"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."
The Death of Lord Byron
So wrote George Gordon, better known to the world as Lord Byron, who died in what is now Greece on today's date, April 19, in 1824. He wrote these words in 1815 after meeting his beautiful young cousin by marriage, Mrs. Robert John Wilmot, who was wearing a black mourning gown brightened with spangles. Byron had many close relationships with the women in his life which were of a more intimate nature than the verse quoted above. The scandal surrounding his divorce forced him to leave England in 1816. He settled in Switzerland near the home of fellow poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (below). It was Mary Wollstonecraft who commented on Byron's volatile temperament some years after his death after reading a collection of his work:
"The Lord Byron I find there is our Lord Byron -- the fascinating. faulty, childish, philosophical being, daring the world, docile in to a private circle, impetuous and indolent, gloomy, and yet more gay than any other....(I become) reconciled to those wayward- nesses which annoyed me when he was away through the delightful and buoyant tone of his conversation and manners."
Lord Byron died in Greece where he had gone to show his support for Greek independence from Turkey. The remainder of "She walks in beauty":
"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!"
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