George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, later George Gordon Noel, 6th Baron Byron, FRS (22 January 1788 ?C 19 April 1824), commonly known simply as Lord Byron, was an English poet and a leading figure in the Romantic movement. Amongst Byron's best-known works are the brief poems She Walks in Beauty, When We Two Parted, and So, we'll go no more a roving, in addition to the narrative poems Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and Don Juan. He is regarded as one of the greatest British poets and remains widely read and influential.
Byron was celebrated in life for aristocratic excesses including huge debts, numerous love affairs with both sexes, rumors of a scandalous incestuous liaison with his half-sister, and self-imposed exile. He was famously described by Lady Caroline Lamb as "mad, bad and dangerous to know". He travelled to fight against the Ottoman Empire in the Greek War of Independence, for which Greeks revere him as a national hero. He died merely 36 years old from a fever contracted while in Missolonghi in Greece.
John Byron married his second wife for the same reason he married his first: her fortune. Byron's mother had to sell her land and title to pay her new husband's debts, and in the space of two years the large estate, worth some ??23,500, had been squandered, leaving the former heiress with an annual income in trust of only ??150. In a move to avoid his creditors, Catherine accompanied her profligate husband to France in 1786, but returned to England at the end of 1787 in order to gave birth to her son on English soil. He was born on January 22 in lodgings on Holles Street in London.
Catherine Gordon, Byron's motherCatherine moved back to Aberdeenshire in 1790, where Byron spent his childhood. His father soon joined them in their lodgings in Queen Street, but the couple quickly separated. Catherine regularly experienced mood swings and bouts of melancholy, which could be partly explained by her husband's continuing to appear in order to borrow money from her. As a result, she fell even further into debt to support his demands. It was one of these importunate loans that allowed him to travel to Valenciennes, France, where he died in 1791.
When Byron's great-uncle, the "wicked" Lord Byron, died on 21 May 1798, the 10-year-old boy became the 6th Baron Byron of Rochdale and inherited the ancestral home, Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire. His mother proudly took him to England, but the Abbey was in an embarassing state of disrepair and rather than live there, his mother decided to rent to Lord Grey de Ruthyn, among others, during his adolescence.
Described as "a woman without judgment or self-command", Catherine either spoiled and indulged her son or aggravated him with her capricious stubbornness. Her drinking disgusted him, and he often mocked her for being short and corpulent, which made it difficult for her to catch him to discipline him. She once retaliated and, in a fit of temper, referred to him as "a lame brat".II. She Walks in Beauty :
Written in 1814, when Byron was twenty-six years old, and published in Hebrew Melodies in 1815, the poem of praise "She Walks in Beauty" was inspired by the poet's first sight of his young cousin by marriage, Anne Wilmot. Poem Summary
Readers of poetry often get confused because they stop when they reach the end of a line, even if there is no mark of punctuation there. This could be the case with this poem, which opens with an enjambed line, a line that does not end with a mark of punctuation.
The word enjambment comes from the French word for leg, "jamb"; a line is enjambed when it runs over (using its "legs") to the next line without a pause.
If read by itself, the first line becomes confusing because the reader can only see a dark image, almost a blank image. If "she walks in beauty, like the night," a reader might wonder how she can be seen. But the line continues: the night is a cloudless one and the stars are bright. So immediately the poem brings together its two opposing forces that will be at work, darkness and light.
These lines work well because they employ an enjambed line as well.Themes
Lord Byron's poem "She Walks in Beauty" was written in praise of a beautiful woman. History holds that he wrote it for a female cousin, Mrs. Wilmot, whom he ran into at a party in London one night when she was in mourning, wearing a black dress with glittering sequins. The poem uses images of light and darkness interacting to describe the wide spectrum of elements in a beautiful woman's personality and looks.
Unlike common love poetry, which makes the claim that its subject is filled with beauty, this poem describes its subject as being possessed by beauty. This woman does have beauty within her, but it is to such a great degree that she is actually surrounded by it, like an aura. To some extent, her positive attributes create her beauty, and so the poem makes a point of mentioning her goodness, her serenity, and her innocence, which all have a direct causal effect on her looks. Style
The three six-line stanzas of this poem all follow the same rhyme scheme and the same metrical pattern. There are only six rhyming sounds in this eighteen-line poem because the poem rhymes ababab, cdcdcd, efefef .
The pairing of two rhyming sounds in each stanza works well because the poem concerns itself with the two forces??darkness and light??at work in the woman's beauty, and also the two areas of her beauty??the internal and the external. The rhyming words themselves, especially in the first stanza, have importance: notice how "night" rhymes with its opposites, "light" and "bright," in the same way that this woman contains the two opposing forces in her particular type of beauty. Oftentimes poets use their poetic structures to mirror what the poem's chief concerns are. Poetic form??stanzas and meter??and content??what the poem's subject is??are almost always related.
The meter is also very regular??iambic tetrameter.