The Poetry Place
She Walks in Beauty
There are plenty of analyses on-line (Bitesize for example) which explain and interpret the poem. These seem to assume that the student has read and basically understood the poem already. Before that stage, the student needs to be encouraged to engage with the poem and overcome any resistance created by the language and syntax.
The worksheet provides a simple table to allow students to pick out and then discuss the meanings of tricky vocabulary. If the poem can be provided in electronic form, this might be an ideal time for them to use the synonym feature in Word and decide, from the list supplied, which is the most appropriate.
Word order is often a stumbling block and, again, a word processor can be helpful in rearranging lines to make the meaning clearer. For example, this is my attempt to make the latter part of the first stanza more comprehensible:
And all that’s best of dark and bright meet in her aspect and her eyes (which are) thus mellowed to that tender light which heaven denies to gaudy day.
Even so, it’s hardly crystal clear and it doesn’t hurt to admit that you, the teacher, might find it difficult too.
The commentaries on ‘She Walks in Beauty’ seem, by and large, to take it at face value. Byron is bowled over by a woman he meets and writes a poem describing her beauty. Except he doesn’t describe her at all. What do we know about her appearance by the end of the poem? She has dark hair. Everything else is vague and abstract. It’s as if he is describing the apparition of an angel or a ghost. There is no sense of the bodily reality of the woman, which, given Byron’s proclivities, is surprising – or is it?
The suggestions beneath the table in the worksheet attempt to tease some of this out without being too directive.
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