She Walks in Beauty

The speaker in Lord Byron's "She Walks in Beauty" offers the quintessential theme of Romantic poetry, portrayal of perfect beauty.

George Gordon, Lord Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty” features three sestets, each with the rime scheme, ABABAB. The theme is feminine beauty, a prototypical focus for the Romantic. Legend has it that Lord Byron met his wife’s cousin, Mrs. Robert John Wilmot, at an evening gathering and was taken with the woman’s loveliness; then, the next morning he wrote this poem about her. This poem and many other Byron poems were set to music by Isaac Nathan.
First Sestet: “She walks in beauty, like the night”
The speaker seems overcome with the beauty that he has just experienced and tries to express the nature of that beauty; it is somewhat dark, yet it is like the sky at night that has no clouds but exhibits a plethora of diamond-twinkling stars.
The subtle glow of light gives the speaker a rather inspired feeling but at the same time a feeling a bit overcome by emotion. He over-reaches to express his feelings, hoping to communicate in fresh phrasings; thus, he focuses not on how she looks but how she walks. He imagines her walking on a clear night with all the stars subtly lighting her way, playing upon her visage.
The image of the cloudless but starry sky at night sets the perfect backdrop for the portrayal of this unique beauty that has stirred his blood. It renders the beauty “mellow[ ]” in its “tender light” in a way that the light of day could never achieve. He cleverly claims that “heaven” denies the “gaudy day” such a privilege.
Second Sestet: “One shade the more, one ray the less”
The speaker claims that the balance of the lightness and darkness of this woman’s countenance is perfect; just “one shade the more, one ray the less” and the “grace” she possesses would have been off kilter. But such is not the case.
All is in harmony to produce this impossible “grace / Which waves in every raven tress.” He cannot find one single black...