Edgar Allen Poe wrote the poem Annabel Lee in 1849. The poem is about the loss of a love, the loss of his wife Virginia. Poe’s wife died of a disease common in that era, which in fact killed many people, called tuberculosis. Tuberculosis was responsible for the death of about 2,500 people in just three years, from 1885-1887. Poe wrote this poem two years after the death of his beloved wife. In this two year span, many people suggest that he had tried dating in many affairs, and even contemplated remarrying, but he never did.
This poem, Annabel Lee expounded on the love he had for his wife, and how he misses her and thinks of her often, and how he remembers the love they had. Annabelle Lee is classified as a narrative poem, although it does have some lyrical elements, Poe tells the story of his love from his own perspective. The main purpose of his work is to convey to the reader the amazing power of love, and the well known struggle of letting go. Letting go of someone you once loved with your entire being, once they are gone forever with no hope of returning, no longer with you.
Poe expounds on the ideals of mourning death, and the deep depression that can arise from such a dark time. In his case, in the poem of Annabelle Lee, Poe is morning as anyone would mourn the death of their spouse. He is reminiscing the good times they had together, the strong love they had, he longs for the times they had together to return. And inside himself he is deeply depressed, knowing that there is no hope for those brighter days returning, his love is gone and the past is the past. This is what Poe is trying to come to terms with.
The fact his only wife will never return. Poe is a writer who is famous for many of his darker pieces and works. He was known for his writings which developed an extremely innovative use of the gothic elements of literature and horror. Poe did this very well. It is believed that many of his works came from a dark place within him, due to depressing events in his life such as his wife dyeing, and an overall internal depression. This gothic, dark element is seen in the poem Annabel Lee where Poe writes, “And neither the angels in Heaven above Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:” (Annabelle Lee 30-33). Throughout the poem poe talks in a loving, romantic manner about his bride. But there is still this gothic undertone created by the connotation of words like “demons” and “dissever my soul”. Poe’s famous element of horror is remnant even in this seemingly romantic poem. In reality, Annabelle Lee came from a dark place within Poe. In fact the whole theme of the poem itself is death, the death of his bride. An important element in any piece of literature is the title.
Poe titled his poem Annabel Lee which gives the reader incite to what the poem will be about. The entirety of the poem is about this woman, Annabel Lee a woman who he loved. The title shows the reader, more or less, the subject of the poem. The poem’s title is quite literal. Yet another important element to this poem is the rhythm quality and the rhyme scheme Poe uses, to create a smooth flow throughout the piece. He creatively uses this smooth rhyme scheme in order to better accentuate the romantic, loving quality of the poem.
It gives off a soft, and happy appearance, however the words of the poem are constantly melancholy and depressing, and towards the end, you can see even a gothic undertone, classic to Poe’s traditional works. If taken literally, Poe’s poem introduces this lover, Annabelle Lee. We learn of how they married young, and were madly in love. They had the strongest love there ever was, so strong in fact that the writer claims even angels in heaven were jealous of their love. There is a shift in the poem when the writer loses his bride when she dies. Here is where the poem becomes much darker than in the first two stanzas.
And if you look deeper into the poem, you find much more than just the meaning on the surface. The first stanza introduces one of the main subjects of the poem which is love. Stanza two reads, “She was a child and I was a child, In this kingdom by the sea, But we loved with a love that was more than loveTand my Annabel Lee” (Annabelle Lee, 7-11) This symbolizes that their love was long lasting, it began at a young age and was strong because of it. It also suggests that they may have been young when she passed away. It implies a sense of sweet innocence to their love. And there is more disguised meaning behind these lines.
Poe was the age of 27 at the time he and his wife Virginia got married, and Virginia was only 13 years old. I agree with Jeannine Johnson’s critique of the poem when she says, “Poe uses the word “child” to emphasize the innocence and purity of their bond. Because of his beloved’s youth and their untainted love for each other, he is a child in spirit, if not in chronological age. ” Poe both literally and figuratively conveys the youthfulness of their love. When Poe uses the word child over and over again, he is literally conveying that their love began at such a young age. That is, at least for Virginia.
Taking this factor of age into play, you can only imagine the shock and surprise when his wife Virginia, 13 years younger than Poe, left this earth before him. In this stanza of the poem, Poe also describes where they are as a Kingdom by the sea. By using this metaphor of a kingdom by the sea Poe is symbolically expressing that death leaves a vastness in the unknown of what the future holds. The sea is a symbol for vastness, for unknown fortune, for mystery. And Poe symbolically uses the sea to convey that with the death of his wife, his future is left with much mystery and unknown.
Poe also uses this in his closing lines of the Poem which read, “And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride, In her sepulchre there by the sea In her tomb by the side of the sea. “(Annabelle Lee 38-41). By ending the poem with this symbolism, and the exact last word being sea, Poe ends on a mysterious note. He ends the poem leaving the reader with a feeling of emptiness and wonder for what the future will hold without the love of Annabelle Lee. Another figurative message within Poe’s poem is found in this last stanza of the poem.
It is in this stanza that Poe’s darker, gothic elements, common in his pieces, shines the most. He writes, For the moon never beams without bringing me / Dreams /Of the beautiful Annabel Lee; /And the stars never rise but I see the bright eyes / Of the beautiful Annabel Lee; (Annabelle Lee, 34-37). Poe is trying to convey how he always thinks and reminisces of the love he once had. However, the way words this stanza, he makes it seem as though he is haunted by these memories. More than anything, more than a thoughtful remembrance, he is haunted.
And Poe does this through his word choice and diction. He says that the moon “never” beams, and the stars “never” rise, without giving me sights of the beautiful Annabel Lee. This haunting is another gothic element. Also, in the later lines of this stanza Poe chooses words like sepulchre and tomb. Which have a dark, gothic connotation, and bring a more melancholy feeling to the poem itself. The poem Annabel Lee evokes many feelings in the reader, and Poe successfully engages his audience through a journey of emotions, parallel to the emotions he felt in the journey of this relationship and love.
He starts by describing this amazing bond and youthful, fun love that he and the character Annabel Lee have. Their amazing love which even angels in heaven are jealous of. He moves on to a darker topic and tells of her unexpected death. This is a shift, the reader moves from joyous feeling and happy thoughts of love to a sadness and darkness brought by not only the topic of death, but also the loss of a close relationship. As close as a relationship can be in fact. And the reader is moved even further by this sadness and darkness as the poem finishes. Poe plays on this feeling of desertedness and loneliness.
A vast sea by her grave, symbolizing the emptiness he feels and mystery the future will hold. And the poem ends on this mysterious note, very cleverly by Poe. The reader is left with a feeling of being incomplete. Much like the feeling Poe has now that he has lost the most important thing in his life, this endless love. Poe is strategic and artistic in his writing and this poem is no different, it takes the reader on a rollercoaster of emotions and makes them feel what he was truly feeling at the time. It is an amazing work full of literary genius, and a poem that has forever changed my outlook on the power of poetry.