Dress Down Sunday: Dancing in front of stars

Dress Down Sunday -
what goes on under the clothes

the poem:

She walks in beauty, like the night by Lord Byron

written 1814, published 1815

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!

observations: The astronomer Patrick Moore died this week at the age of 89, having held a unique role in British life for a huge number of those years. He was probably the only astronomer most people could name or recognize, and was the kind of eccentric, distinctive, larger-than-life personality that people like to think of as both unique and very typically British. He presented the TV programme The Sky at Night (just what it sounds like) on the BBC for years.

There’s not a huge amount about stars and astronomy in literature, so we have picked this poem with its metaphorical starry skies. It is probably Byron’s most famous poem, and has its own satisfying and never-failing beauty. He is supposed to have been inspired by seeing a cousin in a ‘spangled’ black mourning dress, ie one decorated with sequins. One might think that rhinestones would be a better fit, resembling stars in the black of a dress. One might also think glittery black is not much of a mourning dress – too gaudy.

The picture is a bit of lese majeste really, but she has stars (equally symbolic: they represent the stars on the USA’s flag) and she’s rather splendid really. An advert for Carter's Corsets, it comes from
George Eastman House.

Links up with: The
Girls of Slender Means go up to the roof and lie there chatting, looking at the stars. In The Green Hat, the stars were ‘brilliant as sequins on an archangel’s floating cloak.’ For more Dress Down Sunday click on the label below.


  1. Moira - Oh, I've always loved that poem! Thank you for posting it :-). And I hadn't known about Moore's death; sad news... I agree with you too that stars and astronomy are fascinating and there's not a lot about those topics in fiction (except science fiction of course). You remind of a great course I did at university. It was my first real introduction to astronomy and was taught by a woman who was absolutely besotted with the topic. Her interest was contagious.

  2. A passionate teacher is always the best way into a subject, isn't it?

  3. I love the corset - my grandmother used to wear similar ones. Thank God they're out of fashion now.


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