George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron
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.
I first encountered Lord Byron’s work “She Walks In Beauty” when I was an angsty teen. It quickly led me to his other works I would read and sigh over. The violent romance of it has an appeal that has never truly dimmed, and a note of melancholy that still wrings my much older than teenaged heart. Any one who wrote these words must have been a sensitive tormented soul, I thought naively.
Imagine my shock, when I found out Lord Byron was kind of a jerk, and that’s putting it mildly. He once described his love for an Italian countess by saying he hadn’t had a “whore” in months. If that’s not true love then what is?
He tore through lovers and high living leaving a trail of debts, children and broken hearts. Lady Caroline Lamb, one of his conquests and his erstwhile stalker, described him as “mad, bad and dangerous to know.” For many of the men and women in his life, possibly even his half sister, this was true.
For his faults, he was passionate about everything he did. Nothing was done by halves. His writing influenced the Romantic movement in literature and is still influential. He was dedicated to the cause of Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire, and is considered by many a Greek National Hero. It was there, where his passionate flame was put out by a fever.
Whatever we may think of his scandalous life, the beauty of the words cannot be denied. I will leave you with “We’ll Go No More a Roving”, which is one of my favorites and strikes a bittersweet chord of farewell.
So, we’ll go no more a roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.
For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.
Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we’ll go no more a roving
By the light of the moon.