Annabel Lee: A Poem by Edgar Allan Poe

Love Poems, English Love Poem
Annabel Lee
Oishika Ghoshal

Edgar Allan Poe was an American writer, poet, editor, and critic. He is famously known for his macabre and haunting poetry & stories, the main themes of which typically revolve around death. Annabel Lee is one such example. He was one of the poets of the Romantic era and was one of the earliest people who wrote stories in the ‘short story’ format. His works mostly grew famous during the latter part of his short life and gained international fame after his death.

annabel lee

Poe’s best-known fiction works are Gothic, and usually are centered around the theme of death, with gruesome details concerning the same. His works are typically ‘dark’ and often had elements of horror in them. His most famous works include ‘The Raven’, ‘The Murders in the Rue Morge’, ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’, ‘Annabel Lee’, ‘Israfel’ etc. to name a few.

Annabel Lee is one of Edgar Allan Poe’s last poems before his death in 1849. Like many of his poems, it explores the death of a young, beautiful woman. It is an attestation to everlasting love, which goes beyond the death of one of the individuals in the relationship.

Annabel Lee also probes into Poe’s sensitivity to the beauty and sweetness of women and is one of the most hauntingly beautiful poems of the Romantic era.

annabel lee

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Annabel Lee: the poem

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 Summary and Analysis

Annabel Lee is a memorable poem which talks about young love cut by tragedy. The narrator describes the powerful love that he and his love interest Annabel Lee share. It began many many years ago. Although they were in their youth, their love was so powerful and intense that it garnered the jealousy of the angels in heaven. It is for this reason that the narrator accuses the angels to have caused his love’s death. 

However, he believes that their love is so strong, it transcends beyond Annabel Lee’s death, and that their souls are entwined even beyond the grave. The love between the narrator and Annabel Lee may have been short-lived but it remains too powerful to be defeated. At the end of the poem the poet says that no matter how much the angels and demons try, they can never sever his connection with Annabel Lee because the moon and the stars will always be there to remind him of her beauty, and he will remain by her tomb by the sea. That is how strong their love for each other is.

annabel lee

Edgar Allan Poe considered the death of young, beautiful women to be the ‘most poetical topic in the world’. Hence, most of his poems deal with this theme. In this poem, he talks about the ideal everlasting love which is so strong that it goes beyond the grave. In fact, the narrator’s actions show that he not only loves Annabel Lee, but he worships her, something he can only do after her death.

The poet admits that he and Annabel Lee were children when they fell in love, but his explanation that angels murdered her is in itself childish, suggesting he failed to mature since then. His repetition of this assertion suggests he is trying to rationalize his own excessive feelings of loss. 

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The poem starts with an almost fairytale atmosphere with the poet beginning it with ‘many a year ago’, which alludes to the classic ‘once upon a time’ – this suggests that the narrator considers their love to be eternal, like fairytales. The start of the poem deals with the love that the poet and Annabel Lee share, giving us the illusion that for both of them, the other is more important than anything. Their love is so pure that even angels, who are considered as morally just, are jealous of them.

annabel lee

However, the poet also seems overwhelmed by his love for Annabel Lee and the loss of her presence in his life; he almost seems crazed and delusional. It shows that the poet is clearly traumatized by the loss of Annabel Lee, and his ceaseless insistence on the supernatural power of their love can be read like a window into a troubled or even obsessive mind.

On the one hand, these lines are a moving demonstration of the speaker’s undying love, but on the other, they are a troubling picture of how love’s power can actually destroy those who experience it. This suggestion of insanity also casts some doubt on the speaker’s romantic claims; if his memories are clouded by some kind of madness, then was his love really as wonderful as he says?

annabel lee

Even though his love for Annabel Lee might border on to obsessive, it is no surprise that this poem is one of the most hauntingly beautiful ballads of all time. The main theme of the poem, ‘love transcends time, space and even death’, is exquisite and this poem remains to be one of the greatest love poems even today. It reinforces the classic feeling of eternal love and that makes ‘Annabel Lee’ one of Edgar Allan Poe’s most-read, timeless classics. 

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1 Comment

  1. I LOVE YOU: a poem crafted with passion | Love Smitten

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