Poem introduction

What is often thought of as one of Byron’s most perfect love poems was not in fact inspired by someone he was in love with but out of a sense of simple aesthetic appreciation. One night in 1814 he met his cousin’s wife Anne Wilmot at a party, dressed in mourning with dark spangles on her black dress, and next day he wrote this pure lyric carefully balancing images of darkness and soft evening light.

She Walks in Beauty

She walks in beauty like the night
of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
meets 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 impair'd 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 tells in days of goodness spent,
a mind at peace with all below,
a heart whose love is innocent.