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 mellowed 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!
When We Two Parted
When we two parted
In silence and tears,
To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
Sorrow to this.
The dew of the morning
Sunk chill on my brow—
It felt like the warning
Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
And light is thy fame;
I hear thy name spoken,
And share in its shame.
They name thee before me,
A knell to mine ear;
A shudder comes o’er me—
Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee,
Who knew thee too well—
Long, long shall I rue thee,
Too deeply to tell.
In secret we met—
In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget,
Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?—
With silence and tears.
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
Background Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage is considered a semiautobiographical account of Lord Byron’s adventures on a European tour from 1809 to 1811. The complete poem contains four cantos. The publication of the first two cantos in 1812 propelled Byron to fame. Childe is an archaic term for a young nobleman awaiting knighthood.
Apostrophe to the Ocean
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet can not all conceal.
Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean, roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin, his control
Stops with the shore; upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
A shadow of man’s ravage, save his own,
When, for a moment, like a drop of rain,
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,
Without a grave, unknell’d, uncoffin’d, and unknown.
His steps are not upon thy paths, thy fields
Are not a spoil for him,—thou dost arise
And shake him from thee; the vile strength he wields
For earth’s destruction thou dost all despise,
Spurning him from thy bosom to the skies,
And send’st him, shivering in thy playful spray
And howling, to his Gods, where haply lies
His petty hope in some near port or bay,
And dashest him again to earth:—there let him lay.
The armaments which thunderstrike the walls
Of rock-built cities, bidding nations quake
And monarchs tremble in their capitals,
The oak leviathans, whose huge ribs make
Their clay creator the vain title take
Of lord of thee and arbiter of war,—
These are thy toys, and, as the snowy flake,
They melt into thy yeast of waves, which mar
Alike the Armada’s pride or spoils of Trafalgar.
Thy shores are empires, changed in all save thee—
Assyria, Greece, Rome, Carthage, what are they?
Thy waters wash’d them power while they were free,
And many a tyrant since; their shores obey
The stranger, slave, or savage; their decay
Has dried up realms to deserts:—not so thou,
Unchangeable save to thy wild waves’ play;
Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow;
Such as creation’s dawn beheld, thou rollest now.
Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty’s form
Glasses itself in tempests; in all time,
Calm or convulsed—in breeze, or gale, or storm,
Icing the pole, or in the torrid clime
Dark-heaving;—boundless, endless, and sublime—
The image of Eternity—the throne
Of the Invisible; even from out thy slime
The monsters of the deep are made; each zone
Obeys thee; thou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone.
And I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy
Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be
Borne, like thy bubbles, onward. From a boy
I wanton’d with thy breakers—they to me
Were a delight; and if the freshening sea
Made them a terror—’t was a pleasing fear,
For I was as it were a child of thee,
And trusted to thy billows far and near,
And laid my hand upon thy mane—as I do here.
Comprehension check: Recall and Interpret
1.Reread lines 3–4 in She Walks in Beauty. What coexists, or “meets,” within the woman?
2.What is the relationship between the woman’s inner self and her appearance?
3.Reread lines 13–18 in She Walks in Beauty, and restate the meaning of these lines in your own words.
4.Why does the speaker of When We Two Parted feel bitter toward his former lover?
5.In the poem’s final line, Byron repeats the phrase from line 2 of When We Two Parted. What idea is emphasized through this repetition?
6.Why does the speaker in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage enjoy spending time by the “deep Sea”?
7.In your own words, restate the meaning of lines 46–50 in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.
8.What aspects of the ocean does the speaker seem to admire most? Briefly explain.
Literary analysis: Evaluate and Connect
9. Compare PoemsDescribe the emotions expressed by the speakers in She Walks in Beauty and When We Two Parted. What similarities and differences are there?
10. Make InferencesReread lines 1–4 in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. What qualities are associated with nature?
11. Draw ConclusionsAlthough She Walks in Beauty contains the image of a woman walking, there are no descriptions of her legs or arms, only her face. Why do you think the poet chose to describe only her face?
12. Examine IdeasReread lines 37–45 in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. What is the speaker saying about the relationship between civilization and the ocean? Cite evidence from the text to support your explanation.
13. Analyze Figurative LanguageNote metaphorsand similesin the following passages. Explain the meaning of each comparison.
• She Walks in Beauty, lines 1–6
• When We Two Parted, lines 17–18
• from Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, lines 15–18
• from Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, lines 34–35
14. Compare Stanza StructureReview the notes you recorded on stanza structure for When We Two Parted and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. What similarities and differences are there in the structure of these two poems? How do the different stanza forms support the meaning of each poem?
15. Evaluate ApostropheIs Byron’s use of the apostrophe in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage an effective method for conveying strong emotion?Find two passages from the poem that you think serve as good illustrations, and explain why you chose them.
16. Critical InterpretationsThe poet T.S. Eliot once remarked, “Of Byron one can say, as of no other English poet of his eminence, that he added nothing to the language, that he discovered nothing in the sounds, and developed nothing in the meaning, of individual words.” Based on the poems you read, do you agree or disagree with Eliot’s comment? Write a two-page essay. Save your work for your portfolio.
17. Creative WritingByron’s apostrophe to the ocean expresses the speaker’s admiration and awe in response to something in the world outside himself. Turn that description into an apostrophe in praise of your subject. Try your hand at writing verse or, if you prefer, write in prose. Save your work for your portfolio.
Reading Focus VI: Selected Poetry by Percy Bysshe Shelley
KEY IDEARomantic poets believed that profound lessons could be learned from observing nature. They believed that there was no greater beauty than that found in nature, and they saw higher truths reflected in natural scenes.