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She Walks in Beauty

She Walks in Beauty

by George Gordon, Lord Byron

Principles Theme

We're talking about the unnamed lady's principles here, not the speaker's. We're guessing – partly based on the poem itself, and partly based on Byron's reputation – that, given the opportunity, he'd happily seduce her. But this particular woman would have none of that. We're told repeatedly that she's pure and innocent, and that's part of why she's so gorgeous.

Questions About Principles

  1. Why does the speaker of the poem emphasize the woman's goodness, in addition to her beauty?
  2. The speaker ascribes a lot of general virtues to the woman, but he's short on specifics – he doesn't give any examples. Why doesn't the speaker give us any specific details about her goodness?
  3. How can he tell how good and virtuous she is?
  4. What is the effect of ending the poem with the woman's virtue of "innocence"?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The speaker opens the poem with a description of the woman's beauty, and ends it with praise of her virtuous "innocen[ce]" in order to emphasize that true beauty requires a balance of good principles as well as physical beauty.

The speaker's emphasis on the woman's principles, supposedly in praise of her beauty, suggests that he wishes to dodge suspicions that his attraction to her is less than innocent.

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