My Little Poem: Night
"She Walks in Beauty" by Lord Byron & Kristin Lavransdatter
Hello, Poetry Friend
I love this time of year, after the time change, when there is more night. Especially in December, when the darkest hours bequeath sparkling Christmas lights. The sun is gone to bed. The streets and houses are filled with bright color as I walk.
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 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!
–Lord Byron (George Gordon)
I am reading Lord Byron’s poem while Close Reads HQ reads The Wreath, the first book in Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter (my heart book). And I can’t stop thinking that Kristin is a lot like the woman in this poem. She is beautiful, and she walks — especially at night. Kristin walked into my life between crises, back in 2019. I attend to her because she continues to teach me the necessity to keep walking. Whatever happens, walk.
Many of her significant walks happen in the dark. As a child she walks away from the campfire and meets the elf maiden. She walks out to meet a boy and is attacked. She walks out to meet a man, and their passions meld. She walks on a pilgrimage, in repentance. She walks to mountain pastures when her soul needs restored by fireweed. She walks away from home — twice. She walks into a cemetery — twice. When she can no longer walk, she is carried by the man who has loved her quietly for 1,000 pages.
She is not the only walker in the story. Her mother walks under the northern lights, seeking a path to a peaceful heart. Her mentor-friend walks out to meet trouble in her best dress and high-buckled shoes. Her monk-friend loves the road and walking it more than cloistered life.
Kristin is not innocent. She rarely experiences peace. Her hair is not raven, but golden. Her eyes are grey, cloud-filled. She’s a thinker. She is all that’s best of dark and bright.
Like me. Half impaired. More shady than sweet. Impure thoughts behind my smile.
This poem seems to describe a perfect woman. (Lord Byron would know: He knew a lot of women.) But Kristin is perfect to me in the sense of being a complete person. If she did everything correctly, she would not be beautiful to me. Her saga ends as heaven meets gaudy day. There is a walk in new snow.
Thank you, George Gordon, for being both a lord and a rascal. For seeing this woman and writing her. She would have surprised you, as we women always surprise ourselves.
Read the poem about the beautiful woman who walks. Jot down what you notice, what you like, what you don’t, what questions you have, and at least one way in which the poem speaks to you.
Take a walk in the dark.
Read the poem again, aloud (if you didn’t the first time). Is there anything you notice this time that you want to add to your journal?
Write about your dark walk. If you like, email me what you write. My haiku is at meganwillome.com.
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