Regular readers of my blog will know that I love poetry, and that one of my favourite eras for poetry is Romanticism. Of that time, the poet whose work I find most inspiring is Lord Byron (1788–1824). A leading figure in Romanticism, his writing is infused with all the emotion of the movement.
Lord Byron wrote two very long narrative poems that are classic works of literature: Don Juan and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. But he is best remembered for a short poem:
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!
The tone of this poem is so heartfelt and devoted; it is gentle and full of longing. In the following poem by Lord Byron, however, the sentiment is quite different:
The Girl of Cadiz
O, never talk again to me
Of northern climes and British ladies;
It has not been your lot to see,
Like me, the lovely Girl of Cadiz.
Although her eyes be not of blue,
Nor fair her locks, like English lassies,
How far its own expressive hue
The languid azure eye surpasses!
Prometheus-like, from heaven she stole
The fire that through those silken lashes
In darkest glances seems to roll,
From eyes that cannot hide their flashes;
And as along her bosom steal
In lengthened flow her raven tresses,
You’d swear each clustering lock could feel,
And curled to give her neck caresses.
Our English maids are long to woo,
And frigid even in possession;
And if their charms be fair to view,
Their lips are slow at love’s confession;
But, born beneath a brighter sun,
For love ordained the Spanish maid is,
And who, when fondly, fairly won,
Enchants you like the Girl of Cadiz?
The Spanish maid is no coquette,
Nor joys to see a lover tremble;
And if she love or if she hate,
Alike she knows not to dissemble.
Her heart can ne’er be bought or sold,—
Howe’er it beats, it beats sincerely;
And, though it will not bend to gold,
’T will love you long, and love you dearly.
The Spanish girl that meets your love
Ne’er taunts you with a mock denial;
For every thought is bent to prove
Her passion in the hour of trial.
When thronging foemen menace Spain
She dares the deed and shares the danger;
And should her lover press the plain,
She hurls the spear, her love’s avenger.
And when, beneath the evening star,
She mingles in the gay Bolero,
Or sings to her attuned guitar
Of Christian knight or Moorish hero,
Or counts her beads with fairy hand
Beneath the twinkling rays of Hesper,
Or joins devotion’s choral band
To chant the sweet and hallowed vesper,
In each her charms the heart must move
Of all who venture to behold her.
Then let not maids less fair reprove,
Because her bosom is not colder;
Through many a clime’t is mine to roam
Where many a soft and melting maid is,
But none abroad, and few at home,
May match the dark-eyed Girl of Cadiz.
Such passion in ‘The Girl of Cadiz’! I love the stirring, amorous tone of this Byron poem; clearly he was quite taken with the fiery Spanish climate, culture and spirit of the people.
Both of these poems inspired me while I wrote my most recent novel, Masquerade. The heroine, Luz, is part English, as shown in her sapphire-blue eyes. I imagine that in quiet moments, the man who loves her would look at her with such devotion and adoration in his heart as is conveyed in ‘She Walks in Beauty’.
However, more Spanish blood runs in Luz’s veins than English, and she lives in Cadiz, Andalucia. To my mind, Luz is the embodiment of Byron’s impassioned woman, with a loyal, sincere heart and the capacity to ‘dare the deed’.
Luz, then, is the dark-haired Girl of Cadiz, with a hint of the English Rose in her eyes: a fusion of the two.