“Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe – Analysis and Poem

Synopsis

“Annabel Lee” is one of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous writings. In this work, Poe looks at his love, Annabel Lee. Long ago, in a kingdom by a sea, lived a maiden named Annabel Lee who lived to love and be loved by the speaker. The two of them were so deeply in love that the “the wingèd seraphs of Heaven” coveted it. He says that this is why the “wind blew out of a cloud, chilling / My beautiful Annabel Lee” causing her “highborn kinsmen” to come and take her away from him and put her in a tomb. The angels, being not so happy in heaven, envied them and that is why they caused her to die. He says that their love is stronger than anyone wiser or older than him and that there isn’t any angel or demon that can take it away. He says that every night he dreams of his wife and sees her beautiful eyes in sky and all night long he lies next to his wife inside her tomb.

Analysis

This poem is written in the rhyme scheme ABABCB-ABCBDB-ABCBDBEB-ABCBDB-ABBABCB-ABCBDDBB with six stanzas. This poem is written similarly to a ballad with many repeated lines.

  • 1st Stanza: Years ago in a city by the sea lived a lovely woman named Annabel Lee whom was in love with the speaker.
  • 2nd Stanza: They were both young but they both were deeply in love with each other. The angels even wished to have their love.
  • 3rd Stanza: He says that the angels envying them is why she died.
  • 4th Stanza: He repeats saying that the angels envying them is why she died from the cold wind.
  • 5th Stanza: Nothing can take away his love for Annabel Lee.
  • 6th Stanza: He dreams of his wife and still sees her beauty in the stars and even sleeps next to her inside her tomb.

Overall, the poem seems to be justifying why his wife died. He blames the angels because nothing else could possibly be that strong exist them. However, he later states that even though they can take her physical body, they can’t take his memory nor can they take his love away. Some interpretations say he is acting childish, but don’t we all act childish when we are in love?

Figurative Language / Keywords

  • winged seraphs of Heaven – Angels
  • highborn kinsmen – her angels
  • sepulchre – tomb
  • night-tide – nighttime but can also mean the time of night that a flood tide happens

Poem: “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan 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.

Reader’s Reaction

This was one of my favorite poems when I was in high school but rereading it now, I feel much more appreciation for its beauty. This poem is very well written, as is everything else by Poe. He wrote many stories and poems about the death of a beautiful woman and even about death in general. However, there’s something extra special about this writing. Some theories are that he wrote this about Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe, his childhood love and his wife. This is the most likely theory in my opinion since she died only two years prior to this writing.

I, however, do disagree that he is calling Virginia a “maiden” throughout her entire life. It is obvious to me that the story is being told in a linear timeline, mentioning childhood and moving on to her sickness and then her death. I do not think Poe is telling us that the two did not consummate their marriage.

Gary R. Hess

Gary was born and raised on a small farm in rural Kansas. Today, he is teaching various nationalities English in Southeast Asia.

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