Word cloud of keywords and phrases from the poem She Walks in Beauty

Interpreting and analysing a poem is not necessarily a matter of finding the right answer.

Poems are complex creations and are open to many different interpretations. Your interpretation is as valid as anyone else's - as long as you can back it up with suitable evidence from the text.

Remember to avoid simply identifying what techniques or approaches poets use. Aim to show an understanding of how form, language and structure create meanings and effects.

Below are some differing interpretations of the poem. How would you interpret the poem?


Interpretation of the whole poem

InterpretationReason for interpretation
The speaker immediately falls in love with the woman he sees but takes some time to admit it.The word ‘love’ finally appears in the last line of the poem.
The speaker is physically attracted to the woman he sees although he does not fall in love.The speaker’s actual feelings are not directly described. He seems more aware of her physical good looks than anything else.

Interpretation of the lines: ‘One shade the more, one ray the less,/ Had half impair’d the nameless grace’

InterpretationReason for interpretation
The balance of the woman’s beauty is seen as perfect. One tiny change either way could ruin her perfection.The first of these two lines is exactly balanced. Each half has the same number of words and syllables and contrasting opposites are used - 'shade'/'ray'; 'the more'/'the less') just as the woman’s beauty is perfectly balanced.
The woman’s beauty is not quite as perfect as it at first appears.The words ‘impair’d' and 'nameless' are slightly negative in tone.

Interpretation of the lines: ‘And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,/ So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,/ The smiles that win, the tints that glow'

InterpretationReason for interpretation
The poet describes the woman’s physical appearance.The poet is describing how the light highlights the woman’s cheek and forehead and enhances her physical beauty.
The poet describes the woman’s inner character.The poet thinks the woman’s smiles and blushes are a result of her inner goodness and modesty.