‘Stanzas for Music’ by Lord Byron is a sixteen line poem that is separated into two sets of eight lines, known as octaves. These octaves are very musical in their arrangement and rhythm. As the title suggests, Byron intended for ‘Stanzas for Music’ to be set to music. The way the stanzas are further divided into sets of four lines known as quatrains and then into rhyming couplets, evoke a musical quality and might remind a reader of the structure of verses and choruses.
The first stanza follows a rhyme scheme of ABABCCCC. The second stanza changes slightly, rhyming CDCDBEBE. A reader might also notice the connection between the “B” rhyme and the “D” rhyme. Both sets of rhyming endings make use of the long “e” sound. This makes them half, or slant, rhymes, therefore imbuing the poem with an even clearer rhythm.
Half rhymes are also present within the lines themselves, for example, the same long “e” can be seen in the word “sweet” in line four of the first stanza. This is an example of assonance, or vowel sound. An example of consonance, or consonant sound, can be seen with the words “full” and “swell” in lines seven and eight of the second stanza.
The poem begins with the speaker telling the reader, and the person with whom they are in love, that no one, not even “Beauty’s daughters” can compare to this person’s beauty. They are never definitively described as man or woman, but, they are clearly seen as god-like, unbelievably powerful, and influential in the speaker’s life.
Byron spends the bulk of this short, lyrical and clearly musical sixteen line poem using natural images such as the “midnight moon” and the deepest parts of the ocean to convey the speaker’s love.
The Ocean Significance
Undeniably, the most important image in this text is that of the ocean. Byron makes use of the ocean a number of times in the poem, but always in order to show the calming and charming impact the speaker’s beloved has on the world. Byron’s speaker addresses their beloved’s influence as literal and physical, but at the same time as another world. This is best seen through the way this person’s voice is described as containing the power to control and gently relax the ocean waves. At the end of the poem, Byron brings the ocean back in by comparing the adoration of this person to the “Summer’s ocean”.
Analysis of Stanzas for Music
There be none of Beauty’s daughters
With a magic like thee;
And like music on the waters
Is thy sweet voice to me:
When, as if its sound were causing
The charmed ocean’s pausing,
The waves lie still and gleaming,
And the lull’d winds seem dreaming:
In the first stanza of ‘Stanzas for Music’ Byron begins by addressing an unknown “thee”. This person is never defined as male or female, but the speaker’s affection for this person is clear. There is no one, the speaker states, even “Beauty’s daughters” who can compare to this person’s beauty. He or she is beyond the human and worldly, or even the godly. They have a voice that is more like “music on the waters” than normal sound.
The next four lines explain how connected the speaker feels their beloved’s voice is to the oceans. Or more simply, how otherworldly, and incredibly special they are.
The speaker explains that this person’s voice has the power to calm the waves and create one of those moments where the wind dies down and the ocean pauses. One can look out over the expanse of water and see light gleaming on its surface.
And the midnight moon is weaving
Her bright chain o’er the deep;
Whose breast is gently heaving,
As an infant’s asleep:
The next eight lines of ‘Stanzas for Music’ continue to relate natural imagery to the person with whom the speaker is in love. Byron’s speaker adds on to the previous scene first, explaining that when the waves are calmed by the sounds of their voice one can see how the moon reflects on the surface. With the chain imagery, the speaker depicts the control and power this person has at their command, but also the beauty. While not entirely clear, it is likely Byron was thinking about how the moon. While it is personified as a woman it moves the chain, or the beams of water, “o’er the deep”.
The power it would take to calm the seas is contrasted with an image of tenderness and femininity. This continues, even though it is still not clear the speaker is describing a woman. They call “thee” someone “Whose breast is gently heaving,” just as an infant’s would be who is deep in sleep.
So the spirit bows before thee,
To listen and adore thee;
With a full but soft emotion,
Like the swell of Summer’s ocean.
A reader will recognize the venerate way the speaker addresses their beloved in the last four lines. They are directly connected to their imaginings of this person as a god-like, divine being who has come to earth. The speaker describes how “the spirit”, whether that be a god figure, the spirit of love or that of beauty, “bows” before him/her.
There is nothing out of order or overly excited in ‘Stanzas for Music’ . Even the last lines, that describe a worshipful consideration of this person are gentle and undeniably beautiful. The emotion the “spirt” shows is “soft” and is comparable, again, to the “Summer’s ocean”.