Study Guide

She Walks in Beauty Quotes

  • Appearances

    She walks in beauty (line 1)

    This is a funny way of describing someone – what does it mean to "walk in beauty," anyway? Is "beauty" some kind of cloud or vapor that the woman is walking in? Or is it like a comfortable pair of shoes?

    And all that's best of dark and bright
    Meet in her aspect and her eyes: (lines 3-4)

    This woman's beauty takes the "best" things from both ends of the spectrum ("dark" and "bright"). And it's not just that she has a pretty face – her whole "aspect," or appearance, is harmonious and lovely.

    Thus mellow'd to that tender light
    Which heaven to gaudy day denies. (lines 5-6)

    The balance of "dark" and "bright" in the woman's appearance sort of averages out into a "tender light." It's like she casts off a glow, but a soft one, or something.

    One shade the more, one ray the less, (line 7)

    This line is perfectly balanced, just like the woman's beauty. There's a repeated structure, divided by a comma in the middle of the line – the comma is like a pivot point. You've got two sets of opposites ("shade" and "ray," "more" and "less") that are balanced on either side of that comma.

    Which waves in every raven tress, (line 9)

    No wonder he's comparing the woman to "night" instead of to "a summer's day" – this lady is a brunette, so it makes sense to compare her darker coloring to "night."

    The smiles that win, the tints that glow, (line 15)

    Her "smiles" and "tints," or blushes, come and go – obviously they're not permanently etched on her face. And that dynamism, or changeability, is part of what makes her so beautiful.

  • Principles

    Where thoughts serenely sweet express (line 11)

    The sound of this line, with its repeated s sound (a.k.a. "sibilance"), reflects the meaning of the line as well: the line sounds as soothing and "serene" as her thoughts supposedly are.

    How pure, how dear their dwelling place. (line 12)

    The speaker assumes that the calm and "serene" expression on the woman's face reflects the "pur[ity]" of her mind.

    But tell of days in goodness spent, (line 16)

    The speaker also assumes that the woman's sweet expression "tell[s]" the story of her past goodness – that's a lot to read just from someone's facial expression.

    A mind at peace with all below, (line 17)

    The calmness of her face makes the speaker assume that she's "at peace" with everyone. There's nothing to make her anxious or worried.

    A heart whose love is innocent! (line 18)

    In the final line of the poem, the speaker reassures us (in case we were suspicious) that the woman is "innocent." She's not going to allow him to seduce her, or do anything else of that nature, so stop thinking that.

  • Women and Femininity

    She walks in beauty, (line 1)

    The woman's beauty is related to her movement from the beginning – part of what makes her beautiful is her dynamism and life. She's not just a portrait on a wall, she's a living, breathing, "walk[ing]" person.

    Meet in her aspect and her eyes: (line 4)

    So the woman's beauty has as much to do with her entire "aspect," or overall appearance and expression, as it does with any one feature. The whole package is lovely.

    Which waves in every raven tress, (line 9)

    The whole "aspect" might be gorgeous, but that doesn't mean the speaker doesn't want to linger admiringly over each individual feature. It's also important to remember that traditional, conventional standards of beauty at the time held that blondes were the pinnacle of hotness. So Byron's praise of a brunette here actually flouts traditional standards of beauty.

    Or softly lightens o'er her face; (line 10)

    Byron has said that the woman's whole "aspect" is beautiful, but now he's trying to put his finger on exactly what makes her facial expression so gorgeous.

    And on that cheek, and o'er that brow, (line 13)

    Now Byron's attempting to break down her beauty, one piece at a time, in order to understand it. It's like he's dissecting her beauty.

    The smiles that win, the tints that glow, (line 15)

    The woman's smiles are "win[ning]," and apparently she blushes a lot – is he trying to suggest that she's a bit of a flirt?

  • Awe and Amazement

    She walks in beauty, like the night
    Of cloudless climes and starry skies; (lines 1-2)

    The opening simile of the poem compares the unnamed woman to vast and intangible things, like "night" and "starry skies." Why can't he just compare her to a flower, or to something that we can wrap our minds around more easily?

    And all that's best of dark and bright (line 3)

    If you thought "night" and "starry skies" were abstract ideas, that's nothing. In this line, the speaker relates her beauty to "the best of dark and bright." How can you have a "best" (or worst) of darkness or brightness? We're not used to making value judgments about things as abstract as light and dark.

    Thus mellow'd to that tender light
    Which heaven to gaudy day denies. (lines 5-6)

    More vast and intangible things! The woman now seems to almost be casting a gentle glow ("tender light"). Her glow is much better than daylight, though – "day" is described as "gaudy," or over-bright and garish, by comparison.

    […] the nameless grace (line 8)

    The woman remains "nameless" in this poem, so it makes sense that the speaker can't find the words to describe her "grace."

    A mind at peace with all below, (line 17)

    The woman is "at peace with all below." With everyone on earth? Really? She has no outstanding grudges or disagreements with anyone? This makes her seem almost saintly – no wonder the speaker is in awe of her.