“She Walks in Beauty” is one of Byron’s most famous poems. It was published in 1815 as a part of his volume Hebrew Melodies. The poem was inspired by a real incident in Byron’s life. At a party, Byron saw his first cousin’s wife, Anne Beatrix Wilmot, and was amazed at her beauty. She was dressed in black with the spangles since she was in mourning. He wrote the poem in her honor.
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
Meet 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 impaired 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 tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
Tomorrow, This Writer’s Pen. Rita Bay
When Lord Byron left England in self-exile, he visited fellow poet Percy Byssche Shelley who had embarked on a scandalous life of his own. At nineteen, Shelley had eloped to Scotland with a sixteen-year-old girl who bore his first child. Before she delivered the second child, Shelley had fallen in love with Mary Woolstonecraft. Encouraged by Mary’s half-sister Claire Clairmont, the three ran away to the continent together. When they were broke and returned to England, Claire introduced Shelley to Lord Byron with whom she had an affair.
In the famous summer of 1816, Shelley, Mary, and her sister Claire (at Claire’s instigation) leased a home on Lake Geneva in Switzerland near Lord Byron’s home. Claire had hoped to continue her affair with Byron. She was unable to trap Byron into a long-term relationship but became pregnant with his child that Shelley agreed to support. A guest, Dr. John Polidori, recorded a heavily-censored version of the summer’s activities. The book was later destroyed.
What does survive is an account of one evening when the partiers read Tales of the Dead, a horror anthology. Byron challenged his friends to write a horror story. Percy Shelley wrote a called A Fragment of a Ghost Story. Lord Byron starte,d but never finished, a Fragment of a Novel. John Polidori , according to Byron, wrote The Vampyre, the first English-language vampire story. Mary Wollstonecraft’s contribution was a story that, two years later, would be published under the title of Frankenstein.
When the summer of 1816 ended and everyone went their way, Percy and Mary with a pregnant Claire returned to England. Mary and Claire’s sister committed suicide. That same year Harriet, Percy’s deserted wife who was pregnant by a lover she mistakenly believed had deserted her, committed suicide also. After her death, Percy and Mary were married. They were not married for long. Shelley drowned off the coast of Italy when he was only 29.
Tomorrow, One of Byron’s Most Popular Shorts. Rita Bay
George Gordon Byron (1788 – 1824) known as “Lord Byron” was the 6th Baron Byron. He is considered one of Britain’s greatest, if most notorious, poets. He was famous for his poems “Don Juan” and “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.” He also wrote the “She Walks in Beauty.” Lord Byron’s childhood was difficult. He suffered from a “club foot,” perhaps as a result of polio, that kept him from making friends or participating in some activities, though he did box in later life. He called himself “the limping devil.” His father committed suicide leaving him heir to an uncle’s barony. His heiress mother, bankrupted and abused by his alcoholic father, barely provided for his needs until sliding into alcoholism herself before her death in 1811.
Lord Byron was a Regency bad boy. He embarked on a series of affairs with married women, was rumored to have had an incestuous relationship and a child with his half-sister, and suspected of homosexuality which was a capital offense at the time. Lady Caroline Lamb, one his cast-off mistresses who pursued him to the point of embarrassing her family said Byron was “Mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” In Byron’s activities forced him to seek exile in Europe where he continued his profligate lifestyle, notably with his friend, the poet Percy Shelley. Eventually, Byron fought in the Greek War of Independence where he succumbed to a fever.
Tomorrow, Byron’s Risque Vacation. Rita Bay