Annabel Lee, by Edgar Allen Poe


It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we—
Of many far wiser than we—
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;

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
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 sounding sea

*

“Annabel Lee”  was published in the New York Tribune in 1849 just two days after Poe’s death. The poem was considered to be the last complete poem before his death in 1849. The poem has sparked debates as to whom Poe is referring to in the poem. And, based on his life history, many believe that there is evidence suggesting that it was written in the memory of his wife Virginia.

The poem is structured in six stanzas each with a different number of lines. Each stanza has a slightly different rhyming pattern as well. Throughout the poem there are repeated uses of the words “sea, Annabel Lee, and me.” The poem centers around a story of a girl named Annabel Lee and her relationship to the narrator. The poem tells of how they both lived in “a kingdom by the sea.” The narrator explains that both have loved each other since they were children. However, it quickly changes when the narrator explains that the angels in heaven were envious of their love and they sent those who were related to her to take her away. The poem continues by stating that they took her away and put her in a cave by the sea and later killed her. The speaker goes on to say that even though she is dead their souls will always be connected. The poem then concludes with the narrator going to her and laying down next to her.

Those who have read the poem believe that he is mourning the death of his wife. Adam Bradford suggests that “Poe’s philosophy is drawn literally, and figuratively from a nineteenth century culture of mourning.” One thing that was made important was the understanding of culture then versus now. Today, the way Poe writes about death is different than how it’s thought of today. However, it’s important to remember that during Poe’s time this type of mourning was seen as typical for that culture. Others say that the poem changes he conventional values of death and mourning. David Reynolds suggests that this change comes from having the “Speaker favor a imaginative rather than a religious context.” He goes on to talk about that the narrator’s “Perpetual connection to her is not grounded in a cultural and religious understanding of death as a sphere of divine reunion.”

“Annabel Lee” tells the story of a love of two people. Both were so in love with each other it caused the heavens themselves to become envious and punished the lovers with death. However, the poem shows that even if the lovers are separated their love will never die.

Bibliography and Further Reading Adam Bradford, Inspiring Death: Poe’s Poetic Aesthetics, ‘Annabel Lee,’ and the Communities of Mourning in Nineteenth-Century America,The Edgar Allan Poe Review 12.1 (2011); “Annabel Lee.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation; “Annabel Lee,” The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica.

Credits Composed by Asia Hill, Fall 2018. Reading by Asia Hill.

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American Poetry and Poetics by Mark C. Long is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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