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!
‘A mind at peace with all below’ –
Was there anyone who can claim to own a mind like this? Byron’s poetry is sublime, and in keeping with an expression of ardour, because love does that to the human mind, whirls it around as though in a maelstrom, confuses, blinds us to deficiencies and flaws that surely belong to the object of love. As surely as the lover sees perfection, the object of love is human too, and truly ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. Love is the strangest of all human emotion, incomprehensible, unbiddable, unlikely and universal. There is no human culture yet studied that does not contain the histories and experiences of love. Romantic love seems to be the expression of what is means to be human, and most of us yearn for it from a reasonably early age. In our era, romantic love has been hijacked by movie makers, and consumer goods marketing men. It is how cars are sold to us, kitchens, deodorants, coffee beans, cosmetics, it has become the vehicle to make us want something. The consequence of this is to make us cynical of love. Until it happens to us. Then we are softened again, made pliable by the explosion of chemical reactions , we are transformed. John Keats was a young man when he wrote ‘Ode to a Grecian Urn’, but he clearly had understood the transformative power of love which Byron alludes to, when he wrote the immortal lines
‘”Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”