and ideal. The lady is not beautiful in herself, but she walks in an aura of Beauty (Flesch 1). In contrast to popular conceptions, her beauty is not easily described as brilliant or radiant, but it is also dark “like the night” (line 1) However, “all that’s best of dark and bright” (line 3) meet in her face and eyes, suggesting that while she walks in a dark beauty, she is herself a brighter, more radiant beauty. To further convolute the image, the woman is described as having “raven tress[es]” (black hair) (line 9), connecting her to the darkness, while the “nameless grace” (line 8) “lightens” her face—possibly a play on the word, meaning the grace alights on her face, but also including the brighter aspect of lightening her countenance.

Indeed, the beauty of Wilmot is found largely in its balance of opposites: the darkness she walks in (and her dark hair) counterpoise her fair skin and the bright pureness of her soul. In this lady, the “tender light” is “mellowed,” in contrast to the “gaudy day” which has only the glaring sun and no shade to soften its radiance. Thus the lady’s simple, inner perfection produces a beauty superior to nature itself.
This grace is “nameless” in that it is ineffable. It is a common idea to say that there is no way for human word or verse to encompass it, so it must remain nameless even as the speaker perceives it clearly. Prose cannot come close to a description of this abstract beauty, so the speaker must attempt it in verse.

These issues raise a concern that the woman seems so pure because she is so simple; she wears her thoughts directly on her face, and she shows no evidence of discrimination of better from worse. Her mind is “at peace with all below” (line 17), and she loves innocently. If she is beautiful like the night, perhaps her mind truly is like a sky without any clouds of trouble or confusion. In contrast, she has been able to spend her days in “goodness,” the tints in her face glowing like stars in the sky, small punctuations in a vast emptiness above.
Some critics maintain, however, that the glimpse of Wilmot which inspired this poem was afforded Byron at a funeral; thus the images of darkness which surround the lady can be drawn from the mourning clothes she and those around her wear. This beauty is “like the night” because this time of spiritual darkness—mourning the passing of a loved one—does not detract from her beauty, but instead accentuates it.
In any case, in this woman dark and light are reconciled. This reconciliation is made possible by the main sources of the lady’s beauty: her mind “at peace with all below” and her “heart whose love is innocent” (line 18). By possessing a genial mind and innocent heart, the lady can bring the beauty of both darkness and light out and together without contradiction; her purity softens the edges of the contrasts.
Byron eschews erotic or physical desire in this poem, preferring instead to express the lady’s beauty without professing his own emotions. He restricts his physical descriptions of her to her eyes, brow, hair, and smiles. Her loveliness has to do with her innocence and her “days in goodness spent” (line 16), whether it results from her virtue or simply from the poet’s imagination of that virtue. After all, if we bracket the likely autobiographical element of the poem, we do not know whether the speaker has caught anything more than a few moments’ glimpse of a beautiful woman walking by.


Post a Comment

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More